This is the second in our series on the waste reduction pyramid. Last month we looked at REFUSE, just choosing not to buy, but sometimes we NEED it, so what can we do to reduce our impact on the environment when we do buy?
- 1. Buy loose. It’s a no-brainer, but 16 apples selected loose and put in a bag need less packaging than 2 pre-packed bags of apples. Bonus points if you take your own reusable produce bags, or if it’s something like a single pepper or bulb of garlic, just leave it loose in your basket. Supermarkets often have fruit, veg and break rolls. You might be lucky and find your local market has a scoop and weigh where you can get anything from rice to washing powder loose. Some pet shops sell pet treats loose. It also means you can buy just what you need and that will reduce your food waste. Buy packaging free alternatives. Hand soap in a pump dispenser can be swapped for bar soap in paper or no packaging, you can also buy shampoo and conditioner in bar form. Even things that come in some packaging, can often be bought in less packaging (any need for a glass bottle, inside a cardboard box, inside plastic wrapping, or can you buy just the plastic bottle for example). Every little helps, and you’ll soon see a difference in the amount of non-recyclable plastic you are sending to landfill.
- 2. Buy in bulk. Obviously only do this for things you use a lot of and/or doesn’t go off. It takes only a small amount more packaging to package 24 toilet rolls as 4, and 5kg sacks of rice or pasta don’t use much more plastic than 500g ones. I buy my washing powder direct from the manufacturer (I use Simply washing as it gets things clean, has strong eco credentials, and doesn’t aggravate my son’s eczema), buying it in the supermarket it comes in small plastic tubs, buying direct means it comes in loose in a cardboard box.
- 3. Refill.Certain of the more eco-friendly cleaning and toiletry brands are moving back to refillable bottles (anyone remember when Body Shop did this? I miss it!). Ecover and Faith in Nature have refilling stations in certain outlets (these can be found on their website), Splosh deliver refills for their household cleaning products to your door, and refills for Method products can often be found in supermarkets.
- 4. Cut paper waste. Get rid of unwanted mail and junk through the letterbox. I have to say that a significant amount of the waste my house produces comes through the slot in the front of the door. Registering with the Mailing Preference Service prevents organisations sending you speculative direct mail. It won’t stop organisations you have a relationship with from sending you stuff, but you shouldn’t get anything from companies you don’t have a relationship with and you can take action if you do. Affix a sign to your door requesting no free papers or circulars to stop takeaway menus, estate agents flyers etc coming through your door. Investigate whether companies you do have a relationship have a system for reducing paper mail sent to you (opting out of marketing by mail, switching to paperless statements etc).
- 5. Buy quality or for longevity. I have a 1980s Kenwood chef. It was my aunts, she used it a lot. I use it a lot too. They are built to last, but not only that, just about every moving part is replaceable. My kids scoot to school on JD Bug scooters. My kids scoot about 400miles a year (yep, you read that right, they scoot an average of 2 miles a day, 5 days a week, 40 weeks of the year, and that’s not including any ancillary journeys in the school holidays). We have in the past replaced wheels, hand grips, quick release pins and more, we didn’t need to replace the whole scooter because a small moveable part needed replacing. There are brands that have a reputation for being built to last, ask around and avoid brands/products designed to need replacing in short periods of time.
- 6. Use what you already have. There is a temptation when starting on the waste reduction journey to think we need to buy things to be able to become zero waste, but often we don’t. Don’t buy reusable bags until you’ve used up all the life in the millions of carrier bags, old school bags, produce bags etc that you have knocking round the house for example. At the end of the day, waste reduction is about simple thrift and using what you have. This is the best way of reducing your waste.
So there we have, 6 quick tips to start reducing your waste. Next month we will look at reusable products.
But share with me. What are your quick tips for reducing your waste?