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environment recycle reduce reuse

Why we need Zero Waste Week!

Zero Waste Week logoLast week there was a discussion on a local business forum about the best coffee maker to get for the office. Opinion was divided between various big brands of pod-based coffee machines. I took a deep breath and bravely suggested that none of these were ideal, as they all generated a huge amount single-use plastic waste. Well, you’d have thought I’d criticised someone’s choice of baby name, the reaction I got! It all boiled down to “why should we be challenged on the waste we create?!”

It was ironic that this conversation came just before Zero Waste Week. The point of Zero Waste Week is to encourage everyone to think about the amount of waste they create and think of ways in which they can reduce it, with an ultimate goal of not creating any waste at all. It is a challenge, and challenges are hard!

Sculpture made of WEEE waste
Sculpture made of WEEE waste at the Eden Project

The average UK household produces 1 tonne of waste a year, and alarmingly this amount is increased by 3% every year. We throw away twenty times more plastic than we did 50 years ago. The main reason for the increase is that convenience is prized far higher than sustainability. And yet, it estimated that Britain will run out of landfill in approximately 8 years.

So, this is the reason we DO need to be challenged about the waste we create. I don’t claim to be perfect, I am a long way from being Zero Waste, but I do think about the purchasing choices I make. The waste reduction scale starts with REFUSE, then REDUCE, then REUSE, then RECYCLE and finally landfill, and yet a lot of people think they are doing their best by recycling that which is collected kerb side.

I agree that some of our problems with waste are the cause of companies, who have things such as built in obsolesence, contracts that encourage further purchase etc and these need to be tackled by government and by campaigning, but that doesn’t completely absolve the individual of the need to take responsibility for the products they introduce into the supply chain. I’ve blogged before on easy ways to reduce your waste or even just your single use plastic, but it starts with thinking.

Thinking: “Do I REALLY need this?” “Do I have something else that can do the job?” “Can I source this second hand or borrow it from someone?” “How will I dispose of this when I have finished with it?” “What waste products does this product generate and how will I deal with them?” “How long do I expect to use this product for?” If we all did this, then the amount of waste we produce would reduce, and the land we have be kept for housing, for green spaces, for farming and forestry, not filled with 31 tonnes a year of consumer waste!

So, this Zero Waste Week, what steps are you planning on taking to reduce your waste?

 

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environment recycle reduce reuse

Waste Free Lent – Week 4

Copy of Copy of Waste Free Lent

Another week has gone by, and the lessons I have learnt again are that if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. I really do have to get more organised and remember to take food and drink with me when I go out! I have, however, got into the habit of taking a reusable cup with me everywhere I go and find most places are more than happy to use it. In fact, one place I got coffee from offered me a discount on my coffee for providing my own cup – win!

I’m not going to give you a day by day breakdown this week – last week was so manic I can barely remember what I did when, but I will share some wins and some dilemmas!

Wins: I had both a 40th birthday and Mother’s Day to negotiate this week, but didn’t do too badly on the waste production. For the 40th I bought a couple of knitting pattern books (the birthday girl is obsessed with knitting!) and put in a bottle of my home-made redcurrant gin. For my Mum, I bought a selection of posh tonic waters in glass bottles, and again put in a bottle of my home-made red currant gin. So very little waste. I then reused gift bags I had received for my own birthday a few weeks ago.

The bright spring days have highlighted that I have neglected cleaning my windows over winter! The reason for tIMG_20160304_150848his became clear when I tried to find some glass cleaner and discovered I didn’t have any. Now, in a perfect waste free world, I would use white vinegar and water to clean my windows, but I didn’t even have a spare spray bottle to use to do it. I did, however, have some old stock of Eco2Life spray bottles and refills from when I was a Wikaniko rep. Some were glass cleaners, so I opened one and used it. I was impressed and it smelt better than white vinegar too. I have added the rest to my website at a knock down price, in case you want to try them yourself!

Fails: I am really struggling with buying bananas and coffee. My local supermarket only does Fairtrade bananas in plastic bags. I could drive for half an hour to visit a Sainsbury’s, as ALL their bananas are Fairtrade, the loose ones, the value ones etc.. The only low plastic coffee I can find is also not Fairtrade (although I buy most of our coffee in bulk, the lids of the tins it comes in are still plastic). I am passionate about Fairtrade, I believe those that grow my food and drink should earn a fair wage and have access to education and healthcare. Any tips?

Categories
environment recycle reduce reuse

Waste Free Lent – Week 1

waste free lent blog week 1Just before the start of Lent, I read an interesting article inciting people to give up plastic instead of chocolate. As someone who both worries about the amount of waste I create, and preferring Lenten fasts to make me think, I gave it some serious consideration.

Then I looked around my house and went into blind panic. I read a few blogs on giving up plastic waste and panicked even more. It just seems so hard. I have so  many questions – like how do you wash your hair, let alone dye it, clean your teeth, buy meat, or pasta…

I still wanted to reduce my waste and really think about the waste I was producing though. So here is what I am going to do, post a new thing I did to reduce my waste each day of Lent (40 days if you don’t include Sundays).

So here we go:

Day 1: I hereby undertake to buy nothing new before the end of Lent. I decided this, then went for a meeting with a potential new volunteer in an out of town shopping centre. It was amazing how hard it was to walk past the special offers, and displays. Our whole society is based around encouraging us to buy more, consume more, create more waste.

Day 2: One of my bad waste habits is drinks when out and about. Whether it is coffee in a take out cup, or fizzy pop in a single use plastic bottle, drinking on the hoof is a potential waste minefield. I had already swapped to taking a reusable coffee cup out with me, but today took a sports bottle of squash too. Unfortunately, I also took my toddler, who drank quite a lot of the juice and by mid-afternoon we were both thirsty again. Most of the coffee shops in our town do coffee in washable mugs, but if you want a cold drink you have the choice of disposable cups or single use bottles. I opted for a hot drink to avoid the waste, but unfortunately had to buy a drink in a single use bottle for my son. Must do better next time!

Day 3 – was quite easy to not buy anything, I just didn’t go to the shops! However, I once again struck by how difficult it is to eat meat without producing plastic waste – the bacon at lunch time came wrapped in plastic and the meatballs for dinner were on a plastic tray. I clearly need to have a chat with my local butcher about me bringing my own bags to reuse. Vegetables are easier as I get most of my veg delivered from North East Organic Growers. Although it comes in plastic carrier bags, I send these back to be refilled, so no waste there!

Day 4 – this was a massive fail on the waste production front. My son was having a belated birthday party and I failed to plan for party bags in time. This meant buying plastic bags, and plastic wrapped sweets to put in the plastic bags. In an attempt to reduce the amount single use waste in the bag, the gift I included was a small metal Hot Wheels car. A discount shop had packs of 5 for £5, so not too expensive and more useful that your average party blower or plastic snake! The kids even played with them together at the party, so clearly a win. Unfortunately the pack was also wrapped in single use plastic. Must plan better for my daughter’s birthday in a couple of weeks.  Also did my weekly fruit shop – everything comes in plastic! Resolved to find a way to bring my own bags next week – even if they are reused plastic bags and maybe shop in the my local market rather than the supermarket. Finally I bought a chicken for Sunday dinner. On the whole I buy chicken to have a low food waste week – check out my four meal chicken here (although now my toddler is eating whole portions, it’s more like a 3 meal chicken!). The cashier tried to put the chicken, which was on a plastic tray and shrink wrapped in more plastic into a plastic bag (because the law says she can without charging!). I stopped her, and gave her a reusable plastic bag to put it in, separate to my other shopping!

That brings us to Sunday, and as traditionally Sunday is a day off the Lenten fast (if you count the days from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday you get 46 – so you take the 6 Sundays off). I shall pause for the week. I haven’t significantly reduced my waste this week, but I have 36 more days to go!

Tips on the following would be appreciated:

  1. How to buy meat without plastic?
  2. Eco party bag ideas?
  3. Drinking cold drinks out and about.