How do I start reducing my waste?
It's easy to think that someone else will fix the issues regarding waste and the damage that plastic is doing to our oceans but the reality is we all need to make changes to what we consume and how we deal with our waste. Significant change will only come about when we as consumers vote with our wallets and change our behaviour to be less wasteful. If you're ready to start reducing your waste but you're not sure where to start then you've come to the right place. Below are ten things to help get you started on your journey.
1. Get your household on board - have a sit down and discuss why you are trying you reduce your waste and the best ways that you can achieve this. If you're all working towards the same goal you are likely to support each other and be more committed. Talk to your kids early about the environment and reducing their waste. My four year old understands that some items can be recycled and others are rubbish. She knows that we try hard to reduce our rubbish and sometimes even picks rubbish up while we're walking home from daycare "It's not good for the environment" she told me as she picks up a plastic bag which was caught up in a fence. Although I'm committed to reducing my waste, I don't usually pick up rubbish I see lying around, so I was really proud of her in that moment.
2. Don't try to change everything at once - if you try doing everything at once you'll become overwhelmed, it will seem difficult and you are less likely to stick to the changes you make. Instead choose small things that you can easily change and gradually build up from there. Perhaps take a look inside your rubbish bin and see what the biggest culprit of waste is and see what you can do to tackle that.
3. Eliminating single use items - a good place to start your waste reduction journey is to swap out single use items for reusable. Think shopping bags, coffee cups, drink bottles, straws and cling film. Keep an eye out for single use items and refuse them if you can or have your own reusable item handy. Carrying around a coffee cup, straw and cutlery set in your handbag or nappy bag will save you many times over.
We have a great range of snack bags, beeswax wraps and bowl covers in the Sustainability Shop that will help you avoid clingfilm.
Nappies are the other single use culprit so consider cloth, even one or two a day can make a big difference over the course of a year. If you're not into cloth then check out Little and Brave compostable nappies www.littleandbrave.co.nz - all the benefits of disposable without the waste.
4. Use up what you have first - Don't go throwing away all your plastic items and replacing them with eco-friendly options right off the bat. Wait until the items have worn out before replacing them. One of the best ways to reduce your waste is to fully wear items out before replacing them.
5. Repurpose items - before throwing something away consider whether you can use it in another way. Glass jars are excellent for buying bulk items in, making cleaning products or storing soup in the freezer. I sometimes save my cereal boxes as the kids love doing painting and they make great canvases. Clothes can potentially be altered, turned into something new or used as rags. Old towels make great baby wipes if you cut them up (check out this video from waste-free Kate on how to do this https://www.facebook.com/wastefreewithkate/videos/387344148534433/) .
If you can't reuse something yourself is there someone else who could? Consider pay it forward pages, donating items to charity or giving items to your local kindy or playcentre - they love items for crafts and creative play.
6. Make considered purchases - When you need something new ask yourself - can I buy it second-hand? Can I borrow it from someone? Do I really need it? To determine if you really need something try waiting two weeks from when you first decided you needed the item. This is a great strategy if you're out shopping and see something that you feel you just have to have. Stopping and giving yourself time to think about purchases helps reduce those impulse buys.
6. When you need to buy new, look for non-plastic alternatives - some items have to be bought new like toothbrushes and shampoo, so when you do need new ones look for non-plastic alternatives. There are lots of great bamboo toothbrush options and even the supermarket now stocks them so you don't even have to go out of your way to buy one. If you haven't tried shampoo bars I'd really urge you to give these a go. I bought my first one over a year ago and I'm still using the same bar! I've gone from washing my hair every second day to only twice a week. It can be trial and error to get a bar that works for your hair type but when you find one you love you'll never look back.
7. Reduce packaging in your weekly shop - look at your weekly shop and see if there are places to cut down on packaging. Re-usable produce bags are a great start. Many supermarkets and butchery's also now allow you to bring your own containers for meat. I've found this a bit tricky as I don't often know the weight of things that I want but you can do a quick scan of the meat aisle to find one that you would normally buy and just check the weight before asking the butchery to fill your container. If you're handy to bulk bin shops like Bin Inn, this is a great way to reduce your packaging. Many stores have a wide selection of products including spices, flours, nuts, cereals and even golden syrup.
8. Reduce food waste - Food waste makes up a huge portion of household rubbish and it won't decompose properly in a landfill. You can reduce food waste in a number of ways. Firstly by buying less - meal planning will help with this (check out my blog on meal planning to find out more about this https://www.livelovelend.co.nz/post/save-money-and-reduce-waste-through-meal-planning). Secondly using up leftovers - these are great for lunches the next day. If you've got young kids you'll probably find there are usually leftovers from things they didn't eat. I often freeze fruit they didn't eat and use it for smoothies. I also use leftover veges or meat in a quiche or fried rice so I can try and get the kids to eat it the second-time around. Lastly composting any food scraps or leftovers means they don't end up in a landfill and makes a great fertiliser for your garden. We are currently renting a house and so I don't have a compost. However, I've found a great app called Sharewaste which connects you to other people who have a compost and are able to take your scraps. I've connected with a family a few blocks away and I take a bucket full of scraps down every weekend.
9. Make or grow your own food - having your own fruit trees, vege or herb garden is a great way to reduce what you buy. If you have excess then share with your neighbours, they may even be able to swap something with you. Making things from scratch also saves a lot of packaging waste. Baby food in particular is so simple to make and really doesn't take a lot of time, plus you know exactly what's gone into it! Don't try and make everything you usually buy yourself but start with one or two things. We make our own biscuits and muesli bars. They freeze well and are super handy to whip out when the kids need a snack. My next task is to start tackling bread and pizza bases.
10. Join the movement - there are lots of great groups and community organisations that can help give you tips and tricks on how to reduce your waste. Kate Meads runs Waste Free with Kate (https://www.facebook.com/wastefreewithkate/). She runs workshops across the country helping parents to reduce their waste. Juliet Dale runs the Great Eco Challenge (https://www.facebook.com/thegreatecochallenge/). Each week she gives you a challenge to reduce your waste. They are fun, informative and aimed at making easy changes. Kate and Juliet are all about progress not perfection so they're great to follow as you won't be made to feel bad if you slip up or decide there are some changes that don't suit your lifestyle. For the more hardcore there are groups like Zero Waste in NZ. These are more dedicated people but they often have great tips too. These groups are all supportive and help you feel less like you're doing this alone.
I hope these tips give you some inspiration and help start you on your way to reducing that rubbish bin!