LOW WASTE & PLASTIC FREE
Many of us feel guilty about how much we throw away, but it can feel like an uphill battle cutting back. Buying things with lots of packaging can seem more convenient, or like it’s the only option. Constantly buying things we don’t really need, through the treadmill of consumerism, has also become hardwired into the way we live our lives.
But we are also becoming more aware of the damage plastics, chemicals and waste cause to wildlife, our oceans and soil, and the sheer amount of human-made stuff in the world. There are growing options to go low or zero waste, and say no to single-use plastics, and we can reap many benefits if we shop small, local and less.
WHAT CAN FAMILIES AND INDIVIDUALS DO?
There are many small steps you can take towards reducing waste, and often it involves enjoyable activities with family, friends or in your community. Remembering ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’, in that order, is a good start. Here are our top 10 tips:
1. PLAN YOUR MEALS
Writing a weekly ‘menu’ of meals helps to work out what you need food-wise so you only buy the food you need, when you need it. It can bring more variety to what you eat and reduce costs. Make as many of these veggie or vegan as possible for low-carbon, healthy eating.
2. THINK TWICE, OR SECOND-HAND
If you’re considering buying something for yourself, your home or as a gift, consider if you/they really need it, or if you have something already that could be fixed or rejuvenated. If you need to make a purchase, buy second-hand if you can, or the most sustainable, local option. For gifts, go for homemade, second-hand, or food and drink you know they like.
3. LOOK AT WHAT GOES INTO YOUR BIN
Consider how to reduced what you throw away, at home and out and about, especially non-recyclable materials.
4. CHECK YOUR LOCAL COUNCIL’S WEBSITE ON RECYCLING
Ensure you’re up-to-date with what recycling they will accept. Follow their guidance, and don’t contaminate your recycling with non-recyclables or unclean packaging.
5. ALWAYS CARRY A REUSABLE SHOPPING BAG
A strong jute or cotton bag should last decades, and is much better than a plastic ‘bag for life’. Take plenty if doing a bigger shop. A few small paper bags can also come in handy too.
6. KEEP AND REUSE CONTAINERS
Boxes, tubs, bottles, jars and bags come in handy for refilling and reusing about the house and garden, so clean and keep hold of anything that seems useful!
7. CHECK IF YOU HAVE A REFILL SHOP IN YOUR AREA
More are popping up, and many existing health food shops offer refills too, such as eco cleaning products and dried foods. Google ‘refill shop near me’. Many small local shops and take-aways will be happy for you to bring your own tubs, pots or bags, such as for bread, fruit and veg, even takeaway curry: just ask! Even most supermarkets sell loose items you can put straight in your shopping bag.
8. GO PREPARED WHEN OUT AND ABOUT
Take a water bottle, flask or cup, and packed lunch, snacks and cutlery if you’ll need it. If you need to buy something to eat or drink on the move, go to a café or pub using proper cups and plates, or sandwich shop using paper bags.
9. SPEAK OUT, NICELY
If you find yourself in a shop, café, pub or takeaway using unnecessary, unrecyclable packaging, ask if they can offer an alternative, and/or provide suggestions, in a positive and polite way, direct to staff or via an online/feedback form. Even if you don’t get anywhere straight away, it’s good for them to hear that low waste is in demand.
10. MAKE AND GROW AS MUCH AS YOU CAN
From mid-week meals, to healthy snacks, to windowsill herbs, to your own cleaning products, to Christmas presents. See our advice on health and wellbeing, which goes hand-in-hand with reducing waste, and can be fun too.
Getting family on board and supporting efforts to reduce waste can be great fun and educational, especially if it involves home baking and making, or a local community project. Search online for endless green craft, baking and growing ideas for families.
DRAW ON AND SHARE FORGOTTEN SKILLS
Learning from others, and sharing your skills, in anything from sewing to woodwork to gardening, can be really enjoyable, and help you connect with others while cutting waste. Reviving skills and traditional methods that have been used for generations can help us make the most of what we have: ‘make do and mend’. Some towns now have repair workshops and fairs you can attend and support.
FACTS ABOUT WASTE, RECYCLING AND PLASTICS:
WHAT CAN COMMUNITIES, COUNCILS AND BUSINESSES DO?
SET UP A LOW-WASTE PLEDGE SCHEME
Local businesses and community groups can be asked to sign up and promote the changes they make.
TAKE ANTI-LITTERING AND RECYCLING CAMPAIGNS TO THE NEXT LEVEL
Encouraging people to not buy things with excess or non-recyclable packaging.
PROMOTE THE ‘SHOP LITTLE, SHOP LOCAL’ MESSAGE
Promoting use of local shops and sustainable businesses.
What’s happening in your community?
If your community is taking on waste and plastics, or you’ve got some great ideas to share, fill in our contact form or say hi on social media.