Do you feel strongly about zero waste living? Do you find it hard to live a zero waste life and want some tips on reducing the amount of rubbish you produce?
Well, I don’t pretend to know it all but I’ve been passionate about reducing waste for years. My ethos is – everything I buy has to work hard for my money. I live on a very tight budget and have to account for every penny. The stuff I buy has to work hard for me and earn its place in my home. This means using things over and over again.
Whether it’s saving that thin plastic bag the potatoes were wrapped in to use to pick up dog poop in the garden. Equally, that food packaging can be repurposed for bin liners. Re-wash dishcloths for the washing up, then, when they’re threadbare, use them to clean the bathroom and toilet.
Anything I buy I want to get the maximum use out of it.
This is the trick to zero waste living. Change your mindset to recognise that everything you buy you’ve paid good money for. Stop looking at it as waste and visualise it as your hard-earned cash. That rotten veg you never used and are about to throw away, it’s money.
Because actually, that’s exactly what it is. Instead of throwing old veg away, visualise yourself throwing your wage packet into the bin. And if you’re thinking I’m not going to bother about some rotten veg, the average UK household throws away £470 worth of edible food each year.
To put it another way, this amounts to £13 billion pounds wasted across the country. Not to mention packaging. You might not know it but you pay to have your product packaged. In fact, up to 16% of the total product price is on packaging alone. And you’re not gonna use it?
But first, if you’re still in any doubt about zero waste living, here are some facts:
- The average person generates over 4 pounds of waste every day.
- This amounts to 1 and a half tonnes every year. That’s the weight of a small car.
- Food waste includes cooking oil.
- Just one litre of cooking oil can pollute up to 1 million litres of drinking water.
- At least 80% of waste is recyclable.
- The majority of it ends up in landfills.
- When waste breaks down in landfills it creates methane – a greenhouse gas, and leachate – a toxic liquid.
- Methane is 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide.
- Leachate is highly toxic. It pollutes the surrounding ground and can find its way into rivers and oceans.
- Each year the amount we throw away increases by 3%.
- This means by 2025 the waste we produce will have doubled.
Why should we adopt zero waste living?
Does it really matter that much if you stick that empty can of beans into the rubbish bin or the recycling? Does it make sense to make a trip to the bottle bank? What about batteries, cardboard, paper, glass, food?
Likewise, is it really worth sorting through everything? You might be surprised.
Want some more facts?
- One recycled tin can save enough energy to power a TV for 3 hours.
- A single recycled glass bottle saves enough energy to power a computer for 25 minutes.
- Just one recycled plastic bottle saves enough energy to power a light bulb for 3 hours.
- The oil it takes to make one plastic bag could be used to fuel a car for 11 metres.
- You need 50 times more energy to make one battery than the energy you get from that battery.
- It takes 70% less energy to recycle paper than if you make it from raw materials.
- Aluminium cans are 100% recyclable. This means every tin can you recycle ends up back on the shelves within 60 days.
- The average UK family throws away the equivalent of 6 trees a year.
- Recycling paper doesn’t just save trees, it saves gallons of oil, water, energy, and landfill.
- 15 million ‘single-use’ plastic bottles are used every day. Just under half this amount end up in landfills.
- Plastic can take up to 500 years to decompose.
- Glass never decomposes but it is 100% recyclable.
- Annually in the UK, more than 28 billion glass bottles and jars end up in landfills.
Against these facts and figures, you might be thinking well, that’s all very encouraging, what can one person do to reduce billions of waste? So here’s another fact:
- If all of the UK recycled all their tin cans they could get rid of 14 million dustbins.
Remember the golden rule of zero waste living is the 5R’s:
How can you reduce your waste with zero waste living?
The most important thing to remember is to tackle one area at a time where you feel you can make the most difference. Living a zero waste lifestyle is a process and you can’t always live up to your ideals. But if you sort out where you are being most wasteful you will make an impact.
I’ve sorted these tips into categories such as areas in your house to make it even easier. For a lot of people, most of their waste is produced in the kitchen.
Cutting down on food waste means being more organised when you shop. Before you go shopping work out what meals you will be cooking for the week and make a list of what is required. Then go with that list and do not deviate from it.
If I have any scraps left over I feed them to my dogs or cat. Anything else gets frozen if I can freeze it. If not, I compost it.
All containers such as aluminium cans are automatically washed and recycled. As for plastic, I try and avoid them wherever possible but if I do have to buy then they’ll get a lot of use. They’ll be repurposed for anything from keeping food fresh in the fridge to portioning food ready for the freezer.
Are you like me, you’ve got a stash of plastic shopping bags at home but when you get to the supermarket you’ve forgotten to bring them? Stick the majority of them in the boot of your car. They’re no good hanging up in your kitchen.
Doesn’t packaging on food annoy you? The recent trend in the UK is to use a cardboard foam material to cushion fruit then wrap it in thin plastic. Honestly. We can be trusted to carry our own fruit back home without ruining it.
Buy loose fruit and veg and stick it in your own bags. Or, do like I do, use these thin bags to pick up dog poop or bin liners.
There are now lots of products, such as bamboo toothbrushes that can help cut down on waste. But if you don’t want to go that far there are simple things you can do:
- Get rid of disposable razors
- Only buy products when you run out
- Buy in bulk to reduce packaging
- Buy solid alternatives to shampoo, conditioner, and soap
Now here’s where I come unstuck. I am not the one for dusting, so when I saw these furniture polishing wipes on sale I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. Unfortunately, they are a single-use product and you just throw them away after using them once.
So I had to choose, live in a dust-free house and go against my principles, or not dust. Let’s just say I stuck to my principles. Instead of buying single-use items, and this includes stuff like kitchen roll and those thin J-cloths, purchase thick dishcloths or dusters instead. You can keep reusing them for as often as they hold up.
If you really want to ditch the plastic, make up your own cleaning solutions and use an old spray bottle. A simple mixture of white vinegar and baking soda is just as effective. And newspaper gets rid of streaks on windows. Lemon juice adds a lovely scent if you don’t like the vinegar smell.
Another good way to cut down on waste is to make your products multitask. In the first place, you don’t need to buy a whole load of different products for different jobs. As a matter of fact, I use a solution of washing powder and washing up liquid to clean the floor. The cream cleaner for the bathroom works just as well in the kitchen.
Finally, most of us donate our unwanted clothes to charity, and for good reason. Did you know that the global use of clothing amounts to 3% of all CO2 emissions? That includes production, shipping, washing, and drying.
To reduce clothing waste, buy fewer products of better quality so they’ll last longer. You are also more likely to mend higher-quality items instead of just throwing them out.
Why not keep track of your zero waste living progress and work out your carbon footprint estimate by visiting the CoolClimate site?
These are just a few ways we can all adopt zero waste living. Do you have any tips? We’d love to hear from you.
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