I recently came across the term “Zero Waste” whilst scrolling through Pinterest one night. It’s a simple idea at heart – do whatever you can to reduce the rubbish you personally are responsible for sending through to landfills – sounds easy, doesn’t it?
Whilst as a family we’ve been recycling for years with paper and card in the blue bin, plastic and glass in the black one, food and garden waste in the brown bin and a small green bin for landfill waste, as a society I think most people would agree that we are a very wasteful one, so used to disposing of anything no longer of any use to us, without much thought as to environmental impact.
The good news is that society’s views do seem to be changing albeit slowly. I remember finding out about our local authority implementing changes in rubbish disposal and recycling a decade ago and thinking it was great. I also remember hearing a lot of people complaining about not having the time to do it, as well as prophecies that the streets would be overflowing with rubbish and rats would be everywhere. Fast-forward 10 years and I doubt many of those same people think twice now when organising their waste as it’s now second-nature, well-ran generally and completely free to do.
Another recent edition to our changing views in society on the topic would be ridding our supermarkets and shops of plastic bags. Again a simple but effective idea that we can all do relatively easily and cheaply. This initiative started in the UK on 5 October 2015 and whilst for our first few shopping trips we would frequently forget to bring the bags at all, or leave them in the car, it didn’t take long for it again to be second-nature to think before leaving the house whether it was worth bringing a bag “just in case!”
For someone like me, just starting off on my zero waste adventure, it’s little changes like these which I intend to start with. The obvious one that many of us already do would be to replace single-plastic use water bottles/cups with reusable and environmentally-friendly glass or stainless steel alternatives. Similarly, investing in a reusable coffee cup is another straightforward example.
Another good place to start is asking yourself before binning, or even recycling, whether or not the item could be re-used by you or someone else. I did this in the last fortnight with an empty glass coffee jar that I’ve given a new lease of life to by filling it with dried raspberry leaves picked from my garden to make raspberry leaf tea with. Before hearing about “zero waste”, I would have probably recycled the coffee jar and then without thinking ordered some mason jars from Amazon for my tea – what a waste! When you think of the carbon footprint those sort of mindless acts cause – even just the petrol delivering the item to my door – when all the time I already had the perfect jar sitting in my kitchen, it’s very humbling to me.
The other area where we can make more mindful choices would be when we are out purchasing new items. Supermarkets and sellers are becoming more aware as they wake up to the fact that having so much unnecessary packaging is becoming a concerning issue for many of us. As consumers we can become more mindful by just thinking whether or not we need an item before buying and if so whether there is a better, greener alternative available instead. This could mean buying more durable, longer-lasting products instead of cheap, disposable plastic goods or opting for the bread wrapped in recyclable packaging instead of non-recyclable or buying second-hand from a charity shop (using your reusable shopping bag!) or a social media site instead of buying new.
I am right at the start of my zero-waste journey and know that there is so much more that I could do to improve in this area. The trick for me is to implement just a couple of smaller changes at a time and work my way up to bigger changes that will make more of an impact.
If there was one thing that you could change today to start your journey to zero waste what would it be?