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We have a waste crisis on our planet today. People don’t like that word – CRISIS. But that is what it is. Just like we have a climate CRISIS.
Having traveled all over the world, we have seen evidence of this constantly: streams clogged with plastic waste and isolated beaches littered with man-made debris. While you can’t get away from it in developing countries, we aren’t reminded of it on a daily basis in the developed world. Our streets are mostly free of litter, we have efficient recycling and waste infrastructure and we don’t see the mounting waste we are creating.
I am hoping if you are reading this, that you might join me on an imperfect zero waste challenge this week. I am fairly conscious of our waste foot print and do a decent job of making more sustainable choices. However, I want to step it up and want to move beyond the steps I have already taken. By setting aside a week to be more conscious of our choices, I am hoping many of these actions will stick and become habits.
But, I also know we all have different lives and differing abilities to make certain changes. Remember that any action is better than no action. For example, right now I have time in my life to make homemade baking for my kids’ lunches, but you may not and I won’t when I go back to work. So we may use cello wrapped granola bars or yogurt pots sometimes. That is okay. Because now we are buying our apples loose and using bars of soap. I might use the odd plastic straw or zip lock bag but ##
Remember the 3 R’s? Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. There is a reason that they are listed in that order. While we feel good about ourselves when we recycle, it is far better to reduce our consumption and reuse what we do have. Recycling is the last resort. We need to constantly question every purchase we make – do we need it? is it contributing to the waste crisis?
I know we often feel like what possible difference can we make as one person, or one household? However, if we all make some changes, we can make an impact.
Simple Steps to Individually Reduce Waste
- use a re-useable coffee cup and water bottle
- say no to plastic straws and lids
- bring reusable grocery and produce bags to the store
- make your own coffee. Do not use single use kuerig style pods.
- don’t buy produce in plastic wrap
- buy dry goods in bulk. Even better, bring your own containers to fill.
- package leftovers in Tupperware and use beeswax instead of plastic wrap
- Look for products with minimal or recyclable packaging
- Move towards sustainable toiletries – Buy bars of hand soap, shampoo bars
- Support sustainable takeout businesses and let others know what you would prefer
- Make your own cleaning products
- Choose glass packaging over plastic
- Choose laundry and dishwasher soap in cardboard boxes (goodbye pucks!)
- Compost food waste
- buy imperfect produce
- follow first in-first out principles in your fridge to decrease food waste. Make shopping lists and meal plans to decrease food waste.
- Freeze produce or leftovers that are getting old
- don’t buy disposable fashion or household items, but quality products that will last
- Don’t use single use plates, utensils, cups, napkins and paper towels
- Cut down on time in the shower
- Use dryer balls instead of dryer sheets
- Use non-disposable feminine hygiene products like menstrual cups
- Refresh your knowledge of your municipality’s recycling rules
- Register to not receive junk mail. In Canada, follow these steps to stop junk mail.
- buy toilet paper and paper towel made with recycled paper
- say no to free stuff – free plastic toothbrush from the dentist, a balloon at a store opening, etc.
Remember, recycling is great, but reducing is even better!
And don’t try to do it all at once, just work on continuously incorporating some of these suggestions into your life
If you Want More
- Use your buying power. Talk to the manager at your supermarket or contact head office and express your concern about food packaging.
- Work on re purposing and repairing, rather than discarding. Ask yourself before you throw something out, if there is any other option.
- worn out running shoes -> take them to a retailer that recycles them
- old batteries and electronics -> dispose of at your waste facility
- old eye glasses -> many optical stores collect them to use in developing countries
- donate old clothes and household goods
- list items you no longer need on Freecycle websites or have a free garage sale
- make a Questionables bin – we don’t always have time to deal with them on a day-to-day basis. Put old bulbs, batteries, old toys in that bin and deal with it once a year.
- Learn to sew and patch clothing
Products To Help You Decrease Your Waste
One of the main messages that I want to convey in this post is that we need to all try to buy less. So it feels a bit flippant to suggest products to help you reduce your waste. However, these are products I am currently using or planning to start using. They are a one-time purchase that will allow you to reduce exponentially your waste.
Unfortunately many eco products aren’t cheap and most of us can’t go out and buy hundreds of dollars worth of these products at a time. I have put them in the order I think are most effective, where you get the most use and bang for your buck. I would love to know any others that have really worked for you. Leave me a message in the comments below.
- Reusable shopping bags – you likely have tons of these hanging around and the biggest challenge is actually remembering them. I have a system where I unpack groceries, put my bags in a bin by my door and then take to the car. It truly does become a habit if you do it all the time. Also if you forget bags, force yourself to not accept a bag even if it means extra time loading and unloading the car. And while we are at it, can we walk to the store sometimes for smaller shops?
- Reusable produce bags – these are fantastic and make it easy to say no to plastic wrapped produce
- Plenty of tupperware and reusable sandwich bags for lunches
- Reusable Water Bottle
- Keep Cup – we discovered these in Australia and they are great for take out coffee
- menstrual cup or period panties for women
- Toiletry Products:
- Bulk Containers and mason jars
- Metal Straws
- Dryer Balls
- beeswax food wrap
Involving the Kids
While my kids are concerned about climate change and the global plastic epidemic, I sometimes get frustrated that they don’t always have the same zeal for these issues as I do. They are happy to go along to a climate change rally or Green party BBQ, but I still get frustrated when they leave lights on, want to buy plastic junk and want to eat meat. Just like this imperfect challenge, I am working on relaxing my expectations on them.
The motto I am working on is: Some action is better than no action. They don’t have to be the Gretas of the world, but I should celebrate that well done ocean plastics project or their refusal to use a plastic bag.
So while this is MY challenge, they are aware of it and I hope that they choose to make some adjustments throughout the week as well. We talk about these issues a lot at our house, but I hope we talk about them more this week.
Join me this week in making an extra conscious effort to reduce the waste you consume. Come over to our Facebook page and share ideas and tips, because we are all in this together.
Part 2 Coming Next Week
This post was based on reducing waste at our life at home. But, what about when we go traveling? Next week, I will focus on how we can all reduce our waste foot print when traveling. I would love to know what changes you have made when traveling. Leave me a message in the comments below.