Don’t throw it away – How to reduce waste.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle – a familiar phrase. All three practices are important in our goal of avoiding landfill, and caring for the environment.  Reusing and recycling contribute to reducing, but with a title all of its own, it’s time to explore how we can reduce.

In an article entitled, “It’s not overpopulation that causes climate change, its overconsumption.” Fred Pearce, of the Guardian, explains,

“You might argue the world is already overpopulated. Given the way we plunder its resources, that seems so. But why do we blame the poor in Africa for having babies when the real issue is overconsumption closer to home? It is the ravenous demands of the rich world that is enlarging the human footprint on our planet – pumping greenhouse gases into the air, polluting the oceans, trashing forests and the rest. Any further rise in numbers of poor people will barely figure in that.

That is not to say there aren’t local environmental crises caused in part by soaring population numbers, such as falling levels in water reservoirs. Nor that rising African numbers won’t complicate their efforts at economic development. But let’s not blame them for the state of the planet. That is down to us – the over consumers, whose numbers are largely stable but whose appetites seem infinite.”

In a nutshell our society produces more than we really need.  We over consume, and in the process we use raw materials and energy, many of which have a large carbon footprint.   We produce vast amounts of waste, much of which ends up in landfill. We can all make changes to live a more eco-friendly lifestyle, and care for the environment.   Some people are way ahead of the game and are inspirational.  The aim to produce zero waste over a year, or just one garbage can a year, or even every 4 months is doable.    Wherever we are on sustainable-zero landfill living spectrum, we can find ways to make sure we contribute to the reducing rather than increasing our consumption through eco-friendly lifestyle.


Ordinary people share How to reduce waste

The following two examples are real people and just a couple of many sharing ideals and ideas of how to reduce waste.  They are ordinary people who have made a commitment to live without producing garbage.


Mr Green explains, “We may buy something wrapped in plastic packaging, it maybe food or an item of clothing. We use it and eventually it may break and we simply throw it away and buy a new one. That is the shortest part of its life cycle! What happens when we throw it away is usually only the beginning of a life of hidden darkness and chemical decay as it gets buried in the ground.

If it’s plastic, or a chemical derivative, it may exist for up to several hundred years in the landfill, slowly decaying and decomposing its polluting toxic chemical components which leach into the soil and water courses. If the waste gets incinerated, it releases highly toxic gasses into the air that contribute to greenhouse gasses and air born chemicals that affect life on the planet.”

These ideas are from Mrs Green on the My Zero Waste website and require simple lifestyle changes and some forward planning, so why not commit to doing just one a week?  Her ideas include reducing plastic waste, and other general waste.

1- Buy loose fruit and vegetables from a farm shop, farmers market or supermarket rather than ones pre packed in plastic. The advantage of this is you can choose just the amount of food you need which might result in less food waste too.

The other idea is to sign up for a vegetable box scheme. You don’t even need to leave your home and you’ll get a fresh supply of local, seasonal goods delivered to your door.

2- Why not start to grow some of your own fruit and vegetables? You don’t need a huge garden or a lot of time to be a little self sufficient. Tomatoes and strawberries which often come in non recyclable plastic boxes, can be grown in hanging baskets. Salad leaves can be grow in window boxes and herbs will enjoy a sunny kitchen windowsill.

3- Shop locally.  If you buy meat from a local butcher, you’ll be able to buy products like bacon, sausages and other meats wrapped in a thin plastic bag. This is much less packaging than supermarkets who use a thick plastic or polystyrene tray covered in shrink wrap.

4- Bake your own By making your own bread you’ll reduce on the amount of plastic packaging you send to the landfill each week. If you think you don’t have time, then think again! With a bread maker, all you do is add the ingredients, switch the machine on and leave. You can put it on before you go to bed and wake up to fresh bread in the morning.

5- Get a delivery.  Support your local economy by asking your milkman to deliver milk to your door. Glass bottles can be cleaned and reused by the dairy which saves on plastic bottles. Some milkmen will deliver fruit juice in glass bottles too.

6- Get a refill.  Some companies such as Ecover offer a refill system. You take along your empty bottles and get them refilled for a reduced fee.

7- Ditch the plastic bag  Over a million plastic bags are consumed per minute worldwide. Treat yourself to a fabulous reusable bag If you like sewing then visit the Morsbag site for instructions on making your own reusable bags.

8- Dont suffocate it!  If you have leftovers to store, don’t cover them in cling film. Use a dish covered with a plate or reusable storage container with a lid instead.

9- Reuse If you take sandwiches to school or work then don’t buy special plastic sandwich bags. Look for ways to reuse things in your home. The inner wax wrapping from breakfast cereals, old bread bags, grease proof paper, old foil or paper bags can all be used.

10- Leave your litter. You are entitled to leave any unnecessary packaging at the supermarket checkout. So if you have the confidence to do it, then make a statement to leave excess packaging at the till for the company to dispose of.

11- Be a savvy shopper Instead of products such as mustard, honey, salad dressing and tomato ketchup sold in squeeze bottles, choose glass packaging instead. Many of these plastic containers cannot be recycled, plus you get loads left in the container that you cannot get to, resulting in food waste!


The Clean Bin Project Vancouver, BC.

Jen, Grant and Rhyannon goal is zero landfill waste. For one year we avoided buying material goods and attempted to live without producing garbage. At the end of the year, we just couldn’t stop. The bottom line is this: by bringing less stuff into our house, we’ll have less stuff going out of our house and into the landfill.   You can watch the trailer for their movie on how they do it.


Other ideas to try

The key to reducing waste is planning and organizing:

-Organize the home recycling area/containers.  Find out which items are accepted at curb side collections, and where to take any remaining items.

-If menus and shopping are planned, and lists stuck to, we can avoid coming home from a shopping trip with more than we need. Unless we have long term storage solutions to make use of the special offers in stores the extra could be wasted.

-Buy organic, local items. I find when I have spent a little extra and feel they are better for us, I make sure I use them rather than wasting them.

-Find new recipes to use up left over ingredients.

-Reuse containers or buy some which will last.  Take them, and reusable bags to the store to reduce the packaging required.  I love the tip from Mrs Green to remove unnecessary packaging at the store and leave it behind. That takes courage but could also get the message back to the producers via the retailers!

-Compost food waste to use in growing fruit and vegetables

-Switch to paperless billing.

-Store and re-use envelopes and packaging.

-Opt out of junk mail lists.  There are websites where we can sign up to.  I like my brother’s method.  He would save up the junk mail, and send it all back in one of the pre-paid envelopes provided.   Hopefully these returned to companies with recycling policies, but returning the cost and responsibility back to the companies who sent them also sends a message!

-Research purchases.  Buy items for quality and longevity, or that can be repaired.

-Sell or pass on things no longer required, buy used/ nearly new to reduce waste.

The Strauss family, aka `The Greens’, made a commitment to reduce waste.    They began with a goal to filling the bin just once in 2009 and then went on to attempt to live without producing any waste.   They explained “When we started this off it felt like a hassle – a bit like going to the gym – but now we’ve got into a good routine it’s really easy and doesn’t cost us any more than before”

Interestingly the Greens/Strauss family, have made a family commitment as a unit, and the Vancouver Clean Project trio live and cooperate together, to reduce their waste.  They support one another.  If each family and household member decides to reduce waste we can all make a difference. Whether we take baby steps to reduce some packaging, medium steps of no-garbage weeks, or huge strides of zero landfill we will reducing waste,   reducing landfill, and live a greener life.


Resources:  by Mr and Mrs Green.

The Clean Bin Project Vancouver, BC.

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