Interested in going zero-waste this year? Now more than ever, people are aware of the plastic plague that is consuming our planet. In fact, Collins Dictionary named “single-use” as the word of 2018, reflecting the rising global awareness of environmental issues. Despite this, there are many people who still don’t really understand what the big deal is. So what if we use plastic? If you’re unsure about just how bad plastic waste is, then here are some sobering facts:
- 90.5% of plastic waste in the world has never been recycled.
- Around 18 billions pounds of plastic waste flows into oceans every year from coastal regions.
- 40 percent of plastic produced is packaging alone, used once and then discarded i.e. single-waste
- Plastic is killing more than 1.1 million seabirds and animals every year.
Basically, plastic is straight up no good. As doom and gloom as it sounds, there are ways that we can help to the amount of waste we produce individually.
Starting out as ‘zero-waste’ can feel a bit overwhelming. Often, the biggest struggle is knowing where to start. However, reducing your waste isn’t an overnight process. Like with any big lifestyle change, it’s better to start slow if you want the changes to stick.
Now full disclaimer – I am in no way shape or form a zero-waste expert. I certainly haven’t managed to completely cut plastic out of my life. However, over the last year or so I’ve really tried to make a conscious effort to avoid unnecessary waste where possible. I’ve written a post about this before on the blog, which you can read here. Throughout my journey, I’ve learnt some helpful tips along the way that I think would benefit a lot of other people too.
Zero-Waste Tip #1 – Eliminate Single-Use Items
Start with an audit of what you use on a daily basis. For example, do you use cotton pads, face wipes or cotton buds in your beauty regime? Or, do you always buy bottled water at lunchtime during work?
These are just a few examples. But, it can be really eye-opening to realise just how many single-use items we’ve become accustomed to using every day. Think about how much waste you produce, not only when you’re at home, but when you’re out and about too. For example, do you always request a plastic straw when ordering your drink?
Here are a few reusable items to consider switching to:
- Ditch the takeaway coffee cup. Good alternatives include the Ecoffee Reusable Coffee Cup, KeepCup or the JOCO Glass Coffee Cup. Alternatively, many shops sell their own cheaper alternatives.
- Ditch the plastic bottles. Instead, take your own reusable bottle and refill it when you’re out and about. Options include S’well Bottles, Chilly’s and Blue Dopper. However, there are loads of alternatives available.
- Ditch the face wipes and cotton pads. Instead, invest in reusable and washable alternatives such as these Eco-Friendly Cotton Scrubbies and Face Cloths.
- Ditch the plastic toothbrush. There are so many other great environmentally friendly alternatives to buy, such as this Bamboo Toothbrush. What’s particularly clever about this design is that instead of buying a whole new toothbrush every time you need to replace it, you can buy just the toothbrush head and swap it out yourself.
- Ditch the straws. You know they’re bad anyway. Instead, try these stainless steel or bamboo alternatives and keep them handy in your bag. Or, just ask for your drink without a straw.
- Ditch the carrier bags. Carry with you reusable bags instead such as these string bags from Turtle Bags. Pretty much most shops have their own reusable bags for sale, so be sure to pick one up when you’re doing your next big shop.
- Ditch the meal deals. Grabbing lunch on the go adds up to a lot of single-use plastic that can be avoided. Instead, prepare ahead and make your own delicious lunch. If you’re looking to up your lunchbox game to ensure your food stays fresh, check out options such as the Adult Bento Box or the popular stainless steel Elephant Box.
- Ditch the receipts. Simply saying ‘no’ when asked if you want a print-out of your receipt will result in so much paper being saved. A good thing too as most receipts can’t be recycled due to the fact they’re BPA-coated (a plastic component). Instead, ask whether it’s possible to get your receipt emailed to you.
Zero-Waste Tip #2 – Do You Really Need It?
As a byproduct of our ‘throwaway culture’, many of us have grown so accustomed to just buying, buying and buying, without taking a moment to consider whether we REALLY need it. Think about it, how many times have you rushed out to buy something because you thought you absolutely had to have it, only to throw it to the back of a drawer and chuck it away at a later date?
The next time you want or need something, just wait and see if you still feel the same a few weeks later. This will help you curb overconsumption and only buy things you really want or need.
Zero-Waste Tip #3 – Repair or Re-Use Before Throwing Away
This is another big one. Nowadays, if something breaks, tears, rips or stop working, we immediately throw it away and buy a new one to replace it. However 9 times out of 10 things can be easily fixed, it just requires a bit of effort.
For example, the next time you get a hole in your favourite jumper or pair of jeans, why not try and sew it back together? If your straighteners break, see if someone can repair it instead of going out and buying a brand new one right away?
Not only will you probably save yourself a lot of money in the long-run, but you’ll also learn to appreciate the stuff you have, rather than viewing it as a commodity that can be easily replaced.
What about when you don’t want something anymore and you want it gone for good?
Well, there are lots of alternatives for getting rid of stuff that still doesn’t involve chucking it in the landfill. For example, you could offer it to your friends or family who you think might be interested in taking it off your hands. If not, try donating it to your local charity shop or selling it on sites such as eBay.
You could even get creative and re-use old items and turn them into something new. For instance, that old t-shirt that is ripped beyond repair? You could tear it up into smaller pieces and use them as re-usable cleaning cloths.
Zero-Waste Tip #4 – Choose Second-Hand Where Possible
Ever since I’ve become more conscious of the amount of waste I’m producing, I’ve been HOOKED on shopping second-hand. Initially, it’s surprising just how much there is available in your local charity shop, and for such low prices. Especially when it comes to fashion – and building your own sustainable wardrobe – it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that it’s going to end up costing you an arm and a leg, because you can only buy from the very best ethical brands. However, shopping second-hand is a very sustainable alternative.There can often be a bit of a misconception that shopping second-hand means that you’re compromising on style and quality. In reality, a huge percentage of stuff for sale has only been worn / used a handful of times, meaning that its essentially still brand-new
If you’re not comfortable with the idea of having a mooch around your local charity shops, then try shopping second-hand online first. There are so many great platforms out there such as eBay, Depop, Gumtree and Facebook Marketplace to name a few. However, it’s quite easy to get a little bit TOO carried away when second-hand shopping, s
As I mentioned earlier in this post, cutting back on the amount of waste you produce can feel like a tall order. As with any lifestyle change, many people can feel like they have to go into it with an “all or nothing mindset”. In fact, if you rush into making big life changes all in one go, it’s more than likely that you won’t stick with it.
The fact that you’re interested in making changes to better the planet is a huge step in itself. Any change that you make, no matter how small it may seem, should be celebrated. Remember, it’s a marathon, not a sprint.
Have you got any other zero-waste tips for beginners? Share them in the comments below, or tweet me.