About 3 years ago, my husband and I realized that we are generating way too much waste, which goes directly to the landfill, so from one day to another we decided that we are going to pay more attention on what we buy. At the beginning, we introduced only small changes: buying loose fruits and vegetables, making sure that we use the recycling system correctly. Then after finding small shops which offer plastic-free, bulk items, we decided to get rid of our general waste bin. I won’t lie, at the beginning it was still tempting to buy that cheesecake wrapped in all plastic or that premade pizza covered in all plastic, but we had a goal, and our mind decided to collaborate with us. Now, when we go to the supermarket, we just don’t understand why people buy a plastic bag of potatoes when the loose ones are just right next to it.
The following list should give you some easy and practical recommendations, which should help you to reduce waste even if you don’t leave in an area where you have the possibility to visit a zero-waste shop.
#1 Get rid of your general waste bin
This might sound a bit harsh, but believe us this will be the first step, which will teach you how not to think about products wrapped in single use plastic and also to find better alternatives to those things. Also, what we noticed over the time is that this actually saved us money, as we just didn’t reach for additional items we have been craving for before as they came with “extra” packaging.
#2 Have a look around the house
My family knows that I cook and bake almost everything in the oven, as it is much easier for me. The only problem I had with this in the past was baking paper. As soon as we decided to focus on the zero-waste living, I knew that I need to find an alternative as the greasy, oily paper can not be put into the recycling bin and unfortunately, we do not have a compost. So, I searched the internet and found reusable and perfectly washable non-stick baking tray liners. I applied this swapping trick to everything: paper kitchen towels changed to washable ones; paper napkins changed to fabric ones; harmful, chemical cleaning products changed to natural ones like vinegar, lemon, citric acid, green bleach, bicarbonate of soda; shampoo, body wash, liquid hand soap in plastic tubs changed to solid soap bars, etc.
We would suggest to check your general waste bin and analyze where all those wrappers are coming from, or even your recycling bin (as recycling should always be the last option), and try to find a reusable alternative to the wasteful items.
#3 Think before you throw anything away
Save the last plastic washing-up liquid bottle or the hand soap bottle with the pump and if you have a zero-waste shop nearby fill these up instead of sending them to recycling and buying some new plastic tubs.
The same goes for the food scraps. Use your old coffee grounds to make a revitalizing body scrub, to neutralize the odors in your fridge, to fertilize your plants; use the banana peel before you toss it into the compost or food bin by soaking it in water and then fertilizing your plants with this potassium rich liquid; regrow your vegetable “scraps”, our absolute favourite is spring onion, leak and parsley; use that squeezed lemon for cleaning, etc.
Yes, you can use the left-over lemon from yesterday’s tequila night to clean your kitchen and bathroom, but what should you do with it after cleaning? Definitely not to throw into the general waste bin. Unfortunately, food waste decomposing in landfills releases methane, while composted food can be used as a fertilizer improving soil health. The easiest option is to use your food bin because your council can recycle your food scraps into good quality soil fertilizer or even generate electricity depending on the area where you live. The best option is (if you can) to set up a compost, worm farm or a bokashi system for your food scraps.
#4 Plan ahead
It doesn’t matter if you shop in a supermarket or in a small, independent shop, either zero-waste or not, it is really important to plan ahead. First of all, never leave the house for shopping if you are hungry! You will end up buying too much food which somehow will end up in the bin. Secondly, prepare your tubs, reusable bags or anything which is clean and can hold food. Again, if you can always support small businesses, but you can make huge changes even if you shop in a supermarket. Don’t buy packaged apples, potatoes, tomatoes, when you have their loose siblings next to them (and sometimes those are more delicious as well). We know those potatoes are so dirty or you just really don’t have time to pick 6 good looking apples from that huge pile, while you can just grab a bag and job done. But bear in mind that it is absolutely worth it, and you can also pick your own fruits and vegetables, instead of accepting what they are offering within a bag. Most of the deli section accept your own tubs, so you can buy fresh fish with no packaging, only 3 slices of ham with no packaging, those delicious sausage rolls with no packaging, etc. Therefore, not only that you will buy plastic free, but you will buy the needed amount which will not expire and won’t end up in the bin.
#5 Be an example
All my colleagues at work know that I am into zero-waste living and not just because I own a business. I am the one who always reminds them that they shouldn’t put the crisp packet into the recycling bin or I always collect recyclable or reusable tubs or packaging after lunch. Yes, I literally bring rubbish home and deal with it in an appropriate way if I know that otherwise it would end up in the landfill. For some people this is funny and embarrassing, but with time the people around you will implement a couple of good changes in their lives.