In a previous post, I discussed our disposable culture and its impact on our planet. It’s easy to feel powerless in the face of such a massive issue, but there are many things we can do to reduce waste and reduce our impact too. Here are some examples.
Ditch the disposables
Replace the disposable products you use with sustainable alternatives. For example, swap tissues for handkerchiefs and plastic shopping bags for reusable bags. Take your own mug if you buy coffee on the go – Starbucks will give you a 25p discount.
If you get periods, consider replacing tampons and sanitary towels with menstrual cups and reusable cloth pads. They may seem expensive upfront but you’ll never have to buy sanitary products again. And if you have a baby, try reusable nappies (diapers); you could save over £1000 by the time your child is potty-trained!
Things like toothbrushes, bin bags and washing-up brushes are inherently disposable, but biodegradable alternatives are friendlier to the environment and won’t sit in a landfill site for decades. Some may be expensive, so shop around.
You can also use biodegradable toiletries and cleaning products, which are less harmful to the environment than conventional products. Making your own toiletries is easy and fun too.
Don’t reject sloppy seconds
Charity shops are full of high-quality second-hand products – clothes, shoes, cooking equipment, soft furnishings, ornaments, paintings, books, CDs and DVDs, video games and electronic devices to name but a few. When you think about it, it’s ridiculous that we continue to manufacture these things when there are so many unwanted ones already in existence – and they’re a fraction of the price!
You can also buy second-hand on websites like eBay, or get something completely free on Freecycle. These sites are also good for getting rid of things you don’t use anymore. If you need something specific, ask around. Chances are, someone has an unwanted one lying around somewhere.
Minimalism isn’t about owning as little as possible; it’s about only owning things which are useful or which bring you joy. Before buying something, ask yourself whether you really need it. Say you don’t often eat toast – do you need a toaster or could you use the grill? If you don’t watch much TV, could you watch catch-up on the computer rather than getting a TV set? Or maybe you only do DIY occasionally – could you borrow tools from a friend? Owning less will simplify your life, save you money and help the environment. It also makes it much easier to move house or travel.
Make do and mend
Rather than rushing to replace a broken item, consider repairing it. When my laptop screen broke, I bought a new one on eBay for under £40 and my dad helped me fit it. A new laptop would’ve cost hundreds of pounds, and a perfectly good one would have been thrown away.
Sew up tears and holes in your clothes where possible. If you have a worn-out item of clothing, try making it into something new. I turn holey jeans into shorts, and once used the leftover denim to make a bag.
It’s also worth investing in some decent multi-purpose glue for when things break around the house.
Cut food waste
Work out how much food you need for the week, and don’t buy more than necessary. Keep close tabs on perishable food, making sure you use it before it goes off. Don’t throw away food just because the use-by date has passed – if it looks and smells ok, it probably is.
Put leftovers in the fridge or freezer to be eaten another day. If you buy something and find you don’t like it, consider passing it on to a friend or family member. You could also donate it to a food bank, provided it isn’t perishable.
Many councils now collect food waste; if yours doesn’t, consider getting a compost bin.
Read up on how recycling works in your area and make sure you put everything in the right bin, rinsing it if necessary. It sounds obvious, but many people don’t do this. Educate those you live with too. Consider saving glass jars and plastic tubs to store food in.
When getting rid of larger things like mattresses and sofas, see if there’s a local recycling centre that will accept them. You can recycle batteries and carrier bags at many large supermarkets.
Buy loose fruit and veg where possible – there’s no need for bananas to be in a plastic bag. Look for food packaged more sustainably, in paper or cardboard for instance. Otherwise, choose recyclable packaging where possible. Of course, it’s not always practical to avoid plastic packaging; you can only do your best.
These may seem like small things, but they do add up. I feel much lighter and more respectful of the planet when I make sustainable choices. Do you have any tips for avoiding waste? Let me know below!