I was always under the impression that as a household we were actually pretty good with our waste — our council recycle bin was always full, and we own poultry so 99% of our food waste goes to them (or the dog!). However, I was also very aware that my commitment to using items such as reusable coffee cups, water bottles etc would ebb and flow, usually directly proportional to how busy life was at the time. I really wanted that to change, and to implement systems that would make our home waste reduction a permanent habit and not a passing fad — now that I have, I hope to pass on the information of what worked for us (and what hasn’t!).
My first tip would be to start small. I think we have all the seen the horrifying images of kilometres of plastic accumulated in the ocean, a turtle attempting to eat a plastic bag, mistaking it for a jellyfish and so on. These images are meant to educate and shock us, and they do that well. I do think that in some instances instead of inspiring people to make a change, they can actually have the opposite effect — causing an overwhelming feeling of “What can I do to make a difference?” and “Why even try?” So, it’s time to leave those thoughts behind! Are you going to be able to stop the 7000-plus plastic bags Australians dump into landfill every minute from ending up there? No. But you can make sure your household is not contributing to that figure!
There are 5 stages in the waste-reduction hierarchy and you may have seen variations of these around. The one I keep in the back of my mind is from Zero Waste Home by Bea Johnson and is REFUSE – REDUCE – REUSE – RECYCLE – ROT. So, to start making a difference without a huge lifestyle overhaul, just adopt the first principle REFUSE. Say NO to the plastic bag that the cashier habitually puts that one item you’ve just bought in, the one you equally-habitually take from them without question. Are you in the market for new roller shutters? No? Then don’t take that glossy brochure being shoved in your face at the shops just to be polite. And if you do need roller shutters, consider just snapping a pic with your phone of the information you need.
Refuse to buy the cucumber that for some bizarre reason has been wrapped in a plastic sheath, despite having its own protective skin — have a look for a better alternative. You will find one! Do you really need a freezer bag for those 3 apples, or will they actually make it from the trolley to home without incident? I do have some re-usable produce bags that I take shopping, but for the majority of the time I just go without, and there has yet to be any lack-of-bag related disasters.
I will be sharing more in-depth tips over the coming months, however if you have been thinking of reducing waste in your household, this first principle really is the best place to start. It needs no special planning or financial outlay. Just a tweaking of habits and taking a moment to consider “Do I really need this or can I manage fine without it?”