I was really inspired by the example of Kiwi couple Matthew and Waveney who have challenged themselves to live rubbish-free. So I’ve been looking into ways to reduce waste in my own life. I’m sharing these ideas in case they’re of use:
1. Dry your clothes the old-fashioned way.
Clothes dryers are like black holes for energy resources – air-drying your clothes (outside in the sunshine or inside in a drying rack) will save you money on your power bill, reduce the amount of energy used in your city, and, because sunshine is a natural disinfectant, your clothes will be especially fresh and clean!
2. Whip up your own beauty products from natural materials.
Many toiletries and cosmetics are packed with chemicals that can harm you and your environment. They also come in all manner of plastic and packaging. Make your own and you will know exactly what you are putting on your skin and exactly what you are washing down the drain. The internet is a goldmine for learning how to do new things, just get googling and you will find recipes for everything under the sun. Or try visiting MakeYourCosmetics.com for heaps of free recipes and advice. Why not invite your friends over and make a day of it?
3. Buy second-hand.
So much stuff is made in the world, and then more stuff (slightly shinier or in a prettier colour) comes along to replace it. Avoid adding more demand to the accelerating cycle of production and disposal of things. Buy second-hand. Try charity shops, eBay, garage sales (a great way to meet your neighbours), or freecycle (just like eBay, except everything’s FREE!). I buy all my clothes, books, and furniture second-hand – it’s a lot of fun hunting for treasures, and awesome when you find something really unique!
A large amount of household waste is from food and other organic material. When this is disposed of to landfill along with all the other rubbish it gets trapped under mountains of waste and decomposes without air. This releases methane and causes some big problems for our fragile atmosphere. When you compost at home, the air gets in and methane is not produced. Plus you’re creating nutrient-rich fertiliser for your own (or a friend’s) garden. There’s a good guide to composting options on the Rubbish Free website.
5. Turn your appliances off at the wall.
Appliances in ‘stand-by’ mode use a surprising amount of electricity. Turn them off at the wall and you could reduce your energy use (and power bill) by up to 8%. According to calculations by the BBC, if the whole world switched off their appliances at the wall when they were not in use, we would reduce global CO2 emissions by 1%. Amazing.
6. Buy your fruit and veggies loose.
I never understand why we feel we must place our apples in one bag, and our oranges in another. Just put them loose in your trolley or basket. The check-out operator can still weigh them all together, and you’ll save 5-10 plastic bags each time you visit the supermarket. Just wash them when you get home (which you would have to do anyhow to remove pesticides and dirt). Or, even better, grow your own veggies.
7. Get on yer bike (or on the bus).
Transporting ourselves through our own, naturally replenishing energy sources (legs, people) will save fuel, reduce emissions, and get your heart-rate up. Another option is riding the bus – this is the ultimate car pool and you get the chance to meet the most interesting folks.
8. Borrow and share.
Most of us have a lot of stuff. So do our friends. If we share the stuff, we reduce the overall demand for new stuff to be produced. You can share with friends, or with perfect strangers. Traditional public sharing systems include libraries and video rental stores. Today, the internet is making a new evolution of community sharing possible: check out the Collaborative Consumption website to find out more. Rachel Botsman recently gave a wonderful, inspiring talk about the collaborative consumption movement at TEDx in Sydney, Australia.
9. Go for reusable packaging.
We live in a disposable culture, which champions convenience over sustainability. Do your bit by reusing packaging. Use eco-friendly shopping bag and refuse the plastic carry bags at your supermarket or clothing stores. Get a hardy water container and avoid the plastic, thow-away bottles. And, if you are a coffee fiend like me, do the world a favour and carry a KeepCup in your bag. You’ll never have to toss a disposable cup again.