It seems that every month we have some kind of green initiative launched right? Plastic Free July, Second-hand September, Zero waste Week. But that is because we absolutely need to make changes. Our planet is drowning in what we throw away. Change needs to happen in every household. These initiatives do work and bring focus, it is proven. But I also know people can have great intentions, but never know where to start. So, I thought I would try to share some practical tips that might help. I will also share some of my absolute favourite eco friendly finds with you in a separate post. I get asked a lot about fave finds, so I will share as soon as I can get it written up.
But before we start, remember it does not have to be this week that you make change. It is just that having a dedicated week nationally/internationally helps with focus and awareness. Picking your own week to have a concerted effort and push is a great idea. Just give it a go! Do not let the thought of zero waste week put you off or feel unachievable either. Total Zero waste is incredibly difficult to achieve and in no way an over night thing. So, rather than feel like it’s an impossible task, change the way you think of it. Approach it with a mindset that you are moving towards a more sustainable way of living. That way, you will not feel like your efforts are a waste or in vane. Bite size chunks my lovely people. Even teeny tiny bite sized chunks of change make a difference.
Zero Waste Week – Why do we need it?
I wanted to start by sharing some statistics here, to give a snap shot of the problem. I never sit and preach here on my blog, but…..I think that highlighting a little of the true catastrophe we are up against, is illuminating. I know I took my sustainable living journey far more seriously when I had a better understanding of the situation. As my understanding grew, so did my commitment to doing, and being better. I also know I need something to be quite visual in my mind, before I can comprehend it. So, these little stats will I hope, give you that visual.
- There is just under a kilogram of rubbish generated per person, per day on average. Only around 14% of that is being recycled and 5% is being composted.
- A huge percentage of our plastic waste is from packaging.
- Around 11 million tonnes of plastic reach our oceans each year. There is a “garbage patch” 3 times the size of France in the Pacific Ocean.
- It is estimated that by the end of 2020, there will be more items of plastic in the oceans than fish!
- Microplastics (plastic particles less than 5mm diameter) are in such abundance in our oceans that there is around 2 million pieces per square meter of the ocean bed.
- Landfill sites emit methane gas, which is 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide. A huge contributor to global warming.
- Global warming has led to a huge increase in the planets temperature. This has resulted in the ice of the Antarctic melting at a rate of 250 billion tonne every year.
- If the worlds annual waste was put onto rubbish trucks, they would circle the world 24 times.
They are pretty grim reading right? But, we can make change. We can turn the tide (excuse the pun) on our contribution to the problems. The Covid 19 pandemic demonstrated to us that the changes we make, can quickly make a difference.
Where to start with a Sustainable Lifestyle
So, you know you want to make positive changes. You know that it is important that every single person takes a little responsibility. But, I know it can feel totally overwhelming in knowing where to start. There are so many companies greenwashing. There is confusion over recycling symbols. There is even doubt as to whether what you put into your recycle bins actually gets recycled! I get it. It is a lot to learn! But, the biggest thing to remember is making the change to even one area of your life, is positive. For a few pointers, I have spoken a little about making a start on living more sustainably in this post, Conscious Living.
I also found some great video’s on YouTube. Some of my favourite low waste living YouTuber’s are;
My tips for Zero Waste Week
1 – Making purchases more consciously
Of course, the quickest way to become zero waste is to not buy anything! However, that is not practical and I will never pretend that it is. A girls gotta eat after all! But we can move towards only buying what we need. To make you become a little more conscious of your buying, you could try the following. In zero waste week, before you buy something why not run through the following questions in your head;
- Do I need it
- What will I use it for
- How often will I use it
- Do I have something that already does what this will do
- Can I buy it secondhand or repurposed
- Can I borrow it from someone
- Do I even really want it
I promise you, it helps to run through those. It makes your purchasing of something, more of a decision than an impulse. When I first started to really think about what I buy, I was shocked to discover that so much of my previous buying had been thoughtless. It is exactly that unconscious buying that led me to the position of not having to buy any cosmetics or toiletries for almost 2 years!!!! I had so much sitting in my bathroom cupboards etc, that I did not need to make any purchases. It was a huge shock to me. I had never realised how much I bought. I was a marketers dream!
2 – Start with one item at a time
There is absolutely no point in rushing out to buy eco versions of everything, when you still have stuff. That is not a sustainable way to live. So, just take it one item at a time. For example, as your cosmetics/lotions and potions run out, source an environmentally friendly alternative. This is how I started and it was less overwhelming. I have a zero waste pamper routine now.
3 – Start with one room at a time
This could be another little task to think about in zero waste week. Get a pad and pen. Look through the room you are concentrating on, and decide where you can save on waste. I wrote down all the items in my bathroom that I use and need. For example, toilet roll, cotton wool, shampoo, period items, shower gels etc. I then started researching and looking at low waste, eco friendly alternatives. I wrote them down so that when my items ran out, I already had a planet friendly option in mind. It really helped and starting with the basic, most used items is a great place to start.
4 – Start with Single use items
This is the perfect place to start as it makes an instant impact! If you are not using a single use item, it will not go in landfill. Simple as that! If you have not yet bought re-usable face coverings while we are still dealing with the pandemic, do so! The disposable masks are creating huge amounts of landfill waste. I just received two fabulous organic cotton ones from *Urban Green Company. They are great and reasonably priced. They are so comfortable and breathable!
(* – gifted item sent by the brand to review)
5 – Look at your rubbish
I am not telling you to dig through your wheelie bin here. But, understanding where your rubbish comes from is useful. It helps you identify where change is needed. I will hedge a bet that packaging is a main factor! It also made me realise that I needed to be more choosy who got my money! This leads me onto my next tip….
6 – Look at your Supermarket shopping
Look at your items in your cupboards. Using your new found understanding of what the recycle symbols mean (or click here if you did not look at them earlier), you can see what not to buy again! It still surprises me the amount of packaging from big brands that is not recycle-able.
7 – Be prepared
I can not tell you to be like a girl guide. I was thrown out of the girl guides for not conforming….ahem…..However, do take a leaf out of their book and be prepared. Always have a fold up shopping bag with you. Remember your bags for life when you hit the supermarket. Carry a reusable coffee cup for your Costa’s fix. You get the picture…..
8 – Understand terminology used
This can be tricky I know. It gets so blooming confusing and misleading! Just because something says it is “degradable” does not necessarily mean it can be used willy-nilly! Some items labeled this will still need to go to a industrial composter, so cannot go in the usual recycling. It’s clever marketing! To help, I have the following little tally up;
Degradeable, Oxo-degradable, photo-degradable – These are still plastic. it just means that they break down into smaller and smaller pieces.
Bio-degradeable – means that an item breaks down into organic materials. No toxins are left behind and it breaks down within a decent time scale.
Compostable – Break down into nutrients that actually enhance the soil.
Bio-plastic or degradable plastic – Does break down, but there is usually no disclosure on how long it takes!
9 – Try to adopt the five R’s
- Refuse – Do not buy from companies that are not planet friendly.
- Reuse – Can the item be used in another way? I gave tips on this in my 20 things to repurpose post.
- Reduce – The things you use. Energy, waste, cars, water etc use, can all be reduced with a little care.
- Repair – We are a throw away society, but can the item be repaired?
- Recycle – recycle as much as you possibly can
10 – Think of what you wash
Now this is a tricky one as we all need our clothes clean and fresh! But, man made fibres contain microplastics. When washed, thousands of them will detach and end up in the water system. But, there are a few things that will help minimise this.
- Try to buy less clothing made from man made fibres. Also wash them less frequently if you can.
- Use a guppy bag. These are bags that catch a lot of the fibres that come off your clothes. I have this one.
- Make sure the machine is full. The fuller the machine, the less the clothes get agitated and the fibres fall off.
11 – Consider your cuppa
I have some good news, and some bad news for you my fellow tea/coffee lovers…. Most tea bags contain plastic and let’s not even get started on coffee pods! For years I was spreading the used tea bags on my gardens flower beds, not realising that they contained plastic. Someone should have told us right?? Thankfully, you can now buy tea bags without plastic in them. Look at your box next time you buy tea bags. Those that have removed plastic from theirs are shouting it loud and proud on their boxes. If they are biodegradable, they can go into your composting bin. If not, go back to a good ole pot of tea and loose tea leaves. I often do that anyway as it makes me feel fancy…..
I am afraid your coffee pods are another matter. Even a former boss of Nespresso himself declared his coffee pods an environmental disaster… If you just love your cup of “proper” coffee, then consider a machine that has a bean grinder, or look at the new range of fresh coffee bags that are emerging. As long as they are plastic free bags..!
12 – Keep Learning
In no way to I consider myself a Greta Thunberg. Or an expert in any way. But I have a hunger to learn and be better. I literally learn something new every day on how to do better! I want to keep pushing forward in my knowledge. I follow lots of eco awareness accounts on social media. I read lots of articles and blogs. I read lots of books. I watch documentaries. I try to understand how I can lower in my impact. Some of my suggested reads and watches are below.
Zero Waste week is a great start for focus
I know this was a long post! I honestly tried to reign myself in as much as I could. I could talk all day about this subject! However, I hope that this has given you a little help and insight to get you started. A Zero waste week is a fantastic place to start. It gives some focus for a set amount of time. There is usually lots of information shared during these initiatives too.
My plan moving forward, is to make a page up with my favourite eco swaps. That way I can keep it updated as a useful resource. The main thing I want you to remember is that if you are reading this post, you care. You want to live more consciously. That is brilliant and my little eco warrior heart thanks you from its bottom! The best way to start……is just start! One item, one room, one conscious purchase at a time.