Keith and I find that our life is becoming more and more, about having less and less. Our desires in life are not about accumulating more, but we strongly feel that our lives are enriched by having less. Less stuff, less stress, more clarity, more inspiration.
Part of this, is striving for a zero waste lifestyle in our home. I said striving – As of today, February 17th, 2015 we still have a garbage can under the sink, in the bathrooms, and yes, we still purchase things in plastic and with wrapping. We have goals, and we have made significant changes, which we will talk about in this post.
The 3 R’s of Reduce, Reuse, Recycle that we have all learned are helpful. We can also add Refuse and Repurpose (and I’m sure lots more).
My list of Ten Ways to Reduce Waste in your home:
- Shop locally. Know where your produce and food comes from. The closer to home it was produced, the smaller the carbon footprint, and therefore, the less waste for the environment. Buying from local farmers markets and “Mom and Pop” shops allows you to keep packaging down to a minimum (you can bring your own containers) and labelling is typically non existent of much less. Make from scratch whenever possible. (My Sourdough pages are all about this!)
- Shop in bulk. As you can see, I am a big bulk shopper, and my ultimate goal is to have all of my pantry with glass or paper packaging. You can even shop with your glass jars, have them weighed first, and then go home with the product in the jar (as opposed to a plastic bag). Keeping pieces of cloth/newspaper in the bag will keep the jars from hitting each other.
- Refuse to purchase items that are overpackaged. This is a tricky one for some, since the item might be a necessity, it might be a “great deal”, or it might just be the only one available. This is particularly tricky for electronic items that have become part of our life. We purchased 2 printer toners recently, since we run our own business from home, and while we aim for zero paper, have realized that this will be many years away for us. The toners were on a thick cardboard base, with hard plastic over each toner. The jaws of life were required to extract them from their packaging, with Keith in great peril from the razor sharp plastic parts on the side. Our options? We could move to sending out print jobs by email (a common option nowadays) and just use our printer as a scanner electronically. Practically the first option will not work for us, but might for you.
- Bring reuseable shopping bags with you, and make sure you ALWAYS have some in your car, purse, or briefcase/backpack. There are great clip on bags made by Chico Bags that clip on to your belt, purse, or backpack. Refuse plastic bags if they are offered to you, and if you have forgotten your reuseable bags, why not ask for paper bags? You can always recycle the paper. When you are in a restaurant, consider bringing your own “take home” container with you beforehand (in your reuseable bag, of course)
- Remember the earth! So much of what we eat can be composted back into our earth. Set up a backyard or patio composter. Consider vericomposting (worms!), or take advantage of your local organics waste program. If your area does not have one, why not contact your waste management department and ask if this is something that they can consider. When you mow the lawn, for goodness sake, keep the cuttings ON the lawn!
- Buy excellent quality when you do shop for hard goods, clothing, and items for your home. While you may pay more initially, they will last longer. Buy classics, not fads, to reduce the items that will be unused. Donate items that aren’t needed any longer to second hand stores, and cut up old sheets for good cotton rags to use around the house. The leftover cloth can be donated to places as bulk rags which will be repurposed in furniture and clothing, or sold overseas for bulk textile.
- Consider borrowing or renting things that you will only use the odd time. I know of one neighbourhood that has a community ladder that is shared by about 6 houses. Books can be borrowed from the library, even fancy evening wear can be swapped around with a few friends! Why not make an evening of it? (With champagne, in glass bottles, of course)
- REUSE and REPURPOSE whenever possible. When you purchase something in a jar, perhaps that can be part of your pantry moving forward? Paper can be reused on both sides or cut up for note pads before being recycled when used.
- Don’t forget the water and heat waste! Fill a jar before you brush your teeth, and don’t leave the water running while you are brushing, or washing hands/face. Consider a programmable thermostat. Diffusers installed on your taps and showerheads will reduce your water use significantly. Even better, consider shorter showers, cooler showers. Turn the thermostat down and wear a sweater. Keep the blinds down on hot days and pay attention to the weather to know if a hot day is coming. It is more energy efficient to cool down an already cool house!
- Find ways to use less plastic every day – This is a really difficult one since so much of what we purchase (medications, foodstuffs, home accessories) are packaged in plastic. Whenever possible, reuse containers. Most recycling programs will accept medication containers or they can be returned to the pharmacy to be safely cleaned and recycled. If you have the choice to purchase an item in glass, versus plastic, opt for the glass. If the price difference makes the glass product higher priced, think of the environmental price of plastic production. Recycling programs have come a long way in 30 years, and much of the plastic that we recycle comes back as polar fleece, home accessories, and outdoor products.
With these 10 tricks, you are well on your way to making a change in our world. Less waste today, means a cleaner world tomorrow.
How are YOU making a difference?