Why is reducing our waste so important?
We currently live in a ‘throw away’ society – one that buys new, throws out old, and doesn’t give it a second thought. A lot of money, energy, and natural resources go into creating all the new products we buy day to day. Then, once we are done with them, even more of these things are used up when transporting and processing these products as waste. From here, the waste will often end up at a landfill where a huge amount of methane gas is produced – estimated to be between 30 and 70 million tonnes per year. This methane is around 20 times more potent as a Greenhouse Gas than carbon dioxide and a landfill can continue to produce this gas for more than 50 years. Landfills also produce leachate, a toxic sludge known to kill plants and animals, and contaminate our water supply.
Basically, these landfills are an environmental nightmare and we need to put a stop to them. The good news is, there are so many small things that we can all do in our day to day lives to work towards eradicating the need for landfills.
The European Week of Waste Reduction
The European Week of Waste Reduction (EWWR) is taking place this week (19th-27th November 2016) and aims to raise awareness about the impact of the waste we produce, and ways in which to reduce it. The idea is to unite people all across Europe in one common goal and to really highlight the importance of the three R’s – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.
Reducing waste should always be the first priority, meaning we initially use less resources and avoid creating higher demand for ‘new’ products to be made. This is then followed by reusing everything we can, and then recycling what we cannot.
By following this system we hope some day to eradicate unnecessary waste and eventually reach a stage in our society where no trash is sent to landfills or incinerators. This is an ethical and economic goal that aims to change the way we view our trash and move us ever closer to the all important circular economy (place in link to CE blog post here).
Top 10 Tips
#1 Ditch Single Use Items
Such as…. Takeaway cups! I’m sorry, I couldn’t help but put this one first! You know GUCA have been going on about this one all year, and it really is such an easy way to reduce your waste. The UK throws away 2.5 billion disposable cups every year. Buy a keepcup people. Keep in your bag at all times, it doesn’t take up much room. You might even get some discounts from coffee shops along the way!
Another big issue is plastic drinking straws. Americans alone use at least 500 million straws every day. All of these end up sitting in a landfill alongside our toothbrushes and takeaway cups. However, you can get bamboo or stainless steel straws that do the job but keep the planet safe. These are fairly easy to find, but I got mine from SaveSomeGreen! Go through your house this week, identify the single use items you have lying around, and see what you can do about them.
#2 Switch up Your Toothbrushes
We all use toothbrushes every day (I hope – if not please make this alternative your very first purchase) but we rarely think about the impact these little plastic sticks have on the environment. Plastic is a completely synthetic material, and once it has been produced it will be around forever. Actually, your plastic toothbrushes will end up outliving you. Even when you’re gone, a landfill of little plastic toothbrushes will remain.
So what can we do about this? There is a very simple and easy alternative – bamboo toothbrushes. These look, feel, and work just like normal toothbrushes, but are completely biodegradable. After six months of use (the length of time you are meant to keep any toothbrush!) simply throw it in your compost bin with your food and it will break down to be used as fertiliser or compost.
If you’re living in Glasgow you can get these locally at Roots, Fruits, and Flowers on Great Western Road, or you can find them online at savesomegreen.co.uk. You can also buy them in bulk if you want to save some money!
#3 Shampoo, Conditioner, and Deodorant Bars
On a similar vein to the toothbrushes, our shampoo, conditioner, and deodorant all tend to come in highly unsustainable forms. Whether it be plastic containers, microbeads, or aerosols, our most crucial self-care products are usually some of the most harmful for the environment. Luckily, there is a simple and easy solution to sort all three of these products in one go; get them in bar form!
Shampoo and conditioner bars have been growing in popularity for quite a while now – partly due to environmental reasons, but also because they are devoid of a lot of the chemicals found in other haircare products, and therefore are thought to be healthier for your hair. You may require a period of adjustment to get used to this new style of washing your hair, but I can tell you that once you get round the awkward first few showers they become a natural part of your routine. You will need to find the right bar for you hair type (as with any shampoo) but if you need help with this then feel free to get in touch with us here at GUCA or speak to a professional, whether that be your hairdresser or a member of staff at Lush who I have found to be very helpful in this department.
Perhaps a little bit scarier for some people is the transition to a deodorant bar. I tried a few eco alternatives to deodorant before coming to this particular item, and it is definitely a lovely alternative. I recommend getting a really plain one so that the scent isn’t overpowering and it’s nice and gentle on your skin. They are very easy to apply and do actually work! Again, if you need any help finding your particular bar then please do get in touch.
Websites for shampoo, conditioner, and deodorant bars;
#4 Go Digital
Think about all that junk mail that comes to your door every single day. Now imagine a world where that junk doesn’t end up in your bin. In fact, imagine a world where that junk doesn’t even get produced!
If you’re signed up to a magazine subscription, check to see if you can receive it digitally. Contact your bank and ask to go paperless and only receive your statements via email. Subscribe to newsletters that you don’t actually want or need. This takes literally seconds and is such a great way to reduce the waste that is coming through your front door.
#5 Learn to Love the Preloved
This one is pretty self explanatory. By buying second hand and selling or donating unwanted goods we reduce the waste that is sent to landfill and reduce the demand for new products. It saves the planet, saves our wallets, and can lead to us finding some pretty nifty things that we wouldn’t have considered before. It’s really just a win-win situation! So before you throw away those old clothes you don’t like any more, think about selling them. Or, if you’re feeling particularly generous, donate them so that someone else can love them.
#6 Make Your Tea the Authentic Way
I know that tea bags are not the worst thing in the world, but they are still unnecessary waste. Only about 80% of a teabag is actually biodegradable, meaning the bags do actually contain a small amount of plastic. Not only this, but unnecessary resources are used up in the production of these tea bags.
There are two solutions here; hunt down some ethically made 100% biodegradable tea bags, or buy yourself an infuser and go loose leaf! It’s better for your health and the environment.
#7 Re-Think Your Washing Up Supplies
This is another area of day to day life where we really just use an unnecessary amount of plastic and throw away supplies. Whether it be washing up sponges, brushes, or cloths, you can always find a biodegradable alternatives. For example, coconut scrubs, bamboo washing brushes, old rags as cloths. Theses are all extremely easy changes that will definitely make a difference to the amount of waste you produce. Again, I would suggest having a look at SaveSomeGreen who have all kinds of alternatives. Waitrose also do reuseable cloths and sponges that you can just throw in the washing machine every now and then to keep them fresh!
#8 Bake Non-Stick
This way you can eat cake and save the environment at the same time, right? Start baking using non-stick oven trays, bread bins, or cake tins. Or, go for a silicone alternative that you can simply pop the finished product out of (this works particularly well for cupcakes!). This completely eradicates the need for paper cupcake cases and greaseproof paper. I know it seems small, but everything we can do to help the environment plays its part. GUCA will actually be holding a zero waste bake sale later this week, so if you have any questions about this in particular then feel free to drop by and have a chat with us!
- For non-stick baking supplies I use the Jamie Oliver range which works wonders
- Silicone cupcake cases
#9 Learn to Use Your Food Waste Bin
There is a reason that every home in Scotland now has access to a food waste bin (if you don’t then contact your council to have that changed) – the reason is that 30% of the waste in an average bin in the UK is food waste. Imagine how much waste you can reduce by sending this food to be broken down and reused as compost or natural materials instead. So use your food waste bin! They’re free, you can get more bags for free from your council, and they make a huge difference. For reference, here is a list of the foods that can go in your bin;
- Meat and bones
- Fruit (and skins)
- Vegetables (and skins)
- Rice and pasta
- Tea bags and coffee grounds
- Egg shells
#10 Shop Smart
This one has been spoken about in the media a lot lately, and it is probably one of the easiest things we can do to help the environment. Reduce the amount of plastic produced when you shop. You can do this by bringing your own bag (the 5p charge has done wonders for this in Scotland!) or by choosing to buy produce that comes package free. Fruit and veg are pretty easy to find at places like Roots and Fruits or Stocks and Stems, or even the main supermarkets (although there may be less selection here). I’m not saying you have to be perfect and instantly buy everything package free, but if the option is there, take it!