For generations who have grown up with more or less disposable everything, the thought of moving to a ‘no waste’, or even ‘low waste’ regime might sound daunting. But fret not. You can drastically reduce the amount that you throw away with some relatively pain-free lifestyle tweaks. And it could save you a lot of money too.
1. Bring Your Own Bottle…
… and cup, and cutlery, and bags. One easy way to reduce waste is to shun the disposable and bring your own. Water bottles, shopping bags, veg bags and coffee cups are obvious and easy substitutions, and swapping a daily cup of shop-bought coffee for homebrew will save you around £15 a week alone. We might even soon be able to ditch the supermarket packaging — supermarket Waitrose last month announced that it was extending a pilot scheme which gives customers a discount of up to 15% if they brought their own containers for products such as pasta, lentils, beer, washing powder and even fresh flowers.
2. Eat up
The UN estimates that a third of our food (roughly 1.3 billion tonnes) is lost or wasted. Trim the fat on your grocery bill by making a weekly meal plan, using what you already have in as your starting point. Not sure what to do with half a cauliflower, a thumb of ginger and some brie on the turn? Try Plantjammer, an AI-based app which generates original recipes based on optimal flavour combinations, your dietary requirements, and what you have in. You can also take those best before dates with a pinch of salt. While it’s important to be careful with meat, you can usually see, smell and taste when it’s time to pass with veg and dairy. And finally, compost your scraps. No garden? No problem! Both bokashi and worm composting are suitable for flats and not only give free plant feed for houseplants and balcony veg, but will also help to keep your kitchen bin much less smelly.
3. Streamlined cleaning
The European cleaning and detergents industry was worth almost 29 billion Euros in 2017 and yet you can clean pretty much anything with bicarbonate of soda (whitens, takes smells away, dissolves grease) or vinegar (dissolves limescale, erases biro, gets rid of mug rings). And the most effective way to clean glass, mirrors and windows? With water and newspaper. For more handy tips, check out this article from Good Housekeeping and save a small fortune. The internet is also full of blogs on how to make homemade cosmetics, which, given that a 2011 survey found that the average British woman spends around £2,000 a year on make-up and toiletries, are certainly worth a try. After all, the best way to throw away less is to buy less.
4. Stitch and share
One of the biggest but least-talked about environmental burdens is the fashion industry. From farming raw materials to production and distribution, textiles bring with them a huge environmental impact, both in carbon emissions and water use, yet a 2017 study by the supermarket Sainsbury’s estimated that around 235 million items of clothing would that year be dumped in landfill. Small tears, broken zips and lost buttons can be easily fixed with a little practice, while any you don’t want can be given to friends or charity. And even worn out and dirty textiles can be recycled – many councils provide textile recycling services, while clothes retailer H&M has been offering a recycling service since 2013.