Recycling is having something of a renaissance. ‘Zero waste’ as a concept is everywhere, from the headlines to the high street. Costa, Starbucks and Pret now offer free water refills to anyone who asks after Keep Britain Tidy revealed that 70% of customers would feel uncomfortable asking for a refill without buying something - aren’t we British a funny lot? Napkins have vanished, single-use plastic cups are disappearing from water coolers and plastic straws are being replaced with recyclable options in bars and coffee shops. How many little changes have you noticed?
Remember when the 5p plastic bag charge was introduced in Wales in 2011 and then in England in 2015? Well, in 2016-17, the 7 biggest retailers reported issuing 83% fewer bags than in 2014 and £66 million pounds was raised for good causes by 168 retailers from plastic bag sales. Little changes or big, they all add up to a huge impact. And bigger changes are coming. In October 2018, Defra Minister Michael Gove unveiled plans to ban drinking straws, stirrers and cotton buds within a year.
Personally I find the ‘zero’ in zero waste a little daunting - almost like I’m setting myself up for a failure before I begin. But the more I read about concept, the more I understand that zero waste isn’t actually about achieving ‘zero’; it’s about making good choices, pausing to think before purchasing and, most of all, creating a lifestyle that’s not only sustainable for the planet, but also sustainable for you. After all, if you abandon your zero waste lifestyle two weeks in because it proves too difficult, what was the point of starting in the first place?!
So how to take the next step and bring zero waste principles into your home? Here are my top tips:
Do your research. I’d highly recommend Bea Johnson’s book (she of @zerowastehome fame) Zero Waste Home for a good grounding in the basic principles and some guidance. It’s a revelation that striving for zero waste at home isn’t just about helping the environment - it also helps you feel more organised, in control as well as saving you time and money!
Refuse whatever superfluous items and single-use plastics that come your way. Do you really need another free pen/travel-sized bottle of shampoo/keyring? Every time you pick one up, you reinforce the demand to produce more. You can also register to receive less junk mail at https://www.mpsonline.org.uk/ - it takes seconds!
Reduce clutter at home. Have a Marie Kondo-style clear out and revel in feeling organised. Taking unwanted items to a charity shop feels fantastic on a personal level (look how tidy the house suddenly is!) as well as from a community viewpoint.
Reuse what you can. We’re all in the routine of taking shopping bags to the supermarket - well, most of the time - but what reusable items could you introduce at home? Think simple swaps - handkerchiefs instead of paper tissues, refillable bottles, using rags for cleaning etc. You could try the local whole food or farm shop with your own reusable containers to buy items like vegetables, rice and lentils while avoiding more plastic bags and unnecessary packaging. Instead of Tupperware (don’t the lids always get lost...or is it just me?), you can buy Pyrex dishes with silicone lids. They’re amazing - you can use them in the oven too. You can even make your own natural household cleaning products - no chemicals and, of course, no plastic! - take a look at this article for more information. But remember - do only what works for you in the first instance to keep things sustainable.
Recycle. Often we think of this as the best environmentally-friendly option but really it should be one of the last. Always ask yourself ‘Can I refuse/reduce/reuse?’ first. Remember, recycling as a concept also includes buying secondhand where possible - it’s not just about putting more recycling back into the system, but taking some out!
And finally, to conclude my list of Rs, ROT - yes, rot. Do you have a composter at home? Lots of councils issue small kitchen compost bins, or you could always buy or build your own. Find out what composts - for example, did you know that fluff from your tumble dryer can go in there? - and make sure the whole family is geared up to use it. You’ll soon have compost galore to keep your garden looking beautiful year-round.
Are you making moves towards becoming zero waste at home? Or is reducing your rural business’ carbon footprint important to you? As always, we’d love to hear your views.