It’s officially Zero Waste Week, the annual campaign that’s meant to remind everyone just how much waste they produce, and hopefully convince them to get that number down to zero. It’s no easy feat – the UK alone produces 177 million tonnes of waste each year, and we only use an abysmal one percent of items we purchased within the past six months.
What better time to make a change than during the week in September that’s devoted to limiting waste. Here are five changes you can make to lessen your contribution to those landfills, and have less of an impact on the planet.
A lot of the waste we produce comes from our kitchens, so this is a great place to start. Find a shop that sells bulk items that can be dispensed right into your own, reusable containers. That’s much better than buying something wrapped in plastic. Even though a lot of your food waste might be decomposable, when you throw it out with your regular rubbish, it won’t get a chance to properly break down. That means composting can make a huge difference, and if you don’t have a garden, you can likely donate it to a community plot. Meal planning can help reduce your food waste, too. Figure out what you’re making for the week, and only buy exactly as much as you need. If you can’t finish it before the expiry date, freeze it.
With all the plastic waste involved with personal care products, it can be tough to crack this one. But there are a few small things you can do. Buy things in packaging you know you can upcycle, like glass jars or stone containers. Replace any disposable things like cotton buds or makeup rounds with washable alternatives. Use every last drop of a product before you buy a new version of it, and when it’s time to dispose of a container, recycle what you can. A great way to ensure this always happens is to keep a mini recycling bin right in your bathroom. Any small change that will make recycling easier is always a good idea.
When something wears out, it can be tempting to throw it away. But, especially if you really love it, consider repairing it yourself or enlisting a professional to repair it for you. Your favourite pair of boots can be revived by replacing the heel and the sole. Your go-to dress with a stain on the bodice can be reworked into a skirt. The chair your cat scratched holes into can be reupholstered and look like new again. Because we live in a throwaway culture where things often feel replaceable, we forget that those items can and should have a second life.
If you really are done with something, fair enough. But don’t put it at the curb or take it to the dump. Instead, donate it to your local charity shop or consignment store. There are so many websites that can help you pass along your gently-used items to a new home, too, like Facebook Marketplace, Gumtree and Depop. The second hand market is booming, and it’s only set to grow.
As the saying goes, you get what you pay for. When you spend a little more money on a good-quality item, you’re likely getting better raw materials and more considered craftsmanship. So that means, instead of having to buy a new, high-street handbag every year, you can buy one that will last you for decades. And if you can choose something from a brand with the Butterfly Mark, all the better. You’ll not only be getting something that’s beautifully made, you’ll be getting something that’s ethically-made, too.
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