Awareness of the plastic pollution problem has grown a huge amount this year, with the increase in footage reaching us through many TV, video and social networks. However, it’s not all about the plastic.
The great Pacific ‘garbage patch’ found in the north Pacific ocean around 30 years ago is suspected to now be anywhere between the size of Texas and Russia, depending on which analysis and methods of measurement you refer to.
This patch of waste is filled not only with plastic and microplastics but with all kinds of waste, most of which has degraded into smaller pieces making it easily digested by marine life and therefore entering the foodchain.
As you start to reduce your use of plastic, it’s natural to become more aware of all kinds of waste that we generate at both home and the workplace.
The Zero Waste gurus like Bea Johnson (writer of highly recommended guide to sustainable living Zero Waste Home) and many others such as Kathryn Kellogg from Going Zero Waste have mastered the art of reducing their waste to such an extent that, after recycling, reusing and composting, they can fit a year’s worth of remaining waste into a 500ml mason jar.
So with that in mind, we’ve put together these 5 ways you can start to reduce your household waste, today.
1. Home composting
There are many blogs and websites online that can help you learn about home composting in your climate. The methods used in cooler climes don’t always apply to warmer ones so do your research and do what you can. Even if you live in an apartment, there are ways to speed up your organic waste degradation so you can create compost for potted plants etc. And those with a garden can even bury waste such as vegetable peelings and banana skin directy into troughs in the ground. If you live on an urbanisation, speak to your president about ways that community composting can me managed. If you happen to have neighbours with goats, horses or rabbits for example, talk to them about what food waste you could pass their way too.
2. Meal planning to reduce wasted food
I know we’re guilty in our house of not thinking about meal planning very well and sometimes allowing food to be wasted. This is most often in the form of leftovers never getting used and so thrown away as the mold starts to form, or tins of things being opened for a meal and then not completely used up. It pains me every time and yet we carry on doing it. So now we’re making a better meal plan for the week, shopping more efficiently and we’re more careful with portion size in the first place as well. Not wasting food can be tricky with a five-year-old whose tastes seem to change like the wind! But some thoughtful adjustments can definitely make a difference.
3. Food packaging
For the most part if you cook everything from scratch then you will immediately see a reduction in your food packaging waste. And if you recycle and home compost then your bin is likely to remain pretty low for most of the week. However, it’s not always as simple as that. It does take time to hunt out the places close to you that don’t cover everything in plastic. From meat to veg, to plastic egg boxes, once you see it you can’t unsee it! Try getting your fruit and veg and eggs from local shops or farm shops (and take your own reusable bags of course!) and if you can get your meat from a butchers who are likely to only use waxed paper as wrapping then you’ve at least avoided unnecessary plastic trays often found in supermarkets.
Moving from the kitchen into the bathroom, let’s look at wipes. I wasn’t so eco-conscious when my child was newborn and I do appreciate the feeling that you need wipes at arms length for at least the first 3-4 years. But our grandparents didn’t have wipes and didn’t need them. Remember the smell of your grandmother wiping your face with a dob of spit on her hankie? It was of course her version of a handy wipe. Better than the astringent alcohol and perfume and certainly much less waste! But kids and grandparents aside, face wipes are another place you can make the change to reduce your household waste. I stopped using them over 6 months ago and now and find a warm flannel and soap bar far better for my skin. Whether for children, faces, cleaning or spillages, having a supply of flannels and reusable cloths around the house that you can wash and use again makes much more sense than creating waste with disposables.
5. Bottled water
Whilst this one is gaining much more awareness now and many people we speak to have already made the switch to water filters and reusable bottles, it’s still worth mentioning. Try to plan ahead and if you know you’re going to be out and about for some time, be sure to carry a reusable bottle with you and fill it from home. In Spain in the summer we’re more than aware that bottled water kept on you all day can become warm, so invest in a stainless steel bottle that will work as a thermos and with a couple of ice cubes added will keep water cold all day. If you do use plastic reusable bottles, look out for ones that are BPA free so avoid any unnecessary risk of leaching those nasties into your water. Keep an eye out for our new range of reusable water bottles coming soon.
That wraps up our list for now, there will be another five ways to consider reducing your waste in the next post in our series.