Would you like to reduce the amount of waste your home produces? It is one of the most fundamental steps towards ecoing your home and can in fact be one of the easiest. By simply changing some basic habits you can make a massive difference to the overall waste your household produces and save money in the process!
Household waste is often marginalised when compared to energy consumption and transport. The truth is that depending on your purchasing choices and attitude to waste it can actually be just as bad if not worse than most of the things we usually associate with our personal contribution to environmental impacts. The three R’s have been around for decades and still serve as the best available framework for approaching waste reduction. Reduce, reuse, recycle.
We’ve all heard it many times but what does it actually mean and how can we apply these principles to our daily lives? They are designed to reduce:
– Energy/fossil fuels used for production, transport and disposal –
– The pollution associated with that production –
– Landfill volumes –
– Reliance on virgin materials –
So let’s break each R down and start minimising your waste footprint ASAP.
Reducing is all about focusing on the amount of waste coming into your home in the first place so that there is less rubbish to deal with at the other end. This step is all about analysing your purchasing choices/habits and how we can be more conscious of the impact of each one. Here are some great ideas to consider:
When you go shopping:
Head to a bulk foods store or farmer’s market and buy in bulk to reduce packaging. Bulk food stores will let you refill your own containers rather than opting for a brand new one.
Take your own reusable bags, there are loads of options these days and plastic bags are the ultimate sign of laziness.
Choose options that you know will last. It might mean the more expensive choice a the time but you will save money and materials by avoiding the disposable variety of almost anything.
Keep your eye out for products made from recycled materials. Again there are loads of options and they are becoming more widely available.
Stick to brands that use recycled packaging if you can’t get refills.
Beware of products with unnecessary/excessive packaging. If it’s something you really need try contacting the producer to let them know how you feel about their over the top packaging.
Some other awesome behaviours you can adopt include:
Securely attach a ‘No Junk Mail’ sign to your letter box to avoid useless advertising and paper wastage. Most businesses and other groups that like to contact you via physical mail will gladly send you emails instead, all you have to do is ask. It will save them money and time while also reducing the amount of paper consumed by your household.
Growing your own food! It’s an absolute gateway activity that will encourage you to cook more, eat healthier and minimise packaging from convenient, less healthy take away meals. Herbs and vegetables are surprisingly easy to start growing with a bit of research and planning.
Take your lunch to work with you.
Borrowing things you know that you won’t use often like tools, gardening gear, ladders etc. Unfortunately businesses like Bunnings/Masters have made buying these items much cheaper in recent years but even so, think of how much money and storage space you’ll save.
Instead of buying gifts for family and friends make them yourself. The gift will be more appreciated by the recipient and you’ll save heaps. Cards are easy to make too.
Manufacturing new products requires a large amount of resources and energy that can offset by reusing typical household waste instead of going to shops to buy another. Once again you’ll save money and minimise your contribution to landfills in the process.
Here are a few simple ways to reuse materials around your home:
Kitchen and garden waste can be turned into compost for your garden/vege patch or food for your worm farm to create a sustainable, organic fertiliser. Just make sure you separate certain food groups like citrus, garlic, chilli and onions so you don’t burn the worms. These food groups can still be composted though.
Glass jars can be reused as storage containers for food or other small items like sewing buttons, screws or nails. Glass bottles can make great candle holders or be used to store brewed beverages in the fridge in summer time.
Paper from letters and documents can always be used as scrap paper. If you open envelopes carefully you can reuse them next time you need to send a letter. If you are printing anything at home remember to set your printer’s default settings to print double sided to save paper.
Donate your old clothing to a charity or someone in need. Especially with children’s clothing as they’re bound to keep growing and someone else child can receive the hand me downs. Kids aren’t as obsessed with fashion and style either so they won’t mind if its last seasons look. Adult fashion can be fickle but it’s generally cyclical so while you’re donating your clothes have a look around and pick up a couple of bargains that will be back in fashion before you know it.
Op Shops can also be a great place to get second hand furniture, kitchen appliances/items, books, tools and more. So much cheaper than buying brand new!
If you’ve got children you’ll know that almost anything can be reused as toys or arts and crafts supplies if you’re creative enough. If you don’t have kids you can always donate any of that sort of stuff to local schools or child care centres. Things like scrap paper or fabrics, cards, plastic containers, painting gear etc.
The only limit to reusing anything in the home is your imagination so get creative and start thinking outside the box.
Last but certainly not least, Recycling is when waste material is collected, processed and remade into something new. Everything from paper to glass, aluminium, plastic and more can be used in the production of new products instead of extracting those same materials from virgin sources. This in turn reduces the impact of mines, oil wells and deforestation as well as the associated energy and resources usage associated with those endeavours.
Australians have been traditionally bad at recycling despite the widespread availability of kerbside collection services for most of the more prevalent recyclable materials.
Breifly some statistics collected over the past decade or so include:
Steel cans (only 30.3%)
Aluminium cans (the most recyclable metal on earth) (only 67.4%)
Paper (only 45%)
Plastic (not including soft plastics) (76%)
Batteries (roughly 25-30%)
Glass (figures vary but have been as high as 75%)
E-Waste/Fluorescent Tubes/Lamps/Globes (figures vary but generally no higher than 10%)
Some of these figures can be quite staggering considering that a major part of our national identity is entwined in loving and caring for the environment.
So what can we do to improve:
Firstly make sure that you only use the kerbside collection service to recycle approved materials. By including incorrect materials in the waste stream you can inadvertently contaminate large quantities of recyclable material with non recyclable material increasing the cost and threatening the feasibility of these services.
Most municipal collection services will accept glass bottles and jars, plastic bottles and containers, steel and aluminium cans, paper and cardboard. If in doubt have a look at your bin lid or give the council a call to double check.
Anything that doesn’t fit any of the above categories can potentially be recycled so find out where you local transfer stations are for things like E-waste, white goods and timber (usually council dumps will have an areas for this but other locations like Officeworks will accept smaller items like mobile phones) and Fluorescent/light bulbs (again the tip is your best bet but there might be other businesses closer to home that also provide these services so google it).
So as long as you follow the three R’s your household waste will start decreasing immediately. Always remember that the first step is reducing the amount of material that will eventually become waste from entering your home to begin with. Tackle this step hardest and first to make reusing and recycling much easier to manage.