A Simple Guide to Living with Less Waste

We live in a fast-paced world that has led the majority of us to demand convenience in all aspects of our lives. From the food we eat, the clothes we wear, to the technology we continually update – pretty much everything we consume is packaged unsustainably, in some shape or form.

Recycling plastic, paper and glass might be second nature for most of us, but the truth is, we largely ignore a staggering amount of other waste going to landfill, such as soft plastic packaging, convenience products, clothing, and food. We tell ourselves that as New Zealanders, we’re clean and green but, the truth is, our country is creating waste like there’s no tomorrow.

It’s deeply upsetting to think of what we’re doing the environment, and as a result, to our future generations. It’s time to take responsibility, and actually do something about it.  The good news, however, is that tonight I’m sharing this simple guide to living with less waste. Wether you feel inspired to try one idea or try all, I hope that you’ll find something that works for you

1. Did you know it’s likely that only 50% of what you think is being recycled is actually being recycled? Here in New Zealand, we are currently sending approximately 3 million tons of trash to the landfill each year, a frightful amount to say in the least. Next time you recycle, make sure your paper, plastic and aluminium vessels are well-cleaned, as this will ensure they are actually recycled.

2. Taking a few minutes to plan before you head to the grocery store can help to make the world of difference. Shopping plastic-free can be easy once you get used it, and before long, it’ll feel like second nature. Invest in some re-useable shopping bags (I personally love french-style market bags, because well, they look pretty) and some re-useable produce bags for filling with fresh fruit and vegetables.

3. Buy locally grown, seasonal produce. I usually shop at the farmers market, or order online from Foodbox to minimise the produce being wrapped in plastic – which by the way, seems ridiculous, don’t you think? I’ll always choose plenty of leafy greens, for salads, summery stews, soups and smoothies, and I’ll often freeze any left over dark greens, to avoid waste.

4. Purchase dried goods such as baking ingredients, spices, and legumes in bulk to avoid single use plastic. If you’re like me, you might enjoy storing your dried goods in glass jars, as they look tidier in your pantry. If you’re in NZ, you might like to check out GoodFor store, a wholefoods re-fillery where you can take along your own jars and the like – they also ship nation-wide.

5. Do you frequent the local cafe or coffee shop? next time order a coffee, consider using a re-useable coffee cup. Or simply take a moment to sit down and enjoy your drink, rather than take it on the go. Why are you in such a rush?

6. Consider buying a big bottle of natural castille soap (I like Dr Bronners) and making your own homemade cleaning products. Castille soap can be used for almost anything, and comes in a range of gorgeous scents. You can find a whole chapter on homemade cleaning and beauty products in my new book, The Art of Simple.

7. It is estimated that CO2 emissions from clothing manufacturing and waste account for ten percent of global emissions, and is the second largest industrial polluter, second only to oil. Shopping second hand helps to save perfectly good clothing from a landfill and can reduce the horrifyingly huge demand for clothing production. Plus, you’ll some brilliant deals to boot.

8. Buy once, buy well. Each item of clothing in my wardrobe is considered carefully for it’s practicality, quality and ability to mix and match. By all means, It’s wonderful to love clothing (I certainly do!) but by acquiring them sparingly, the appreciation is far more satisfying. When you love, and care for each item of clothing you own, you’ll save you money in the long run, and be kinder to the environment, too.

9. Refuse to buy bottled water. Not only is it exorbitantly expensive, take a moment to think about the resources used to collect, bottle, and ship it, let alone the plastic bottle it comes in. Also, you might like to know that often the bottles aren’t recycled.

10.  Scrubbing brushes, tooth brushes and dishcloths are only a small handful of the everyday items we use, but replace more often than we should. The good news is that there’s plenty of places online that sell beautiful-looking, re-useable versions. I’ve shared a few favourites below, for your perusal.

11. Did you know that most types of soft-plastic can be recycled? this includes plastic bags, citrus netting bags, food wrappers, courier packs, bubble wrap and more. Find out more info here, and your nearest participating store for drop-off.

12. If you have little ones, you might like to consider trying cloth nappies and re-useable wipes. The average child will go through an estimated five to eight thousand nappies during those first few years. The environmental footprint of disposable nappies is staggering, not to mention unsettling! Compare this to using the same cloth nappies over and over, and the lovely natural fibres on your little one’s skin. There’s just no comparison, really. If you’re not sure where to start, check out my handy guide to cloth nappies here. 

13. Bring your glass containers along with you to your local butcher, fish-monger and takeaway shop. You’ll find that most are happy to place the food in to your own container. We do this for sushi, too.

14. And lastly, next time you’re about to toss something in the trash, take a moment to consider whether it can be mended, or re-purposed in some way or another.  Turn old clothes in to cleaning rags, or if they’re still in good condition, drop them off to your local charity shop for the chance of a second life.


Courtesy Eleanor Ozich

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