The world is full of wasteful material and it is important we all take small (or big steps) to help improve our environment for future generations. The first step in this is to reduce waste output by cutting out single-use packaging. Plastic consumption took off in the 1950s and since then humans have produced around 8.3 billion tonnes of the stuff, 9% of which has been recycled and the rest has been clogging landfills and polluting waterways for decades. It isn’t easy for us to avoid plastic packaging as our society depends on it for many conveniences and luxuries, and so we are forced to use our own initiative in striving for a better future. To give us a better guide on where to start, there are 7 Rs of zero waste living to start to live in a more environmentally-free way.
Refuse might seem like the most obvious of all the R’s but it’s the fundamental first step in your new lifestyle. We need to start by recognising what products are and aren’t zero waste, as well as being able to say no to once-loved items. You need to be able to put the plastic water bottles back on the shelf and purchase a reusable one. Other small things you could refuse are straws and coffee cups by bringing your own, as well as swapping plastic bags for tote bags and bringing glass jars to purchase things such as lentils, nuts and seeds
The main thing you can do to reduce your waste is to be more conscious when shopping. For example, when you’re shopping for clothes you can ask yourself “do I really need this?” or “could I buy this in a more sustainable way”. You should always be checking sites such as Swapabee to see whether the item you’re about to purchase could be swapped with an item you are no longer using, saving you money and reducing your carbon footprint. When you buy clothes, it creates a demand for both the item, its journey of production, and the waste that comes along with it. Therefore, swapping with Swapabee would eliminate all these factors, leaving you with a new item, and will make a meaningful contribution to saving the planet.
You can also reduce the space in your wardrobe by selling items through Swapabee, donating them to local charity shops, or passing them onto family and friends.
Reuse is all about buying items which have more than one use, rather than throwing out what can’t be fixed. Say goodbye to your cotton pads and introduce new washable ones instead, swap your plastic straws for bamboo or metal alternatives and start using handkerchiefs instead of tissues. A great way to get creative when reusing old household items is to upcycle! You could turn an old pair of jeans into a handbag or a purse, paint tin cans to create beautiful vases or fill old teacups with wax and you have custom candles!
If you’ve embraced the first two steps, there should not be too much left to recycle. Many products tell you exactly what can and can’t be recycled and how to do so if certain items can’t be collected from your home you should be close enough to a recycling centre. The plastics you do recycle will be passed on to companies who make all sorts from our old bottles, including clothes!
Rehoming things you no longer have a love for is an easy way to clear space in your home as well as giving someone else the chance to treasure them. Your unloved belongings could be given to a friend as a gift or donated to charities. When upgrading products, making a habit out of rehoming them with these options is a good way to get what you might consider the trash, out of your house but without putting them straight to landfill. As long as the items you no longer want still work, you can sell many of them on apps such as eBay, Depop or swap them on swapabee.
Clothes are a good place to start if you’re feeling a little lost. We generally let our closets overfill and clothes start to accumulate, leaving us with clothes we haven’t worn for 6 years and have no intention of seeing again. Start by taking them all out of your wardrobe and decide what can’t be worn by anyone, these are to be recycled. Then, if something is in good condition but you’ve grown out of it, it’s time to offer it up to charity, sell them or give them to a friend or family member. Alternatively, charities such as Planet Aid rely on donations of clothes and shoes to give to people living in third world countries who can’t afford to buy these items themselves.
A great way to reduce the footprint of the fruit and vegetables you buy in the supermarket is to grow these yourself. It’s surprisingly easy to do and can be made into a fun, family-friendly activity. If you’ve been able to create a compost, which we will talk about in the last step, then you’re already well on your way to your new luscious garden! If not, don’t panic as you can make small containers out of old wooden boxes or crates. Firstly you will need to pick the right patch in your garden. Make sure to pick an area where the soil is dry and sunny, nothing will grow if you plant it under a shady tree! The size of your garden is up to you, it’s always better to start small and give all your love to a few fruits and veggies than overwhelming yourself with a large area.
Now for the fun part, choose what you would like to grow! This can depend on where you live and the amount of sunlight you’re able to give your new plants, but a nice place to start is to think about your favourites and to replace what you would usually purchase from the supermarket.
A great way to acquire seeds is to pick them out of the foods you have already eaten and replant them in your new plot. A couple of plants which are easy to replant is garlic, you only need one clove submerged in water and then wait for it to grow shoots and basil, submerge a few sprigs of this in water also and wait for them to grow around 5 centimetres. You can then pot them separately and watch them grow!
It’s been estimated by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) that up to one-fourth of landfill waste could have been thrown into the compost. Composting is really simple but many people don’t do it still, once you’re in the habit of throwing waste into your compost bin, you will be able to replant all your fruits and vegetables. You can use grass clippings, vegetable food scraps, black and white newspaper and tree leaves in your compost bin and avoid these going into landfill.
These examples will put you on the right track for choosing a waste-free lifestyle. Not only does it help the environment, but it is also a brilliant way of bringing new life to old items, it helps those closest to you, and ensures that the world is kept bright and healthy. We don’t have a care in the world for the items we use every day, and maybe understanding the value of having the few items we have will make sure we appreciate how lucky we really are.
This article is in association with SWAPABEE. An environmental app company that allows anyone to swap their items for others. Create an account and start swapping today at https://swapabee.co.uk/.