Tuesday, 29 November 2016
MINIMISING WASTE - HACKS TO SAVE THE WORLD
i've been lucky to have grown up in a well informed and conscious family, and from as early as i can remember, there have been discussions of environmental issues, with choices evaluated to create the minimum amount of harm to our precious planet. as a family we've always tried to reduce the waste we create by making simple changes and conscious decisions. the last few months i've personally been thinking a lot about the issue of minimising waste further. i was noticing pangs of guilt when i'd throw away huge amounts of plastic or witness others do the same. i came across a few videos on the 'zero waste' movement, and began brainstorming simple ways that i could be extra mindful of the waste i created.
one of the most important thing we can do as individuals to reduce our environmental impact is minimise the waste we create. australia is one of the highest producers of waste in the world, recently ranked in the top five waste producing nations. like many other countries, australia has a strong dependence on landfill as the major form of waste management, with the majority of waste that is not recycled disposed of in landfills. landfills impact air, water and land quality, and produce gases, mainly methane, which contribute to the frightening problem of global warming. australia deposits upwards of 22 million tonnes of waste to landfills each year. quite frankly, this is disgusting and completely unnecessary. so many of us have the mindset of wanting continuous new stuff, and often don't think for even a second about everything we throw out and the consequences.
below are a few simple changes we can make as individuals to lessen the environmental impact of our often inherently wasteful lifestyles.
it is estimated that over 1 trillion plastic bags are used every year worldwide. while some supermarkets have opted for sturdier reusable or biodegradable plastic bags, most still do pack groceries in plastic. instead of contributing to that massive, growing number of plastic bags being used usually only once then thrown away, pick up a couple of reusable bags (plastic or cloth), and make an effort to bring them every time you do your shopping.
carry a reusable water bottle, preferably glass or metal rather than plastic, wherever you go. not only will this encourage you to drink more water, it will also not contribute to the large amount of plastic bottles of water thrown into landfill. opting for carrying your own water instead of purchasing it will also save money. if you're concerned for the water quality, water filters can often be found for quite cheap.
it is estimated that 500 billion disposable coffee cups are discarded to landfill every year. the majority of these disposable cups cannot be recycled, due to polyethylene linings which contaminate the recycling system. if you're one of those daily coffee drinkers, like i certainly used to be, and haven't switched to a reusable coffee cup, think of how many cups you throw away that go straight to landfill! make the small investment of purchasing a reusable coffee cup. you can often find super cute ones, and most coffee shops have no issue at all in filling one up instead (sometimes they even offer discounts for bringing your own cup).
if your usual backpack/bag/purse is often filled with your everyday essentials, not leaving room for any potential purchases you make, shove a folded reusable tote bag into your usual bag. that way if you buy anything you'll always have a reusable bag on you and be able to decline collecting more unnecessary plastic bags.
recycling is a more obvious and probably already pretty widely practiced action, but i know sometimes it can be far easier to become slack and just throw things in the rubbish rather than checking if they can be recycled. recycling is important because it helps to avoid pollution caused by landfill, therefore assisting in keeping the environment clean. recycling also conserves materials and saves energy.
even if you bring your own shopping bags to the supermarket to pack all your groceries into, many times you still need little plastic bags to put fruits and vegetables in. to avoid those unnecessary plastic bags, that are usually easily teared and not reusable, reusable produce bags are incredibleee. they're usually made out of mesh or thin cloth, and you can often find packs of a few of them for a very little cost, either at health food shops or online.
life hack - buy in bulk. not only is it usually much cheaper than buying pre-packaged products, but it also reduces the amount of plastic used often completely. saving money AND the planet, what more could you want?? head to one of your local health food stores, equipped with either reusable produce bags, recycled glass jars, containers, or use the paper bags provided, and go nuts stocking up on bulk foods. buying grains, beans, seeds, nuts, flours, sugar, etc in bulk is by far the way to go.
like buying bulk, making your own food products rather than purchasing pre-packaged products is a cheaper and more environmentally-friendly option. in addition, its often a far healthier choice also. muesli bars, granola, energy/bliss balls, etc are great products to start with! you'll avoid the plastic from these usually individually wrapped products, avoid the extra cost, and avoid any nasty ingredients. making your own food and snacks also connects you more with your food and a lil bit of love is added with every recipe.
another food related choice to make is using reusable containers, rather than single-use, throwaway counterparts. aim to cut out plastic zip-lock bags and cling wrap by instead putting food in reusable containers. the same goes with reusable utensils - bring utensils to eat food with you so you can avoid throwaway plastic ones.
keeping food waste out of landfills is a critical component in the fight against climate change. when food sits in landfills and is not exposed to oxygen, it releases methane gas into the atmosphere. composting eliminates sending food waste and organic matter to landfills to rot, and instead repurposes them to assisting the environment. composting promotes healthy soil, which then removes excess carbon from the air. if you can, compost any food scraps you would usually throw away. composting can be done either directly into soil, or into composting bins.
a reasonably new invention, reusable beeswax food wraps are alternatives for plastic wrapping such as cling wrap. the wraps are made out of fabric dipped in natural beeswax, and work just like plastic wrap, but are completely natural and reusable. using the warmth of your hands to soften the wrap, they can be moulded around food or bowls, then simply washed in cold water before using again and again. each wrap can be used for between 6 to 12 months, then can simply be composted. in addition to avoiding the use of plastic, beeswax wraps also assist in food staying fresher for longer, due to the antibacterial properties of beeswax. they can often be purchased at health food stores, charity/environmental stores, honey shops, markets, or online. or alternatively, try making your own!
in australia, over 30 million toothbrushes are used and disposed of each year, amounting to 1000 tonnes of landfill each year. a very simple change you can make to reduce your plastic output is switching from a plastic toothbrush to a bamboo toothbrush. bamboo is an environmentally sustainable timber, with bamboo being the fastest growing plant on earth and incredibly abundant. bamboo regenerates itself naturally, with minimal rain and no need for harmful pesticides. bamboo toothbrushes can then be composted after use, due to their biodegradable nature. again, find these at your local health food store or online.
if you are (unfortunately) a period-haver, think for a second about how much waste you throw out each month or year due to tampons and pads. its a fricking huge amount okay. there is a solution to this problem, and that solution is reusable menstruation products. sounds kinda scary and gross, but i've been promised it isn't either of those things at all. i'm personally yet to jump onto the reusable menstruation product bandwagon, but i'll get there hopefully very soon. the options i'm aware of so far are reusable 'period undies' or cloth pads, that can be washed and reused, or menstruation 'cups', such as the divacup. do a bit of research on these options and see if one will suit you
if you have any questions on any of these ideas, please comment them below and i'll get back to you very shortly! or, if you have any other waste minimising hacks, i'd love to hear them!!
we are so often caught up in a throwaway culture of one-time use products, let's try to change that!
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