This post was originally posted on May 3rd 2019. It has been updated for freshness, accuracy and completeness.
Waste is a problem that we can no longer ignore. On average, a person living in the UK produces up to 500kg of household waste a year. That’s all going into landfills, poisoning the surrounding environment and underground waterways. By making simple changes at home, you can significantly reduce your waste.
Swapping out simple household goods for eco-friendly reusable products, upcycling and just buying less, in general, can save you money and reduce your waste significantly.
Consume Wisely – Consume Less.
The simplest and most effective way to reduce your personal waste is to stop buying so much stuff! We have become zombie-like consumers, continually buying more and more things for our home and personal use. Do we really need it all? Probably not.
Spend some time to assess your spending habits over one month and make a list of all things you bought. Now, go through the list and see what things you bought which you probably didn’t need. Maybe you purchased more eye shadow, even though you already have a draw full. Perhaps you bought more clothes, even though your wardrobe is bursting with clothes you’ve hardly ever worn.
Not buying something is the most eco-friendly choice you can make.
If you need some new clothes, furniture electronics, or anything else, why not look to buy 2nd hand? Charity shops and buy & sell apps are great for finding preowned goods. Alternatively, buy goods made from recycled materials. The more we can move away from sourcing new materials with extensive manufacturing processes, the more we can mitigate environmental issues.
Our kitchens are often a source of products that get used and thrown out frequently. Swap out single-use products for reusable and DIY products.
- Paper Towels – Paper towels are convenient, sure, but unnecessary. They’re not compostable and collectively produce tons of waste. By simply switching to cotton towels, you can make a significant impact on your household waste. There are so many types of eco-friendly kitchen towel alternatives out, including bamboo, organic cotton and hemp.
- Cleaning products – Instead of using multiple cleaners for different things, switch to multitask products that can do it all. Liquid castile soap is eco-friendly and does the job as well as any other. You can add essential oils for scents or anti-bacterial action. You can also use vinegar as a cleaning agent. Vinegar is a great way to shine granite tops, remove stains from pots and make windows shine.
- Storage containers – Plastic is easy and cheap. However, it is an ecological nightmare as well as a health concern. Food stored in plastic sucks up chemicals in the plastic. Nobody wants that. You can slowly phase out plastic containers for glass or recycled stainless steel.
- Tin Foil – Using tin foil is controversial for your health and questionable in regards to the environment. Some say that it has no effect on your health and is easily recyclable and others warn against aluminium accumulation in the body over time. If you want to use something cost-effective and on the safe side, you can opt for silicon-based mats to use for cooking.
- Plastic Wrap – There is no question about whether it is reliable or not or its impact on the environment. Just ditch it. There are fantastic alternatives to plastic wrap, and the great news is you can find them in stores or order them online.
- Sandwich Bags and food containers – For those that take lunch to work or send the kids to school with a sarmie, there are great eco-friendly and healthier options to plastic bags and containers. Of my favs is Eco lunch box to suit anyone’s lunch needs (and are great for takeaways at restaurants) and reusable sandwich wraps.
Beauty products often come in plastic and create a lot of waste. Each year, 120 billion+ units of packaging are produced every year by the global cosmetics industry. Rather than adding to this ecological disaster, you can opt for products that come in glass or even better, zero-waste or homemade products.
DIY beauty products are coming back. They’re cheap, easy to make and arguably better for your health than commercial products. If you’re not able to go DIY, why not research your favourite products that come in biodegradable packaging or glass and are natural and organic.
Bar soaps – Bar soaps have been given a bad rap over the years to provide room for better-looking packaging. However, in terms of function, they’re pretty much the same. There are fantastic bar soap brands out there that are organic, natural and suited for a specific purpose. You can now not only enjoy quality body soaps but shampoo bars and face bars. You can cut your soap bars into smaller squares to last longer and avoid the build-up.
DIY Resources – Making your products can be fun and rewarding. DIY allows you to have full control of substances that you use and what special features they have. You can DIY soaps, shampoos, moisturizers, body lotions and more. Use glass jars as containers. Eco-friendly and reusable! Don’t Mess with Mama extensive list of DIY beauty and cosmetics recipe list to get started.
Zero Waste – The zero-waste movement has gained a lot of traction over the last five years, and it’ easy to see why. Using zero-waste products has significantly less impact on the planet. Why keep buying the same plastic tubs and packaging, when you can buy one stainless steel tub and keep refilling it with your favourite product? In the UK, brands like All Earth Mineral Cosmetics, Nicmac Beauty, Tabitha Eve, White Witch and Flawless are driving the zero-waste beauty industry forward.
After you have recycled the waste that you do have, you will notice that what’s leftover is food waste. In the UK, we throw away a staggering 10.2m tonnes of food waste each year! The average home in the UK throws out 108kg of food waste per year. All of this ends up in a landfill which then breaks down and emits large quantities of greenhouse gas emissions.
To help mitigate your role in our global food waste issue, stop wasting food! Buy what you need using a meal plan and shopping list. Avoid overbuying and overcooking. The best way to stop wasting food is to get more planned. Each week, spend 30 minutes creating a meal plan and a concise shopping list. This way, you only by what you need.
For the small amounts of food you do waste such as vegetable and fruit cut offs, try starting a compost.
Most people are under the impression that composting is going to be messy and smelly. Not what you want in your garden. In reality, you couldn’t be any more wrong. When done correctly, composting at home has no smell and no mess. And with current composting products on the market, you have no excuse. There are garden composters and even smaller kitchen composters for those who live in apartments.
Check out this post on Family Living today that details 45 of the best composters on the market. Alternatively, you can make your own composter in the garden.
Clothing doesn’t seem to be a source of the waste, but in reality, it is a significant contributor to landfill mass. Fast fashion is a trend of buying cheap clothes frequently and throwing out “old” clothes. It’s not only a burden on landfills but on your pocket too. In the UK, on average, each person buys 26.7kg of clothing per year.
Each year, global textile production emits emissions that are equivalent to 1.2 billion tonnes of CO2. That figure outweighs the carbon footprint of international flights and shipping combined! Fast fashion a global threat to our planet that many are not even aware of.
Thankfully, sustainable fashion is making headway. There are a number of ways to consume clothing in a sustainable way:
- Less – buying less clothing is the most effective way to reduce your carbon footprint and reduce waste.
- Preowned – there are thousands of shops and websites selling high-quality second-hand fashion items.
- Ethical – brands such as Rapanui, E.L.V Denim, Veja, Heist, Pangaia, and Mary Benson create excellent clothing and footwear with reduced C02 footprint using recycled materials and low-carbon manufacturing processes.
- Cruelty-Free – leather, fur, wool, cashmere and silk are all detrimental to our planet, the workers that produce them, and of course, the animals.
- Ditch Eco-Unfriendly Materials – as well as the animal materials above, regular cotton, polyester, PVC and nylon, are terrible for the planet.
Sticking to the five principles above means you buy better quality clothing but much less of it. You appreciate every item and treat it well. (Not like the mass of unidentifiable and forgotten clothing in most peoples wardrobes).
Upcycle goods at home
One great and fun way to reduce waste in your home is to upcycle old items. Recycling is excellent, of course, but why not use otherwise useless things to serve you again in a different way?
Pinterest is an amazing resource for this purpose. If you recognize that you’re throwing away an item often, see how you can upcycle it if you can’t find an eco-friendly alternative. Common examples of upcycling opportunities at home include:
- Tin cans as storage containers or plant pots.
- Glass jars for storing dry foods.
- Cardboard boxes for storage.
- Plastic bottles for plant pots, soap bottle, piggy bank and much more.
Plastic is literally everywhere. Seriously, EVERYWHERE. Scientists have now found microplastics is everything including our oceans, wildlife, plant foods, and even the human body. As plastic breaks down, it creates smaller and small pieces of plastic until they become microscopic in size. These tiny pieces of plastic have now infiltrated pretty much every living organism on the planet.
The ocean is most affected with many experts suggesting we’re turning our ocean into a “plastic soup“. The best thing you can do right now to minimise your waste footprint on this planet is to avoid plastic as much as is possible.
Instead, look for reusable or zero-waste options. Here are some easy swaps:
- “Bag for Life” for shopping.
- Reusable produce bags.
- Glass or stainless steel water bottle.
- Reusable travel straw and cutlery.
- Makeup remover pads.
- Buy recyclable plastic if unavoidable.
- Buy zero-waste.
Less waste, brighter future
As the population increases, so does the amount of waste we create. Our landfills are hidden away, a sort of out of sight out of mind tactic. But its there. It’s real, and it’s growing. Landfills are a global threat to our environment and we need to start reducing our amount of waste immediately.
We have the power to solve our waste issue. It’s such a real possibility of change, within our reach. By creating a household with less waste now, you’re actively doing something for the planet, your kids future and your pocket. Buying from eco-friendly brands helps switch demand to products that are better for the planet while simultaneously reducing demand from companies damaging the planet.
As individuals, we do have some power and it’s our responsibility to do what we can to reduce our impact on the planet and reduce our waste. Start today.