Reduce, reuse, recycle. I’m sure you’ve heard that phrase before, it’s been about as long as I can remember! But, have you ever broken it down? really thought about it? Or do you just take it for granted?
The part people seem to remember most is recycle. Maybe it’s because it’s the last part of the phrase, the part that sticks in your mind. Or maybe it’s because it’s simplest of the three to do. Well, hopefully in this article I will show you that all three can be done easily!
Firstly, lets talk about this in terms of food. Reduce how much you buy. Generally, everyone buys more than they need or use. You go to the shops for just a few things and come back with 4 bags full! So easily done! Yet so unnecessary. Now some of these things you probably set out for (though half the time we forget what we actually intended to buy in the first place!), some other things you probably only realised you needed it when you saw it, but, guaranteed, there’s always some stuff that you see and put in the trolley because you just kinda fancy it or its on a good offer and so on. It’s these items we need to cut out. It’s these things that often end up going out of date and just end up in the bin. Such a waste.
Reduce what you buy.
Good ways of doing this is by plan ahead, write a lists while in your kitchen checking your cupboards, meal plan for the week and buy only what you need for these. then when you get to the shops: resist! It gets easier. Doing this reduces your waste, the packaging you inadvertently buy and ultimately your carbon footprint.
Moving on from this, you can apply the same theory when shopping clothes. Not something that’s often thought about it but clothes are very costly to the environment to make. They use lots of water, dyes, factories that produce horrible chemicals and often poorly paid labour. It’s really a terrible industry. So try and only buy what you need when you need it.
Another way to reduce is with things you buy on the go: bottled juice and water; coffee; sandwiches and ready meals. Try taking your own bottle, travel mug and meals, that way you’ll not only reduce your expenses but your waste in terms of packaging. (One to watch: majority of black plastic, often used to package ready meals, cannot be recycled as the machines cannot read the code! Click here for more details)
It may not be the most obvious of the three but it is relevant to so many aspects of our day to day life.
A good example it with food: a lot of this can actually be reused. For instance, if you’ve cooked up a whole chicken for a big meal but not all is eaten, use the rest for sandwiches or other meals another day. Once all the meat is off, use whats left as a chicken stock to make soup or broth with instead of buying cubes or pots of stock. If you’re veggie you can also turn scraps into stock, such as any leftover veg. Same goes as above too, if you cook up a Quorn roast you can reuse whats left in a sandwich.
Any leftovers you have from a meal can be eaten another night of frozen for later if you don’t think you’ll eat it again soon.
One we’re worst with is teabags, They almost always get thrown away after one use but you can reuse that teabag 2 or 3 times at least, just leave it on a little tea plate for the next time you have a cuppa. Then when you’re done with them you can compost them. Though watch here as a lot of tea bags cannot be composted! generally you can tell by looking at the tea bag – the silky ones are compostable the round rough ones are not. Brands such as teapigs and phuka can be but most of the main brands have plastic in the bags which is toxic to compost heaps, and some of it goes into the tea you drink! If you do buy these ones tear them and empty the tea into the compost and the bag into the bin. However, the best solution is loose tea as this avoids adding to your carbon footprint with the production of the bag and avoids excess plastic.
If you eat a lot of food from jars or tins you can clean these up, take the labels off then they can be use as plant pots, candle holders or even to put little fairy lights in. the photo on the right there was taken at my friends who has done just that.
Come back to clothing, we can reuse clothes in different ways, it could be as simple as choosing to shop in charity shops or vintage shops over high street brands. If you’re good with a sewing kit then fix clothes instead of binning. The same can be done with furniture. If you don’t like the way second hand furniture looks, a fresh lick of paint paint can make a world of difference.
Another aspect where we can reuse more than we do is actually with plastic. In no way do I suggest we should be using plastic. It really is so bad for the planet. However, lots of this “single use” plastic doesn’t have to be single use. Take sandwich bags for instance, any fairly sturdy bag can be hand washed and reused or if it’s to be used for the same item again there’s really no need to wash it, depending on what was in it. One bag of sandwich bags could last 5 x longer by doing this, reducing how much goes to the landfill, production and how much you spend on them. If you have to accept plastic cutlery because you have nothing else then take it home, clean it and reuse it another day. Any tupperware you get from takeaways, for example, can be reused for ages.
Now, obviously, it would be better to buy more environmentally friendly things such as; beeswax wraps; bamboo cutlery; or glass or stainless steel tupperware, but these things cost a bit more so if you’re not willing to spend that much or simply cannot afford it these are good alternatives that help protect the environment more than our usual habits.
Finally we come to recycle, the one we’re best at, but still plenty room for improvement!
I’m going to base this on what I know from where I’ve lived; in and around Edinburgh, but I know it can very quite a bit. So here we either have access to our own recycling bins that get collected by the council or there will be communal ones every couple of streets. So, if this is the case for you too, you have not excuse not to recycle. Simply collect your recycling in a reusable bag or a bin and take it out when it’s full. Majority of people these days are pretty good at this. Always check your plastics because some plastic that cannot be recycled with the on street recycling can be taken with your carrier bags to supermarkets to be recycles when you do your next shop.
One part we’re not so good at is recycling while out and about. If you’re finished with a recyclable item do you wait until you find somewhere to recycle it? or do you just put it in a landfill bin? It’s easy to become complacent here, so next time hold onto it until you can recycle it!!
Another mode of recycling that is becoming more common is food waste recycling. Certainly here in Edinburgh it has become relatively easy in the past year or two. If you don’t have the luxury of your own little caddy bin that gets collected weekly you should have a communal bin with a grey lid next your recycling bins where you can put loose or bagged in a compostable food waste bag only. You can collect this in your house quite easily – either have a little bin, you can even put the compostable bag in as a liner or use a little tupperware is you’re limited on space.
Finally, when it comes to clothes if you’re a crafty person you can turn them into something else when you no longer like the way it looks on or it doesn’t fit anymore. Alternatively, donate old clothes give them to charity to be sold or sent to places like Africa to the areas that cannot afford their own clothing. If its no longer good enough quality for either of these, most large supermarkets and some schools now have cloth recycling points where your clothing gets turned into stuffing for seats and such like. Other recycling points are batteries and electrical, all of which can be found on this website. Furniture can also be recycled or given to charity if its in good enough nick. Alternatively, sell it or give it away on gumtree and freecycle. Or if you can turn it into something else that you do need!
Thanks for reading! Hope you’ve sound this helpful and look out for my other blogs!