‘Waste not want not’ The old saying in times past where things were less plentiful still applies, but slightly updated with David Attenborough’s stamp of authority, and I quote:
“The one thing we all have to do in a way which covers every aspect of our life is simply not to waste. Don’t waste plastic. Don’t waste food. Don’t waste power. Live within our means without inflicting damage on the planet”
This call to action is about more than throwing less in the bin. It is about not wasting our precious and limited resources. If we take this on it may be a worthwhile exercise to think more about our ‘need’. I not talking about austerity or going back to eating cabbage all week , or wearing the same well-darned jumper for two years.. But in this consumer age we are surrounded by ’stuff’ in shopping centres and on the internet which heavy advertising on all sides encourages us to buy; often it so poorly made it just doesn’t last. Or we see something else new and shiny that takes our eye; isn’t it SO hard to resist?… ‘but do I actually need a kettle which matches my toaster? (but I want a red one!). Do I have enough shoes already (nooo!)? Can what I have be repaired effectively? (ok… all I really need is a new button, but I don’t know how to sew it on!)
There is an interesting BBC video clip (about 5 mins). https://www.bbc.com/reel/playlist/mind-control?vpid=p06xj82k on shopping.. the ‘Didero effect’. No, I’d not heard of it either, but I bet marketing students have… First described in 1769, it is still used today to encourage us to buy stuff we didn’t know we ‘needed’!!
We are being taken in not just by advertising, but world reports that tell us buying is good for the economy, economic growth is good, and in times of low growth rates, asking what industry or governments are going to do about it? It doesn’t take a degree in economics or anything else, to work out that unless resources are infinite, growth cannot continue forever.
Buying only what we need sounds kind of dull, but it depends on your outlook, and just look at the advantages for the planet:
Less demand means ultimately less production, so
Less pressure on world resources
Less energy used in production and transport, so less CO2 emitted.
Less packaging going to waste
…and to you:
Fun and satisfying time spent repairing/ upcycling/reinventing what you have to give it a new look, discovering your new creative self!
Less money spent on trivia and more to spend on a better, nicer, more long-lasting item, or better quality (organically produced?) food.
Maybe then ‘buying something new’ becomes more of a considered, satisfying and enjoyable activity.
So… back to the first call of action.
There is a short film on the website:
Great Zero Waste Info Film Shared by our Zero waste trainer Rachel Dempsey here is a “Great video to learn the basics on the 5 R’s of Zero Waste” As the first review says, “Really good straightforward guide that manages to give some deeper info while still being a quick, accessible watch. Great.”
The film was apparently inspired by Bea Johnson who managed to reduce her entire years waste to the contents of a jar. Now that IS ambitious.
She shows an inverted triangle ( have a look), the first layer is REFUSE
So the first step is to REFUSE stuff we don’t need, and:
Appreciate and use what we have already.
To think about:
First: to avoid picking up extra packaging waste, remember your shopping bags, add the veg bags and take along leak-proof clip-lid boxes. Ask at your butcher/ fishmonger/ deli-counter to put your meat etc into the boxes and stick the price label on the top. It is then already labelled to put straight in the freezer if needed! However this does take extra organisation. It took me WEEKS to reliably remember the boxes, but in the end I found it works if as soon as I have used the contents, I wash them out and put them straight into the shopping bags in the car along with the veg and bread bags. Getting my esteemed ‘other half’ to take them with him is the next aim!
If you have time, head for the market for unwrapped fruit and veg or seek out one of those growing number of shops which provide unpackaged goods (Twig in Clonakilty). However there is no point in driving miles especially to do that, as you are then wasting fuel!!
Second: single-use plastic is considered bad, BUT… it needn’t be single use if you find another purpose for it, so don’t throw it away… yet!
There is nothing to stop you taking the plastic bags from bread or fruit from a previous trip to hold loose produce on your next shop (DO felt tip out the bar code.. it can cause problems at the checkout..)
Or you can use them for wrapping sandwiches or for bits and pieces in the fridge. You will have to recycle them eventually, but you have extended their use and avoided collecting more bags from the supermarket to throw away, or the use of other wrappings.
Try saving some of those unavoidable little plastic tubs from the cream cheese/ margarine/hummus to store small quantities of left-over food in the fridge, instead of putting cling film over half an onion or a piece of cheese. It has saved you using the cling film (which you would throw away afterwards) or buying a little plastic box for the same purpose.
The best bit is none of this has cost anything extra in terms of money or time, but you have already avoided adding to your waste / recycle bin!
Third: Youtube is a wonderful resource for ideas to revamp clothes or learn how to do repairs. Ask your nan/ granddad, they will surely be delighted to offer advice, or if you’re really lucky, they may offer to do it for you (don’t tell them I said that!)
For the really keen, with a bit of imagination or a scout around the internet, you will find loads other stuff to do with unwanted packaging.
So if you manage just one of these measures, you are all a little further down the road towards Zero Waste. Please share know what works for you.. and what doesn’t. If you sign up for the blog, I would be delighted if you would comment and suggest where we head to next!