Zero Waste: Reusable food packaging.

Zero Waste: tips on how to reduce waste

On average, each person in the EU produces around 505 kilograms of waste per year. This is well over 1 kilo per day, but most European countries do separate rubbish. However, there is only a small proportion, which is actually recycled and reused. Most of the waste ends up in landfill sites and this is not only harmful for the environment, but it is also bad for your health. Harmful emissions, toxic fumes and plastic packaging that takes hundreds of years to decompose are causing enormous damage to our planet.

Nowadays, more and more people agree that we need to make huge lifestyle changes. Say “No!” to waste is an approach to create an everyday zero waste lifestyleThis concept focuses on the following methods , which apply in order of importance: avoid, reduce, reuse, recycle and compost. Lots of motivated people and bloggers already live a Zero Waste lifestyle.  Some pioneers live in such a sustainable way that they only produce one year’s worth of rubbish, which fits into a single jar.

The concept may sound a bit daunting at first, but it’s a lot simpler than you think. In this article, you will find some tips on where and how you can reduce waste in everyday life.

Reducing waste in the bathroom

Most of us start the day by getting washed and ready in the bathroom. This is a good place to start by reducing waste and taking a step towards a plastic-free lifestyle:

  • Usually, a plastic toothbrush will only be used for around three months before it lands in the bin. A bamboo toothbrush is a more sustainable alternative. The renewable raw material is compostable and the toothbrush bristles are usually made out of organic plastic.

  • By choosing the correct toothpaste, you can help to reduce waste. Many zero waste shops now sell toothpaste tablets, which reduces packaging waste. The tablets can easily be stored in a tin or a jar.

  • Not only can you get soap bars, but you can also get shampoo bars! A bar of soap is long-lasting and perfect for travelling. Using a small metal tin is perfect if you want to take it with you.

  • Seek and you shall find: there are now even environmentally friendly alternatives for dental floss, razors etc. There are many resources online with lots of information about these products. Exchanging ideas with family and friends can also give you new ideas.

At the end of the day, we finish by getting ready for bed. If you wear make-up and you want to remove it, then there are non-packaged alternatives to make-up removal wipes. Using reusable make-up remover pads or a simple flannel and soap are usually enough to remove make-up and sweat from your face. Reusable cotton pads, wipes or flannels can be put into the washing machine and be used time and time again.

Reusable crockery and bags for life help to save on daily packaging waste.

Reducing waste in the kitchen

In the EU, we produce an average of 173 kilograms of organic waste per person every year. Organic waste includes fruit and vegetable peel, coffee grounds and even wilted flowers. Some fresh food waste occurs when the food has been wrongly stored and the food goes off before the best-before date. Being well organised and storing food correctly can help to minimise the amount of organic waste. Not only can you find a lot of tips online on how to properly store fruit and vegetables, but maybe ask your parents or grandparents if they have any useful storage tips.

Large storage jars are ideal for storing any dry food. Thoroughly rinse out and reuse any old jam or pickle jars because the jars are airtight, dishwasher-safe and long-lasting.

You can also reduce waste whilst drinking coffee by avoiding expensive single-use capsules or pod machines. It’s better to spend money on a packet of fair-trade coffee that you can make excellent coffee with by using a stovetop espresso machine or a French press.

When you have used up your straws, cling film, napkins and other disposable products replace them with more sustainable alternatives. For example, you can now buy glass or metal straws or you can use beeswax wraps instead of cling film. Over time you will find even more products in your kitchen, where you can replace them with sustainable alternatives!

Plastic-free household

Most people have all kinds of products in plastic bottles at home such as a soap dispenser in the bathroom, washing-up liquid and cleaning products. A lot of these products are easy to make at home, which will help you to reduce waste. Look online for tips and ideas on how to make your own cleaning products. Vinegar, citric acid, baking soda and curd soap can be used to make a wide range of DIY cleaning products. You can store your homemade household products either in an airtight jar or in a glass spray bottle, which has been thoroughly rinsed out.

If DIY projects are too time-consuming, then you can buy alternatives like a bar of soap to forgo the plastic soap dispenser. When buying a bar of soap, look for ones in cardboard packaging or go to a zero-waste shop. When it comes to detergent, try and choose a washing powder as these are usually more effective, often contain no preservatives and are packaged in recyclable cardboard.

Tip

Making your own household products has been a long-standing tradition and it is easier than you think. Ask your parents and grandparents for any tips or ideas! You can find tips and ideas on how to make your own detergent in the following article: How to make your own detergents.

Living plastic-free

Packaging waste can quickly accumulate – especially when you’re on the go. We have a few simple tricks on how to reduce your waste, if you take your breakfast or lunch with you to school or work.

The basics for minimising waste for on the go

There are a lot of different alternatives to tinfoil and cling film. Glass, metal, or BPA-free plastic lunch boxes are reusable and easy to clean. Beeswax wraps are a good alternative as they are environmentally friendly and safe. They have a flexible texture like tinfoil, but they are easy to wash and reuse.

You can use jars or reusable bags to store fruit, nuts and other snacks, which you can take with you to work. This helps you to save on plastic waste and it also helps you to avoid going to the vending machine.

Nowadays lots of cafés will allow you to bring your own reusable cup and some cafés will even give you a small reduction on your bill! Try and make sure when drinking a glass of water with your coffee that it’s tap water. You will also save money in the long run if you invest in a travel mug and water bottle made of stainless steel, glass or BPA-free plastic.

Tip

In a lot of cafés, you can get your coffee-to-go cheaper if you bring a reusable cup. It’s also best to bring your own lunch box for your sandwiches!

Part of the zero-waste lifestyle is getting around in an environmentally friendly way. Ideally, you should walk or go by bike. This does not only protect the environment, but it’s a good way to stay fit and healthy. Another good option would be carpooling or public transport if cycling or walking are not an option. Many public transport companies now offer their own app for buying paperless tickets. Cinemas, theatres, concerts and other cultural events may also offer online tickets. Find out before attending the event whether a printed copy of the ticket is needed.

Eating out sustainably

You’re going out for dinner and already know that the portions are too big. Pack the leftovers ready for tomorrow’s lunch and avoid using any polystyrene and aluminium packaging. If you’re going to visit the ice cream parlour afterwards, then order an ice cream cone instead of a tub. Straws for drinks are an everyday item, which are not something you particularly need, as you can drink most drinks without a straw. In case you do need a straw, there are sustainable alternatives made of glass or stainless steel. Avoid disposable tableware by taking travel crockery with you, which is made out of stainless steel or wood.

Customer buying food in a zero-waste shop.

Zero Waste Shopping

Zero waste shopping is a concept, which is focuses on not producing any waste whilst shopping. This does take a little bit of practice and getting used to at first. For most people it is nearly impossible to avoid going shopping. However, you should try and cut down on the amount of waste produced by plastic bags, receipts and product packaging. The key is learning how to shop whilst making little to no impact on the environment. Here are some tips on how to make it easier to get started.  We will show you how you can avoid waste while shopping:

  • Whether you are shopping for food or clothes, make sure to write a list beforehand! This way you can keep track of what you need and only buy what you really need.

  • When you’re out and about, make sure that you always have reusable shopping bags with you. These environmentally friendly alternatives to plastic bags mean you no longer have to buy bags at the checkout. In addition, by doing so you may even save some money!

  • If possible, do without the receipt. Some shops only print out receipts on request. This is a simple way to reduce waste.

Tip

Join a library! You will have access to a huge selection of books any time you need them without having to buy any. You can try and borrow many other things instead of buying them. At a lot of DIY centres, you can rent a drill or other tools for a few hours or several days.

Buying non packaged food

  • A lot of fruit and vegetables are sold without packaging at weekly markets and also in many supermarkets. This way you can avoid buying them in plastic packaging.

  • Bread buns and bread from the bakery can be put into reusable cloth bags.

  • Some supermarkets even allow you to bring your own containers for buying fresh pieces of cheese or meat.

It is easier to follow these tips if you have a zero waste shop in your town. You can usually fill cereal, cornflakes, coffee, tea, etc in jars and tins that you have brought with you. Another advantage of zero waste shops is that you only need to buy as much as you need.

Apps like ‘Too Good To Go’ offer supermarkets and restaurants the opportunity to have their unused food picked up for little money or sometimes even for free. The idea is that you can have a quick look through the app at breakfast and maybe pick up a bargain after work!

Zero Waste shopping tips

Whether you are shopping for clothes or for household appliances, they always need to be long-lasting. Try and buy more high-quality products as they are worth the money and they last longer. You will also be more willing to have them repaired when they break rather than buying a new one. You don’t even need to own many tools and appliances yourself. You can share a drill and lawnmower with your neighbour or borrow them from your friends. You can either donate old clothes or using a sewing machine you can make something new out of something old. The idea behind upcycling is finding a use for old clothes!

When buying new things look for quality and a timeless design as you can still wear your new t-shirt next summer rather than buying a new one.

Conclusion

Living a zero-waste lifestyle may sound like a big change at first. However, it is a lot of small changes that can often be easily integrated into everyday life. Not everyone can afford to shop at the local market or are able to cycle everywhere. However, even the smallest changes will help you to save money. Using reusable bags and water bottles will you help to minimise plastic waste, but in the long run it will also help you to save money. A good water bottle is long lasting and may even encourage you to drink more water. Don’t feel discouraged if you can’t do without packaged products straight away. Every little step makes a big difference and helps to reduce waste.

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References:

https://www.compostnetwork.info/policy/biowaste-in-europe/separate-collection/
(Accessed on 11.04.2022)

https://ec.europa.eu/environment/green-growth/waste-prevention-and-management/index_en.htm
(Accessed on 11.04.2022)

https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php/Municipal_waste_statistics
(Accessed on 11.04.2022)

https://www.familyhandyman.com/list/zero-waste-tips-for-your-home/
(Accessed on 11.04.2022)

Image sources:

iStock.com/Ekaterina Morozova

iStock.com/Nomad

iStock.com/Nomad

iStock.com/Ekaterina Morozova

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