How to live a lower waste life – the basics

How to live a lower waste life – the basics

12 ways to live with less rubbish, and move towards a Low Waste lifestyle

Living a lower waste life doesn’t mean giving up all your favorite treats and luxuries. It just means taking a more conscious approach to what you buy, and thinking about how you will dispose of packaging , and eventually, the item itself, in an environmentally sustainable way.

How we started living a lower waste life

Image of a tree of ideas for lower waste lifestyles
Ideas for a lower waste life

A few years ago, my family and I started looking for ways we could change what we did and what we bought, to reduce waste ending up in landfill.

We made a few changes at a time, so it was not completely overwhelming. As I wrote about in the article Progress over Perfection, it was better to make small steps that became habits that we can keep up.

And those small changes can add up over time to reduced waste, and sometimes to spending less money – a win for us, as we want to live a frugal life as well as a low waste life.

The idea of living a completely Zero Waste life is a bit of a stretch for most of us, to be honest. It’s not realistic to produce no waste at all, in my view, and I wouldn’t want people to take an ‘all-or-nothing’ approach to this idea. It’s better to do something than nothing, and to focus on what’s within our control, when making choices about what we buy.

Top 12 ideas for reducing waste:

  1. Use reusable water bottles and coffee cups. Use metal or glass water bottles and reusable coffee cups for takeaway drinks.
  2. Reduce use of disposable paper products. Instead of using paper towels and napkins, choose reusable cloth versions. You can often replace a paper kitchen towel with a cloth tea towel, to do a similar job.
  3. Minimize food waste. Use leftovers, create jams, chutneys and sauces from surplus fruit and vegetables, and stretch your food budget by meal planning.
  4. Use a compost bin/compost service or worm farm. All organic matter, such as fruit and vegetable scraps, can go into the compost or worm farm. If you have a council collection in your area, use that if you don’t have a compost bin.
  5. .Take your own lunch – with utensils Bring your lunch in a reusable lunch box, and remember to take cutlery. Or take your own containers if you buy takeaway lunches such as sushi.
  6. Buy larger packaging sizes, instead of single serve packaging. Buy the largest size available or in bulk, and divide into smaller reusable containers.
  7. Bring reusable containers for bulk buying. Use reusable containers such as jam jars for bulk loose items, such as nuts, rice, grains, and dried fruit.
  8. Swap plastic packaging for recyclable / reusable packaging. Where you can, swap to products sold in glass, aluminium or cardboard, rather than plastic packaging.
  9. Use reusable shopping bags. Luckily in New Zealand, we generally don’t have plastic shopping bags now. If you live somewhere that doesn’t have a plastic bag ban, use shopping bags made from cloth or recycled/recyclable plastic.
  10. Recycle everything that you can. Recycle what you can, according to what your local council can collect and other schemes in your area such as soft plastic recycling or Terracycle collections.
  11. Buy second hand clothes and household items. Buy from charity shops, online trading sites, garage sales, swap items with friends. And sell or donate items that you no longer need.
  12. And also important … talk to people about what you are doing to reduce waste (if they are interested!). Sharing your tips and ideas might influence and encourage other people to take on some of these waste saving ideas. If we all make changes, they could add up to big results overall.
Infographic of ideas for living a lower waste life

It’s not just down to us as consumers to do all the work though…

I’m not naïve enough to think that all the environmental problems we are currently facing can be fixed if we all make a few changes to our habits. There are huge systemic problems with our economic model of ‘profit at any cost’ and the endless production of goods that we are encouraged to keep consuming, in order to make huge profits for companies.

Products aren’t often made to last, and it is usually expensive and hard to repair broken items. Fashions change weekly, and we are encouraged by advertising to buy the next big thing, the latest technology, the newest car, the new and improved convenience product.

It’s hard to live outside of this system in the Western world. And I realize that many people are living in poverty, and and are making the best choices they can with the resources they have.

But maybe we can reject some of these endless consumerist ideas, and choose to make different choices. We can purchase from companies that are putting environmental sustainability at the centre of what they do. And we can boycott and lobby companies that are still creating mountains of waste from their products.

Photo Credit: The Zero Waste Chef

What are your top suggestions for living a lower waste life?

I’d love to hear your tips and ideas for reducing the amount of waste you create. Do you have some ideas to share that would help us all live a lower waste life?

Are there areas that you get especially stuck on? Lots of us want to find easy, affordable and do-able swaps for products packaging, that are more eco-friendly.

Please share your comments below, so we can all try new ideas.

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