5 Free(ish) Ways to Reduce Your Waste

We know from our own experience that changing habits to be more eco-conscious can be a bit of a challenge. So, you want to reduce your waste? Fantastic! But where do you start? Just how eco-friendly are the alternatives on offer? And with more and more eco-friendly products coming on the market, how do you make the right choices for you? 

I don’t know if it’s just because I’m surrounded by like-minded people, but it does feel like there has been a noticeable shift towards people wanting to live more sustainably, which is fantastic. This shift is resulting in lots of clever eco-friendly alternatives becoming more mainstream. And the more mainstream products become, the more affordable they often become too. But it's important that we don't lose sight of what living sustainably really means.

As much as we enjoy trying out new eco products for Little B, a sustainable lifestyle should cost you less, not more. Yes, some of the eco alternatives can be more expensive BUT remember this is about REDUCING what you waste and a really simple way to do that is to consume less. By reducing your consumption and changing your habits, it can more than balance out any extra cost if you do choose to invest in quality eco-friendly items.

There's so much information online about eco living, it's very easy to find yourself in a Google rabbit hole and still not be any clearer! We've put together a few easy and free(ish) ways you can reduce your waste and live more sustainably.

Refuse

Our lives are full of stuff. Often stuff we don't need. And all this stuff has an environmental cost. If we do need to buy new things, let's do it thoughtfully and use our spending power to tell companies what we want and don't want. For example, items that are built to last, with eco-conscious ingredients and with less plastic packaging. The less we as consumers ‘demand’ (buy) products that are harmful to the plant, the more chance there is that companies will sit up and take notice.

Reduce

It's all too easy when shopping to buy things on impulse. One way to avoid this when food shopping is to plan out your weekly meals and write a list of everything you need. We have a family WhatsApp group specially for food shopping. As we run out of items or think of something we need, it gets added to the group chat as a reminder for when we have time to write our list.

If you prefer to take a less structured approach to planning meals, why not take a photo of your cupboard shelf (a ‘shelfie’) to refer to when out shopping to avoid doubling up on items.

When writing our food shop list we also order the items based on where they are in the shop. Now, this may sound a bit of a faff but it means a) we save time when shopping and b) we're less likely to get distracted buying things we don't need. 

We then check the use by dates on foods when we get home and plan dinners with these in mind to avoid any food going out of date. 

Reuse

Bring your own... bag, bottle, cup, cutlery, straw… There’s a reusable version for pretty much anything these days so let's ditch those disposables. Keep your reusables in the car / pushchair / handbag / rucksack - whatever your ‘always take’ vessel of choice is, leave it in there so you don’t get caught short when out and about.

How about reusing someone else's unwanted gems by considering second hand? Or donating any of your unwanted items to give them a new lease of life? Check out your local freecycle groups; one person's rubbish is another's treasure. 

Repair

Before chucking items out, consider how you could repurpose or repair them. Not too handy when it comes to fixing things? See if you’ve got a repair cafe near you - we’ve taken a few small electrical appliances to our local repair cafe and they’re now as good as new!

Upcycling is a great way to feed your creativity, save something from landfill and learn a new hobby. There are many clever and cool ways everyday items can be repurposed or transformed, from clothes to furniture to storage… Here are some of our favourite upcycling projects. If crafting isn’t your thing, put unwanted items up for ‘free to collector’ on your local Facebook groups, you may be surprised at what some people will take off your hands!

Recycling

Recycling is a bit of a minefield, with confusing symbols on packaging and different councils recycling in different ways. The sad fact is that the council kerbside recycling facilities available in most areas are shocking (especially where we live). Which is unacceptable. But unfortunately that’s unlikely to change overnight. So, rather than focus on what the council AREN’T doing, focus on what YOU can do. There's waaay more to recycling than relying on the council kerbside collection. Check out any local Terracycle schemes and recycling / reducing waste facebook groups - these are great places to learn and ask questions. We're lucky enough to have a fab local recycling and plastic free Facebook group - link for any local followers.

Choosing to reduce your waste should not be about throwing out what you've got and replacing it for eco-friendly products. The first step is to use up what you've got! Even if it's an item that's not particularly 'eco', it already exists so it's less wasteful to use it up first. It was likely bought at a time you weren't as conscious of its environmental impact. Just be careful to dispose of it in the most environmentally friendly way you can, acknowledge it wasn't the best choice and learn from it. 

These are by no means the perfect solutions for zero waste as life gets in the way and well, we’re not perfect! But they do help us stay on track a good chunk of the time. And that’s good enough for us!

Whether you’re a newbie to low waste or a seasoned eco warrior, we're all on our own journey to living more sustainably, at different paces and with different priorities.

"We don't need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly, we need 1 million people doing it imperfectly."

Anne Marie Bonneau, Zero Waste Chef.