Being Planet-Friendly and Living More Zero Waste - The Seven R’s (and Recycling Isn't One of Them!)
Author: Wholesome Hub Date Posted:15 August 2018
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Whilst recycling sounds like a positive, feel good step towards helping the planet, being zero waste is a far more ecologically sound goal. Here’s our guide to Reducing, Returning, Reusing, Repairing, Refilling, Rotting and Refusing. Whilst recycling sounds like a positive, feel good step towards helping the planet, being zero waste is a far more ecologically sound goal. Here’s our guide to Reducing, Returning, Reusing, Repairing, Refilling, Rotting and Refusing.
Whilst recycling sounds like a positive, feel good step towards helping the planet, being zero waste is a far more ecologically sound goal. Here’s our guide to Reducing, Returning, Reusing, Repairing, Refilling, Rotting and Refusing.
When we think of being eco and planet-friendly, the first thing that springs to mind is often recycling. Whether it’s our plastic water bottles, newspapers or food scraps, into the appropriate recycling bin they go, and we don’t give them another thought.
It's great that local councils have made it so easy for us to separate everything out and place it on the kerbside for collection each week. But, particularly in the case of single use plastics, there is a downside to this ease of recycling.
Sadly, in many cases, recycling doesn’t justify having the bottle, food container, shopping bag, coffee cup or straw in the first place. (And when there are so many beautiful and reusable alternatives, why would we want to have anything else?!)
The Energy Inefficiencies of Plastic Recycling
As much as recycling is needed to eliminate at least some of the plastics ending up in landfill and our oceans, it’s an incredibly resource intensive system in itself. The amount of electricity, oil, water and space needed to run the recycling machinery is staggering.
In the case of plastics, often the recycling process, which melts down the plastics, also degrades them. This releases potentially harmful chemicals into the molten plastics, meaning that the resulting material can’t pass the food grade standards required for safe use in the food and drinks industry. This is why we see amazing initiatives such as roads made from recycled plastic bags and bottles.
But, there are only so many roads that can be built, and companies willing to be so innovative.
RECYCLING IS SO POPULAR BECAUSE IT TAKES LITTLE EFFORT.
It feels good, and we can use it to justify our purchases. “It’s ok to buy this bottle of water because I can recycle the bottle.” We feel like we’re doing our part for the planet because the recycling message has been so successful.
But, especially with the news that China is now refusing the world’s recycling, leading to tonnes of recyclable materials forming mountains at depots with nowhere to go, this message isn’t the full story.
Often, creating products from recycled plastics is less energy intensive than creating plastic from scratch. But recycled or not, we must all consider whether our reliance on single use plastics is justifiable. Should we be consuming so much plastic and sending it to recycling plants, when we could just utilise something else instead? Something we already have, or that can be reused numerous times, like reusable coffee cups?
We should all be placing more emphasis on the other Seven R’s of being planet-friendly and making recycling the eighth R on our list.
So here‘s the Wholesome Hub Guide to the Seven R’s of Being Zero Waste…
1 - Reducing
First on our list is reducing, meaning simply to use less. We live in a consumerist society, whether we like it or not. But this doesn’t mean that we have to continually buy stuff. How often have you been lured in by discounts and Buy One Get One Free deals in the supermarket? Unless it’s something you use regularly, and that won’t perish by the time you get around to using it, is it really such a sweet deal?
Think about the deals you see next time you’re food shopping. Not only in bricks and mortar shops, but online too. Look out for all the shiny, sparkling offers in bright colours, enticing you in with their money saving temptations. But will you use two loaves of bread? Do you really need three bags of salad?
OR WILL THE EXTRAS SIMPLY MAKE IT INTO THE BIN?
Even if it's the food waste bin, the contents of which will go on to feed farm animals or be burned to create energy, what about all the packaging?
It's the same for clothes shopping. Fast fashion is exactly that, fast, and throw away. Wear things once and they go out of fashion, resigned to the back of the cupboard forevermore.
Consider buying classic pieces that might cost more, but will last longer. And if being seen in the same outfit more than once is good enough for Princess Kate, then it's good enough for us!
Think too, about thrift shop bargains. Buying clothes, toys and household items such as crockery that have been pre-loved means less stuff being made. A quick clean is all it takes to make them re-loved, by you. I adore throwing dinner parties using my collection of charity shop, mismatched glasses and odd plates. It makes for a much more interesting table!
2 - Returning
It used to be the norm, that bottle shops would accept our empties. The planet would benefit from all those glass bottles being reused, and we’d be a few cents richer in return. It isn't so common now but it is still possible.
But retailers should be doing more to encourage us to return the packaging they supply our goods in. As consumers, we have the power to demand what we want. If we want organic produce, retailers supply it. If we want Fairtrade, ethical and sustainably sourced goods, they supply those too.
HOW DO WE DEMAND THESE PRODUCTS? BY BUYING THEM.
Flocking to niche organic retailers like the Wholesome Hub means not buying mass produced, low quality goods elsewhere. And nothing makes retailers sit up and listen more than shoppers spending their money elsewhere.
So let’s start demanding that our shops accept their packaging back. After all, it was theirs in the first place. Plus, even if we don’t get any cash back, it’ll sure feel good highlighting the amount of excess packaging our produce comes wrapped in. It might even kickstart the big supermarkets into reducing the amount they use.
We love these eco-savvy shoppers at a UK supermarket chain doing just that!
3 - Reusing
Going back to the throwaway habits of the nation, especially when it comes to fast fashion, it might seem like an odd concept to simply use less. But doing so won’t just create less waste, it saves us money too.
After the first series of ABC’s War on Waste, we Australians went crazy for going plastic free. But it also highlighted the amount of clothes we buy. Australia is the second largest consumer of fabrics globally, with each of us buying 27 kilos of new clothes every single year.
So aside from buying fewer clothes, or buying second hand clothes, we could also help the environment by reusing the ones we do have. That means either wearing them more, just like Princess Kate, handing them down to friends and family members or repurposing them into something else.
Really tired and worn clothes can be cut into squares to be used as wash clothes or for cleaning the house. How often do you use a disposable napkin to clean up spills and wipe down kitchen worktops and surfaces? Use an old fabric square instead, it’s cheap, and washable too!
Newer clothes can be repurposed into cotton bags with a few simple sewing techniques, or made into dolls clothes or overalls for the kids (and grown ups) to wear when they’re getting crafty or helping to bake cakes.
And it isn’t just clothes.
TOYS IN A GOOD CONDITION CAN BE HANDED DOWN OR GIVEN TO CHARITY.
Broken crockery can be used to provide aeration and drainage in the bottom of plant pots. They can even be used to make mosaics to adorn floors and walls if you’re feeling extremely creative! Birthday cards can be turned into gift tags and plastic food containers make great trays to start growing your own veggies from seed in.
4 - Repairing
We adore the idea of repairing things. It harks back to the days when craftsmen and women would fix things in their workshops and make things look as good as new.
It often takes skill and expertise but even a favourite but broken tea cup can have a new lease of life with the right glue. And don’t worry about it looking not quite so new, the Japanese art of Kintsugi means to fix things with gold to purposefully show the cracks and the life story of the item. How beautiful!
Learning how to fix a kettle, power tool or anything else electrical is made much simpler with Ifixit, a free, global online community of fixers giving all kinds of fixing advice. It could become your new hobby, that you could use to connect with and help your own community!
YOU’LL BE SURPRISED HOW MUCH A TUBE OF GLUE AND A SMALL TOOL KIT CAN FIX.
5 - Refilling
Bulk stores might feel like a new concept, but really, they’re only a revamp of the way we used to shop. In days long forgotten, shoppers would take their baskets, cotton bags and glass bottles to shops and ask the shopkeeper to fill them up with only the flour, grains and milks they needed. Much of this was down to being money savvy and not being able to store fresh produce without fridges or homes free from hungry and inquisitive mice.
Now, we have the space and the wherewithal to keep foods fresher for longer.
BUT WE COULD ALL USE A BIT OF EXTRA CASH AND BUYING IN BULK IS VERY COST EFFECTIVE.
6 - Rotting
As we’ve touched on, collecting up food scraps can help feed animals and create fuel. They can also be used to create compost that enriches the earth, providing valuable nutrients. Even if you don’t have your own compost heap, our fully compostable food waste bags will mean that putting food waste out for the council collections will help treat the soil elsewhere.
7 - Refusing
Just like demanding that supermarkets take back our waste, we can also use our purchasing power to simply refuse to buy things.
We don’t have to accept the rubbish (in the literal and the metaphorical sense) that manufacturers churn out. We don’t need a constant stream of stuff entering our homes through the front door, being used once or maybe loved for a short while, and then leaving by the back door in the bins, recycling or otherwise.
As a company selling things to you, the conscious public, it’s perhaps difficult to be taken completely seriously. We’re telling you to buy less, at the same time as running a business that relies on trade from the public.
BUT UNLESS WE’RE COMPLETELY SELF SUFFICIENT, WE ALL NEED TO CONSUME THINGS.
Everything we offer here on the Wholesome Hub has been carefully and thoughtfully selected for it’s high animal welfare, planet-friendly, Fairtrade, ethical or sustainable, organic values. Whether you pick one or two items from us over a large conglomerate, or you do most of your shopping with us, you’re making a difference.
The stronger our collective voices, the sooner we’ll start to see the tide turn on unnecessary junk. Excess packaging could become a thing of the past, and each and everyone of us could be a mindful consumer, with ethical and sustainable goods at our fingertips, when we need them.
There’s a huge difference between need and want. Making conscious decisions makes us a conscious consumer. Make steps towards becoming zero waste and be the change you want to see.