Little things make big things happen: my tips to reduce landfill waste
This week, instead of my Friday Favourites, I wanted to share something a little different.
You may or may not know that this week is Zero Waste Week. This is annual international campaign aimed at reducing landfill. Over the past couple of years, I’ve become more aware of the impact of my actions on the world around me and I’ve been trying to live in a more sustainable and conscious manner.
Today I wanted to share a few of the things that I’ve incorporated into my life to help reduce the amount of landfill waste you produce and to protect the environment. I’ve thought long and hard about sharing this post, as I am by no means perfect. I still buy many products in plastic packaging; my general waste bin fills up faster than I’d like; I forget my reusable coffee cup from time to time. But I try. And isn’t that what matters? It’s the little things that make the big things happen after all. If we all start thinking about the issues our world is facing and if we all start making small efforts to make changes, then that’s where the magic happens.
I stumbled across these two quotes this week, which sum up my attitude so adeptly:
- “Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together.” - Vincent Van Gogh
- “Habit is habit and not to be flung out of the window by any man, but coaxed downstairs a step at a time” - Mark Twain
For some people, these recommendations might be obvious, for others, they might seem a little harder to incorporate. Living more sustainably and consciously isn’t black or white. It isn’t all or nothing. Choose one thing to start with and share it with your housemate, your friends or your neighbours to help keep you motivated. Like I said it’s the little things that make the big things happen.
1. Recycling Bin
Let’s start with the obvious. Do you own a recycling bin and do you know what can and can’t go in it. Every area has it’s own rules and regulations so I recommend doing a bit of research. Why not download your local list of what can and can’t be recycled and keep it on hand if you’re ever in doubt.
So many things get thrown as general waste without a second thought. Make things easy for yourself and make the recycling bin really easy to access. Hopefully, with a bit of practice, the recycling bin will become your natural instinct when it comes to discarding rubbish. I don't have space for two separate bins, so I use a really large felt box (similar to the one below), which slots nicely on the bottom shelf of the main cupboard in my kitchen. It’s large enough for me not to have to empty it daily, but also not so large that I can’t carry it to the recycling bin outside!
I know it’s hard when you live with people who don’t live in the same way as you do (university halls were soul destroying!), but don’t fret. Gently remind them if they forget, lead by example and eventually they will follow.
2. Food Bin/Kitchen Caddy
Although I make every effort to limit my overall food waste, there are still certain parts of the produce I buy that I can’t make use of. This is where the food bin comes in handy. Things like banana skins, fruit stones, eggshells and tea bags are often found in mine!
Here in London we’re really lucky to have citywide composting. A trusty kitchen caddy can be used to hold your organic kitchen waste before you take it to the compost bin. Again, it’s best to check what can and can’t be composted as each area has it’s own regulations. I recommend purchasing a small food bin to keep on your counter (such as the one below) and to line it with compostable liners or caddy bags. These make emptying your food bin so much easier!
3. Water Bottle
Something that’s become increasingly popular is the range of reusable water bottles on the market. Although I’m not usually one for trends/fads, this is one I’m much more on board with. Since January this year, I’ve made every effort to avoid plastic cups at all costs. Depending on where I was (studying at university, working in the NHS, chilling in a coffee shop), I’d easily get through a couple of cups each day without even thinking. Now I try to carry a reusable water bottle around with me wherever I go and I say no to plastic cups. Sometimes this means waiting a little while for a drink (if I’ve forgotten my bottle), but it’s worth it as the amount of plastic cups we get through each year is alarming.
My favourite reusable bottle is this one by 24Bottles. 24 Bottles make BPA-free, lightweight, stainless steel bottles (their 500ml bottle weighs just over 100g, which is incredibly light compared to many on the market!). They print the number -0.08 on every 24 bottle, as apparently 80 grams (0.08kg) is the quality of CO2 saved each time that you choose to drink from your 24 Bottle rather than a disposable bottle. I love this little touch.
Unfortunately I lost mine a few months ago (I was devastated!), so I’ve been making do with an alternative that I had already until I can justifying buying another. I’ve recommended these bottles to lots of friends though and their feedback has been equally positive!
However, there are loads of other great options on the market too. The only thing I’d suggest is that you is use a non-plastic bottle, as both for environmental and health reasons this is preferable. More on plastic itself another time though...
4. Travel Cup
Along a similar line, one small change I’ve made is to use a reusable coffee cup. Like plastic cups, we get through horrendous amounts of disposable coffee cups each year. I won’t deny that I love the ‘coffee culture’ and I don't go a day without a coffee, but it’s saddening to see how many coffee cups get discarded. Even many of the disposable coffee cups we think are recyclable are not as easily recycled as we might have hoped. Unfortautnely, it’s often the case that part of the cup can be recycled, but another part can’t. As you can imagine, very few people make the effort to pull their cup apart and discard of it in separate waste bins!
A more simple solution is for you to start taking your own reusable coffee cup out and about. Most cafes give you a discount if you take your own cup (which is an incentive in itself) and there are so many on the market that I guarantee you’ll find one that suits your style. If you are out and about and you forget your reusable cup, then why not sit in for a few minutes and enjoy the moment, or if you really need to go, request for no lid.
I love Keep Cup as they are lightweight and easy to wash. They come in a range of sizes, materials and colours. I recommend the medium one (12oz) as this is great for tea or coffee, but I also have a small one (8oz), which is great for shorter coffees such as flat whites. Do you have any favourite brands that you’d recommend?
Saying no to plastic straws is another simple thing that I’ve incorporated into my life. Previously I wouldn’t have thought twice about a discarded plastic straw, but now it’s something I notice everywhere I go! Reality is, we often don’t even need straws, but we all like to enjoy our drinks with them on occasions.
As you may have seen on my Instagram, I love snacking on smoothies during the day. I either make one at home and transport it in a glass kilner jar or I’ll grab one out and about. Either way, I avoid using a plastic straw and enjoy slurp them up with my reusable straw instead!
A few years ago I purchased a set of stainless steel reusable straws (like the one below). They are washable (mine are dishwasher safe) and non-toxic. They might just be one of the best things I ever brought as I use them so often and they’re still going strong!
As well as carrying a reusable water bottle, coffee cup and straw, I try to carry a set of reusable cutlery with me when I’m out on the go. I know it sounds like you’re carrying a lot (your handbag might need to be upsized), but honestly, it’s not much in the grand scheme of things. Switch your daily use of disposable cutlery for your own reusable set. This not only saves waste (whether or not those on offer are recyclable), but it might even make eating more pleasurable too. I don’t know about you, but I hate eating food using wooden cutlery - I find that my food ends up tasting slightly ‘woody’, which certainly doesn’t appeal to me!
Either grab a spare set from your cutlery drawer or purchase a dedicated picnic set such as the one below. Soon you’re on the go sustainable set will become second nature to you!
If you’re carrying reusable cutlery around then you’re going to need a reason to make use of it! Unfortunately most high street ‘to go’ lunch options come with a selection of disposable packaging. That’s not to say you need to stop buying them altogether, but why not try switching things up every now and then?
Either take a reusable container with you and ask if your lunch can be served in this instead (some places may not agree to this) or make yourself a packed lunch. Partly for the environment, partly because of my student budget and partly just because I like home cooked food, I’ve become quite accustomed to making packed lunches to see my through the week when I’m working or studying. Why not whip up your own, equally or perhaps more delicious version, or your favourite high street lunch. Contrary to popular belief, packed lunches really don’t have to be boring! I pretty much tupperwear up whatever I’ve had for dinner the night before. A salmon stir fry, pesto pasta, or a quick hummus and smoked tofu sandwich. The possibilities are endless…
I know tupperwear can be pricey, but if you can, invest in a good one. I have a range of shapes and sizes, depending on what I’m transporting. Some are leak-proof and some are not (I’ve found out the hard way). Some look great in principle, but they don’t actually work that well in reality. The reality of numerous small compartments can be a bit of a pain if you want to throw in a large portion of leftovers!
One of my current favourite ranges is this one by Joseph Joseph. Each container is made of two compartments, one larger and one smaller, so they are ideal for a main with a side of veggie, or carrot sticks with a side of peanut butter. They are lightweight, dishwasher and microwave safe and the compartments nest together for compact storage when empty.
However, once again, any tupperwear will do. It could be an old plastic tupperwear lying around in the back of your cupboard that you’ve had for years or a leftover Chinese takeaway box you got last night. It’s not a question of getting your hands on the fanciest one you can find, it’s make the change in the first place!
8. Canvas Shopping Bag
Last but not least, I’m never out without a reusable canvas bag of sorts. Again this saves money (as many shops now charge for plastic bags or refuse to hand them out all together) and it saves our landfills too. Obviously you can reuse plastic bags, but there really are only so many that one person needs. I always carry one in my handbag or rucksack as I never know when I might need one. Whether it’s a spontaneous trip to the supermarket or a gift from a friend, it’s better to be safe than sorry! If you have a car, why not pop a selection of spare bags in your boot. If you’re going to do a large grocery shop, then make sure to take a few extra. It’s a simple action, but it can have big results.
Any canvas bag will do, but I’m lucky enough to have a few great branded ones. I couldn’t resist the cheeky opportunity to share my current favourites tote bags:
- The Vurger Co (You all know how much I love these guys)
- Percol Coffee (It says 'Love Coffee' - could it get much better?)
- Pip&Nut (I'm a secret squirrel at heart)
I hope that by sharing a few of the things I’ve incorporated into my daily living to inspire you to try them too. I’m not here to make you feel guilty or to make you feel you’ve got to buy a whole new set of items. Instead, focus on the things you can do, rather than the things you can’t. So with that in mind, what’s one little thing you could change this week? Comment below or tag me on Instagram at @mylifeisforliving. I can't wait to hear how you get on!
Until next time,