Second-hand September

We’ve had Plastic Free July what now? Second-hand September! Also known as No New September. So, what is it and how can you take part?

What is it?

Simple. Started by the charity Oxfam, Second-hand September is a personal promise to not purchase anything new for the entirety of September. Of course, this doesn’t include food, we’re talking clothes, furniture and gadgets etc. Not only does this give you an opportunity to save some money, it also makes you re-evaluate your consumer habits and make use of what you already have.

Why are we doing it?

The fast fashion industry is one of the biggest polluters on our planet, from the gallons of water required in the processing of materials to the non-biodegradability of most synthetic fibres. Fast fashion brands also have a sordid history of human right violations, with dangerous working conditions and slave wages for most of their workers. There have also been reports of large fashion brands baling all of their old stock together and slicing it up to prevent it from being re-sold or donated.

Second-hand September is a good way of taking a stand against fast fashion and the current culture of disposability and cheap junk. If enough of us join this boycott, then it will send a serious message to these brands that they must start taking responsibility for their environmental impact.

So, what if something crops up that you don’t have the supplies for? Well there are two main options to consider before heading into town to peruse the shops.

1.      Ask friends and family.

Say you have a smart event that you need to attend, or you’ve been asked to help out with a bake sale. Instead of just buying a new outfit or stocking up on baking supplies just ask around to see if your friends and family have something that you could use. Most of the time someone that you know will have almost exactly what you’re looking for, and if not they may know someone who has.

2.      Check out your local charity shop

This is also a great way to support another good cause. Check out your local charity shops to see if they have what it is that you’re looking for. The bonus of this is that most of the items that you find in a charity shop won’t come with unwanted plastic or packaging.

Use this as an opportunity to connect with others, sharing clothes and other items. Try going to a local swap meet to see if you can pick up something special and maybe get rid of items that you haven’t used in a long time.

The Problem in the Amazon

So, I had a whole other blog post prepared for this week about the plastic free picnic that I attended on Saturday, and I may still post it later. But after the events that have recently surfaced a much more serious post is called for.

Many of you will now be aware of the crisis facing the amazon rainforest, even though there has been shockingly little by way of new coverage. Whilst reading what news I could find about the events unfolding I was bombarded with outrage from the general public, not for what was happening to one of our most vital ecosystems, but about the movie rights of a certain fictional superhero. As I stared in horrified awe at the discord over the Spiderman custody battle, I was overcome with a sense of deja vue.

Just as news coverage about the burning of Notre Dame overtook the extinction of the Yangtze softshell turtle, the news that Spiderman will no longer be part of the MCU overtook the news that the Amazon rainforest has been burning for over two weeks now.

Now this is a disaster for a lot of reasons namely the following. The Amazon is one of our main barriers against ecological collapse. The Amazon rainforest has long been know as ‘the lungs of the Earth’ as it makes more than 20% of the worlds oxygen, as well as this it contains 10% of the worlds biodiversity. The disappearance of the Amazon rainforest would be catastrophic to our climate and result in the loss of hundreds of thousands of animal species. The Amazon is also home to over a million indigenous people who at this very moment are loosing their homes and their livelihoods.

Now don’t misunderstand, these fires are not a natural phenomenon brought on by climate change like the increased numbers of wildfires seen in the US in recent years. These fires are deliberate, set by loggers, cattle barons and farmers as a way of clearing the rainforest for commercial purposes. The Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has previously encouraged the deforestation of the Amazon, despite advice from scientists and his cabinet members on the importance of the rainforest.

Dishearteningly and suspiciously these fires started very soon after the Waorani People, an indigenous Amazonian tribe, won a lawsuit against ‘big oil’ to stop the sale of their sacred lands. This is he continuation of a historical trend where the rights and feelings of indigenous peoples are deemed unimportant, especially when the profits of western companies are concerned.

There have been many out there who have bought up the fact that the billionaires who were so ready to donate to the reconstruction of Notre Dame have been echoingly silent about this disaster, despite the fact that it is far more extreme and debilitating.

For those of you who are concerned about this and want to help out here are a couple of links:

The Rainforest Action Network – If you can donate here to protect and acre of the rainforest

The Rainforest Trust – By donating here you can help buy land in the rainforest and help protect it that way

The Rainforest Alliance – this website allows you to check whether or not the products that you are buying are rainforest-safe.

Amazon Watch – donate to this organization to protect the rainforest and the indigenous people that live there.

Ecosia.org – this is an eco-search engine that plants a tree for every 45 searches that you run. Try setting it as your default browser on your computer.

Sign the Greenpeace petition urging the Brazilian government to save the Amazon rainforest.

Also try reducing your paper and wood consumption to reduce the amount of trees that need to be felled each year. Reduce your beef intake, much of the beef found in processed meat and fast food comes from cattle farmed in land that used to be part of the Amazon.

Low Waste Doesn’t Have to Cost the Earth

As more people are moving towards a low waste lifestyle it can seem as though with the myriad of ‘low waste alternatives’ on the market that you’re going to have to fork out a lot of money. However, as someone who started living low waste as a broke university student I can tell you that it doesn’t have to cost the earth, in fact in most ways low waste is actually cheaper. A lot of the low waste alternatives, the ones that are actually useful, last much longer than they’re disposable, wasteful counterparts. But as we’re getting closer to ‘No new September’ (Blog post on that coming soon) I thought I’d give you a few tips on low waste techniques that don’t cost anything.

1. Be more energy conscious

This one may seem like a no brainer but a lot of people still waste needless energy in their day to day lives. Turn of lights when you leave a room, turn your electronics off at the wall instead of leaving them on standby. And one of the most important things that will not only lower your energy bills and reduce your consumption but will also help you sleep better is turn off your TV’s and other screens when you go to be. So many people I know watch TV or Netflix in bed and then leave it running when they fall asleep, looking at a screen just before you go to sleep reduces the amount of melatonin your brain which makes it harder to fall asleep and causes any sleep that you do have to be less restful. Instead of watching TV try reading a book before bed or listening to some mellow music, it’ll calm your brain and allow you to sleep better and has the added advantage of using far less energy.

2. Refuse excess

There are many wasteful bits of excess in our everyday lives that we don’t think about such as receipts, bills, catalogues etc. Most of these have online alternatives, try taking a few moments out of your day to opt out of paper bills and bank statements and instead get them sent to you via email. Same with catalogues, I know that I have an issue with agreeing to sign up to catalogues when I’m in shops but practically every company has a dedicated website so there really is no need to accept them. Also if given the option refuse your receipt, a lot of places will provide a digital receipt now so you cans till keep on top of anything that you may need to return, but for everyday things like groceries etc just refuse the receipt.

3. Learn to make do and mend

This is not a new concept, but it is one that has unfortunately gone out of the mainstream consciousness. Instead of simply throwing out clothes and other items when they begin to wear out try mending them instead, there are plenty of tutorial videos online that will teach you basic sewing skills. For more complicated items such as electronics look in your local area to see if there is a repair café. Repair cafes are springing up more and more and most of the time they’re free and you can learn some useful skills and possibly make some really good friends whilst there.

4. Talk to your local council

For most people it seems pretty clear which items are recyclable, and which aren’t. Plastics – recyclable, paper – recyclable etc. However, there are certain things that councils don’t recycle, depending on their recycling facilities and budget. Try contacting your local council to find out if there is anything that they don’t recycle, and then you can avoid buying products that contain them in the future.

Plastic Free July – Tips and Tricks

So, we’ve just reached the end of the first week of Plastic Free July, and for those of you who are using this as an opportunity to begin your low waste journey allow me to give you a few helpful tips to get on your way.

1.      Shop loose

This may be a bit of a no brainer, trying to shop for groceries without excess packaging but it’s finding these unpackaged groceries that may be the hard part. However, food loose shops are popping up all over the place and a quick google search should allow you to find one relatively close by, many of these food loose shops also work as part of a charity which adds an extra bonus.

For those of you who don’t want to spend the time trawling the internet for your closest shop then why not try these:

Zero waste near me – this is an ingenious website which allows you to input your locations and gives you a list of local low waste shops from bulk buy shops to farm stores.

Waitrose – You may have seen in the news, but Waitrose has become the first large scale supermarket to offer a zero packaging option. Check out your local Waitrose to see if they have a refill station.

2.      Don’t throw out your old plastic

It may seem like a bit of an oxymoron, but zero waste living can actually be fairly plastic heavy. I myself have plastic Tupperware that I’ve had for years which I have no intention of throwing away any time soon. The important thing is to steer clear of the single use plastics such as packaging. The plastic tupperwares and other tubs and boxes are actually super helpful when it comes to shopping low waste as you can take them to refill shops and bulk shops to fill up. Now there is the zero-waste aesthetic of pretty glass mason jars and I do use these but there’s no need to purge your cupboards of plastic tubs when they can still be useful. In fact, throwing away useful plastic items simply because they are plastic just adds to the pollution problem.

3.      Share with friends

One of the big parts of zero waste living that people often forget is community. There is a massive community of zero wasters out their who are very willing to share their knowledge and experience with you. As well as that why not try and get into the habit of asking your friends and family if they have something that you can borrow if you need it. Most of use will simply go out and buy something if a need for it arises even if we only plan on using it once but buying new should be a last resort. If you have a formal event coming up and need to dress up for it, firstly check out your closet to see if you already have something appropriate and if not ask around, most of the time there will be someone you know who has exactly what you need.

4.      Don’t go overboard

Now its great to be enthusiastic but the zero-waste lifestyle is a journey and not one that you will be able to complete in a month so start small. Make a few small steps this month that will set you up on the low waste journey. Promise to yourself that you will stop buying coffee in throwaway cups, maybe invest in a reusable one. Try preparing your food in bulk, or the night before so that you’re not tempted to buy a heavily packaged sandwich for lunch. And most importantly don’t go throwing money at it until you are more sure of what you need, a lot of the things that we need for a zero waste lifestyle are actually already in our homes and as the old adage goes less is definitely more.

 

All in all any steps you take towards living lower waste this month will help towards a healthier and more sustainable future. But this is a marathon and not a sprint, so don’t be too hard on yourself if you need a quick rest of find yourself stumbling a little.

Cross Generational Conversation

As time has gone on and I’ve looked further into low waste alternatives the comments I usually get are along the lines of ‘we used to have that’ or ‘that’s not a new idea’. And this is true, the culture of disposability is a recently new one, in past decades single use items were seen to be as wasteful as they really are.

As plastic, low quality alternatives became easier to obtain and markedly cheaper in the short term the higher quality, longer lasting staples became increasingly scarce. It’s has gotten to the point where for many of my generation and below that the idea of reusable nappies, reusable makeup wipes etc seem like a new invention.

This is why cross generational conversation is one of the most important things for this movement. I have gotten some of my best tips and ideas from people in older generations, and I like to think that people like me can offer a fresh perspective to others.

There are many places and events where people from different backgrounds and generations can meet and chat.

Repair Cafes

These are becoming more and more prevalent as people try to save money and make their electronics last longer. It’s also a great place to learn a skill.

Eco Meetings

Places like the Plastic Free meetings that I have been attending always have a healthy mix of people with a passion for doing what they can to improve their local area.

Fairs and Festivals

As we move into the summer food and drinks fairs will begin popping up. Whilst I have yet to see a zero waste fair, Vegan festivals and agricultural fairs often have interesting alternatives to try and plenty of people to meet.

When surrounded by people who are content with throwing away it can feel like a bit of a loosing battle trying to live low waste. Gathering with people that are of a similar mindset, whether it be at a Café, a festival, or a march, can be refreshing and downright enjoyable. If you do go to one of these gatherings be sure to engage, the Zero Waste Movement is all about sharing and increasing awareness, so share. Share your knowledge, your ideas and experiences, give people tips and take them in return.