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.

 

Respect in the wake of Summer

As we move further into the summer and people are starting to spend more time outside among nature I thought I’d impart a few tips and tricks on how you can help improve your local environment.

1. Feed the Bees

As the weather turns warmer, we should start seeing more of our cute buzzy friends floating about, however the mornings are still cool and a suddenly cold day can badly effect the health and stamina of bumblebees. Keep an eye out for any little ladies that seem sluggish or who are wandering around on the floor, it could be that they’re hungry and tired. Even if you find what looks like a dead bee give her a gentle push to see if she’s simply exhausted, if you can find a leaf and pop her on a flower. The best flowers for a tired bee are tube/cup shaped ones which give them an easy place to sit and rest whilst they fill up on pollen. If you’re near home or can’t find a flower then try to give them a small piece of fruit or a teaspoon of sugar water, this should give them enough energy to get on their way.

Top tip: Sugar water should be given as a last resort as it is the human equivalent of junk food. It will give a bee enough energy to get home but its highly addictive and honey made from sugar water has little to no nutritional value for larvae.

2. Don’t feed the ducks (at least don’t feed them bread)

Going to feed the ducks was always a childhood favourite of mine, it also served as a good way to get rid of stale bread. Unfortunately, this is one of the worse things to feed birds, not just ducks. Bread has almost no nutritional benefit and instead fills a birds stomach, reducing the space for beneficial food. This is especially dangerous during the winter when other food is scarce and birds need to bulk up to keep warm, another dangerous time period is in he spring when ducks and other water birds have young with them. Feeding young ducklings bread can actually lead to them starving to death, because they feel full and therefore don’t eat food with actually nutritional benefit.

Top tip: Try taking some baby carrots, seeds, sweetcorn and other vegetables that give a nice crunch the next time that you want to feed the ducks. These are much healthier and a lot more fun for young ducklings to eat.

3. Take nothing but photos leave nothing but footprints

Many of you will have heard this adage and as we hear more and more about the amount of plastic and rubbish that has made its way into the environment I feel as though its more important than ever.

What this saying means is if you take something into an environment that doesn’t belong there, food, packaging etc. it is your job to take them back out again. In the simplest terms, don’t litter.

The take nothing but photos part of this saying is slightly more of a grey area, this part really means don’t take anything that will disturb then environment that you’ve visited or harm the environment that you are taking it to. A pretty autumn leaf, a nice pebble from the beach, these things are not going to cause any negative impact. Taking seeds from a plant into a non-native environment, uprooting a whole plant, taking a pretty birds egg, these things can cause quite a bit of damage to the delicate ecosystems where they naturally exist. This is one of the main reasons why customs are so strict on bringing biological material into different countries, a quick google on invasive species will show you how quickly foreign plants and animals can destroy a well-balanced ecosystem.

Final Thoughts

The biggest take home for this post is respect. When you are out and about in nature, respect it. Take time to look out for wildlife that may need your help and keep your distance from other things that shouldn’t be disturbed. Remember that you are a guest in these places that you visit, so give it the same level of respect that you would a loved ones house.

The Living Lighter Store – A New Site

Those of you who have been visiting this blog regularly may have noticed that our site notice and links have disappeared. That is because as of now the Living Lighter Store has its own website www.livinglighterstore.co.uk where you can pick up everything you need to start living low waste. Along with our Hydrophil toothbrushes and soap pouches we will soon be selling bees wax wraps! an eco-friendly alternative to cling-film. We will also be selling the none-sponge and re-usable makeup pads and nail pads. Why not check out our new site and then drop us a comment telling us what you think?