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.

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.