I’ve never cared so much for recycling, living in the U.K. we pretty much took it for granted.
It was a way of life, you sift through your rubbish, or, you get fined. You bring your own bags to the supermarket, or you get charged for every bag you use. Simple enough.
It was bothersome at first, but over time it had become second nature. It reduced plastic bag consumption by 80% in the first year it was introduced. Who would have thunk it? Freebies creates waste? Nah.
Now, as a mindful parent, I’ve come to miss it. It was so much easier, when everyone was on the same page, everyone already understood, the why.
Forgive me, when I say that it feels like, we are still trying to knock heads together, of why recycling our trash is better, than leaving it to pile up in landfill.
Still trying to educate, why reducing our waste, is far better than having to recycle. And globally slowly coming to the reality, that the earth is not limitless, it is finite, and it’s resources, it’s land, it’s oceans, its animals, are all dependent, on the respect we give it.
Sad fact: 8 million tons of plastic enters out oceans every year.
I’ve recently had to unclog my brain cells from convenience, as I could see myself ashamedly, slip back to my mindless earth polluter days. I do recycle, because I am blessed to live in a community, that has communal recycling banks.
Most schools and public places here in the UAE have recycling spots. Putting plastic bottles, in the right compartment, whilst at the mall, may make you feel you’ve earned an honorary ‘eco warrior badge’. For that mindful second, you’re saving the world. But isn’t there more we can do?
Across the world, there is definite global shift towards how we view waste. There is a greater awareness, on how single use products, drastically effect the environment. Many global companies, have taken initiative, pledging to reduce waste, and to make smarter choices, in-keeping with environmental concerns.
With this aim to do more than we already should be, let’s put our best foot forward, and strive for a better future. Let’s kick some first-world privileged habits, to the curb, and earn back the earth’s trust.
This post may seem like I’m slapping you in the face, with a plastic fish multiple times, but sometimes tough love, is what we need, to get our acts together.
Below are 12 Ways to Reduce Waste by making some simple switches in our already convenient lifestyle, to a greener one. You may not feel like doing them all, but at least consider one! Small daily changes, make considerable long term impacts.
1. Stop Sucking
Let it be the last straw. Refuse plastic straws, wherever possible. Seriously I’m sure you’re old enough to master the art of slurping by now. If you really must have one, invest in a metal one. Clean and reuse and remember to pack a cloth bib too, you big baby. No offense to babies.
Sad fact: Straws are typically used for 20 minutes, but last 200 years to biodegrade in landfill. They usually contain BPA and cannot be recycled. They are one of the top ten most found items found in beach clean ups.
Invest in rechargeable batteries, instead of sad single use batteries. Stop minding the pennies and not the pound. It may cost more when you buy them initially, but you’ll be saving more in the long run.
Happy fact: Rechargeable batteries can be used hundreds of times, and saves disposable batteries from ending up in landfill. They can be recycled and they save on energy, as you are not having to make new ones, over and over again.
3. Cloth Bag Baby
For those who are still forgetting their bags, leave one in the car, leave one in your handbag, leave one in your jacket, leave one inside your shoe. Point is every time you need to go out, keep it right there in front of you, so you are reminded to bring it along with you. I’m sure my UK readers are slaying this one. What with, every supermarket charging, for a single use bag. For my UAE readers, before Carrefour starts charging you a dirham for it, hold on to your reusable bags. Oh yeh, it’s coming. Be ahead of the game, and lead the pack.
Sad fact: Studies have shown 90% of all marine birds have consumed plastic. Sea turtles cannot differentiate between jelly fish, and irresponsibly disposed of plastic bags. Plastic bags do not disappear, they break up into micro plastics, and float around in our oceans. These plastic bits are then mistaken for food by marine life, which inadvertently end up in our favourite seafood dish. That’s karma for you.
4. Learn to say No to Freebies
Saying no to strangers, and saying no to plastic, should be taught in school. Refuse disposable stuff. When ordering tell the take out guy, you don’t want their flimsy cutlery, plates and napkins. You’re at home for the love of all things good, wash a spoon! We love freebies but it isn’t really free, because our planet is paying for it. Re-learn to say no. This is especially hard for kids and happy meals. I know. I’m sending you prayers.
Amazing fact: Did you know 70% of the oxygen on earth comes from marine plants. This is yet another reason, why it’s with urgency, we must act on reducing plastic entering our oceans. Next time you see rubbish on the beach or anywhere, don’t wait for it to be blown away, dispose of it kindly.
5. Ditch the Paper Towels
Fancy towels, are not just for fancy guests. Break out of the disposable mindset. Why cheapen your life and use single use stuff? Use the towels you’re always saving for that snooty guest, that might stop by, maybe, sometime, in the near never. Be prim and proper now, go ahead and use them. And while we’re on that, don’t ditch your old towels, instead cut them into squares, and replace single use cotton pads. Wash and reuse as many times as you like. You’re welcome.
Happy fact : Saves money on repurchasing paper towels. Your grandkids don’t need to know of your OCD through paper towel usage, taking up landfill.
6. Be Odorless
This may be a revelation to some, but half the worlds population already does this. Hand bidet. Honestly, I don’t know how people go on about life, without one! Living in UAE, we take it for granted. But this is one of the many reasons, why I avoid using public toilets, I just refuse to use them. It’ll cut down on your toilet paper usage, and people won’t run away from you, when standing behind you in a queue! Check out amazon, they have options.
Sorry not sorry fact: Next time you see a Muslim, in the washroom with a water bottle, you’ll finally know, what that’s about.
7. Reusable Bottles
Plastic bottles are you serious? No seriously, are you serious? What is this 1993? Get your bottle fill it, drink it, refill it, drink it, refill it, drink it. It can’t be any easier.
Sad fact: Humans produce 20,000 plastic bottles a second
8. Coffee Shop Hipster
Bring your own reusable cup, when ordering your ‘vegan choca mocha pumpkin spiced latte’ and become a trendsetter, in the long loser pile of disposable cup abusers. They’ll be eating your dust, because you totally, just, owned them.
Sad fact: 25 billion coffee cups are thrown away every year.
9. Bamboo is not just Pandas
A great alternative to cotton or plastic is bamboo. Why, I hear you cry? Because bamboo can be easily biodegradable. Bamboo can also be easily harvested. Extra brownie points, if you have a bamboo toothbrush, and have given them as gifts, to all your family and friends. I know, me too! Since toothbrushes, are something that we arguably can’t refuse, we can swap it for it’s eco friendlier alternative. Bamboo toothbrushes costs the same, as your average plastic polluting one.
10. Buy Less, Choose Well, Make It Last
If your mom isn’t dressing you anymore, you probably already know, what you like, and what you don’t like. Figure out your personal style, and buy what suits you. Stop falling into the fast fashion trap of buying trendy clothes. (See True cost of Fast Fashion) They are not designed to last. Buy less, choose wisely and buy quality clothes, than cheap alternatives, that doesn’t survive the second wash.
11. Ditch the Hand Wash
A very simple switch, to reduce plastic, is to ditch bottled hand washes, and swap it for soaps instead. Many countries have banned micro-beads cosmetics, however did you know glitter products do the same harm? Save the earth some energy, and go for toiletries, that have the least amount of packaging, and make the quality of product it’s priority. Always try and seek the alternative. Lush cosmetics, have a scheme where they take back your used pots. We love you Lush. All you other brands, take note.
Sad fact: Many countries have banned micro-beads in cosmetics, however did you know glitter products do the same harm? Most glitter are made from tiny plastics. Many ecologists want them to be banned for the environmental dangers they cause in our oceans.
12. Re Think Your Gifts
I may be biased here, as I am going through a minimalist journey. I know, with holidays, birthdays and anniversaries, nothing says I love you, like an expensive gift. Here are 10 Mindful Gift Ideas for Minimalists some alternatives, to buying things, just for the sake of buying things.
Sad fact: Plastic is, public enemy number one. It’s great because it’s durable, it’s also a nightmare, because it’s durable. See their face, recognize them, and refuse them entry into your homes, as much as possible.
Do These Things Even Matter
The above list are little ways, of making small changes into our lives. These changes are a part of something big, it’s a change in mindset. It’s a change in attitude, that everything can not be bought. Easy and convenient doesn’t always mean good and better. The ‘Ain’t nobody got time for that’ attitude has lead us to having prepacked cut onions, boiled eggs and other such short sighted thinking. Where will this convenience led madness end? We’re all just living fast, but thinking less.
Just like our health needs a balanced diet, so does the health of this planet. If we take proper care of ourselves, only then can we flourish. In taking care of ourselves, we have to acknowledge the need, to preserve the goodness that surrounds us. Do not take the resources we have for granted, and at the very least do not abuse it.
When you see how difficult a task it is, to shop plastic free, going from store to store, plastic is every where. When perfectly good fruit and veg, are cling wrapped multiple times, you’ll know the magnitude of the problem, and the urgency of the matter.
What you focus on, is what you see. Hopefully this post, makes us more aware of our social norms, and makes us realize why everyone has a duty, to do something. We didn’t get into this mess alone, and we certainly won’t get out of it alone.
Let me know, what things you already do? Do you have any suggestions on simple ways to reduce waste? Pop them down below.
If you got this far thank you!
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