How to live waste free (on a budget)

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Here are four lifestyle changes that you can make in order to start living waste free:

1. Start buying more second hand items (or share / give away once used)

Buying second hand items helps to preserve new materials from being sourced and manufactured. By shopping second hand, you can:

  • Save money
  • Protect the environment
  • Support your local community

As technology advances, there are more accessible ways to shop second hand, through various websites and apps. The second hand market for clothes shopping is a prime example, some of which include:

Websites & Apps

Poshmark allows people to sell, buy and even share clothing items to other website members. Poshmark helps to connect people with similar tastes in style and has over 60 million existing members.

ThredUp is the world’s biggest online marketplace for second hand clothing. ThredUp was founded by James Reinhart in 2009, and like Poshmark, allows members to buy and sell fashion items. This website allows users to even filter by brand, making clothes shopping both convenient and user friendly. 

Swap is another leading marketplace for second hand clothing. Provided that your items meet the ‘acceptance criteria’ (i.e. meets the ‘minimal original retail value’, is in a ‘sellable condition’ and meets one of the stipulated ‘clothing categories’), you can easily begin trading on Swap. Swap is also a very popular second hand marketplace, making it easy to buy and sell second hand items.

Charity Organisations & Local Opportunities

– Charity shops are an obvious example of an organisation that offers second hand items, as well as many other products and services. Charities such as Oxfam International is a globally renowned example of a second hand charity store. Charity organisations such as Oxfam International offer a range of services from volunteering to donation acceptance.

– Local opportunities such as car boot sales also offer communities the option to buy and sell second hand items. A simple Google search or a call into your local council should help you to locate local workshops and car boot sale events. 

2. Start growing your own food (or at least some of it)

Some benefits of growing your own food include:

  • Helps to save money (main costs are the seeds)
  • Eat healthier (i.e. organic food produce without pesticides)
  • Save the environment (i.e. cut back on transport and factory pollution)
  • Helps to keep people active and outdoors

Understanding how to grow your own food as well as making sure that you have the right equipment is paramount in order to yield healthy, edible produce. 

Some factors to bear in mind before starting to grow your own foods include:

– Using either slightly raised garden beds or containers, choose a plot of land that works best for the produce that you wish to grow

– Consider the time of year, as well as the harvesting time of year, to ensure that your crops have the best possible growing conditions. Different crops will favour different climates and seasons

– Try to establish whether or not your soil requires preparation before sowing (sowing is the process of planting the seed within the soil in order to germinate into a plant). According to Planet Natural, you can prepare soil for sowing by “adding organic matter in the form of compost and aged manure, or using mulch or growing cover crops (green manures), is the best way to prepare soil for planting”

– Depending on your preferences and goals, add your preferred fertiliser or compost to the soil

– Consider covering your crops with polythene in order to protect them against unwanted creatures and/or damaged caused by wind and rain (and of course, don’t forgot to water them)

3. Purchase soon to be ‘out of date’ / ‘expired’ foods

Choosing to purchase foods that are nearing expiration is another way to help to protect the environment. According Alba J. Collart and Matthew G. Interis of the Department of Agricultural Economics, Mississippi State University, “a major source of food waste in developed countries is the discarding by the consumer or food seller of foods that are perceived by the consumer to be relatively undesirable compared to other foods of similar consumption suitability, including foods close to, at, or beyond their ‘best-before’ date labels.

Best-before date labels, however, are not related to food safety but are used by food manufacturers to indicate peak quality.” 

With this in mind, it is important to understand the difference between food ‘peak quality’ and food ‘safety’, i.e. you shouldn’t let a soon to expire label put you off from buying food. This food is often wasted / discarded too soon, as a result of spoiled / un-informed consumers choosing to avoid products with near expiration dates.

In an effort to prevent so much food waste arising as a result of consumers avoiding close to expired foods, the CEOs of leading food corporations (i.e. Nestlé and Walmart to name a few), recently announced the decision to standardize all food labels by 2020. 

This should help to ensure that  consumers understand exactly when their food is unsafe to eat, and hopefully reduces the amount of global food waste arising from consumer confusion with regard to labelling. 

4. Try to avoid buying disposables

Disposable items in the form of plastic bags, bottles and cutlery should be avoided at all costs. Consumers should look for alternatives in the form of reusable produce bags or bamboo cutlery, in an effort to combat the global plastic waste crisis that we are facing.

Did you know that, each hour, American people use approximately 2.5 million plastic bottles? Comprehending this volume of plastic waste is indeed difficult, however if a cultural change and mentality toward single use plastic doesn’t come to fruition soon, our planet and its organisms are heading for a natural disaster. 

How to transition to a zero waste lifestyle?

According to Wikipedia, “Zero waste is a set of principles focused on waste prevention that encourages the redesign of resource life cycles so that all products are reused. The goal is for no trash to be sent to landfills, incinerators or the ocean”.

Following a zero waste lifestyle includes abiding by some basic principles in the form of the “four R’s”:

  • Reuse 
  • Refuse
  • Recycle 
  • Repurpose put together a fantastic infographic to help illustrate the steps required in order to transition into a zero waste lifestyle:

Since plastic cannot fully decompose or biodegrade, over time, plastic waste is broken down into tiny particles (often referred to as microplastics).

These particles wreak havoc in both oceans and landfills, in the form of exhibiting dangerous chemicals or even being mistakenly ingested by small creatures in place of food. By adopting a zero waste lifestyle, you can help to reduce this pollution and save marine wildlife. 

What to do with plastic when going zero waste?

If you find yourself in possession of plastic waste, you can look for creative ways to reuse it. Some ideas include:

– Using a plastic bottle / containers as a pencil holder
– Using a plastic bottle / containers as a bird feeder
– Using plastic bottles / containers as a money jar / collector
– General storage for small items or kitchen herbs and spices

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