When trying to live a more eco friendly lifestyle it can sometimes be hard to know where to start. There are three golden rules that you should always keep in your head to help you out. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.
Reduce the amount of plastics and rubbish that come into your house. Be a conscious shopper and only buy items with good packaging. What is good packaging? Look for packaging that is compostable, recyclable, re-usable, minimal or doesn't exist at all! Why buy vegetables wrapped in plastic if you can purchase them at your local farmers market un-packaged?
Unpackit.org.nz recently ran a competition to find the best and worst packaging on our supermarket shelves.
Potato Pak won best packaging; a 100% recyclable biodegradable takeaway container made from waste potato starch. For the last five years they have also been working on a 100% compostable coating for PotatoPak that will be suitable for meat products. Meat currently sold in supermarkets are sold on polystyrene meat trays which cannot be recycled. A compostable potato starch option could greatly reduce our daily waste.
Sunsweet Ones won worst packaging; imported from America this product provides individually wrapped prunes in plastic wrap and although a healthy option for eating shows a true excess in packaging.
Reduce the number of items you bring into your house. Living a more simple, minimalist lifestyle allows you to reduce the amount of excessive 'stuff' you have in your house. The stuff that doesn't add value to your life but rather over-complicates it. Stop bringing that excessive 'stuff' into your house and you will greatly reduce your rubbish output at the other end.
Reduce the number of disposable items you buy. Why purchase disposable napkins or hand towels when you can buy cotton ones and wash them? Why purchase cheap shoes when you know they will fall apart in a months time and be thrown out? Why buy low quality wood furniture when you can buy high quality sustainable wood furniture that will last you a lifetime? Think about the types of products you are buying and what they are made out of. Look for long lasting, quality and sustainable products.
Reduce the number of 'I want' items you buy that will get thrown out later. That bright pink lace top might look gorgeous right now but deep down you know it will likely end up going back out the door again. And you may think you really need that little plastic Eiffel tower that you saw in the tourist shop on your trip to Paris but it will likely sit in a drawer at home until it finally finds it's way into the bin.
Think about how you can Reuse existing items instead of throwing them out. There are some great blogs out there which show brilliant ideas for how to reuse existing items. For example why not reuse containers and cans in the garden.
Reuse tools instead of having one for every task. Do you really need that new kitchen appliance? Couldn't you re-purpose one you already have? Do you really need a tool just to cut a banana, de-core an apple or peel garlic? Think before you buy. And start talking to your family and friends about the kinds of gifts you really want to get.
Reuse with others - why own when you can share? Collaborative consumption takes the focus off individual ownership and onto trading, sharing, renting and swapping.
Recycle your food scraps. Start a compost bin or worm farm to recycle your food scraps back into compost that can be used on your garden.
Recycle all your rubbish. Many people make assumptions about what they can or cannot recycle and many items that you could recycle end up in the rubbish bin. Do some research and find new ways to recycle items you would normally thrown out.
Recycle your clothes. If you've had enough of a piece of clothing or it's too small for you, donate it to a local charity or second hand clothing shop. If you haven't before why don't you buy from second hand clothing stores? You'd be surprised at some of the great things you can find. If your clothing is no longer good enough for a second hand store why not turn into a rag or turn it into something else?
Recycle your belongings. Second hand and charity shops take more than just clothes. Recycle all of those unwanted things you have in your house (and then stop those unwanted things from coming into your house in the first place).
Give to your local charity or find freecycle websites which allow you to give and receive free items that people no longer want. I got my cat scratcher this way; taking an item that sat in someone else's garage to be used everyday in my own home.
Upcycle existing belongings. Rather than simply giving them away, why don't you see if you can upcycle your belongings into something different? Need inspiration? Check out this blog entry from soulemama on how to turn an old chair heading for trash into something special.
Recycle with charities. One of my favourite websites at the moment is www.donatenz.com which matches up charities who need time or items with people who have these things to give. I was able to donate my printer I no longer used to a charity who desperately needed one. It was great to know that something that was gathering dust in my spare room was going somewhere that could put it to good use. Check out this case study of a florist who started donating their ribbon and paper off-cuts to children charities and schools.
There are so many things you can do to start making a difference. Pick just one thing you can do today and start now. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle!