Written by: Georgia Carter
The kitchen is one of the most important parts of a home. It’s where we spend hours leaning over the stove, waiting patiently in front of the heating oven, or peering out of the window while washing dishes.
There are many features of a kitchen that can harm the environment. But luckily, there are eco-friendly alternatives for all of these.
Here are some of the best swaps to transform your kitchen into a zero waste space:
1. Plastic Wrap: When we have leftovers, most of us just wrap it up for tomorrow. But what happens to that plastic wrap once it has served its purpose? Instead of contributing to the plastic pollution crisis, why not opt for more reusable options such as glass containers and long-lasting silicone tupperware? That way, you’ll be able to keep your food fresh while never needing to throw anything away.
2. Single Use Bottles: Ditch the store-bought bottled water or cooldrink and purchase a reusable and refillable bottle.
Caption: Opt for a reusable bottle instead of purchasing multiple single-use plastic bottles.
Credit: Bluewater globe, Unsplash
3. Sponges: Scrunchy, soft sponges can make cleaning the dishes easier, but they’re certainly not easy on the environment. In fact, sponges are designed to be tossed after a mere two weeks of use. Instead of creating more waste, switch to compostable or reusable dish scrubbers.
Caption: Dishwashing sponges are supposed to be thrown away every two weeks. To eliminate this waste, swap them out for compostable dish scrubbers.
Credit: Artem Makarov, Unsplash
4. Foil: Aluminium or tin foil can be hazardous to both the planet and the wildlife who call it home. Luckily, there are a few simple, nifty swaps for this item. Instead of foil, why not try beeswax paper? It’s accessible, affordable, and eco-friendly. Alternatively, foil can be recycled by scrunching it up into a tight ball - just make sure you clean it first! Learn about recycling and plastic here.
Caption: Aluminium foil is recyclable. Make sure you thoroughly wash your foil before recycling.
Credit: Teslariu Mihai, Unsplash
5. Paper Towels: While they may be easy and effective, paper towels and the waste they create is an unnecessary burden on the environment. Rather purchase some reusable and washable dish cloths that will perform the same purpose while mitigating the waste.
Caption: Purchase reusable and washable dishcloths and towels instead of paper towels.
Credit: Brain Patrick, Unsplash
6. Food Waste: Did you know that one-third of all food produced annually is thrown away, ending up in a landfill? However, there is an easy fix to this eco issue - composting! Composting is incredibly simple, effective, accessible, and affordable while remaining fun and packed with benefits. Learn how to start composting for beginners here.
Caption: Composting is one of the most effective ways to reduce food waste.
Credit: Gabriel Jimenez, Unsplash
7. Dishwashing: There are multiple disservices dishwashing does for the environment. From the products we use that often get tossed after only a few uses to the waste water we drain back into the environment, dishwashing can actually be detrimental without us even knowing. However, there are a few things we can do at home to mitigate the negative effects. Try swapping that plastic bottled dishwashing liquid for a bar of biodegradable and non-toxic soap. Opt for compostable or reusable dish scrubbers. Make sure you clean all food off your dishes before washing with water. Do not dispose of your oil down the drain - throw it in the rubbish instead. Remember to use as little water as possible. Dishwashers can prove more water efficient, but it’s important to ensure that they are packed to the brim before starting the wash.
8. Cooking: We all cook, and it can either be a joy or a chore. But when it comes to the health and wellbeing of the environment, there are a few thighs we can follow to ensure that our cooking process is as eco-friendly as possible. First, try shopping locally and purchase more organic produce. While cooking, remember to save electricity by turning the oven or stove off just before your food is ready - this saves energy while continuing to cook your food. Make more home cooked meals rather than eating out - this has myriad benefits on the planet and your own health.
9. General Cleaning: Cleaning products do anything but cleaning when it comes to the planet. Overflowing with toxic chemicals that seep back into the environment, they’re harmful, wasteful, and unnecessary. However, making your own cleaning products can be both incredibly easy and affordable. For example, you can create an effective all-purpose cleaning product by mixing together vinegar, baking soda, lemon, water, and even some orange essential oil for a fresher smell.
There are many ways to transform your kitchen into a space that embraces zero waste. While some of these hacks may take a little more time and energy, they’re all worth it in the end and support the wellbeing of the planet.
Zellgg, Kathryn. 10 Swaps for a Zero Waste Kitchen. Going Zero Waste.
Zellgg, Kathryn. Zero Waste Dishwashing. Going Zero Waste.
Zellgg, Kathryn. The Ultimate Guide to Zero Waste Cleaning. Going Zero Waste.
Written by: Georgia Carter
We may not spend all our time in our bathrooms, but they are certainly essential in our daily lives. However, the bathroom can actually be one of the most unsustainable areas in our households. From plastic dental floss and razors to a profusion of chemical products, this space can be extremely wasteful and toxic to the environment.
Therefore, it’s most important to clean up in the room where you do most of your cleaning, and you’ll be surprised at how easy it is to transform your bathroom into a zero waste space.
Caption: The bathroom may be where we clean ourselves, but it’s not always clean for the environment. We need to start inviting sustainable solutions into our bathrooms to curate a renewed zero waste space.
Credit: Phil Hearing, Unsplash
Below are the best 12 ways to curate a zero waste and sustainable bathroom:
1. Toothpaste: Starting with the smaller items, toothpaste is on the top of our list. We all use toothpaste, but some brands contain ingredients that are toxic to our waterways, not to mention the plastic waste that ends up in the landfill. Instead of purchasing toothpaste from the convenient store, peruse what else is on offer. I recommend purchasing toothpaste that comes in reusable and refillable glass jars, or getting creative and making your own by following guides you can find on the internet!
Caption: Bamboo toothbrushes are one of the most sustainable solutions to bathroom waste.
Credit: Toa Heftiba, Unsplash
3. Razor: Our shaving tools fall into the same category of the plastic toothbrush - they’re made from plastic, they’re not long-lasting, and they are disastrous to the environment. Next time you need a new razor, purchase a metal one. They last a lifetime and the material can be recycled in time. You will need to buy new blades, so be sure to research how to recycle blades in your country and follow the steps.
Caption: Dental floss may be seemingly invisible, but it’s this fact that makes it deadly. Rather opt for cotton dental floss.
Credit: Oana Cristina, Unsplash
5. Bottles: Shampoo, conditioner, face wash, body wash, you name it - they all come in large plastic bottles. Recycling these containers is better than throwing them away, but we can do better than that. You can purchase every single one of these products in bar form! This eliminates plastic entirely and tends to last longer than gel or liquid form, as well as containing limited to no chemicals or toxins, making them healthier for both the environment and you!
Caption: Purchasing shampoo, conditioner, and face and body wash that come in bar form is one of the easiest ways to reduce bathroom waste.
Credit: Fitnish Media, Unsplash
6. Chemical Products: On that note, let’s talk about chemicals. Many ingredients found in hygiene products are toxic to the environment, and by supporting and using them, we're not only increasing demand for the items themselves but continuously emptying chemicals into our waterways. This water eventually seeps into the environment and infects wildlife, even destroying ecosystems. It’s therefore of the utmost importance that we all begin analysing the ingredients of our products and opt for more sustainable brands. Again, this is better both for the planet and for your own health and wellbeing.
7. Toilet Paper: Did you know that many toilet paper types contain microplastics? No, toilet paper isn't just paper. But some brands are making them better for the environment. Be sure to research sustainable toilet paper brands that are accessible to you and start supporting them instead.
8. Menstrual Hygiene: People with periods, this one's for you. Pads, liners, and tampons are all made up of microplastics, not to mention the hazardous and wasteful plastic packaging they all come in. Luckily, there are more and more sustainable products being introduced to the market. Before stocking up on supplies, research accessible menstrual products you can start purchasing instead, and more often than not, you’ll find that you’ll never need to purchase supplies again. These sustainable products include a reusable and washable pad and menstrual cup.
Caption: A menstrual cup is one of the best and most effective sustainable solutions when it comes to menstrual hygiene.
Credit: Oana Cristina, Unsplash
9. Washing pads: Whether you use cotton pads to wash your make-up off or apply cream, they can be extremely wasteful. Rather switch to reusable and washable make-up pads. This saves you money in the long run while protecting the environment.
10. Water: This is a well-known point but a significant one nonetheless - use less water! Take shorter showers, shallower baths, turn the tap off when washing hands, faces, or brushing teeth, and only flush when you have to. All of these actions seem small, but the impact is grand. Make it a habit and save our precious water resources!
11. Cleaning products: Bathrooms need cleaning, just like ourselves, but most cleaning products have hazardous ingredients. Instead of continuing this dangerous cycle, start purchasing non-toxic and non-chemical products. Another option is to make it yourself! There are many recipes for all natural and homemade cleaning products that are just as effective, cost-efficient, and safe for the environment - many of which contain ingredients you probably already have in the pantry.
12. Plastic Waste: As mentioned before, the bathroom is one of the most wasteful parts of our homes. If you have plastic bottles, razors, toothbrushes, and other plastic waste lying around, start recycling. Most of the plastic packaging that contains hygiene products are recyclable and widely accepted at centres.
If you’d like to learn more about recycling, read our ultimate recycling guide here.
By Georgia Carter
The plastic pollution crisis is a plague to our planet. Today, human waste litters almost every corner of the Earth. From the deepest spaces in the sea to the summits of Mount Everest, evidence of our carelessness is seen everywhere.
While the matter seems almost hopeless, hope is not lost entirely. Many actions can be undertaken to mitigate the harmful effects of our waste - one of which is recycling.
Caption: Human waste is becoming more noticeable - and even more toxic. It’s now of the utmost importance that we make proper waste management a priority.
Credit: Tim Mossholder, Unsplash
What is recycling?
Recycling is the system or process of taking already-used products, such as plastic bottles or containers, and stripping them down to their bare materials in order to reproduce new objects.
Recycling can be an extremely efficient way of managing both our domestic and commercial waste, but it’s important to remember that it is the last order in the familiar phrase, ‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.’ Always follow through with the first two actions and turn to recycling as a last resort.
The benefits of recycling
There are myriad advantages to recycling, both on an individual and global level. Not only will you save space in your rubbish bag by reducing your waste, which in turn saves landfill space, but you will also feel better about your contribution to the wellbeing of the environment.
Below are a few of the key benefits of recycling:
Caption: Recycling has numerous benefits, both on an individual and global level.
Credit: James Lee, Unsplash
The recycling process
The system of recycling can be easy or extremely complex depending on the type of material being processed.
As mentioned before, there are two groups of recycling: domestic and commercial. Domestic is considered as common objects and waste materials we deal with in our daily lives, whereas commercial refers to large production companies such as mining and medical waste.
Once the recyclable waste items reach the centre, they are sorted into categories based on their plastic levels. In some cases, products are placed on a converter belt where a magnet attracts all metals and separates them from plastics. Once categorised, the product is stripped down to its bare and raw material form. The leftovers are melted down into remouldable structures, ready to be used again.
While this system seems simple and effective enough, it can prove complicated. Local waste management companies therefore charge high rates for the sorting, stripping, and melting process and, as a result, many of our ‘recycled’ items don’t end up going through the operation.
To shift this common occurrence, we as consumers hold much of the power. We firstly need to reduce our demand for newly-made packaged products and instead increase our global demand for items that come in only recycled packaging.
Caption: One of the most significant ways to encourage recycling is to increase the demand for products that only contain recycled materials. This, in turn, will decrease the recycling rates and bolster the need for recycling worldwide.
Credit: Marcell Viragh, Unsplash
What can be recycled?
You’d be surprised how many items can be recycled. However, the ease of recycling is determined by the materials that make up the product.
For example, plastics come in levels ranging from one to seven, with one being the easiest to recycle. More often than not, a level seven plastic is too complex to recycle or there is no demand for a level seven plastic material and it often gets dumped into a landfill. It’s therefore of the utmost importance that we understand the different levels and separate our recycling into similar labeled groups.
Below is a graphic outlining the various different plastic levels:
NOTE: You can determine the level of plastic an item is by searching for the indented sign, usually located on the base of the product.
If you’d like to learn more about plastic, read our post here.
There are some universally and generally accepted recycling items. However, some recycling centres only accept specific materials. It’s therefore important to check your local recycling deports guidelines before you begin.
Here is a list of generally accepted recyclables:
Rules for recycling at home
Now that we’ve been able to glean a deeper understanding of the recycling process, we can begin unearthing the recycling guidelines for home systems. There are some significant things to keep in mind to ensure your waste management doesn't go to waste itself.
Caption: Always separate your recyclables into categories of similar material. Don’t forget to clean then crush items to ensure your efforts don’t go to waste.
Credit: Nick Fewings, Unsplash
How to recycle at home
Contrary to popular belief, you cannot recycle your goods by tying them up in a plastic bag and trusting that the bag itself will be recycled too. That plastic bag will have to be re-sorted in the recycling port, and more often than not, will still end up in a landfill laying waste to the earth.
Rather, reduce your consumption of plastic bags by purchasing a reusable bag for your shopping. If you do buy a plastic bag, reuse this plastic bag as much as possible before disposing of it.
Pro Tip: Keep your reusable bag in your car or sitting next to your front door so you don’t forget to grab it on your way out.
Plastic bottles are one of the easiest recyclable goods. However, the lid of these bottles are not. Made from polypropylene, the caps melt increasingly faster than the bottles themselves, and when recycled together, often contaminates the plastic bottle and renders it useless for recycling.
Instead, remove the bottle cap and crush the bottle as much as possible. This will not only give you more space in your rubbish bin, saving an extra black bag, but will also aid in the recycling process when handed in.
You can, however, recycle the caps separately, which will be grouped together in the recycling port and managed separately and more efficiently.
Caption: Plastic lids are a different type and level of plastic to their bottle counterparts. ALWAYS remove the lid before recycling the bottle.
Credit: Jonathan Chng, Unsplash
Pro-Tip: Plastic bottles, especially the 1.5 litres and 5 litres, are great for making eco-bricks too. An eco-brick is a plastic bottle filled with clean and dry non-biodegradable waste, like plastic bags, and often waste that can’t be recycled, such as crisp packets and polystyrene. Eco-bricks are used as a building materials, putting the plastic to good use as well as being affordable and aiding in the lack of housing issues around the globe.
Luckily, glass is also one of those fabulous items that can be recycled and made into various other container goods. However, there’s still a certain way to recycle glass.
Always colour code your glass items when recycling. The greens stick with the greens while the clears get a whole separate box to themselves.
Unfortunately, glass derived from mirrors or crystals cannot be recycled, so take care of those items!
Cans, which are made up of aluminium, are 100 percent recyclable. Much like with plastic bottles, compress your cans when you prepare them for recycling.
Metals also include foil and trays – yes, these can be recycled! Just ensure that they’re as clean as possible without residue from oil as risks contaminating all the recycling items being sorted.
Purchasing coffee from a café is great, but the cups are not. Despite seeming to be made entirely of cardboard, these takeaway cups often contain a thin layer of plastic around their centre body to keep the cups waterproof.
While some may be recyclable, we must remember to always reduce before hitting that recycling button.
Another alternative comes in the form of a reusable cup. Many are made of bamboo and can be cleaned and made good as new even after a few uses. These are sold at many coffee shops and often these coffee shops will give you a discount on your coffee when bringing your own cup.
Pro Tip: Keep your reusable cup in your car at all times, in case you forget it at home and have to use a disposable cup when ordering your next drink.
Pro Tip: When ordering a coffee from a take-away cup, ditch the attachable lid. It’s made purely of plastic and you will be able to navigate to your next destination without spilling your entire coffee – trust me, if I can do this, so can you.
Styrofoam, or expanded polystyrene, comes in the form of chip packets and many disposable food containers that are made from multiple layers of polymer materials.
Styrofoam is extremely hard to recycle as the material is flammable and can be contaminated easily.
Some recycling stations have specific drop-off centres that accept styrofoam, but the best bet to save the environment from this devastating material would be to avoid buying products that come in styrofoam packaging altogether.
This may seem daunting, but there are alternative products that use eco-friendly packaging and may change your perspective on mindful consumerism. Examples include but are not limited to MicroGREEN and EarthAware packaging, who use plant-based material. But with more research conducted every day, many more alternatives are being discovered.
Ignitable, toxic, and reactive chemicals sit inside many of the items we use today. Paints, batteries, pesticides, and cleaning products just to name a few. These are incredibly harmful to the natural environment.
Luckily, many of these items can be recycled. It’s a long, complicated process, but where there’s a will, there’s a way.
There are many drop-off centres and recycling ports that accept these hazardous leftovers, and the best thing to do is separate them by item. For example, keep only the batteries together while grouping the cleaning products separately.
The other option is - you guessed it - reduce. Try diluting your cleaning agent with water to make it last longer, using less and prolonging your next buy. Next time you need batteries, purchase rechargeable batteries so a one-off use is not even in the question.
Then, there’s always an alternative. Swap out your general cleaners for a more eco-friendly inclined brand.
Pro Tip: Look up online how to make your own cleaning agents! Some ingredients include baking soda, lemon juice, vinegar, and your favourite essential oils.
Caption: Hazardous and toxic waste is extremely challenging to recycle, but not impossible. Remember to check if your local recycling centre accepts such products before dropping off your recycling load.
Credit: Roberto Sorin, Unsplash
Food Waste/ Organic Waste
Generally, households pack about 215 kilograms of food scrap and waste a year. That’s an incredible amount of edible products that are simply being thrown with the rest of the garbage. But there is so much you can do with your food waste that can not only help you but also aid in the betterment of the planet.
Sending your food waste off with your trash means it will end up in a landfill, taking up space and releasing the vile methane gas that contaminates the atmosphere. Instead, if you have space, why don’t you start a compost heap? It is one of the easiest, hands-free ways to help save the planet.
To start a compost heap, all you need is a large bin, bucket, or tub placed outside or stored away if kept indoors. This is what you can throw into your compost system:
Greens: Fruit, veg, and coffee grounds are ideal for composting as it enriches the soil.
Browns: Dead leaves and fireplace ash make suitable members of the compost heap.
Papers: Newspapers, cardboard, and regular pieces of paper can be added to the mix.
Leftovers: Teabags and eggshells can be composted with the rest of the ingredients to make up a healthy load of soil for repurposing. DON’T throw in your meat. It will attract pests and take longer to break down. Rather, keep it as organic as you can.
If you’d like to learn more about composting or are looking to begin your own compost heap, read our Ultimate Guide to Composting here.
Pro-Tip: If you don’t have enough room to incorporate a large compost dome, why don’t you take your food waste to a local farmer! They will be thrilled to receive the extra nutrients for their hard-working soil and you’ll be getting rid of your waste in the best possible way.
How to start recycling
You really don’t need much to begin your at-home recycling system. To begin, find a few containers like small bins or crates. Label each according to material, such as level one plastics or tin cans only. As you move through your day, clean your recyclable waste objects, separate them, and store them in the correct bin/container. Once you’ve gathered enough recyclables, take them all to your local and nearest recycling centre! It’s as easy as that!
Now that you’ve gained a deeper understanding on the recycling process and how to start your own system at home, here are the next actions to take:
Enviro Inc, Ultimate Guide to Recycling
By: Georgia Carter
Sustainability is becoming a trend - and it’s a bandwagon we can all easily hop onto. However, it’s not something to take lightly. Sustainability is not just a thought or an action. It’s a complete lifestyle change. It’s taking a little more time to be mindful, to educate ourselves, and to let go of harmful habits.
While this can be a big shift, its benefits are plentiful and guaranteed to help both you and the planet in every way.
With so much information circulating the interwebs, it can be difficult and overwhelming to find a starting point. But worry not, because we’re here to be your helping hand and guiding light in all things sustainable.
In this post, we’ll unearth the simple steps you can take today to live a more sustainable lifestyle tomorrow.
Caption: The first step to a sustainable lifestyle is shifting your mindset to one that makes decisions while considering the wellbeing of the Earth.
Credit: Edwards Howell, Unsplash
Step One: Switching to a sustainable mindset
The very first step to beginning anything starts with changing your mindset. While this seems like the easiest step, it can actually prove the most challenging to some. But if you’re here reading this, you’ve already taken a step in the right direction:the first foot forward on the path to a more sustainable future.
Start by asking yourself some questions. Why do you want to become more sustainable? What are your motivations, goals, and intentions? And finally, what would you like to achieve by implementing sustainable behaviours, actions, and habits into your daily life?
Once you’ve determined the ‘why’, the ‘how’ can almost effortlessly fall into place. It acts as the foundation, the motivation, and fuels the commitment.
Step Two: Analyse your waste
This is a big one. This is the part where you can actually see the waste of your consumer habits. This can be shocking, but it’s the shock factor that encourages and spurs action that turns into long-lasting efforts, effects, and differences.
Look around your house and observe your habits. Do you often purchase single-use plastic products, such as chocolate or coffee, and throw away the plastic and trash after using the product? How much plastic is in your bin at the end of the week? And what, out of all your waste, do you really need? What can you do without in the future?
Don’t feel guilty about anything you find. Detach emotions and simply observe. You’re not a bad person for purchasing anything, especially because the push towards buying things and consistently consuming is ingrained in us from an early age. But because you’re already making moves to change your ways, you’re on your way to a brighter, healthier future and planet.
Making a list of common waste items can help tremendously when it comes to reducing, as well as upcycling and avoiding certain items altogether.
Step Three: Find Alternatives
As I mentioned before, sustainability is becoming a trend. The significance of this is that more and more sustainable products are being released.
Take your list of waste and see if you can find a more sustainable alternative for some or most of those items. For example, I used to purchase any kind of shampoo and throw the bottle away once I’ve used up the product. Now, I only purchase shampoo bars that come in sustainable packaging from a recognised, local sustainability brand. Not only is it more affordable, but it’s better for my hair, our water systems, and the planet as a whole.
There are many such alternative options available out there. A quick search online could be the only thing you need to undertake to start making effective alternative product swaps.
Caption: One way to become more sustainable is to find alternative, more eco-friendly products to swap with your everyday items such as shampoo and conditioner. With sustainability becoming a trend, many more products designed with the environment in mind are making their way to the shelves.
Credit: Svitlana VF, Unsplash
Step Four: Upcycle
Once a week, or every two weeks, have a look at your waste items and see which materials you can turn into something else. A glass bottle can make for an elegant candle holder, and that empty tin can be a rustic plant pot.
This is your chance to get creative and even save some money while mitigating harm on the planet.
If you’d like to gain more inspiration and read more examples of repurposing common waste items, click here.
Caption: Upcycling is one of the best ways to become more
Caption: Upcycling is one of the best ways to become more sustainable. Turn your empty milk carton into a plant pot or change your old toothbrush into a shoe shiner!
Credit: Noah Eleazar, Unsplash
Step Five: Avoidance
Take another peek at your waste. What don’t you need and what can you stop consuming altogether?
I’m a coffee addict, and I used to purchase many coffees from my local cafe. But coffee-on-the-go means take-away cups and more plastic than meets the eye. Now, I either avoid buying coffee altogether and make my own at home, or take my reusable cup with me.
Some items are better avoided altogether to help decrease the supply and demand cycle and, eventually, helping stop the production of that item or use of that harmful material altogether.
Step Six: More Motivation
At this stage, many people can struggle with motivation. Are my efforts even doing anything? Am I wasting time and energy trying to be sustainable when others couldn’t care less and continue with unhealthy habits?
No matter what we do, we will always have doubts. It’s part of being human. But there are two sides to every coin and the beauty of the mind is that you can control it. What you think, you become. So, take a deep breath and remind yourself of the larger ‘why’ behind your choices.
Another action you can take is making a note of how much money you used to spend vs how much money you’re spending while consuming less. More often than not, you’ll find that you’re saving quite a bit - and that can be a huge motivational push.
Step Seven: Shop local and travel less
There are numerous benefits to shopping locally. It aids in the growth of the community, country economy, and gives the environment a chance to breathe easy.
Often, when you begin purchasing from local stores and sticking to local service, the harmful effects of transportation decrease. Not only will products have to be shipped and driven over large distances, but you yourself won’t have to travel far to collect your item.
And why stop there? Why not try to travel less, or switch to alternative modes of transport when you can? Maybe you’ve started working from home and need something from the shop. See if you can walk there, or even cycle. If you need to make a transmute into the city, try taking the bus or carpool with friends and family. Every little bit helps.
If you’d like to learn more about why shopping locally is more sustainable, click here .
Caption: Shopping locally is more sustainable for the planet than you can imagine, while travelling less or changing your mode of transportation from time to time gives the environment a chance to breathe easy.
Credit: Cherie Birkner, Unsplash
Step Eight: Make you own
Here's another incentive to connect to your creative side - see what you can make at home!
This can be anything from organic cleaning products and self hygiene items. For example, I use my coffee grounds to make a body scrub instead of buying an already-made product from the store. You can also make your own natural deodorant using some shea butter, bicarbonate of soda, and essential oils of your choice!
Step Nine: Purchase durable products
We often buy what's most convenient to us. A pack of five disposable razors? That’s easy, right? Well, it’s certainly not easy on the planet.
Instead of having to re-purchase certain items, we can shift our consumer habits and buy more sustainable products. A reusable razor, a metal straw, and a bamboo toothbrush not only last longer, some lasting lifetimes, but are also biodegradable when the time comes to dispose of them. And often, these products can be reused and repurposed once they’re outlived their original purposes.
Caption: Durable products, such as a metal razor or shaver, are incredibly beneficial to the environment. Instead of purchasing numerous plastic, few-time-use razors, opt for a more sustainable one that will last a lifetime.
Credit: Sandi Benedicta, Unsplash
Step Ten: Slowly start upgrading home items
Common household objects, such as taps and lightbulbs, harm the environment in numerous ways. However, in today’s day and age, we still require them to function. So why not make the shift to sustainability when it comes to your home?
Start changing your light bulbs to LED energy-saving bulbs, change your toilet flusher to a water-saving one, and/or purchase a compost bin instead of throwing your food items in the bin.
While some of these changes can prove expensive, they actually save you money in the long-run - not to mention the planet as a whole too!
Step Eleven: Introduce composting and recycling into your daily life
Composting and recycling can be strenuous, depending how neurotic you get, but the benefits are paramount, to both you and the Earth.
Composting is the sustainable disposal of organic waste. Fruit, vegetables, cardboard, coffee grind, and many more items such as these can be tossed into your compost heap. This dramatically decreases the amount of trash and rubbish you throw away, further increasing space in landfills and helping mitigate the emission of harmful methane into the atmosphere. It’s easy to start, super effective, and the end product is a nutrient dense concoction you can use as fertilizer to help your flora flourish!
Recycling is the act of stripping and remoulding plastic into reusable material. Due to the many types of plastics out there, this can be an easy or difficult process. There are therefore a few things you absolutely must do to ensure your plastic is being recycled properly. While this requires effort, it’s unbelievably beneficial to the environment and definitely worth doing
If you’d like to learn more about recycling, read our Ultimate Guide to Plastic and Recycling here, and if you’d like to dig deeper into composting read our Ultimate Guide to Composting here.
Caption: Composting and recycling aren’t only extremely beneficial for the environment, but also for us at home.
Credit: Sigmund, Unsplash
Step Twelve: Start repairing instead of replacing
This step can be challenging as many of us find it tedious to spend money replacing items instead of buying brand new. However, it’s one of the most effective tips.
Are those shoes starting to break at the sole? Are those pants ripping at the seams? Don’t toss them out and re-purchase - just get them repaired! This will not only aid in the upliftment of the local community and help a family, but will also help you save money, give that item another lease on life, and benefit the planet in the long run. It’s a win-win-win situation!
Caption: Download and save these graphics for a smooth and effortless transition into a more sustainable lifestyle.
Credit: Georgia Carter, Ecofoote.
Now that you have some steps to help you guide the way, we wish you luck in starting your new sustainable life and commemorate you on your decision. Everyone, from the animals, plants, planet, and people will thank you for your commitment.
It starts with you, and it starts now. Take control of your actions and reap the rewards in the form of a brighter future and healthier home planet that will continue to provide in abundance for generations to come.
By Georgia Carter
In Vietnam, Thailand, and India, many local grocery stores have adopted a new form of affordable, accessible, and eco-friendly packaging all in one - banana leaves.
Caption: Local grocery stores in Vietnam have switched to banana leaves for eco-friendly packaging.
Source: Propak Vietnam
For over 50 years, we’ve become reliant on single-use plastic to contain and store our products. In grocery shops that pepper the entire globe, plastic is utilised as the main source of packaging. From styrofoam and silicone to thin plastic wrapping and thick plastic containers, this malleable material finds its way into and onto nearly everything we purchase and consume.
But now, more than ever, we need to reshape the way we sell products. There are many environmentally-friendly alternatives to plastic packaging. Some countries are already adopting more sustainable solutions. It’s time to highlight these necessary swaps and follow their lead.
Single-use plastic in the form of packaging makes up around 23% of all waste found in landfills, not to mention the enormous amount of litter and pollution that lays waste to our natural environments. This type of waste often goes straight in the bin, never given a second thought. But this mentality is what’s wreaking havoc. It’s not only negatively affecting our Earth but also our health as many forms of plastic containcontains harmful chemicals.
Caption: We rely heavily on plastic for food packaging.
Source: Mak, Unsplash
If you’d like to know how to manage your plastic waste properly, you can read our Ultimate Recycling Guide or peruse the 15 Ways to Reuse Common Waste Objects.
Sustainable Packaging Solutions
There are many eco-alternatives to plastic packaging that will benefit you as the consumer and the planet as a whole. Below are six examples of green packaging:
1. Mushrooms: Mushroom roots, called mycelium, are fused to create a moldable, cheap, and sustainable packaging alternative that can biodegrade once used.
Caption: Mushrooms make an effective and healthy eco-alternative for packaging.
Source: Presetbase, Unsplash
2. Seaweed: Agar, a gelatinous substance found in both seaweed and algae, can be used for both food packaging and as an eco-friendly alternative to gelatin.
Caption: Kelp and seaweed can be used as sustainable packaging.
Source: Ben Wicks, Unsplash
3. Recycled Cardboard and Paper: Why create new packaging when you can just reuse the old? It’s extremely affordable, efficient, and saves the environment.
4. Recycled Plastic: Some things, unfortunately, require extremely sturdy materials to make sufficient packaging. But instead of sculpting a whole new container of plastic, we can utilise what we already have by recycling and reusing plastic.
5. Organic Fibres: Hemp, recycled cotton, tapioca, and palm leaves make up organic fibres that can be harnessed and manipulated into sustainable packaging. All of these materials are compostable and will return to the Earth after use.
Caption: Hemp is one of the best eco-alternatives when it comes to packaging.
Source: Matthew Brodeur, Unsplash
6. Bamboo: Bamboo is cheap, easy to grow, and thrives in abundance. Using bamboo leaves as an alternative to plastic packaging is one of the best sustainable solutions around. It’s already being implemented in various countries with incredible results.
Caption: Bamboo can be used as a sustainable form of packaging and storage containers, among other things.
Source: Zoo Monkey, Unsplash
While sustainable solutions to single-use plastics and harmful packaging are on the rise, many still support and rely on plastic packaging. It’s time to release this dependency and start directing our consumerism habits towards companies that use sustainable packaging.
For the Earth and ourselves, making this simple switch could make an essential difference in saving lives and the planet as a whole.
EcoFoote's Sustainable Packaging Solution (Recycled corrugated cardboard)
Piling Up the Proper Way to Compost: What Composting is, Why it’s Important, and How to Compost Properly
Food waste harms everything. From the resources discarded in the production stage and the transportation used to move the produce to the unnecessary area taken up in landfills and the hungry people on the street wishing they had a tiny morsel, the disregard of edible items is causing damage to both the planet and humans - and it’s only getting worse.
But there are many sustainable solutions to this wasteful plight, one being composting. This simple yet effective practice can be done by almost anyone and requires little effort. In fact, it’s so beneficial in myriad ways that the process is enjoyable.
Caption: An autumn compost heap consists of many leaves.
Source: Annie Spratt, Unsplash
What is composting?
Composting is the process of decomposing organic materials that create simple organic compounds filled with nutrients once broken down. The result is a rich, healthy fertiliser that can be used on your plants.
The benefits of composting
Food scraps make up 30% of the garbage we throw away. Most of this ends up in landfills, not only taking up space but emitting harmful methane.
Composting tackles this problem in many ways while also creating additional benefits such as:
- The encouragement of healthy bacteria and fungi.
- Lowers carbon footprints.
- Enriches soil.
- Suppresses plant disease.
- Makes a natural fertiliser that saves you money.
- Reduces methane emissions.
Caption: A compost heap is made up of brown and green organic materials.
Compostable vs Biodegradable
Not all things are compostable, and what can go into your compost must not be mistaken as a biodegradable object.
Compostable means that the item breaks down into non-toxic components, whereas biodegradable refers to breaking down something into smaller pieces.
Eventually, compostable items will completely disappear and return to the Earth within a matter of weeks. Biodegradable objects may take decades or even centuries to vanish.
The Basics: What you need to start composting
Honestly, you don’t need much at all to start your compost heap.
Here are the bare basics and essentials:
1) Some space. This can either be outside in your garden, balcony, or even a little corner in your kitchen.
2) A tub, bucket, or bin. If you’re composting outdoors, make sure your container does not have a bottom or has drilled holes in the bottom. (If you’re opting for the indoor small compost bin, I recommend using a clay bowl)
3) Some organic, compostable produce made up of green and brown material (this is explained later in the article.)
Caption: All you need is some space and a container to start your compost heap.
Source: Edward Howell, Unsplash
What can you compost?
A healthy compost consists of one part carbon, referred to as dry brown materials such as cardboard; and one part nitrogen, which is called the green materials. These are your coffee grounds and organic matter. Finally, the last ingredient to the nutrient-rich soup is moisture, which can be provided with some water. You’ll need to assess your compost heap regularly to make sure it doesn’t have too much liquid but isn’t too dry either.
So, all in all, you have your browns, your greens, and your moisture.
Below is a list of things you can chuck into your compost heap:
- Fruits and vegetables (raw, uncooked)
- Coffee grounds (extremely healthy, but don’t throw in too much as you don’t want your heap to be nitrogen focused)
- Teabags (with any staples removed)
- Newspaper (remember to shred it first)
- Cardboard/paper (again, cut it up into bite-sized bits)
- Woodchips/ sticks
- Hair/ fur
Caption: Make sure your compost heap has equal parts of brown and green ingredients.
How to make a compost heap
First, seek out a shady spot in your garden or a cosy corner in your kitchen. Then start your heap by adding in equal parts of brown and green materials. Always cut up your larger chunks of produce - it will accelerate the process.
Moisten your dry materials with some water as you proceed. Once a pile is established, mix the green waste into the bottom half of the pile. Remember to stir your compost every one-two weeks.
When the bottom half of your compost heap is a rich, dark brown, it’s ready! Apply the compost to your plants and, if you don’t have many plants, head on over to your local park or communal garden and help out the foliage by applying your own compost - teamwork!
It can take anything from two months to two years for your compost heap to be ready, as it all depends on your size, components, and how you take care of it during the process.
Caption: Your compost is ready when it’s a rich, dark colour. This can take two months or more to reach.
Source: Heather Ford, Unsplash
What not to do when composting: Mistakes to avoid
There are a few common things people do when attending to their compost heap that will destroy it. Here are a few things to avoid in order to maintain the health of your compost heap:
- No meat as it attracts pests and creates a terrible smell. It also messes with the pH of the heap itself.
- No cooked ingredients.
- No dairy
- No diseased plants as the disease might survive and be carried onto your other plants when applying the compost.
- No coal. It’s toxic.
- No fat/ grease/ oil/ lard.
Frequently asked questions and answers.
Do I need a bin to make compost?
Caption: Compost is highly nutritious for your plants!
Source: Maarten van den Heuvel, Unsplash
By: Georgia Carter
By: Georgia Carter
It’s estimated that 1.3 billions tons of food are wasted worldwide - every single year. Not only is that one-third of all the food produced annually, but it’s also enough to feed 815 million hungry people four times over.
Food waste is a global problem. Behind the illuminated shelves of products displayed in grocery shops, the environment suffers in innumerable ways. From the agricultural practices and transportation of produce to consumer habits and unreliable labels, desperately required food is thrown out without a second thought.
Caption: Edible fruit and vegetables are thrown out purely because of their looks, maintaining the incredibly high standards of grocery shops and consumers.
Credit: Ja Ma, Unsplash
What is food waste?
Food waste is food fit for human consumption that has been discarded. This is due to numerous factors, from farm to table, and abuses important resources along the way.
The process of food waste
Produce is lost even before it leaves the farm. Due to the incredible high aesthetic standards both retailers and consumers have, many perfectly safe, healthy, and edible products are tossed simply because of their looks.
Caption: Farmers harvesting crops. Most edible produce doesn’t even leave the farm due to numerous factors.
Credit: Tim Mossholder, Unsplash
An immense amount of farming land and water is used to grow these foods, not to mention the fossil-fuel technology it takes to harvest and process crops. In developing countries, farms lack the required infrastructure to procure and store food, such as reliable refrigerating. This leads to more tossed food that could have been perfectly fit for consumption.
Caption: Farming trucks and tractors are required to harvest crops, but use an immense amount of fossil fuels to work.
Credit: Richard Bell, Unsplash
Fast forward to the grocery stores. Decades of customer demands and habits have sculpted an unhealthy way of looking at food. Supermarkets, therefore, refuse to stock produce that appears ‘old’, even if the food item is perfectly safe for consumption.
Caption: Grocery stores have unbelievably high aesthetic standards of food, which consumers have adopted and now expect.
Credit: Thomas Le, Unsplash
Customers also expect their local shops to be stocked to the brim and spoiled for choice. To supply this demand, stores stuff their shelves, leaving the background stock to slowly expire while never receiving a second glance.
Labels also play a big part in food waste. ‘Best Before’ and ‘sell by’ dates are not accurate - they’re a farmer’s assumption. But because we’re prone to handing over our unyielding trust to these labels, we tend to throw away an abundance of edible produce simply because the label doesn’t permit it so.
Finally, enter the restaurant. Many restaurants abide by a high standard, which is understandable, but many also follow this as a ‘no leftovers allowed’ policy. Tons of edible food is discarded just because it’s seen as unwanted when these items could go to feeding the hungry.
Caption: One-third of all produced food is wasted every year.
Credit: Joshua Hoehne, Unsplash
The environmental impact of food waste
When food is abandoned, it’s never just the product itself that’s discarded. It’s also the litres of water required to make that item, the land it needs to grow, and the fuel it took to both harvest and transport. All are generally highly unsustainable practices and cost the earth as much as it does the farmer.
The human population is expected to explode up to 9.8 billion people by 2050. If we don’t change the way we think about food, there will be tons more food waste that have used an immeasurable amount of finite resources to create. And there will still be starving people peppering the world.
Caption: Food waste also relates to the land, water, and energy resources that have been misspent.
Credit: Tomas Hertogh, Unsplash
Our relationship with food needs to change. Our agricultural practices need to shift to a more sustainable way. And this needs to happen now.
Sustainable solutions to food waste
Globally, there are a few things that need to be done. First, developing countries need to receive better training and education on the matter, as well as improved technology to help them better reap the rewards and fruits of their labour - literally.
Secondly, the technology required to plant, grow, sustain, harvest, and process crops need to shift from a dependency on fossil fuels to a reliance on renewable energy.
Thirdly, it’s vital that we as consumers transform both the way we perceive products and how we shop.
Finally, all produce that is essentially on its way to waste needs to change its directory and be donated instead of tossed. Simple as that!
Food waste is a rising and persistent issue across the globe. But even you as an individual have the power to change the trajectory of this issue. Be mindful, consume with awareness, and donate your unwanted food.
By: Georgia Carter
Reduce, reuse, recycle - we’ve all heard this phrase many times before. But while reducing is self-explanatory, not many of us know how to reuse items that have become destined for the bin.
Below are 15 different ways you can upcycle and repurpose your waste products. From toothbrushes and plastic bags to CDs and rubber bands, there’s always something you can do instead of opting for the bin.
Tinned tomatoes, chickpeas, sweet corn, and more - some of our favourite foods are stored in tins. But while the nourishing substance entombed inside is easy to get rid of, the object that holds it is not. Instead of chucking your tins, why not turn them into little flower pots? Just give them a clean, replace the contents with soil, and you have a perfectly good pot at no cost at all. Cover them with material or patterned paper to give your new pot character and style.
Credit: Juliette Watson, Unsplash
It’s always exciting to read the current affairs on paper, but once read, where does the newspaper go? Don’t throw it away; give it a second chance by using it as a replacement for paper towels or dish rags to wash your windows. Alternatively, you can place the paper under your tablecloth to ensure the cloth doesn’t shuffle.
Credit: Absolute Vision, Unsplash
Glass bottles can become so much more than just beverage holders. Turn your bottles into rustic candle holders, slim flower vases, or add a few attachments to make a bird feeder! That way, you’re helping both the planet, its animals, and yourself.
Credit: Loli Clement, Unsplash
These unavoidable tools for hygiene are notoriously hazardous in the wild. Don’t throw away your old toothbrush. Instead, use it as a scrubbing brush for those hard-to-reach spaces like titles and vents. They also make great shoe-shiners with a bit of polish in place of toothpaste!
Credit: Amirhosen Esma Eili, Unsplash
You may not need that shirt or pair of pants anymore - but someone does. Always donate your clothes before resorting to the garbage. This not only helps save the planet but may even save a life. Furthermore, you can cut up unwearables and use them as cleaning rags for months on end.
These small little indented spaces create the perfect nooks for seedlings! If you love plants and want more without breaking the bank at the gardening centre, take some cuttings or seeds and begin their growing stages in a repurposed egg carton. Alternatively, if you’re an art enthusiast, turn your egg carton into a paint pallet!
Credit: Jade Ashton, Unsplash
These little critters are dangerous when they reach the wild. Instead of letting them get that far, why not use your empty pill bottles as little storage spaces. Turn them into impromptu sewing kits, nail boxes, or band-aid storage units.
Credit: Hayley Lawrence, Unsplash
Silica Get Packages
These tiny waste items are found sealed in with many consumer goods, with the purpose to keep them fresh. But they won’t keep your bin in good condition if thrown away, neither will they be useful in a landfill. Keep your packets and store them between important documents or between photos.
One of the world’s worst villains - the plastic bag. While reducing your consumption of this object is by far the more significant action to take, there are ways to reuse it. Save your bags for future shopping or use them as a plant moisture trap. When going on holiday, placing a paper bag beneath your plant’s pot will help the soil remain moist, thereby preventing your plant from drying up.
In this modern age, we barely use CDs anymore. But what to do with your spare CDs that you no longer have use for? Get creative, paint them up, and transform them into quirky coasters, protecting not only the environment but your countertops and table too.
These items can be used in myriad ways, and because they’re so easy to clean, they can be reused multiple times. Turn your glass jars into outside candle holders, a small plant pot, a paintbrush holder, a water cup, or simply use for storage.
Credit: Denise Johnson, Unsplash
Toilet Paper Rolls
We all have tons of toilet paper rolls that we simply throw away. Why not reuse them as organisers? If you have Christmas or fairy lights, you know they always get tangled when put away. Folder them neatly into your toilet paper roll to keep them tidy and organised.
Credit: Munro Studio, Unsplash
Rubber bands have the nasty ability to choke animals in the wild. Instead of throwing them away, use them to secure your clothes on the hanger or as a spoon stopper when using bowls to prevent your spoon from slipping into the bowl itself.
Credit: Michael Walter, Unsplash
Foil is almost impossible to recycle and does immense damage when let loose. Try washing your foil and use it again when cooking your next meal.
Credit: Elena Mozhvilo, Unsplash
We all know that plastic is one of the more significant problems our world faces. When you’re stuck with plastic you don’t know how to get rid of, cut it up into small pieces and stuff it in a milk bottle to make an eco brick. Once the bottle is filled to the brim with plastic to make a complete eco brick, it can be donated and used as cheap and effective housing material.
Credits: Harassed Mom, Pinterest
Now that you’re equipped with more ways to reuse and repurpose your everyday waste items, challenge yourself to get creative and innovative. By reducing and then reusing our rubbish, we’re not only saving money and giving these items a second chance, but we’re also giving the Earth space to breath, grow, and flourish.
Valentina Jovanovski, Ten of the best ways to reuse rubbish, The Ecologist, 2011
Melissa Breyer, 50 Ways to Reuse Your Garbage, Treehugger, 2017
Ashley, How To Reuse 13 Things You Would Normally Throw Away, My Heart Beets, 2014
Every single piece of plastic ever made still roams the planet today. What was thought of as a miracle solution to basic challenges in its inception in 1907 has now become of the 21st century’s leading problems. But while plastic pollution is widely known, few understand the why’s and how’s of the process, let alone plastic itself.
What is plastic?
So, what actually is this thing that lays waste to our beautiful home planet? Plastic is synthetic or semi-synthetic material used to make myriad products, appliances, and packaging. The name derives from the Greek word ‘plastikos,’ which translates into ‘fit for molding.’ This malleable matter is carved from a variety of raw materials including coal, cellulose, gas, and crude oil. The process of making plastic is a plague in itself. Utilising great amounts of fuel and energy, plastic and its formation both contribute to the detrimental effects our earth is going through.
Today, plastic is found everywhere and in almost everything.
The different types of plastic
With many forms of plastic out there, it can be confusing to understand which is which. Every type of plastic is graded depending on its ease of recycling. These numbers, or levels, determine how easy it is to remold into renewed products. Level 1 is the easiest to recycle, while level 7 is the hardest.
1) Polyethylene Terephthalate (PETE or PET)
PET is the most common form of plastic and is widely recycled. These objects include beverage bottles and food containers and can be recycled and repurposed easily.
2) High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE)
Milk bottles, shampoo bottles, and body wash containers – this is HDPE. It’s one of the safest forms of plastic and is recycling-friendly.
3) Polyvinyl Chloride (V or PVC)
PVC is made up of objects like food wrapping, tiles, children’s toys, and credit cards. These often contain harmful chemicals that can contaminate the earth further. These items NEVER decompose, left to sit on the planet for eternity. However, they can still be recycled fairly easily.
4) Low-density Polyethylene Terephthalate (LDPE)
This is your average plastic bag that you receive your shopping in, and your bubble wrap, as well as your takeaway beverage cups. It’s a relatively safe and clean form of recyclable plastic, but cannot be recycled with other common plastics. However, taking 500 to 1 000 years to decompose, this plastic is an evil to the earth. With only 6% of LDPE recycled annually, we need to make more of an effort to rid the planet of this plague.
5) Polypropylene (PP)
PP includes plastic items that make up syrup holders, tupperware, straws, and yogurt containers. It’s accepted as a recycling product, but only 3% is recycled every year.
6) Polystyrene (PS)
This is the infamous styrofoam, making up many one-use containers and throw away cutlery. It’s difficult to recycle these items.
7) Polycarbonate (Miscellaneous Plastics)
Sunglasses, nylon, CDs, and computer casing are sorted in the miscellaneous category of plastics. These are extremely hard to recycle, and therefore are barely ever recycled at all. When left alone, they will NEVER biodegrade.
Why has plastic become a problem?
It’s cheap, effective, easy to create, and easily accessible. Sounds great, right? Wrong. We’ve now become dependent on this pollutant. Plastic takes centuries to biodegrade – sometimes even longer. We produce over 380 million tons of plastic every single year, with 50% of the weight contributing to single-use plastic only. Now, all of this has to go somewhere, and where else but landfills. Plastic packs up in these dense holes and escarpments, only to be blown away by the wind further into the wild or into the ocean. Littering is another form of plastic pollution, directly endangering the health of ecosystems and lives.
This plastic waste is killing wild and marine lives – constantly. Toxic exposure and strangulation are the most common ways plastic is harming those who inhabit our planet. Today, micro plastics are found everywhere. From the summit of Mount Everest and the depths of the Mariana Trench, to the air we breathe and the water we drink, plastic has truly become the most problematic plague this world has had to endure.
How does plastic affect the planet?
Plastic production and as a product negatively affects the earth in almost every single way. Starting from the process, plastic requires large amounts of fossil fuels to construct. These crude oils emit harmful toxins into the atmosphere, polluting and choking our air. Once made, plastic needs to be transported. Planes, ships, and trucks are used for this task, further seeping out harmful toxins into the planet. The plastic is then utilised in everyday common goods and generally thrown away soon after purchase, left to strangle animals and release toxic chemicals into our waterways and natural spaces.
The world works in a circular motion. For example, when plastic enters the ocean and finds a new place to settle, it’s interrupting significant ecosystems. A fish may mistake this tiny piece of plastic for a nutritious flake of food. It ingests this flimsy figment and carries on with its day. However, inside the fish, toxins are slowly being released. A whale may come along and consume this fish, blissfully unaware what lays within its dinner. Now, toxins are circulating within the whale, who then feeds its newborn calf. The calf, still young and developing, cannot handle the toxins produced through its mom’s milk. Eventually, the calf passes away from the harmful chemicals.
Every year, eight million tons of plastic finds its way into the ocean. This destructive and horrific cycle repeats itself tenfold and even makes its way into human feeding grounds. Yes, we consume micro plastics all the time due to this circular process.
How to recycle plastic
Reduce, reuse, recycle – we’ve all heard this phrase. But did you know that it’s in order of importance? When dealing with plastic waste, we must follow the phrase step by step. First, reduce your dependency and usage of plastic, then reuse what you can, and finally, recycle as the last possible option.
However, because of the strenuous task of recycling and the lack of knowledge citizens have of proper recycling methods, over 90% of recycling isn’t even recycled and ends up in landfills anyway. It’s therefore extremely important to recycle correctly.
Below are the most important steps to follow to recycle correctly:
Reduce, reuse, recycle – we’ve all heard this phrase. But did you know that it’s in order of importance? When dealing with plastic waste, we must follow the phrase step by step. First, reduce your dependency and usage of plastic, then reuse what you can, and finally, recycle as the last possible option.
However, because of the strenuous task of recycling and the lack of knowledge citizens have of proper recycling methods, over 90% of recycling isn’t even recycled and ends up in landfills anyway. It’s therefore extremely important to recycle correctly.
Below are the most important steps to follow to recycle correctly:
- Separate all plastics. A milk carton may be a level 2 plastic, but the lid is a level 7. While level 2 is easy to recycle, level 7 is near impossible. Be sure to separate the levels when recycling. Generally, you’ll be able to identify what plastic level your item is by searching for the indented triangle embedded within the plastic.
- Always clean your plastic items. Any oil, grease, or food residue will result in a discarded plastic item, leading it into a landfill. Wash out your plastic and leave it to dry before adding it to the correct plastic pile.
- Crush your plastic items, such as a beverage bottle, as much as you can. This leaves space in your recycling bin and allows you to get the most out of the clear or black bag you’re using to hold your recycling.
Frequently asked questions and answers
1. HOW MUCH PLASTIC ENDS UP IN THE OCEAN?
Eight million tons of plastic waste ends up in the ocean every year.
2. HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE FOR PLASTIC TO DISAPPEAR?
This depends on the type of plastic, but generally speaking, plastic takes 500 years to decompose. However, since every piece of plastic made still exists, we have no finite evidence to conclude exactly how long plastic takes to disappear.
3. CAN THE PROBLEM BE SOLVED WITH RECYCLING OR BIODEGRADABLE PLASTICS?
While recycling helps, it will not solve the plastic pollution problem. Biodegradable plastics is one of the only solutions we have to solving this plague, but ending the production of plastic entirely may be the only tangible solution.
4. HOW DOES PLASTIC PRODUCTION CONTRIBUTE TO THE CLIMATE CRISIS?
Producing plastic uses fossil fuels and crude oils which leak into the atmosphere, eventually contributing to the warming of the planet as a whole.
5. WHAT CAN I DO TO HELP SOLVE THE PROBLEM?
REDUCE your use of plastic, turn to alternative methods such as reusable bags and cups, REUSE your plastic waste by, for example, turning your milk carton into a pot for plants, and then RECYCLE your plastic waste properly.
By Georgia Carter
With fear and uncertainty dominating news and minds, most of the focus of the COVID-19 Pandemic is on its effects on humans and how to mitigate the risk. As we face up to our vulnerability and mortality as a species, it’s understandable that we would be focusing on ourselves. However, the threat of climate change, biodiversity loss and the looming sixth mass extinction on the survival of the human species has not taken a vacation. It’s still ominously growing and as we, typically, justify our selfishness and mis-place our panic – animal and plant species are disappearing and companies have used this period to take advantage of our averted gaze.
The serene and almost post-apocalyptic images of wild animals peacefully roaming carless streets sparked some hope near the beginning of the pandemic, and a few small environmental wins did occur. Countries including: Japan, Canada, South Korea and South Africa pledged to become carbon neutral by 2050, while China pledged to reach the same goal by 2060. This seems to be a huge step in a positive direction for some hugely coal-dependant countries – with China being the largest greenhouse gas emitter – but one wonders whether 2050 is too late and whether these countries will stick to their word. After so many countries failed to meet their Paris Climate Accord goals, with Donald Trump even withdrawing America, it has become increasingly difficult to trust pledges until the follow-through actions become apparent. A glimmer of hope can be seen with Joe Biden, who has announced his plans to rejoin America with the Paris Climate Accord, as well as to revoke the Keystone Oil Pipeline permit and clamp down on other oil and gas drilling in pristine areas like the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge.
Surprisingly Microsoft, BP and Shell have pledged to go carbon neutral by 2050. This may not mean much, however, as fossil fuel production needs to decline by 6% a year just to meet the Paris Climate Accord goal of keeping global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius. Ignoring the fact that the above climate goal is not perfect in itself, neither BP nor Shell plan to slow down their fossil fuel extraction. An arguably greater and more potent win lies with the banks and investment companies that have been withdrawing monetary investment from fossil fuel companies.
With cars and factories forced to halt during the COVID-19 Pan
demic, foggy skies cleared up as global daily CO2 emissions fell by 17% compared to 2019. This, unfortunately, only translated to a reduction of between 4.2% and 7.5% for the year – a tiny drop that scientists are calling a “blip on the long-term graph.” With CO2 levels rising steadily each year, what we thought was a reduction in 2020 was just a slightly smaller increase than usual.
All the while, concentrations of methane continue to rise to record levels in the atmosphere due to industrial animal agriculture and drilling for oil and gas. Methane traps much more heat than CO2, in the short term.
These statistics paint a bleak picture – showing us that we cannot rely on short-term solutions or forced government regulations to ‘save us’, neither can we rely on simple emission reductions like electric vehicles and more efficient energy use – which only contributed 1% to 2020’s emissions drop. We need real, big and widespread solutions: a dramatic change in lifestyles, a total overhaul of agriculture and energy, a mass shift in mindsets.
Sustainability is still a buzzword, but it hasn’t been enough for years… we are moving towards a cliff and it isn’t much use just to slow down, we need to stop and back-peddle, fast! This means regenerating the Earth to start undoing the damage that we have done as a species. Regenerative Agriculture has been saying this for quite a while, and now scientists are finally getting on board saying in a public letter that” we must heighten our ambition to climate restoration on every level.”
Another huge impact of COVID-19 policies has been the resurgence of single-use plastic. In an effort to keep everything clean and sanitised, companies and individuals have brought back numerous single-use plastic items en-masse. 2020 was set to be a year of change, with many countries banning single-use plastic. After the pandemic hit, most of these plastic bans were suspended or rolled back, allowing online delivery services to ramp plastic use up to new highs. The plastics industry, emboldened by its resurgence, went as far as to lobby the American government to overturn US plastic bans – calling reusable items “a public safety risk” despite the fact that these items can be sanitised like anything else.
Masks and gloves have dramatically increased litter in populated areas – a problem exasperated by the fact that medical-grade masks are made from non-recyclable polypropylene. The Coronavirus will hopefully become a thing of the past within the next year, but masks from the pandemic will remain for another 500 years to come.
Much of the waste produced during the COVID-19 pandemic is not recyclable and is now beginning to enter oceans and waterways.
Recycling businesses have taken a huge knock over this time, shrinking by more than 20% in Europe, 50% in Asia and 60% in the US. This is due to much cheaper ‘virgin plastics’ flooding the market as businesses on the brink of shutdown are forced to choose the cheapest inputs over those that are more environmentally-friendly. The oil industry, which was being targeted for its environmentally catastrophic ways pre-pandemic, is enjoying a boom fueled by plastic and plans to invest $400 million on new raw material plants over the next 5 years.
Had the plastic bans stuck, they could have resulted in an oil demand reduction of 2 million barrels per day by 2040.
This resurgence of plastic use and emboldening of the oil industry, combined with the mass-distraction of the public due to COVID fear, has allowed the oil and gas industry to begin numerous environmentally catastrophic new ventures across the globe.
Although it was opposed by environmental organisations who stated that the public were not in the right state to comment adequately in the midst of COVID-19, 1 100 miles of land were approved for use for a network of CO2 pipelines in Wyoming.
A massive blow to African biodiversity, wild spaces and water security – ReconAfrica have been allowed to begin oil drilling exploration for 150km along the Kavango River in the delicate Namibian and Botswanian semi-arid region that feeds the lush Okavango Delta.
If ReconAfrica finds petroleum, which they seem confident of, what will be one of the biggest new oil ventures in history will, simultaneously, be one of the biggest natural disasters – irrevocably affecting wildlife, heritage and around 200 000 indigenous people that rely on the Kavango River and surrounding fragile ecosystem for food, water and livelihoods. The heritage affected by the potential increase in seismic activity caused by the proposed fracking and other methods of extraction would include 1200-year-old San rock paintings that form part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site – Tsodilo Hills.
The area is not only an important migration route for the world’s largest remaining elephant population, it is also home to four animal species listed as ‘critically endangered’ and seven species listed as ‘endangered’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
ReconAfrica and the Namibian government are set to make unimaginable amounts of money from this – potentially the ‘largest oil play of the decade’ – with the government owning 10% shares in the exploration concession. It’s easy to see how and why both parties have severely downplayed the environmental risks associated with this venture, and how they have been able to use the pandemic-dominated media to their advantage. Experts have reportedly already found issues in the way that the environmental impact assessment for the project was carried out.
Underneath the politics and the Coronavirus Pandemic, 2020 was a terrible year for the environment too. And, we have no-one to blame but ourselves as a species. Like AIDS, Zika, SARS and Ebola – COVID-19 came from an animal facing severe environmental pressure. Encroaching on wildlife habitats, as well as the consumption of high-risk wild animal species dramatically raises the risk of disease spillover. This is especially risky when farms with domestic animals raised for meat are the ones encroaching on the wild spaces. In fact, research has recently shown that most infectious diseases are, in some way, caused by human activities.
Our vulnerability to new diseases is due to the environmental pressure that our extravagant lifestyles of disregard are putting on the natural world. The worst contributors being: deforestation, industrial agriculture and intensive livestock farming.
We are at a critical crossroads, right now, teetering on the edge of the Sixth Mass Extinction. While COVID-19 has been devastating to humans, climate change and biodiversity loss threaten the very existence of our entire species and the many that we are taking down with us.
It is up to each of us to stop making excuses, stop lying to ourselves and waiting for someone else to do the work – we must radically change our lifestyles right now and put unprecedented pressure on the companies and governments that are profiting off of the demise of the entire planet.
We all have to do everything in our power, every day!
Written by: Kelly Steenhuisen
Environmentalists spend a lot of time and article-space discussing whether having children is the worst thing one could do for the planet, or whether it actually makes parents more environmentally conscious after bringing a life into the world. Is overpopulation the problem, or overconsumption?
While I feel that it is important for environmentally conscious people to raise some next generation environmentalists, it is undoubtedly less impactful to have one or two children than five or six. However, just having fewer kids is not enough if one raises them by Western norms.
Even before birth, Western babies become mass consumers as companies play on new parents’ desire to do the best for their child. The lives of Western parents overflow with unnecessary gadgets and devices – many of which are plastic and single-use.
The average American child uses 2500 disposable nappies in the first year of life, and 1400-1800 in its second year! With about 4 million babies born annually in the US – that adds up to around a trillion nappies added to landfills each year, just from newborns. Add disposable wipes, disposable nappy bags, disposable postpartum pads, breast pads, linen savers and hospital waste to the mix and one can imagine the mountains of waste created by parents and babies each year.
Besides plastic, nappies contain petroleum, adhesives, dyes and other harmful chemicals – one of the worst being Tributyltin (TBT). TBT is added to nappies to prevent the growth of bacteria, but it is dangerously poisonous to humans and marine life and is building up in ecosystems at an alarming rate. It does not degrade and damages fertility in humans, adversely affects unborn children and organs.
While the run-of-the-mill disposable nappies take more than 500 years to degrade, better disposable, degradable nappies are now available that take about 2-3 months to degrade. These are made from plant-based materials and can be composted at home or sent away. By far the best option, however, are cloth nappies – especially if one buys them second-hand.
Cloth nappies are reusable throughout a few babies’ nappy-wearing years and can be found in natural fabrics like: hemp, bamboo and organic cotton. They can be homemade, bought second-hand or new and are much cheaper in the long run. The same is true for baby wipes, postpartum pads and breast pads – compostable options are available, as well as reusable options.
Linked with the dairy industry, infant formula packs a huge environmental footprint as well as a sketchy past. Many years ago, Nestle faced lawsuits for pushing infant formula instead of breastfeeding in third world countries – the company implied that infant formula was a better choice and went as far as dressing their reps as nurses and giving free formula samples to all new moms in hospitals. Infant formula advertising and sale laws have since been adjusted, but the damage to peoples’ mindsets remains apparent. Many people are repulsed by or do not trust breastmilk, or they think that infant formula is more nutritionally complete. This is untrue. If one is able to breastfeed, it is by far the best nourishment option for infants and it comes without the added plastic containers and environmental catastrophes of the mass dairy industry – including the degradation of land and waterways, the release of methane gas, and the usage of fossil fuels in running machinery and transportation.
The industries that have developed around profiting off of pregnancy, birth and child-rearing have created a mine-field for new parents trying to do their best for the Earth. However, it is not impossible to raise an eco-baby. With a good amount of research, discernment and self-empowerment – parents can raise babies with appropriately tiny environmental footprints and teach them to be future eco-warriors in the process.
Written By: Kelly Steenhuisen
With the fast and cheap production of single-use plastic ‘disposables’, plastic pollution has been increasing exponentially in recent years. Since the 1950s, approximately 2.3 million tons of plastic has been produced. In 2015, we have seen an astonishing 448 million tons of plastic sold by manufacturers, and these numbers are expected to double by 2050. But at what cost, we ask? Every year, 8 million tons of plastic waste seeps into the ocean. It takes 400 years for these plastic wastes to break down - in some cases, much longer. The accumulation of these plastics will eventually have us all drowning in our own waste.
What is plastic? What’s the big deal about plastic waste now?
Plastic, by definition, is made from crude oil. Crude oil is centuries of compressed fossils (yes, the very same dinosaur and flora fossils that you see in natural history museums!). Crude oil is a limited resource on our planet, yet most modern lifestyles are truly dependent on it. From life-saving medical equipment and devices, to space travel, to manufacturing lighter cars for fuel reduction, to single-use disposables for convenience sake - it’s everywhere, no matter which way we turn.
But how did we get to the point that our plastic production is destroying the very planet we reside upon? After WWII the acceleration of plastic materials was seen as a modern revolution, where the thought of ‘throwing away for convenience’ was such an awe inspiring moment for the public. It was a revelation and modern change from the vintage reusables which our grandparents were used to. Flash forward to 2019, it became a pressing environmental issue on a global scale: the throwaway culture mindset took over nature and started harming marine wildlife, and, in turn, impacting our health. Single-use plastic disposables accounts for 40% of manufactured plastic, such as food packaging and plastic bags, which are used for mere seconds and thrown into landfills where they will persist for hundreds of years.
Image 1: Beach clean up from Adventure Clean Up Hong Kong with Outward Bound Hong Kong
Read more about how microplastics are affecting our global diets and oceans.
Although we have bioplastic (made from corn, straw, and wood) thanks to the use of aniline (a key chemical in plastic), we still live in a throwaway culture that is heavily marketed as ‘compulsory convenience’ through the sale of disposable plastic products. The most important change which needs to be implemented in our personal lives is to reduce our plastic waste, rather than completely avoid it as conscious consumers - which is just not 100% feasible for most local communities! After all, we live in a capitalist global economy where plastic is made cheaply for bigger profits. It’s such a huge environmental problem that the United Nations has prompted countries to sign a global treaty in reducing their plastic trash due to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
Fine, I get it. Plastic waste is a dramatic environmental issue. But, where do I start? How can I help with this?
Do a bin audit
Let’s ask ourselves, how much do we throw into our kitchen bins every week? Is it a trash bag everyday or every few days instead? Take a look in your bin and fish out the mess to count how many different types of waste that have been absentmindedly thrown in there: plastic, paper, metal, and unrecyclable mixed materials which are hard to differentiate for recyclers. A fair warning, it will be messy to do a bin audit, so we advise you to do so before you chuck out your recycling and (food) waste. Take a piece of scrap paper and stick it on your fridge, or even better, make a note on your phone about what trash material went into your kitchen bin. Take a step further and audit your bathroom bin too! You would be surprised what goes into your bathroom bin too!
Reduce your plastic and recycling waste
Now that you’ve done a bin audit, it’s time to analyse what is the most wasteful habit that you’ve thrown out mindlessly. You might have more plastic packaging. You might have more mixed material packaging that you didn’t know what to do with but bin. You might have more ‘wet waste’: food leftovers, expired forgotten food from the fridge, and stinky mouldy food that had been brewing at the back of your cupboards.
Sure, you can recycle most packaging (depending on what your local council and/or waste collection takes in) but we can all learn to reduce our waste intake. 91% of plastic isn’t actually recycled due to food contamination and lack of recycling resources (especially for hard to recycle plastic numbers and mixed material plastics). Only a small percentage of plastic are downcycled; they degrade each time they get ‘recycled’ to the point where they can’t be remade into new plastic materials, leaving it for the landfills. This is why it’s important to reduce your recycling, and rather reuse your recycling instead!
How do I reduce my recycling?
Here are a few questions to ask yourself:
Read more on how to sort out your recycling and what the different plastic numbers mean.
Hopefully with this extensive list you are now ready to tackle and reduce your recycling! Even if this is the first step of reducing your waste, it’s the start of your low impact journey in being more sustainable as well changing your lifestyle habits too. Everyone needs to start somewhere after all.
By: Sona Hiranandani