Five simple ways to prevent waste and live more sustainably
When was the last time you darned a sock? Repaired a clock? Reused a sandwich bag?
There is no doubt that we live in a disposable world. Where we once reused and repaired goods we are now more likely to throw things away and simply buy a replacement. The cheap manufacturing of many goods means they cost less and deteriorate quicker, further adding to this cycle of consumption.
The impact of this on our environment, wellbeing and wallet isn’t sustainable. The more we consume, the more we add to the waste levels on our planet. Buying more things means we add to the packaging, manufacturing, transport and disposal of all this ‘stuff’.
The good news is that recycling rates continue to rise as more people become educated about the impact of our lifestyle on the environment. The even better news is there are many simple ways to work towards waste prevention.
Each year Irish households produce around 1 tonne of waste. By following a few simple tips we can all work towards reducing that number. In order to live, work and travel it is inevitable that we will consume, but there are many ways in which we can reduce the amount of waste we produce. Avoiding waste should always be our first option, but in cases where this isn’t possible it’s important we recycle and dispose of waste effectively.
Start at home
Sometimes, modern life seems at odds with living sustainably. Busy workdays mean we often reach for convenient, packaged food while apartment living can make growing our own produce seem difficult. But with a little foresight and planning we can incorporate waste prevention into our everyday lives.
No matter if you live in a studio or a semi-detached, it’s always possible to compost your food scraps.
Composting is essential in ensuring your food and garden waste decomposes naturally. The compost produced is excellent for improving the soil in your garden. If you don’t plan on reusing your compost, the brown organic bins that were rolled out to most regions in 2016 can take your food and garden waste. Your bin collector will then take the contents of the brown bins to a composting facility. Composting is easy and effective- you just need to know a few simple facts before you begin. To find out more, check out this handy guide.
Shop with purpose
When shopping, make a list and stick to it. This means you will avoid impulse-buying extra things you don’t really need. Avoid single use items, like batteries, razors and wipes, instead opting for reusable or longer-lasting items. Always try to avoid items with excess packaging- take your own reusable bags and use them where possible- and avoid buying in bulk unless it's non-perishables like pasta or rice as these will last a long time.
Avoid ‘special deals’ on perishable goods like fruit, vegetables, meat and dairy. Often the price reduction is due to a nearing expiry date. On average, we bin €700 worth of food every year mostly due to over-buying. That can be avoided by buying less food. If your goods are perishable ensure you have a plan to use them as soon as possible, or freeze them for use at a later date.
Pre-loved is better than new
Ask yourself if you really need that new item rather than looking for something pre-loved. Charity shops and second-hand furniture shops are often hidden gems when it comes to sourcing quality items at a fraction of the price. Online platforms like Free Trade Ireland are great ways to pass on items you no longer need, or find an item you need for free.
Much of our household waste can be recycled for free using the green bins at home, the bring-banks dotted throughout our communities and the take-back initiatives rolled out by furniture and electronics retailers. Almost every item has a recycling route - check out the REPAK website for information on recycling sites across Ireland.
Mind over matter
Most importantly, rethink the way you consume. Consider whether it is a need or a want that is behind your consumption- we accumulate so much stuff that often ends up in landfill. By changing your mind-set around consumption you’ll be setting an example for your children and family. If our kids are brought up educated about waste prevention, we are already on track to reducing our impact on the environment.
Living green means making small changes at home or in our communities. In turn, living green can make a big difference to our wellbeing – and your pocket - helping you to live a more sustainable lifestyle. The choices we make at home influence our health and our environment, and that of our family and neighbours. Households and their community can positively influence a healthier and more sustainable future. A better future begins at home. Visit www.epa.ie/livegreen for more information.