In the last few years, It has been wonderful to see an explosion of awareness on how our wasteful lifestyle is damaging to the environment and other living organisms around us. Waste is generated in many ways, from leftover food that goes bad after their use by date, over production, futile desire for perfect products causing “less perfect but perfectly fine” products and produce to be wasted, accidental damages and the last on my list: over consumption.
According to an article by McGill university, sustainability is "meeting your needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. In addition to natural resources, we also need social and economic resources. Sustainability is not just environmentalism. Embedded in most definitions of sustainability are also concerns for social equity and economic development."
As a Christian, I really connect with the knowledge that the earth is God’s creation and God made everything in it perfectly according to Genesis 1 verses 11 and 12 and I do not want to be the one to damage anything God has created: “11 And God said, Let the earth put forth grass, herbs yielding seed, and fruit-trees bearing fruit after their kind, wherein is the seed thereof, upon the earth: and it was so. 12 And the earth brought forth grass, herbs yielding seed after their kind, and trees bearing fruit, wherein is the seed thereof, after their kind: and God saw that it was good”. This understanding has helped to shape how we live and develop a less wasteful lifestyle.
Practically, what does a less wasteful or Zero waste lifestyle mean and how can you begin to live a more sustainable lifestyle? Here are 9 small but simple ways you can be more sustainable – contributing to and creating less waste, looking after the environment, and saving yourself some money along the way:
- Use less It – many of us are fortunate to be able to afford what we need. We are also able to afford a little extra just in case we run out. Many at time the little extra we buy often goes to waste because we did not end up using them all. According to the BBC, every day the British household wastes 20 million sliced bread. Just let that sink in for a bit. In 1 year we waste 4.5 million tonnes of edible food (6.6 million tonnes including nonedible food such as tea bags etc). If each 19.2 million families in the UK reduces their waste by 20%, we will reduce our annual food waste to 3.52 million tonnes of edible food. If we continue reducing at this rate year on year, we can eventually become waste free. So now what can you do? Buy less than you usually do, eat a little less than you are used to (if possible and wise for you) and finally buy only what you need.
- Buy what you need – talking of buying only what you need, we are spoilt with options and many times we cannot decide what option to go for, so we end up just buying all options. If you can relate with this, then maybe you have something we can improve on. Whether you are buying clothes, food, or drinks or even external adornment and accessories such as jewellery, bags etc, it is possible to slim down our consumption of new products and produce. According the UK website, “UK citizens discard around a million tonnes of textiles per year”. The same source also mentions that in UK “We buy more clothes per person in the UK than any other country in Europe, five times what we bought in the 1980s”. What does this all mean for you? Learn to buy only the things you NEED. What you need is not always what you want. For example, because you want a fluffy bag does not mean you need a bag. If we all try to use what we have for longer, we will have a positive effect on the environment at large, which will also help to reduce commercial slavery that has been strengthen by the trend in fast fashion and conspicuous consumption.
- Plan your shopping and stick with it – Have you ever gone shopping and then you saw that a product is on offer? Or have you ever been in the shop with a hungry tummy, you walk past the bakery and you decided to buy a big pack of freshly baked bread or sausage rolls, Pizza or even Haribo’s? If yes, them this point will be the one for you. Using a shopping list and sticking to it. It helps to develop a disciplined shopping habit where you stick to the items you need for the week or so. Being careful to buy in an organised way will not only prevent waste but it will also save us money on the long run.
- Avoid unnecessary packaging – According to Green Clean Guide, “53% of all goods are packed using plastic materials. Plastic packaging is available in different shapes and sizes”. We have been so used to having our products wrapped in excessive packing and it has become quite ridiculous how some products are irresponsibly wrapped in plastic packaging when they do not need to be. Inevitably we as the consumer still pay for this waste while we will still pay to throw away our waste and then we will pay for the consequential impact of the waste in the environment. To avoid wasteful items we do not need, please start to examine any product before buying. If there is product that you are about to purchase and the packaging is quite unnecessary, you can simply choose to buy an alternative or ask for the same products without all the packaging. Every packaging material you avoid = less waste that could contaminate our future food or the natural habitat for us and other living organisms
- Buy what you can reuse (stop buying single use Items where possible) Cloths and accessories – According to WWF, “The overall UK recycling rate for single use plastics is estimated at 29%, but the majority of this recycling is from drinks bottles”. For example, if you love your beverage such as tea and coffee, it is very convenient to opt for disposable cups from the shops. Each disposable coffee cup comes with a plastic top. This plastic top will not degrade easily, and they are not usually recycled. One way you can reduce your waste and be more sustainable is to cut your use of single use cups or drink bottles and get yourself a reusable cup and water bottle. Similar approach will suffice for your shopping bags, milk and drinks container etc.
- Waterless Car Washing – According to Cleaning Business Guide, “Car wash water is considered dangerous to the environment because it contains detergents, oils, phosphates, rubber, surfactants, silts, copper, traffic film remover, and other metals”. With an average of more than 100 litres of water used to clean each car in a traditional carwash, you can imagine how much waste is generated every time you visit the carwash. How can you take a step to reduce water pollution from washing your car? Consider using a waterless car washing method. It is not totally waterless, however you can clean a car with 5 litres of water if you know what you are doing. Alternatively, automatic car wash units use 70% less water over traditional car washes. If you do not fancy either of these options, you can clean your car with 2 buckets of water (again if you know what you are doing). Read mor about how waterless carwash works
- Eco friendly cleaning – the science behind cleaning solution is mainly centred around how the surfactants react to separate the bond between the dirt particles and the surface it is applied to. The surfactant’s job is the breakup the dirt particle. Surfactants are what you have in most detergents and cleaning solutions and they are generally less than 5% of the actual solution. Some more aggressive cleaning detergent will use a lot more and you may be wondering why is more surfactant in detergent a problem? Surfactant really don’t care what surface they touch, whether they are on human skin or on fish sea creature skin they will have the same effect. Therefore, you want to look out for plant-based cleaning solution when cleaning your homes or any building. Plant based solutions use plant based surfactant that are more water loving than others. They are less toxic to the environment as they as a result and less toxic on the skin and on sea life. Of course everything should be used in moderation. Also, when choosing your cleaning detergent, check that it has not been tested on animal because if a product has been tested on animal, it means it is most likely to have a fine balance between being toxic and being moderately sensitive on the skin. You also want to avoid cleaning solutions that have sodium lauryl sulfate in them as it is one of the most popular and most damaging surfactants commonly used in cleaning and washing solutions. They can cause a lot of skin irritation for many people who have sensitive skin.
- Buying local – It is increasingly acceptable to buy local given the scale of impact that the pandemic has had on small businesses since the beginning of 2020. Buying local is not just good for supporting your local businesses, more local businesses are seeing the need to relate with their local suppliers and this interconnectivity of supply and demand helps our regional economies to become stronger. Another benefit to buying local is that your products will generally travel less distance before they get to you. This in turn reduces that environmental impact that your goods accumulate before it gets into your hand. You will also be putting your money back into the community by buying from your local supplier too.
- Finally, Zero waste Food shopping and consumption – Plan your shopping ahead and buy from ethically sources grocers and zero waste shops. Sustainability is not just about the environment and the animals we can save; it is largely about the people in the supply chain process too. When we shop with other people in mind, your money will go a long way beyond having a “good for the body and the environment” products but also help to reduce commercial slavery and encourage local producers to keep making great products that are good for the economy and the environment.