I am hugely passionate about everyone taking steps to reduce the impact they have on the environment. Climate Change is a serious now issue and I believe we all need to take steps in our own little way to combat it. National Geographic report that 91% of plastic worldwide isn’t recycled. Plastic has become an everyday commodity which has accelerated so rapidly that it has created 8.3 billion metric tons of waste. If everyone began by making small steps NOW rather than latter it would make a tremendous difference in years to come.
This blog post will form part of a series over the next couple of weeks where I will outline how I plan to live a more sustainable life. This weeks post will focus on the more basic every day changes we can make in our routine to reduce waste in our lives.
Invest in a Reusable Cup
Do you tend to obliviously throw your coffee cup in the recycle bin? WRONG! These cups cannot be recycled because of their water proof inner coating. A number of coffee shops have now adapted to using compostable cups – so check out your coffee cup and if it contains a symbol similar to this: then more than likely your cup is compostable and must be placed in the compost bin. Alternatively you can also use them as handy planter pots in your garden!
I tend to always try and use a keep cup when I purchase a hot drink. I used to have a hard plastic regular keep cup but I have recently upgraded to one of the glass keep cups. I began to notice that after a while, my original keep cup began to absorb the smell of the hot drinks in it. With a brew keepcup, its easily washable and no worries about a scent lingering. I purchased my keep cup online from Earth Mother . I love how the cup arrived in a couple of days and came in completely recycled packaging with a lovely personalised note! On the plus side a number of cafes offer a discount for people who come bearing their own takeaway cup.
Multi Use Straws
Nowadays, there are loads of alternatives to plastic straws such as paper, bamboo and stainless steel. Personally I find the paper straws provide little to no longevity but are great for a once off party. I have opted for stainless steel straws. They are easy cleaned and even dishwasher safe. I got mine from the Little Green Shop .
A pack of 4 with a brush cleaner comes in at just €12.50 and comes packaged in an cute cotton pouch which makes taking them on the go that much easier.
Reusable Bottles and Flasks
Similar to reusable cups, reusable bottles are an ideal and easy way to reduce the use of plastic in every day life. Especially if you are like me and always have to have water on you when you’re on the go. It has also saved my car floor looking like plastic bottle heaven. You can literally purchase one of these anywhere – Penny’s, TK Maxx, Home, Store & More and any sports shops. I have gone through many reusable bottles but have religiously used by hydro flash for the past 2 or so years. It has been a life changer. It may be expensive to begin with but it is definitely worth the investment in my opinion as it can carry both hot and cold and is very durable! Trust me I have dropped mine on multiple occasions over the years and it is still alive! I purchased my Hydro Flask in Cotswold Outdoor in Dundrum.
Canvas, tote and reusable shopping bags are a must. I myself have fallen victim to going to do a grocery shop and then failing to bring bags with me. If you are the same, which most of us are…we’re only human after all, then try and locate some small cardboard boxes from the store. They are usually placed at the end of tills. It will save you purchasing disposable bags. If you can do without, just place your items in the boot of your car directly. You can pick up reusable bags, totes or canvas bags in a number of stores.
Over the years I have disposed of and gone through so many lunch boxes. A couple of months back I decided to invest in pyrex lunch box. These have become such a lifesaver. I have three in total – two larger for at home storage and one smaller compact one in which I can bring in lunch. The smaller compact one is microwave safe and specifically designed to allow for reheating of food. Because they are pyrex lunchboxes you can cook your food directly in the container, allow it to cool and then place the lid on it and store it in the fridge. I cannot recommend these enough. Even more appealing is the fact that the container itself is pyrex so it doesn’t absorb smells and is very easily washable. I purchased mine on sale in home, store & more but they can be located in a number of different homeware shops.
Dispose of your waste correctly
One of the biggest thing that a number of households need to do is ensure that they are disposing of their waste correctly. Things like aluminium and glass should not be placed directly into the general waste bin and should be disposed of in communal bottle & can banks. Glass is one of the easiest things to recycle. Recycling one tonne of glass saves over 300kg of CO2 emissions. For all my Irish readers, you can find your nearest recycling facility by searching here.
If its rigid plastic, aluminium or cans, always remember to recycle it! This includes aluminium cans (washed), cereal boxes, milk and juice cartons (rinsed) and cleaning product bottles (just ensure you remove the lid). If you are ever confused about what can be recycled from your home or office. Repak have a number of very useful guides
In terms of what DOES NOT go into the recycling bin. You cannot place
- Soft plastic – such as cling film
- Nappies and sanitary producs
- Food waste
- Broken Toys
- Contaminated packaging (greasy and with residue)
- Garden cuttings/soil
- expanded polystyrene – i.e. the annoying white stuff that you usually get on electronic products. Some local civic amenity areas can accept this so make sure to check the recycling facility search
- Textiles – incl. clothes/shoes and home furnishings
- Dismantled Furniture
- Medical waste
- Light bulbs
- Electrical/electronic equipment – basically anything that can contain a battery or a plug. If you are getting rid of larger electrical items such as washing machine or fridge. Speak with your local electrical store and see if they have a facility available – most definitely should. The same goes for broken toys – check with your nearest flagship toy store or recycling center to see if they accept these.
- Batteries – should be placed in battery boxes which can be located in any local supermarket
- General waste that should be in the general waste bin
- Thin alluminium foils – the type you will generally see on crisp packets in stores.
Recycle unwanted clothes
Bring unwanted clothes to a charity shop or to your nearest clothing bank. You can also opt to pass them on to a younger sibling or friend who might be interested. There are so many ways to get rid of the clothes you don’t wear, and throwing in the bin isn’t one of them!
Why not do a cull of your wardrobe and cut out the items that no longer spark joy and have sat on hangers and on shelves gathering dust for months. I am sure those clothes can be put to a much better use by a charity so why not drop them off to a second hand store or a clothes bank!
As well as this, second hand stores can be havens for a number of quirky and unique home ware items, at a fraction of the cost. That and a lot of second hand bookstores will offer many current books at a fraction of the cost. There’s plenty of options for clothes too but why not start with home ware and some books if this is too much of a plunge for you!
I know it may sound a lot easier than it actually is in reality. There are definitely days where I have opted to buy a bottle of water in a shop for pure convenience. There are also still a number of bad habits which I want to cut out such as buying fast fashion, cutting down on waste in terms of cosmetics and toiletries, as well as food products. The good news is that hard plastic bottles and thick packaging is generally recyclable. If you are overwhelmed by this post and stuggling with where to start, I would suggest checking out @theweesustainabletradingco on instagram. They are a Dublin based, Irish owned company who provide handmade reusable products. They also have a zero waste starter kit on offer which is super helpful and very reasonably priced at €30. I just ordered mine the other day. It includes:
- 3 beeswax food wraps
- A waxed reusable sandwich wrap
- A travel pouch with reusable straws (either stainless steel or bamboo)
- Pack of upcycled reusable produce bags
The point of this series is not to shame people into doing better. It’s more to show you the realistic side of adopting a more sustainable life, especially in Ireland. In the coming weeks, I will focus on how we can reduce food waste and live a more sustainable life in the kitchen, our diet, the bathroom and within your wardrobe! I hope you enjoy following along this journey – if you have any suggestions, please feel free to share!