We Rarely Put Our Bin Out, & You Need Not Either With These Tips
I know that for many households, putting out full bins each week/fortnight is completely normal. I remember as a kid having to jump in the recycling bin regularly to squash it down - making room for more recycling! We'd add full smelly plastic bin bags of rubbish to the landfill bin, which was full to the brim most weeks, and think nothing of it. It wasn't until I started to learn about minimalism, the zero waste movement, and closed-loop thinking that I began to seriously question my practices. Over a just a few months, we cut our waste by around 80% and, a few years later, we still rarely need to put the landfill bin out. It's become the new normal! So how did we get from not-so-blissful ignorance to active, effective waste reduction? It involved the following steps.
1 - Get Educated on Waste
Chances are, if you're reading this, you've well and truly begun this step! You know waste is a serious issue, and you also probably know the scary facts, like how one in five grocery bags of food in Australia is thrown out each week. Or that every piece of plastic ever made in the world still exists somewhere, in some form. Or that food scraps when buried in landfill emit methane, a greenhouse gas around 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Haven't heard these facts before, or thirsting for more information? Good on you, we need to be informed to take action! I recommend the following resources to gain relevant, accurate insights into the global waste crisis:
- Watch these documentaries: 'The Story of Stuff', '2040', 'A Plastic Ocean', 'The Clean Bin Project' and 'Minimalism'
2 - Start Small
It can be so overwhelming when we learn just how catastrophic our wasteful habits have become, and when deciding to take action, it's really tempting to uphaul our lives and try to go 110% to have maximum impact (and perhaps feel a smidge less awful about everything). The issue with this is that, while our intentions are excellent, it's the best way to fall off the wagon or set ourselves up for failure - too much, too soon! So if you are committed to making a change (thank you!), start with one or two things that are the easiest for you to implement, and stick with them for a few weeks until they become second nature. For example, if you decide you can easily swap your weekly takeaway meal from thai (in plastic containers) to pizza (in compostable cardboard), do that for a few weeks! Or perhaps you might opt to bring your own lunch to work instead if buying it at the downstairs cafe each day. Don't add in the next thing until these are easy peasy lemon squeezy! You might not feel like you're doing enough, but we don't forget - we need you committed and doing your best for the long haul, not for a few days!
Some ideas you might start with:
- Keep reusable bags in your front car seat and bring them for every shop.
- Commit to buying no new clothes for 'x' period of time.
- Start buying loose veggies, such as salad greens and beans, in mushroom bags (or produce bags) rather than plastic bags.
- Start composting your food scraps, whether at home or at someone else's place (join the Share Waste app to see who is collecting scraps in your area!) See my post HERE for tips.
- Switch your tea to loose leaf/start buying coffee beans in container refills
- Start bringing your own containers to the deli and asking staff to use them (most will let you, and it's not illegal!)
- BYO reusable coffee cup every time you want to take away, and keep yourself accountable by either sitting in or going without if you forget it.
- Pick one or two regular foods that typically come in plastic, and seek packaging-free alternatives for them
- If you buy lots of herbs or greens, start a small herb garden. See my post HERE for tips.
3 - Seek Support
I recommend doing this with another person (or two). This is helpful for many reasons:
- You can help to keep each other accountable along the way
- You can inspire or motivate each other with words and new ideas
- It's so valuable to have another person who 'gets it' in your corner! It can be tricky by yourself as you might feel you're the 'only one doing something', which isn't true, but feels like it at times
- When you start to fall off the wagon (we ALL do sometimes, trust me), someone is there to help you back up!
As I learned how to reduce my waste, I had so many conversations with my mate Meg along the way, and we basically motivated each other, to the point we started educating others on our wins and fails! We set up Towards Zero Waste Geelong to run workshops and discussions within our community, a group that continues today on Facebook and (post Covid) in future workshops.
4 - Know Your Why
As I mentioned, we all fall off the wagon sometimes. Whether we get busy, go on holidays, change jobs, have a baby, whatever - our priorities shift and all of a sudden Earth care slides down the list and our bins fill up again. If you develop a strong why - the big, emotional, strong reason in your heart that you want to do your best for Mother Earth - you have a powerful motivator to fall back on and keep your momentum. You may know your why at the drop of a hat, or you might need to think about it to flesh it out. This is where you can apply what you have learned in step one, make the connection between it and the emotions that come up around it, and hone in on the core reason you are choosing to act rather than stay complacent. This needs to be positive and deeply meaningful - if our why is based on more superficial guilt or because someone said it was the 'right thing', it's probably not motivating enough. For example, 'I try not to use single-use plastic because I feel bad about filling up our bins when I see my friend on Instagram post about their zero waste life' is not going to be nearly as motivating as 'I try not to use single-use plastic because I am committed to reducing my impact on the current mass species extinction'. You might have many why's, you might have one. What matters in the end is that it's based on an informed decision, and how it makes you feel. Come back to your why again and again for maximum impact.
Changing your waste habits is really no different to committing to a gym membership or new routine. Discipline does come into it, but most important is the core motivating factor - your why - behind your choices, and seeking support along the way. If I can go from a full bin to an almost empty one in a matter of months, you can too!
For more tips and inspiration, as well as event info, make sure you're following @seedblog on Instagram and Facebook. I love messages, comments and questions, as well as shares of anything you find helpful! Thanks for taking time from your day to read this, legend.