posted in: Home, Outdoors | 28

Litter and waste is a huge issue, and one that is high on the agenda at the moment – at least. The amount of rubbish I throw away has always bothered me, and I am always on the lookout for ways I can do my bit to cut waste. I am a huge believer that small changes can make a big difference, and if we each to our part it can lead to world-changing results. 

Ten Ways to Cut Waste

Research published in the journal Anthropocene suggests that as humans we have made enough plastic since the second world war to completely coat the Earth in cling film. That’s a lot of Blue Peter projects! Nowhere is immune; everywhere is polluted with the remains of water containers, supermarket bags, polystyrene packaging, cigarette ends, nylons and other kinds of plastic waste, including everything from microscopic grains like the kind found in our toothpaste, to massive lumps of compacted waste piled up high in landfill. And we absolutely know that the impact is extremely damaging to wildlife, nature, the environment, and our resources.

Put it this way… Every single piece of plastic you have ever used still exists. Water and coke bottles, the lids from takeaway coffee cups, straws, beads from exfoliating face wash, those plastic rings keeping multi-pack cans together, ready meal trays, even some clothing. Some of it may well have been reused or recycled if it was lucky enough to find its way to the right waste plant or project site, but it hasn’t actually gone anywhere; it is somewhere.

With all this in mind, I thought I’d come up with ten ideas for how we can each cut waste. I want to encourage you to make one or two small changes to your habits that could make a massive impact on our outdoors environment. Little things can make a big difference; here are my suggestions for things you and I can all do.

Ten Ways to Cut Waste

1. Use Cloth Shopping Bags

Possibly the simplest way to help reduce our plastic consumption is to stop saying yes to plastic bags when shopping. It’s been made even easier here in the UK because we now get charged 5p for each carrier bag, which isn’t very much, but it has worked and carrier bag usage is down significantly as a result. Excellent.

I have cloth bags in my handbag, in my desk drawer at work, in the cupboard under the stairs where I keep my shoes, and in the boot of the car. This means that, generally speaking, I have a bag available whenever I go shopping. It’s such a simple thing, but it makes a massive difference, it’s just a case of getting into the habit of carrying a bag and saying “no” when the cashier asks if you’d like a carrier bag.

And you can even buy a One Hour Outside tote bag if you want something a bit different…!

2. Buy Loose Fruit and Veg 

While I’m talking about plastic bags, another super easy way to reduce plastic consumption is to buy your fresh fruit and vegetables loose. Either head to the market or farm shop instead of the supermarket to do your shopping (which will almost always be cheaper too, I’ve found), or choose the loose product rather than the pre-packaged stuff when you’re in the supermarket. You don’t actually need one of those little clear plastic bags they provide – you’re going to peel or wash the food anyway; just put it in your trolley or basket as it is, then into your cloth bag, and then bung it straight into your fridge or pantry drawer when you get home.

If you’re buying loads of veg in one go, and having it loose in your trolley becomes so annoying you can’t bear it, take a look at the reusable mesh bags that are now available – such as these from Amazon – they make no difference to the weight and therefore cost of the product, and look like a useful alternative.

3. Drink Tap Water

I’m afraid I don’t understand why people regularly chooses to purchase bottled water, some of which isn’t even mineral water, rather than drinking what comes out of the tap. Single use plastic water bottles are one of the most common pieces of litter to be found in our cities and countryside, and they are not as recyclable as you may think (not to mention the science that is now suggesting that the plastic is harmful to our health). The huge demand for single use plastic bottles means we are manufacturing more and more plastic; making the switch from bottled to tap water is a great way to make a difference to the environment.

Drink from a glass when you are at home or in the office, and carry a reusable water bottle when you are out and about. Personally speaking I prefer the stainless steel style water bottles, such as those by Klean Kanteen, as I find they keep water nicer and never take on any flavour of their own. I’ve found that more and more places are installing drinking water fountains to make refilling bottles easy and convenient, which also helps, and you can download the Refill app which will tell you where your nearest station is. I know there are times when bottled water is the only option, there are always exceptions to the rule, but if you use a glass or reusable bottle as much as you can then you will help humans make a huge step forward.

If you don’t like the taste of tap water you can buy a filter, either one that attaches to your tap directly, or one that goes in your fridge.

4. Carry Your Own Coffee Cup

If using a reusable water bottle solves one problem, then using your own coffee cup solves another. Because they have been coated to keep them watertight, takeaway cups from the majority of coffee shops cannot be recycled other than at a very specialist centre. Put your used coffee cup in a recycling bin in most cities, and it’ll just go to landfill. Starbucks, Costa, Café Nero and other coffee chains are more than happy to make your favourite brew in your own reusable mug, and many now give you a discount on your favourite brew to say thank you. Hand it over when you order and the barrister will gladly take it.

Splodz Blogz | Klean Kanteen Tumbler

5. Take a Packed Lunch

There is so much packaging associated with take away and “on the go” food; whether you end up getting a meal deal from Boots, a super food salad from Pret, some noodles or other pre-packaged food from the supermarket, there is always food covered waste to throw away (which cannot be recycled either; only clean packaging goes to the recycling plant, everything else goes to landfill). One sure fire way to stop this problem is to plan ahead and take a packed lunch. Use a reusable container and take your own. We’d all save money by doing this, too.

I wrote a whole post on cutting lunchtime waste here, if you’re interested.

Splodz Blogz | Gift Ideas to Cut Lunchtime Plastic

6. Eat In

Another way to avoid all the packaging associated with “on the go” and take away food is to eat in. Choosing to sit inside a coffee shop to drink your coffee, or head into a restaurant instead of a fast food chain, means you’ll get cups, plates and proper cutlery instead of lots of plastic. There are also some cool salad bars where they’ll happily fill your own container. Dining out is one of life’s pleasures, for me anyway, and so choosing to take time over my food at a table is a joy. Remember that it is okay not to eat while rushing around; build time into your schedule and choose to eat in.

7. No Extra Plastic Bits

Plastic straws, cup lids and disposable cutlery are three things we could easily say no to but we never think about it, it’s just an automatic provision. Convenience wins and we just stick with the status quo. We don’t need these things really; we can make do without. Ask for your coffee or soft drink cup without a lid (or don’t put one on), and don’t take a straw. Takeaway cups are never filled to the top and so a little bit of extra care as you walk along and you are saving quite a bit of plastic. Keep a spork in your bag or stainless-steel cutlery in your desk drawer so you don’t have to take the disposable cutlery from the counter when you buy a salad. If you really can’t do without a straw, you can buy a glass or bamboo one and carry it with you like you do your cloth bags.

8. Use Naked Packaging

Fruit and veg aside, which have their own very handy packaging built in, there are other things you can purchase that have no packaging. And some places are being quite innovative in coming up with new ideas and new things for us to try.

For example, I use solid shampoo and conditioner bars from Lush instead of buying bottles. I had a chat with one of the advisers who helped me choose which would be most suitable for my hair, and have been using them for a couple of days. It’s different to using traditional shampoo and conditioner that comes in liquid form in a plastic bottle, but it works incredibly well and I’m very happy.

You can also look out specifically for eco-friendly packaging and make choices based on less plastic.

Splodz Blogz in Lush, Lincoln - Lush Shampoo Bar

9. Go Paperless

Okay, so this is paper rather than plastic, but if we all made an effort to reduce the amount of mail we receive or paperwork we print out, the environment would thank us. Think of the trees! Ask your energy supplier, phone provider, insurers and bank to send your bills and statements by email rather than in the post, and keep your files on your computer or in the cloud rather than printing everything else and keeping it in a physical folder.

10. Other Reusable Options

There are lots of other reusable options you can choose, and I’ve lumped these in my tenth suggestion as they may be a bigger step than the rest of the ideas, involving a bit more commitment. You could use reusable rags or tea towels instead of kitchen roll, switch to washable nappies and sanitary towels (or a moon cup style product), make your own household cleaning products and keep them in glass jars, start cooking everything from scratch so you don’t need package-heavy ready meals or freezer food, start a compost bin in your garden for all your natural waste. If you’ve got the time and energy to make this kind of commitment then you can be well on the way to becoming waste free! There really are hundreds of ways rather than just ten.

Ten Ways to Cut Waste

The list is huge, and while some of the ideas might seem difficult or maybe even pointless at first, most of these can be incorporated into life without much bother at all and they all go some way to reducing our impact on the world around us. It just takes a little bit of effort to begin with, and once it becomes habit you are absolutely doing your part. I’m certainly nowhere near being perfect with any of these, a long way from it, but I am trying different things to do my part in looking after the environment. And that’s what it is about – if we all made some changes then that adds up to something huge.

Do you have any easy-to-implement suggestions that would help us all cut waste? Tell me below!

[ Originally published in January 2017. Updated and re-published December 2018. ]

28 Responses

  1. Elizabeth (@TangoRaindrop)

    My husband and I were discussing the amount of waste we produce this morning. As a family of five we seem to make a lot of rubbish and so we’re going to actively tackle this. Also, we’re really looking forward to our cleanup early next week! 🙂

    • Splodz

      It’s difficult isn’t it? It’s a shame that in order to reduce waste we have to make extra effort. Looking forward to hearing what you collect on your clean-up 🙂

  2. lovinglifeinwelliesblog

    Great article!

    i have stopped using plastic carrier bags and instead bundle my shopping straight into the boot and then it goes into a box which we reuse every week, to help us go from car to house. I do have a collection of re-usable bags which i always forget to take every week, hence the carrying.

    I try not to buy plastic water bottles. I’ve my own water bottle and since i’m on well water, I much prefer the taste of that compared to fluoride infested water from the main grid.

    I try to reduce using baby wipes etc since I’m on a sceptic tank, we can’t flush anything like that down and so I now use a face wash but in the past. coconut oil *which I’d like to get back to’ since it’s eco friendly, is a better alternative.

    I do recycle (it’s the Law in Wales) and collect things like plastic jars for jam making and chutney making etc.

    A cafe that I eat at regularly uses all bio-degradable plates and utensils (4 weeks they take) and I bought Rik one of those re-usable coffee cups.

    I make much more of an effort that I used to and I think if everyone one us made just a small effort, it would really count. What I’d love to see is the manufacturing industry kept a close eye on as these are one of the biggest waste idiots you can get!

    Thankfully my area of countryside is clean. Apart from the occasional well known happy meal or drinks carton, which I can only assume is from travelers, passing through on the back lanes. It makes me annoyed and sad to think they’ve just thrown it out of the window because no one is around here and won’t see….

    • Splodz

      Hey thanks so much for your comment, really pleased you enjoyed my post and that you are taking waste management at home very seriously. You’ve added some great tips, maybe a box in the boot of my car would be easier than those cloth bags for shopping, I might try that.

      You’re definitely right, the big manufacturing companies do need sorting out. I hope to see new legislation to force big business to get their waste management under control, but in the mean time I will continue to talk with my actions by not buying plastic water bottles or taking straws for my drinks. It’s so important we start at home; get ourselves in order and if enough of us make those small changes then it will be noticed. This morning I popped to the refectory at work for my breakfast and took a plate whereas my colleagues took polystyrene boxes – one commented that I was being posh, I simply said I didn’t want the polystyrene. I hope she takes a plate next time.

  3. margauxdoey

    Hey Zoe – great tips. I already do a fair few of them, but never feel I’m actually doing enough. Great tip about the shampoo and conditioner bars though, really interested to hear how those work out for you. How do you deal with keeping the side of the bath clean though?

    • Splodz

      Glad to hear you are already ticking lots of these off. The shampoo and conditioner is definitely doing the job cleaning my hair but yes I need to work on the storage side of things… I keep them in a little plastic box now; lid off until they are dry and then lid on to stop them getting damp when the other half takes a shower. But I do have to rinse the bath/shower because they are SO bright in colour and it does dribble. I’ll keep you informed!

      • Splodz

        I’m afraid that is the way that twitter works with wordpress, as twitter doesn’t allow the site to see your email address to send you a notification of any further comments. If you’d like to be notified, you’ll need to use a method that includes your email address.

  4. ainzh92

    Love the theme of this post Zoe!

    I’ve been using the Lush shampoos for over a year now and love them. They last ages, and for frequent travellers there is no chance of them bursting all over your luggage – bonus!

    I often use small plastic sandwich bags to organise my food for expeditions. I’d be keen to cut down on how many I go through if anyone has suggestions 🙂

    • Splodz

      I’ve only just discovered the Lush solid shampoo and I am definitely a convert. They’re such a good idea.

      Yes those small plastic bags are so handy when travelling (and hiking and camping etc) – I use them too. They are more compact then reusable boxes and pack down super small when you’re done with them. I wonder if there are reusable alternatives that we can wash out? I’ll look into it 🙂

  5. slo

    Did a litter pick today, but I guess the stats for a beach in Australia aren’t useful for your challenge 😉 Some great ideas listed, and I look forward to hearing more of the sandwich bag replacement quest.

    • Splodz

      Excellent – and of course they are useful, this is a worldwide problem and it’s good you are doing your part 🙂

  6. Lauren M

    Some really good and doable ideas here. I’ve never heard of shampoo and conditioner bars, looking forward to seeing how you get on with them!

  7. dave

    Great post. I’ve been eyeing up the Kleen Kanteen bottles for a while, though I’ve got a selection of others knocking around from Scout adventures. Need to make more use of them. I also need to make more use of my Keep Cup instead of getting a takeaway coffee cup. I will make sure I do so from now on!

    • Splodz

      It’s so easy to forget and so difficult to break a habit… the Klean Kanteen bottles are definitely brilliant, I much prefer the steel to any plastic version.

      • dave

        do you have any preference for travel mugs? I’ve got a big Contigo travel mug which is great for keeping coffee hot, but I’m looking into alternatives for my KeepCup as the one I have is pretty small (came free with my coffee subscription). I may just go for a larger one which I’d use instead of a takeaway cup, or when I get a coffee at lunchtimes.

      • Splodz

        They sell those small Keep Cups at my work coffee shop, they do look tiny I have to say! LincsGeek has the Bodum one, I think it comes in two sizes – it’s stainless steel rather than plastic and so cleans up well and doesn’t take on any flavour if you like to switch your drinks from coffee to tea.

    • Splodz

      Thanks Karen – bottled water is definitely one of the biggest problems in my opinion. I can see why people buy it, I have bought it, but with the smallest amount of planning it’s just not necessary.

  8. Anna

    This is a fantastic list! I used to go shopping at the farmer’s market which was sooo cheap and great but there isn’t one locally that I could get to. But the other things I agree with also: I have a reusable water bottle and coffee cup (Yay for Klean Kanteen) and am thinking about adding reusable straws to the collection.
    I try to cook at home 98% of the time and bring my food to work in glass or metal containers. Adam was surprised to learn how easy it is to even freeze stuff in glass! So now we have a whole range of food options available in the freezer at any given time.
    What still bugs me are the papers. So many “official” things need to be done using pen and paper, nothing is electronic yet. Germany (where I am from) introduced ID cards with a chip so you could elictronically register for things or change addresses etc. The only problem? It wasn’t adopted. Anyway, every little counts!

    • Splodz

      Glad you like the list Anna. I hope to encourage people to make little changes themselves, for that is the only difference we can make as individuals. If we all make little changes then we will surely notice a difference in the environment. If we all had a Klean Kanteen (or similar, of course…) that would be a huge start.

  9. Helena

    You have some great ideas for cutting waste here. We try where we can to cut down but the supermarkets have also got lessons to learn. #OutdoorBloggers

    • Splodz

      You’re right, supermarkets and coffee shops really need to step up their game. But it is so often the case that big business will not change until the consumer requires it. We do our bit and others will follow.

  10. Colin Rowland

    Hey Zoe, great post. There is one thing which is really starting to worry me more and more – most outdoor clothing is made from manmade fibres. It’s great at what it does, but I am concerned that each wash releases tiny particles. Any views on this – should we all wear wool and waxed cotton?

    • Splodz

      This is also a concern of mine, and I am torn. Cotton smells, merino and bamboo is expensive, down has ethical issues. But yes, man-made fabrics cause all kinds of environmental issues.

      Personally, I have been making merino and bamboo choices where I can. I am also a great believer in making the gear you already own last as long as possible; using something until it really is finished rather than getting rid because fashion or whim takes hold. Also, choosing to purchase from manufacturers with a conscience helps, I feel.

      You can get little mesh bags – I think they are called guppy bags – to catch all the microfibres when washing your technical gear so you can dispose of it properly. Definitely something to consider.

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