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Low waste living

The health of our planet was a hot topic before Covid-19 came along and moved our priorities to the health of the entire human race.

Diane Hall


Recycle symbol

You can’t have missed those videos (or Attenborough’s TV shows) that show sea creatures getting caught up and sometimes killed from the plastic waste swimming about their ocean environments. Even on land, the impact of our plastic waste—whether this is an empty drinks bottle thrown carelessly into the countryside, or the huge mounds of plastic in landfills—can devastate fragile eco-systems and cause damage to living creatures as well as the environment. Plastic in rivers can cause them to become blocked and each item of plastic waste takes 400 years to degrade.

Disposable plastics is a relatively new phenomenon. Our parents’ and especially our grandparents’ generations used glass bottles for milk and pop, for example, which were returned to the manufacturer for reuse/refilling. 

There are plenty of places today where you can buy milk, cream and orange juice in glass bottles, which are much easier to recycle than plastic. For coffee lovers, consider taking your own flask or refillable cup into coffee shops for your morning latte, and for those who like to have water with them throughout the day, buy a metal flask that can be continually refilled.

On a similar note, look at reducing the amount of plastic packaging you throw away. There are outlets that allow you to weigh out how much you need of a certain directly into your own containers. These ‘weigh your own’ shops offer cereals, grains, rice and other foodstuffs.

handkerchief in a box

handkerchief in a box


Use a handkerchief

Anything disposable is a bad idea, even paper. When you’re suffering from the sniffles, take a pack of cloth handkerchiefs to work with you. Not only will these be less abrasive on your poor, sore nose, they can be washed in the washing machine to be used again. 

If you know that you’re going to visit a fast-food joint, dampen a few handkerchiefs and pop them into a plastic food bag (which can be washed and reused each time). You can then wipe the kids’ faces and hands after they’ve finished as effectively as using a baby/hand wipe, but without damaging the environment. Disposable wipes take around 100 years to decompose.

food shopping

food shopping

Buy only the food you need

Food waste is a huge issue. The amount of food we throw away each year runs into many tonnes, yet we have people amongst us starving or suffering from malnutrition. 

Adding food waste to our landfill is simply unnecessary, and its impact on the environment goes further than this. Because we’ve become accustomed to having every type of food available all year round, rather than eating food of the season that has been produced within the UK, we import a vast amount of food from other countries. The associated air miles and carbon footprint of this indulgence have a detrimental effect on the environment.

Menu planning is one way to cut down on food waste, because you’re more likely to just purchase the food you need. Resist two-for-one offers—particularly on fruit, vegetables and items with short use-by dates—if you’re unlikely to consume all the food before it passes its best. 

Consider creating a compost heap in a spare corner of the garden. Egg shells, fruit and veg peelings, teabags and ground coffee beans all biodegrade to make a rich compost for your plants. Much better being put to use in your garden than adding to the mound of waste at your nearest landfill site.

Use natural cleaners

The various chemicals from all the different cleaning solutions on the market eventually go back into our water supply, which needs more treating to become drinkable again. 

There are numerous ‘recipes’ online for cleaning solutions that can be made from natural ingredients, such as distilled vinegar, bicarbonate of soda, lavender, lemon and salt. Such elements are not pollutants and don’t contaminate our water like most artificial chemicals.

These are simple actions that can help you do your bit for the environment. If we all practised them, we could, perhaps, slow the damage to our planet.

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