THE RUBBISH DIET - EIGHT SIMPLE STEPS TO SLIM YOUR BIN
If you're keen to reduce your household waste but don't know where to start, why not consider the quick start guide below and follow your very own Rubbish Diet plan. Just remember to regularly weigh-in and watch that bin get slimmer by the week.
STEP 1: Set the date! Find an appropriate date when you will take part in your very own Zero Waste Week. During that week your challenge will be to avoid buying or throwing away anything that can't be composted or recycled. A week with zero waste to landfill! Just make sure you've got about 8 weeks to prepare for your challenge. The longer you've got, the easier it will be. And tell your friends, so you can gather support. You could use your efforts to fundraise for a good cause, such as Comic Relief in March. It'll be a lot easier than running a marathon and more pleasant than sitting in a bath of baked beans and you're guaranteed a few laughs while you're at it.
STEP 2: Weigh in! Eight weeks before your Zero Waste Week starts, measure your weekly\fortnightly landfill waste so you get a real understanding of what you're up against and how badly you need to slim that bin! Estimate the cubic litres (based on the size of your bin) or put your rubbish on the weighing scales. Just be consistent as you'll need to weigh-in every Bin Day to measure your progress and keep motivated towards your goal.
STEP 3: Analyse your rubbish! Look at what you throw away and work out the greatest offenders as a percentage of your waste. Then tackle them one by one.
STEP 4: Do your research! Even if you're confident about what can be recycled in your area, phone your council for the latest information on kerbside facilities, recycling centres or bring-banks. If you prefer using the Internet look up the details at www.recyclenow.com.
STEP 5: Revamp your recycling system! You'll need a system that is convenient and easy to use. An excellent range of sorting bins is available at www.homerecycling.co.uk, but if money is tight, you can create a well-organised solution with just boxes and bags.
STEP 6: Remember to recycle everything you can! Get to know your recycling labels and scour the shelves for products where the packaging can be easily recycled in your area. Swap products that can't be recycled for those that can or find packaging that can easily biodegrade in your compost bin. Remember that polythene bags can be reused and when they wear out, most supermarkets will take them off your hands. TetraPak now has a carton recycling point in many areas of the UK as do Brita for the collection of its water cartridges. Drop things off on the way to work, share a rota with friends and neighbours, or swap items with family. Reuse what can't be recycled.
STEP 7. Reduce everything else! Try some of the following ideas that can be incorporated into your daily lifestyle and watch your rubbish gradually disappear. Take each idea one step at a time and you'll have a slimmer bin in no time at all.
- Break free from Junk Mail! Cancel your catalogues, telephone directories and junk mail. For top tips, visit www.stopjunkmail.org.uk.
- Shop with waste in mind! Avoid packaging and buy loose where possible. Onya Weigh Bags are great for bagging up loose fruit and veg. Take your own containers for meat and dairy products and if you're in London, make a trip to Unpackaged, which sells packaging-free produce. Lush sells unpackaged toiletries including shampoo bars, butter bars and deodorants. When going shopping remember your own bags, baskets or trolley bag and don't forget to buy recycled products to help drive the demand for recyclates back into a closed loop economy. With resources piling up in warehouses this is more important than ever before.
- Think reusable and refillable! When it comes to toiletries or cleaning products, look for things that can be refilled or reused. Microfibre cloths use water and don't need chemicals at all. Eco balls are great for cutting down the laundry bills and for cleaning products try the Wiggly Wigglers refillable Ecover service, which it offers by post. Think about ditching disposable sanitary products for washable ones and if you're looking for refillable cosmetics, try Naturisimo, which offers a great range of lipstick, mascara and powder refills. For the office, consider refilling your printer cartridges. Regular visits to Cartridge World could make you a huge saving.
- Become an experimental cook! Turn your kitchen into a science lab and set yourself some mini-challenges. Try your hands at bread, pasta, pastry, jam or even yogurt. With a little practice. they're all easier than you'd expect and just take time and a new routine and it will help ditch more packaging, even if it's once in a while. Take lessons at your local college and you'll soon be proficient. Londoners can also drop into Just Fresh Pasta for tips on how to pick up a few Italian skills and if you live in Somerset book up with the Magdalen Project to take part in one of Tracey Smith's breadmaking courses (I've heard she's very good).
- Grow your own food! Even if it's a pot of herbs on your windowsill, that's fewer plastic packets heading for landfill! For instant garden packs try Natural Collection, Rocket Gardens or The Kitchen Garden Company and for an alternative to the plastic pot plant check out Hairy Pot Plants.
- Reduce your food waste! Food waste left to rot in landfill generates methane, a greenhouse gas that is 23% more powerful than carbon dioxide. So work on cutting down your food waste. If convenient, shop more regularly and buy less food. Cook with friends and use up leftovers. Then freeze portions for another day. See www.lovefoodhatewaste.com for lots of inspiration.
- Compost it! Even if you've just got a few containers, home composting is a great way of recycling your kitchen scraps into something nutritious for your plants. If you haven't got much space think about a wormery. And there's always a bokashi bin, which accepts fish and meat, then after a few weeks the contents can be added to your compost bin, wormery or dug into the ground. Another solution is the Green Cone, a food digester.
- Plan it! Remember a zero waste lifestyle also applies when you're out and about. So buy coffee in reusable cups and take a lunch-box to work. Plan a zero waste picnic without clingfilm or foil and use reusable containers instead.
- Repair it! Don't just throw something away if it's broken. Take your shoes to the cobblers, your clothes to a tailor or get an electrician to fix your gadgets. And if it's spares you need for your electricals, visit the online shop at espares.
- Exchange it! Even if it's broken don't just dump it, give it away through exchange communities such as Freecycle or LETS bartering groups. Or if you need a few bucks, sell it at a boot fair or on eBay. Just be honest about its condition. Of course, there are always a whole host of charity shops that could do with your well cared-for goods in good condition.
- Go Virtual! Avoid physical clutter by going digital. Read your newspaper online or download your favourite magazines at Magazinesondemand and Zinio.com. Listen to books at Audible.com or buy ebooks instead. Ditch CDs for digital downloads on itunes, emusic or napster. Or if you can cope with adverts try Accuradio for free. Find films on Sky or Freeview or download movies on demand from BT or Tesco's new digital service. For those who enjoy PC games, dump the CD for downloads at Steam. And if you really don't fancy the virtual option, there's always your local library.
- Go Rechargeable! Swap your disposable batteries for rechargeable ones and buy rechargable gadgets instead. For inspiration visit the Centre for Alternative Technology and check out their online shop as well as Natural Collection and Nigel's Eco Store.
- Give Recycled Gifts! Buying recycled gifts may not directly reduce the size of your dustbin, but it helps keep materials out of landfill. And there are so many different products available there is something for everyone's taste. For hand-crafted gifts try Eco Emporia and for a wonderful stationary range and some really funky chickens take a peek at Love Eco. EcoCentric also offers many a stylish gift for your delectation. And if you still can't find what you're looking for, lots more ideas can be found at the Recycled Products Guide.
By resolving to reduce your rubbish, you'll be joining a popular trend. For inspiration visit My zero waste, Aiming-low, Zero Waist, jrzerowastechallenge and Home Zero Waste. There are also loads of other links in the sidebar that will give you plenty of options to consider.
And as for life thereafter. Well, there's one thing that can be guaranteed...it will never be the same again....for you or indeed your bin.
[*Edits - this post was originally published in December 2008 and has been edited to remove the Christmas context as it can be applied to any time of the year]