When it comes to doing our bit for the environment, we tend to focus on recycling or reducing our reliance on packaging as much as we can.
But waste is about more than boxes and plastic bottles. Do you use all the food in your fridge or throw it in the bin? Do you repair your clothes or chuck them out and buy new outfits?
About £15 billion worth of edible food each year is binned every year in the UK, equalling more than seven billion tonnes, according to figures from Love Food Hate Waste. And then there’s our addiction to buying new things – from smartphones and electronic goods, to kids toys, homeware and clothing.
Zero Waste Week (3 - 7 September) is an annual awareness raising campaign that asks consumers to take a long, hard look at their consumption and encourages them to make change. Here are just a few ways you can do your bit.
1. Organise your fridge and get creative
Firstly, make sure your fridge is at the right temperature - between 0°C and 5°C to help preserve food for longer. Love Food Hate Waste recommends that dairy and left over foods should go on the top and middle shelves, meats should go on the bottom shelves and that veg and fruit (which can last two weeks longer in a fridge) should go in the bottom drawers for maximum longevity.
Once you have your fridge organised, take stock of what basics you have in the cupboard and the freezer and get creative. Love Food Hate Waste has lots of recipe inspiration so that you can use up all your ingredients and leftovers rather than chucking them. You can view these here.
You can also freeze most foods – from meat to grated cheese, milk and bread. Although there are lots of foods you shouldn’t freeze, such as eggs, raw veg and yoghurts as they don’t tend to keep as well.
2. Grow your own vegetables and herbs
If you have a sunny garden you can plant a whole array of vegetables straight from the cupboard into the ground, saving waste and money.
Remember those potatoes at the back of the cupboard that have grown sprouts? They can be put straight into the soil rather than in the bin.
Potatoes are really easy to grow (if you have a garden) and just need a little water and sun. Onions that have sprouted can also be planted rather than chucked - you cut off the top part of the onion with the roots still intact before planting. You can do similar with celery and lettuce too after placing the end of the vegetable in water to let it re-root.
Living herbs can give you all of the flavour you like in your cooking, without the waste. Potted herbs - like basil, coriander, rosemary and thyme can be bought really cheaply and kept alive for a long time with a little care - saving you from buying small plastic packs.
3. Sort out your wardrobe
According to figures from Wrap, the UK buys one million tonnes of clothing each year but discards 300,000 tonnes. That’s a lot of waste and a staggering amount of clothes.
Could you commit to cutting down? Or give up buying clothes for a challenge? If you want to make a change then looking through your wardrobe is a good place to start. Although many of us are addicted to fast fashion, an overflowing wardrobe can actually make you feel like you have ‘nothing to wear’ and confuse your style.
Editing your wardrobe and pairing old items together can throw up lots of unexpected new outfits. It you have lots of clothes, then rearranging your wardrobe to summer and winter clothes, or into similar colours, can help you see the wood for the trees.
4. Upcycle and repair
On the subject of clothes. Chances are you’ve thrown an item of clothing away rather than repairing it? Wise up to Waste has listed simple instructions you can follow to sew on buttons, repair hems, and adjust seems.
Homeware can be bought really cheaply now and is readily available. But rather than discarding old bits of furniture, you can get crafty and upcycle it. For inspiration, you can look here.
5. Recycle and compost
Where there is unavoidable waste, make sure to wash it out and recycle it (if it’s recyclable) or compost it if you can.
Fruit and vegetable peelings, plate scrapings, coffee grinds, tea leaves, paper towels and tissues that haven’t touched meat and egg shells can all be added to household food waste bins for composting if you have one. That waste is often turned into anaerobic digestion - which turns waste food into biogas that can be harnessed for heat electricity.