Have you ever wondered what happened to the first two R’s in Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle? Well, I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen countless amount of campaigns about recycling and hardly any about reducing or reusing waste. I am by no means saying that recycling is bad nor that we should stop doing so. Recycling in fact, saves half the amount of energy used to produce products compared to items made from virgin materials. So why bother with reducing waste or reusing items? The reality is that majority of waste doesn’t get recycled and ends up in landfills or the oceans. Did you know 18 billion pounds (about 8 billion kilograms) of plastic pollutes the ocean every year? And that’s only counting plastic. Collectively, we can stop this from happening by the amount of waste we bring into our lives. This can be done by implementing small changes such as using a reusable water bottle or bringing your own cup when you get coffee. I know it seems daunting when almost every video on YouTube or Facebook about Zero Waste indirectly encourages you to spend money on items such as a fancy metal bottle or reusable glass jar which you may already have lying around at home. But it shouldn’t be so, because reducing waste is all about reusing items which you already have – plus, it can save you lot more money.
So, here’s some tips for you that cost nothing at all to get started reducing waste:
- ECOSIA – plant trees while you browse
That’s right. Trees are being planted around the globe as you research for your next essay on Shakespeare when you use this search engine. I get to look at memes on my phone as well as on my laptop and trees are being planted so, why not? Also, Ecosia is very transparent about what they do and where their proceeds are going. Not only is the environment benefiting from this but so are many local communities where the trees are planted such as Indonesia, Madagascar, and Ghana. More about Ecosia can be found here.
- Bring a reusable water bottle or coffee cup
Why spend 10-50p on water when you can get it for free from your tap at home and bring it to university in your own bottle? Plus, you’ll never be without water because there are water fountains provided in every university building (the ones I’ve been to anyway. Nevertheless, if you have your own bottle, you shouldn’t be worried).
Did you know you can save 10p from your daily coffee/tea at all the university outlets such as the Diamond if you bring your own cup? If you’re someone like me who needs their daily dose of tea, that’s a lot of money saved. To put that into perspective, that’s 10 less single use cups with their plastic lids in the trash bins if you were to drink 2 coffees per day a week. So, bring those cups and stop your bank account from shrinking!
- Bring a Shopping bag or reuse your plastic bag
Just like a reusable coffee/tea cup, you can save lots of money and reduce the amount of plastic waste by bringing a reusable bag or tote wherever you go. It doesn’t take a lot of space in a rug sack or a handbag either. In fact, most reusable bags now fold into a neat little pouch of their own – reducing the space they take up in any bag. But if you do have plastic bags at home already, don’t throw them, reuse them until they wear out – and trust me, they take a long time to do so.
- Refuse plastic straws
Straws are a big contributor to the plastic waste because they are single use and since they aren’t big like plastic containers, they end up in waterways and into the ocean – damaging ocean life. One way I reduce using straws is to refuse straws altogether and drink my fizzy drinks without one. For my bubble tea (this does cost a bit of money), I invested in a metal straw. It is something to consider if you’re someone like me who loves their bubble tea!
- Refuse fliers and freebies!
Man, freebies are great, especially the ones at the student’s union during fresher’s week. However, I end up having to throw away all the fliers I receive because I don’t have any use for them. If you can get the information online, great! If not, why not writing stuff in your phone? Also, I honestly don’t think it’s worth it to subscribe to 10 companies just to get a free cupcake or smoothie. Your future self will thank you for not putting your email in for that random company which you’ll probably forget.
Finally, just remember, there are no mistakes. Bought that bubble tea after a bad week but forgot all about your metal straw? It’s alright, everyone is learning, and we all forget. It is a learning process and it’s difficult – even for me who has known about these facts for a long while. It’s all about the little things – I mean, humans aren’t reinventing the wheel every day, are they? So just do what you can, because even the little changes can go a long way.