Zero waste - recycling less, not more

environment recycle reduce reuse

Sustainability expert Kellie Benner has been so kind to write this month's blog post. Please enjoy anf feel free to chime in using the comment section at the end of the post. Here is the Raw Chia Pudding recipe (image below), in case your mouth was watering from the image. Cheyney xxx

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Living ‘zero waste’ means sending nothing to landfill, and usually involves dealing with nearly all of your waste on your own property- through composting. It’s not about recycling as much as possible, but rather about buying in bulk with reusable containers, using your own container or cup for takeaways, fixing things when they break, and using nothing disposable (think straws, plastic water bottles, plastic utensils, etc).

The concept of creating ‘zero waste’ may seem daunting, but it’s important to recognise that you don’t have to be perfect. Sustainability is a journey, not an endpoint. Every little change you make can help create less waste- from remembering your reusable shopping bags or coffee cup, to buying quality over quantity.

Camille Co. soaps and candles are great examples of zero waste- when you reuse the jars and compost or recycle the paper packaging (which has no staples, glues or plastic that can make the recycling process difficult), there is nothing going to landfill. Paper and glass are two of the only recyclable materials that are actually recycled in NZ, so your Camille Co. packaging is as sustainable as it gets. Read more about Camille Co. packaging here.

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Why recycling isn’t the answer

Most of us were taught to live by the motto ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’. But our focus is almost always on ‘recycle’, rather than the first two steps- ‘reduce’ and ‘reuse’.

Recycling may be better than throwing something away, but it’s far from perfect. The energy that goes into transporting the material to a sorting plant, sorting it, and shipping it to the recycling plant (often in Asia), can outweigh the benefits.

This is why it’s important to use your own bag, cup, fork or takeaway container when you’re out and about.

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There is no ‘away’

When you throw something ‘away’, it doesn’t disappear. It ends up in a landfill, which is a big hole in the ground. Landfills are pretty scary places. Methane is released when organic matter (food, paper, cotton) breaks down in a landfill, where there is no oxygen. Methane is a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide, so landfills are major contributors to climate change. Landfills can also leak toxic liquids into the environment and waterways nearby.

It doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom. There are tons of businesses and community groups doing awesome things for the environment, and to reduce waste. Check out organisations like Sustainable Coastlines, Para Kore, and the Sustainable Business Network to find out more, or get involved.

Hannah and Liam from the Rubbish Trip have been living completely zero waste for three years, and are now taking their story across NZ. They’ve put a ton of work into creating regional zero waste shopping guides for the North Island (South Island coming in 2018!). Check them out here.

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A few ‘zero waste’ tips

  • Quality over quantity- the environmental effects of manufacturing, transport, and eventual disposal of the things we buy are magnified for every item bought. Then there’s the money side- if you really want that $100 pair of shoes, but you don’t want to spend that much money so you buy four or five $20 pairs of shoes, have you really saved anything? That $100 pair of shoes would have lasted longer, too.
  • Buying second hand- not only are you keeping items out of the landfill when you buy second hand but often there’s no packaging to deal with too. And you’re supporting our local charities. What’s not to love?
  • Plastic wrap- instead of covering that bowl with plastic wrap, dump the contents into a glass or plastic container with a lid (and think of all the money you’ll save by never buying plastic wrap!). Buy Beeswax Wraps online at Green Elephant here.
  • Plastic bags- visit any landfill in NZ, and you’ll find all of the trees and shrubs nearby covered in plastic bags that have gotten loose. Just like any habit, remembering your reusable shopping bags may take a few tries, but after a while, it becomes second nature- just like remembering your wallet, phone, and shopping list.
  • Buying in bulk- buying food with as little packaging as possible means less plastic that could end up in our waterways (where it will stay forever!). There are a couple zero waste shops in Auckland, and Bin Inn stores around the country.
  • Check out the online community- there are some great Facebook groups for those trying to reduce their waste- check out Plastic Free NZ and Zero Waste in NZ. They’re both great places to get ideas, inspiration and advice.
  • Upcycle- Take something old and make it new. Check out Camille Co. Pinterest Board Reduce, Reuse, Recycle for some great ideas.

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