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The waste reducing revolution is gaining in popularity as more and more people make a conscious effort to live less wastefully and become eco-friendly. Waste reducing is all about making informed and correct choices, even at the point of purchase.

I love being a born-again greenie. Apart from the sanctimonious, almost smug sensation I get when someone just mentions global warming, I have also become quite the fountain of knowledge on how to go about waste reducing. I have, on several ocassions, shared some ‘interesting’ fact about recycling, energy saving or carbon footprints (that I have picked up during my long hours of Googling) with my boys, who then give me that ‘she knows everything’ look.  Well, that’s the way I wish to interpret it. But here’s another little fact that I have just discovered, which I must share with my husband over dinner tonight. Waste reducing is all about making informed and correct choices, even at the point of purchase.

Start at the source

Say NO to packaging. Say NO to consumerism. Okay, I am 100 percent guilty on this one. This aspect of reducing our waste makes me want to cringe… with embarrassment. My excuse: I’m an old advertising hag. I’m a sucker for excessive packaging and even more impressed when my fridge replicates the shelves of leading retailers. Loose tomatoes in the fridge drawer bother me. Yes, I am an obsessive-compulsive consumer – a marketer’s dream.

But it’s time to resist packaging, to stand up and avoid heavily packaged products. You know the ones: the chicken that is wrapped in layers and layers and layers to avoid spillage; the neat trio of squash in plastic and more plastic. And, yes, those smiling tomatoes that sit perfectly pretty in polystyrene trays. It is time to reach for the retailer-supplied plastic and paper bags and fill them from the baskets of loose fresh produce, to opt for the refill packs instead. My kitchen and laundry shelves may not look quite so gorgeous and the fabric softener may sport a fading label and dribble marks down the front, but it’s all about saving the world. There, that wasn’t so difficult, was it?

Now, this point you may find a little more difficult: buy less. I can see that hurt, but in reality it makes perfect sense. And I’m not just talking about purchases at the supermarket. It’s about making informed choices and not necessarily about doing without. Question yourself as to whether you really need a particular item. Perhaps there is a more appropriate alternative. Maybe you can make it instead, or perhaps you can  borrow it.

Most importantly, buy items that are going to last. Quality is key. So, too, is valuing what you already have, maintaining it well and repairing it when it breaks. Now just watch me put that one into practice. DIY is not my strong point.

Viva the waste-free home

Reducing waste is not just about recycling. Yes, I have managed to reduce our household contribution to landfill by about half, but I’m told that I could make more of an effort with what goes out each week in recycling. Instead of just handing it over, make more of it – use it.

I recently read about a man in Australia who virtually built his house out of beer cans. Australian, I am; a beer drinker, I am not. But consumers of breakfast cereals, toilet paper, newspapers, milk and an enormous number of cans of food, we are. And I have just assembled an assortment of cardboard, plastic and metal containers and newspapers in a bag for the school to use as possible craft material.

Years ago I remember sending my son off to nursery school with a term’s supply of cereal boxes. I was so happy to get rid of them from under my kitchen sink. However, it all appeared again a day later in the form of a robot. And then it sat for the next three months on the kitchen table for us all to admire. The bulk had just shifted. So depending on the age of your children, be prepared for the comeback.

Other great waste reducing ideas

  • Start a compost heap or worm farm (
  • Buy in bulk – this gives more product and less packaging
  • Choose returnable and reusable containers
  • Buy local products
  • Buy refills and concentrates
  • Turn used food containers into storage containers
  • Turn used tins into pencil holders (they look very designer when all lined up together)
  • Give to charities
  • Use reusable and biodegradable nappies instead of the key waste-increasing disposable alternative
  • Print only what is necessary using both sides of the paper. Better still, make electronic copies.

Christina Castle