It’s one whole week since Zero Waste Week 2016 finished , so I thought I’d take the opportunity to reflect on what I’ve learnt and what’s changed.
The focus of this year’s campaign was food waste and there were lots of useful tips about how we can all reduce our food waste. We’ve been working on this for a while now in my house and I thought we were doing pretty well, but last week gave us loads of new ideas.
I can happily report that we are nearly through all the food that has exceeded the Best Before date and to no ill effects. Having researched the issue for my first blog, Let’s Ignore Best Before, my family have all very happily and unwittingly eaten food past, and in some cases way past, the Best Before date. I used up a packet spice mix that was two years past the Best Before date in fajitas and my kids actually said ‘wow this spice tastes amazing’. Clearly, it just got better with time. The point is, it was still good, in fact very good. I’ve just come across a new website called Approved Food, that stocks surplus food at low prices that is near to or past the Best Before date & would have been binned. It’s food that has mostly been offloaded by supermarkets. You can get some real bargains as long as you are savvy and don’t impulse buy. Remember, it’s not a bargain if you didn’t need it!
I’ve also been working on tackling my ‘inner squirrel’. When it comes to food, I seem to have a siege mentality. I like to have my cupboards and freezer stocked full, just in case. Well not any more. I realise the best way to shop is as I need things. I was treating my cupboards and freezer as a kind of bank, which is no good for the family finances and no good for food waste either. When my cupboards are full, I miss things. I buy things that I already own because I don’t even know what I have! I’ve been on a mission to reduce down my cupboards and freezer and it feels much better.
Although Zero Waste Week this year was about food waste, it was helpful to read people’s tips on food packaging. We are now used to taking our own carrier bags to supermarkets so I was interested to read about re-usable produce bags. Fighting with the little flimsy plastic produce bags in the fruit and veg aisle is one of my pet hates and, although they are recyclable, it would be far better if I didn’t use them at all. I found Onya Bags, eco-friendly re-usable produce bags, a great solution for packaging loose fruit and veg.
Looking at packaging made me think about just how much packaging we get through and how we can reduce it. Whilst it’s great that things can be recycled, it’s even better if we don’t use the packaging at all. We are a family of 5 and every week, we fill the very large recycling bin the council gives us, to the brim. I’m on a mission to reduce this by refusing things in the first place. An easy start was to put a polite notice on our front door requesting no more junk mail or free newspapers. If lots of people did this, companies would simply stop producing it.
The idea of reducing goes way beyond just packaging. Last week I watched a great TED talk by Bea Johnson, the first Zero Waster, on reducing and was struck by how simple her life is. I also thought, wow, I want to live in your house (seriously, have a look, it’s amazing). We own a lot of stuff that we don’t use or need. If we don’t need it, it’s far better to pass it on to someone who does, otherwise, it becomes wasteful. De-cluttering looks very attractive, not just from an environmental and charitable point of view, but for our own sense of well-being too. My house will be tidier. Cleaning it will become much quicker and we won’t spend time looking for stuff. Also, it’ll save us money. Just last weekend, my husband ordered something on the internet that we discovered an hour later, we already owned. So just like my food cupboards, I’m on a mission to de-clutter our home and send our unwanted goods to the local charity shops.
ZeroWasteWeek 2016 was a great opportunity to take some time to re-evaluate our family’s way of living. To learn some great tips and be introduced to some new thinking and concepts. I realise there’s lots more we could be doing, so we’re really stepping up our efforts to become a zero wasters, although my kids think that if they de-clutter their bedrooms, we can all go sky-diving! (see Bea Johnson’s Ted Talk)