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What’s clear from the ever-increasing solid waste in the world, and the phenomenal and escalating expense of dealing with is that, whilst important, the 3 R’s (reduce, reuse, recycle) are not enough. This is the driving force behind the emerging trend towards waste-free living. But how do we do it?


The key to waste-free living is to prevent waste coming into your home in the first place.

Here are 5 easy ways to move towards waste-free living:

  • Stop buying, using and discarding single use items.  Believe it or not, there are easy alternatives to paper towels, tissues, plastic bags, plastic wrap, aluminium foil, baking paper and even dental floss, plasters and ear buds.
  • Eliminate all the disposable items you bring into your home and replace them with reusables. A simple example of this for parents, is to use cloth nappies on their kids. While not only saving money, your contribution to landfill is significantly reduced. If you’ve ever carried out a garbage bag of used nappies, you’ll know its weight and size.
  • Where possible, buy with limited or recyclable packaging. Shop for second hand goods and clothes rather than new; and buy bulk food items using your own glass containers and reusable bags. This is a new way of thinking for us here in South Africa, but it is common practice in most forward-thinking, first world countries.  Recycle what you have and buy from companies who use recyclable materials.
  • Stop accepting freebies. YES! For real! We’re often on autopilot when someone hands us something, and most often, out of politeness, accept things we don’t want or need. Afterwards, we are faced with the task of getting rid of these items. By being conscious of what you accept from others, you prevent taking into your home what are essentially unwanted, unnecessary items. You can say ‘no, thank you’…
  • Add another R for ‘Rot.  Your green food waste is nutrient dense and can sweeten the place where you live if you compost it instead of throwing it away. If you don’t garden at home, find a community garden, or school food garden in your neighbourhood and contribute your kitchen waste to their composting efforts. Alternatively, build a worm farm.
  • Ensure you have reusables ‘on the go’.  Go about your daily tasks with all the reusables you require on hand.  Always have reusable shopping bags with you, and if you can’t live without your favourite takeaway coffee, get a travel mug. Carry your own reusable water bottle or flask, and even take along your reusable straws. If you regularly eat takeaways, make sure you have your own reusable plate and cutlery. It might sound bizarre – but so does the volume of waste we are creating.

While these five steps might seem small, they go a long way towards promoting waste-free living. Three of the biggest polluters of our environment are plastic bags, straws, and disposable coffee cups. These items are used just once, but so frequently and by so many, that they result in phenomenal accumulations of completely unnecessary solid waste.

Essentially, waste-free living doesn’t have to mean doing without. It’s most often about working out what is important to you, and then switching to the waste-free alternatives. The pioneers of waste-free living often attest to a life greatly enriched by the simplicity and peace of mind that they experience through their commitment to embracing the eco-friendly options.


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