Welcome to our series of posts on the A-Z of zero waste!
An overview of everything that has been shared so far can be found here.
1. Take care of what you already own
Once you own something, then you want to keep it working for as long as possible, especially if it has elements that cannot be reused. Upkeep of your belongings is a great way to be zero waste as it keeps your things in use for as long as possible. So de-scale your kettle, oil your wooden chopping boards, clean your refrigerator coils etc to keep things lasting as long as possible.
3. Discard responsibly
4. Buy less new things
5. Use what you have
6. Buy second hand
7. If not second hand, buy better
There are somethings that may not be possible or sensible to buy second hand, or no matter how hard you look you can't find something that would fit in the required space, then you might need to buy something new. Look for items that are good quality and should last a lifetime, especially looking out for items with a long or lifetime guarantee. If you're buying wooden products, look for hard wood not chipboard items, as they are easier to upcycle in the future, and look for FSC certified wood. Look for items that will not go out of style and that you will always find beautiful. Buy from shops that use fair labour practices, buy products that are Fairtrade or buy products that are made in the UK. If you can, support local makers who may be able to make the item to your exact specification as this limits the carbon footprint of the item and you can often ask for no packaging.
8. Prioritise energy efficiency
When buying a new electrical item consider all the things we discussed above, but also it's very important to consider the energy efficiency of the product so that you're not signing up to run a very inefficient and wasteful item for its whole lifetime. On this theme, try to fit your house with LED lightbulbs which are very energy efficient, and if you are able, install a smart thermostat which reduces waste heating energy. Read more about zero waste energy here.
9. Choose natural elements
Wherever possible prioritise natural materials like wood or metal instead of plastic in your home so it is able to be reused after you are finished with it. This may be less important if you are buying second hand as the most sustainable product is the one that already exists. You can also choose natural elements in your decoration of your home, choosing to feature plants instead of other decoration items as these will biodegrade at the end of life or if they get damaged. Choose to feature a bowl of beautiful fruit as a centre piece for a dinner party, put cut greenery from your garden in a jar instead of buying cut flowers from abroad, and instead of using artificial scents if you have guests coming over, try brewing coffee or making bread to make your home smell amazing. Most candles are petroleum based so use fossil fuels to create making them a non-sustainable resource, and they also release more damaging chemicals than other alternatives. If you are not able to give up candles, try to use soy or beeswax candles, although these also have their production issues.
10. Tips for Restoring houses:
- Choose eco-paints which release no VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) which are air pollutants.
- Use reclaimed wood, reclaimed stone or tile when you are able
- Consider secondhand fittings such as cabinets and baths - sometimes you can get much better quality and design than if you bought new.
- Look for ethically made items and FSC certified wood.
- Ensure good quality insulation, window glazing and window coverings, to make your home heat efficient.
- Prioritise energy efficient electrical items
- Install water saving devices like water aerators and water-saving shower heads.
- Install solar panels, solar heating devices or micro wind generators if you are able.
- If you have a garden, kit it out to help you be more sustainable with water butts, compost bins and areas to grow your own food.
There you have 10 general tips about have to have a zero waste home. It's not all about buying beautiful glass Kilner jars, wooden toilet brushes and essential oil diffusers. You can have an incredibly low waste home without buying anything new, in fact that is likely to make your home more zero waste than if you went out shopping. We need to relearn the mindset that quality is better than trends and that things you bring into your life should be able to withstand whatever life throws at them, not break at a slight gust of wind. When we are conscious about what we bring into our home, we are creating less waste, and less stress for ourselves in the future.
- Paul Hawken, Natural Capitalism, (1999) p. 81