Living Waste-Free

The concept of living entirely waste-free would take a bit of getting used to as our modern lifestyles constantly demand that our attention is focused on consuming for the sake of it.

Functionality or Fashion?

Our generation has not really had to think very much about trying to make things last long. As a result, we generally tend to favour fashion over functionality, which was certainly not the case a generation or two ago. Generally speaking, with the exception of the current economic downturn, we have not been in a position where we have to depend on rationing our spending for survival as our forebears have been. Long gone are the days where we make our own cooking stock from leftovers, or spend afternoons making jam and pickles so that our fruit can last long into the low season.

The fact of the matter is that we no longer have to think about these things because mass production and globalising markets mean that so much is done for us. 'Keeping up with the Joneses' has become a reality for many of us living in urban environments where we are constantly bombarded with advertising to buy products and services that we rarely actually need. How many of us feel the pressure to update our Smartphone as the latest models come out? How many of us buy prepackaged, pre-cut and sorted veges rather than spending time preparing a meal together?

The seemingly endless cycle of consumerism has led to us forgetting many of the important things in life. We generally work very hard, and spend less than an ideal amount of time with family and friends, sacrificing doing the things we love.

Wasteful living is not only harmful for our beautiful environment, but it is harmful for our own personal well-being and livelihood.

Where has our time gone?

The beauty about trying to live waste-free is that it reminds us about what's important in life. We all know what that is; and it largely comes down to doing the things we love, together with the people we love.

Our modern lifestyles force us into an endless cycle of living to work, but many of us are forgetting that we should be working to live. The "live" part of that equation is what is important!

The fact that so much of what we purchase at the supermarket comes prepackaged and factory prepared just reinforces our wide belief of the lack of time available to us. But a little reassessment quickly shows that if we spend a little bit of time and effort in thinking about our purchases as being founded on waste-free principles, we would actually save a lot of money, as well as time, ultimately leading to us spending more quality time doing things we love with those we love.

Move beyond the 3 “R’s” towards thinking about the 6 “R’s”

You're already used to the Reduce, Reuse, Recycle concept, but here are an additional 3 R's added to the mix that will help you to live waste free:

  1. Refuse what you don’t need
  2. Reduce what you do need
  3. Reuse anything that you can
  4. Recycle what you cannot refuse, reduce, or reuse
  5. Rehome what you no longer need or want
  6. Rot (i.e. compost) the rest

Top 10 tips for starting a waste-free lifestyle:

Living without waste doesn’t mean you have to live without life’s luxuries, it just means a more conscious approach to your consumer choices. You’ll be doing yourself a favour by saving on money on unnecessary purchases and ultimately reducing your own ecological footprint, and you’ll be doing the planet a favour by reducing the amount of waste going to landfill.

Here are some tips to get you started, or at least thinking about, moving towards a waste-free existence:

  1. Prioritise yours purchases: make sure they can all be reduced, reused, recycled, or rotted. This means that you will be responsible for sending a lot less waste to landfill. (Think the 6 R’s!)
  2. Tell people: let your friends and family know that this is something you are aiming to do so that they don’t give you anything that would end up in the landfill.
  3. Separate your waste: Keep food and kitchen scraps, garden waste, and recyclables separate
  4. Recycle everything you can: all unbroken glass, some plastics, paper and cardboard, tin and aluminium cans (check out our Identifying Recyclable Resources Page for more info.
  5. Avoid buying packaged and unrecyclable goods: rather, buy cereals, pastas, and other re-fillables in bulk when at the supermarket or at your local wholefoods store. Milk and juice cartons (although made from a combination of cardboard, plastic, and aluminium) are actually unrecyclable because of the complexities associated with their deconstruction.
  6. Say “No!” to that horrid plastic bag: Use canvas and other resusable bags when going shopping and
  7. Take glass or recyclable containers with you when grocery shopping: use these for goods that would otherwise be wrapped (such as meat, fish, and vege). Remember, even though Gladwrap and polystyrene are recyclable, the fact that they have been contaminated with food means that they often end up in the landfill even if you put them out for recycling.
  8. Give away what you no longer need: charity shops (such as the Hospice Shop, the Salvation Army and the like) will sell your old belongings in order to raise funds for their efforts. Another brilliant kiwi initiative is AskShareGive, an exchange site where you can donate unwanted items to fellow kiwis, or trade in your time, skills, or transport for those who need it. If you need anything yourself, you can ask for it on this site also.
  9. Sell what you do not want to give away: If you don’t want to give certain things away for free, remember you can always sell them. Trademe is a hub for New Zealanders who are buying and selling second-hand goods. There are heaps of places where you can potentially sell old items.
  10. Shop local: Supermarket chains are invariably owned by big businesses – often on overseas shores – which carry enormous carbon footprints because of the logistics associated with transportation and refrigeration. Visiting your local butcher, greengrocer, and farmers market will help stimulate our local economy and keep the dollar on our shores. Plus, you’d reduce your personal footprint in the process. Don’t forget your containers and reusable bags!

Links and Other Useful Resources

The Great UnpackThe Great Unpack
Why do we really need so much packaging in our life
 Sustainable Living Guide.Sustainable Living Guide.
Tips and ideas on how to live sustainable.
25 Easy Steps Towards Sustainability 25 Easy Steps Towards Sustainability
Here is a really great Ministry for the Environment resource that details some easy steps you can take up to improve sustainability. You will find some great tips in here too for learning how to live waste free!

Please use the Contact Form to ask any questions you may have regarding this section of the website.