Reduce, re-use, recycle: 10 easy ways to reduce waste during European Week for Waste Reduction, and beyond

Now in its 14th year, the European Week for Waste Reduction (EWWR) increases awareness and promotes positive action around the three "Rs": reduce, reuse, recycle.

Reducing waste

When shopping, ask yourself whether you really need what you're about to buy. This also applies to the packaging that the product is wrapped in. Consider whether you have something you can repurpose or borrow from a friend. Finding alternative solutions can help you reduce waste, and, potentially, save money, too.

Reusing products

Conscientious consumers can make a significant difference by reusing products. Wherever possible, swap single-use items for reusable ones. While the most obvious areas for this may lie in the kitchen or bathroom, it should be something that's achievable in every area of your life.

Recycling materials

While recycling is better than sending waste to landfill, it isn't necessarily ideal. This is because if you need to recycle something, it means that you’re generating waste. For anyone serious about reusing and reducing, recycling should only constitute a small part of your efforts.

Now you’re familiar with the three core components of waste reduction, here are 10 easy ways you can change your habits and make a difference.

1. Pick products with eco-labels

European or national eco-labels are official certifications that guarantee the quality of products as well as their reduced impact on the environment throughout their life cycle.

There are hundreds of eco-labelled products available, including school exercise books, bin bags, household products, coffee filters, and more.

2. Buy only what you need

Buying the quantity of food that you know you'll use not only avoids waste but also stops you from having to throw away things that you have paid for, so you're saving on wasted cost, too.

3. Buy in bulk

Many of us tend to be habitual in the food we eat, so look for opportunities where you can bulk buy.

For example, if you consume a lot of nuts or use spices in your cooking, buy enough to last a period of months instead of days.

Buying in bulk helps to reduce packaging waste and, because buying larger quantities often costs less, you’ll probably find it more cost effective, too.

4. Use reusable shopping bags

Disposable bags are used for an average of 20 minutes before being thrown away. They can create unnecessary waste, fast.

Also, if they are tossed without care, they can pollute the countryside and the sea. Plastic bags that end up in the sea can kill sea turtles, dolphins, or sharks who confuse them with jellyfish and swallow them.

As a sobering reminder, more than 1 million plastic bags end up in the trash every minute and the global population uses over 500 billion plastic bags. This is whopping 150 bags for each person in the world, every single year.

5. Select eco-refillable products

Thanks to the cost-effective and eco-friendly benefits they offer, eco-refills are offered by an increasing number of brands. From bumper bottles of shampoo and shower gel for the bathroom to washing up liquid and hand soap, consumers, manufacturers, and the planet all benefit when you stock up on eco-refills for your home.

6. Love your list

When it comes to food shopping, there are two golden rules: first, never shop on an empty stomach, and two, write a shopping list and stick to it.

If you're super organised and have a menu plan, too, you'll reduce food waste by only buying what you know you will eat. Better still, if you use an online food delivery service, you're probably less likely to add something you don't need to your trolley.

7.  Cook from scratch using fresh food

Cooking homemade meals using fresh ingredients is not only healthy but saves on packaging when compared to an over-packaged ready meal. Again, home cooking is often far more cost-effective, and healthier, too.

8. Stack your fridge with care

To help make sure you reduce food waste, stack perishable products in order of when you have to use them by. Place products with a short use-by date at the front of the fridge. This way you’ll be far less likely to happen upon a festering healthy snack that you forgot to eat.

9. Buy soap instead of shower gel

With less packaging, soap helps to cut down on waste.

Nesti Dante, based in Florence, produce natural soap free of all the nasties (such as sulphates, parabens and synthetic surfactants).Available in a variety of delicious scents from fruity citrus and tangy orange to an original and refreshing range of vegetable soaps – choose from energizing carrot, cooling cucumber, soothing tomato, and more.

10. Give a thoughtful gift

When you're doing your Christmas shopping or have a birthday present to buy, consider giving a “dematerialised” gift. This could be a ticket for a show or concert, a subscription, a massage, cooking lessons… these days, the choices are endless!

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