In the first part of this series we discovered the concept of zero waste which at its core promotes the prevention of waste. But why is it so important to prevent Waste?
Preventing waste is important because there is no ‘away’ when you throw something away: it stays on the planet in one form or another and can leach toxic compounds into the soil or air. As such, it can harm the environment but also our health. Managing all this waste is also costly and time consuming.
For the environment
Plastic pollution in the ocean: The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) estimates the amount of plastic waste in the ocean at more than 100 million tons. In the Pacific, plastics outweigh zooplankton at a ratio of 6 to 1. In the end, plastics ingested by marine life can end up on your plate. Plastic pollution is also contributing to the decline of biodiversity.
Climate change: Waste prevention and recycling contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. For example, food scraps that end up in a landfill do not decompose as they would in nature. Once in the oxygenless environment of the landfill, food breaks down to produce methane, a potent greenhouse gas which contributes to climate change.
Scarcity of raw materials, water and energy: When an object or a piece of food goes to the landfill, we are throwing away all the resources, water and energy that went into producing it. For example, the water used to produce a hamburger is equivalent to taking a 90-minute shower. But there are limits to how much natural resources we can extract from the Earth. By using resources wisely and not wasting them, we are slowing the demand for these resources and leaving some for future generations. Let’s think 7 generations ahead like the Native American Iroquois nation traditionally do!
For your health
Certain packaging and plastics may leach chemicals called phthalates and BPAs into our food and beverages. These chemicals are called endocrine disruptors: they mimic human estrogen hormones and contribute to endocrine-related health problems such as early puberty, weight gain, cancer and infertility.
For an improved quality of life
Mid-March Béa Johnson was in Luxembourg and made a wonderful presentation of how zero waste improved her family’s life. The time they saved shopping for things they didn’t need, sorting and organizing them, recycling them, they could now spend it having beautiful family experiences. Her blog “Zero Waste Home” is full of stories about their zero waste lifestyle.
It is also worth noting that waste prevention can save municipalities millions of euros. In 2015, Luxembourg City spent 40 million euros on waste management.
In France, 15 billion euros are spent every year to treat waste.
So, let’s get started: 3 Basic Tips for reducing your waste
These tips will all allow big wins.
1 – Avoid plastic bottles
This can be done by using tap water or buying water and other drinks in glass bottles that can be returned to the store. When going out or at work, bring your reusable bottle with you. Use solid soap and solid shampoo and come to refill your cleaning products and liquid soap at OUNI.
Solid shampoo available at Ouni
2 – Eliminate single-use items as much as possible
These include disposable napkins, papers towels, cotton pads, plastic plates and cutlery, paper tissues, straws. Replace those with reusable options. You can also ask the elderly in your family for some washable handkerchiefs and napkins – they probably have some in their cupboards! When hosting a party, use washable plates. You will also find many reusable and durable product options at OUNI.
Resusable bottles, cups, straws, Nespresso capsules available at Ouni
Reusable cotton pads available at Ouni
Reusable gift wraps available at Ouni
3 – Refuse plastic bags
Always have several bags with you when shopping. There are the obvious grocery bags you bring with you, but also refuse bags in the pharmacy, in clothes stores, etc… Imagine if everyone refused plastic bags the piles of plastic bags in shops would remain untouched, they would never have to order new ones! In the EU about 100 billion plastic bags are still put on the market every year, many of them polluting coastal areas. At OUNI you can also bring your own containers to refill all your dry goods: you will thus avoid hundreds of plastic bags from pasta, rice, cereal, nuts, legumes etc…
Let me know if you have any questions by leaving a comment below or on the HealthyLux forum.
Vanessa Paul is a co-founder and Board member of the cooperative OUNI, Luxembourg’s first packaging-free organic grocery store. OUNI opened its doors in December 2016 and offers a wide variety of food and household products in bulk or in reusable containers. The shop also offer a series of unique products that will help you reduce your waste, from reusable nespresso capsules to Furoshiki gift wraps.