In Conclusion: Zero Waste Week 2015

At the end of Zero Waste Week 2015, I’d like to write about my thoughts and findings this week. Firstly, I’d like to start by saying that, although I’m very pleased with our efforts this Zero Waste Week, two things have aided our efforts: the week before, almost subconsciously, we stocked up on all the things we buy that unavoidably come in plastic packaging (pasta, rice, toilet rolls etc), saving us from buying them during Zero Waste Week; and I put off buying a few things this week, knowing we could last until the week was over. However, on the whole, I think we did really well. Here are my conclusions from the week, in no particular order:

  1. When I was commenting to a friend this week that at least I hadn’t had to buy pasta, she replied ‘But couldn’t you make your own pasta?’ She’s right, of course. I could, and have, made my own pasta. However, I’m busier than I’ve ever been and making my own pasta is more of a luxury than it used to be. I’m ashamed to say the pasta machine hasn’t seen the light of day for some time. We’ve also recently acquired a cat and I know exactly what would happen to all the pasta hanging tantalisingly over the kitchen chairs if Bruce saw it! More importantly my friend’s comment got me thinking about how time consuming going plastic-free can be. I already bake our bread. I think pasta might push me over the edge!
  2. Don’t underestimate the value of simply raising awareness. For every shopkeeper or friend I’ve mentioned it to, for everyone who has read my blog or anyone who has read my status updates on Facebook, I hope it’s another person thinking about how much plastic is created and consumed. If it just sows a seed somewhere in the back of their mind that they could try reducing their own waste that would be fantastic.
  3. I’ve been thinking a lot about where the action needs to come from. Ideally at the source of course, with manufacturers who produce or use plastic and with retailers who sell products in plastic packaging. There needs to be incentive or deterrent to do so though, either in the form of tax on plastic or benefits for eco-friendly packaging. What if more and more customers refused to buy plastic? When I returned the plastic packaging for my fruit and vegetables to the cashier in Lidl, having transferred them to brown paper bags, he didn’t mind at all. But how would they react if everyone did that? There were at least twenty customers in the store at the same time as me for a maximum of one hour. If every one of those customers had returned their plastic packaging to the store and that was repeated every hour that the store was open, in every supermarket, people would soon sit up and take notice. Yes, the plastic packaging shouldn’t be there in the first place, but we the customers who consume it are just as responsible.
  4. Sustainability. I made a massive effort to avoid plastic packaging for the duration of Zero Waste Week, but I don’t know how sustainable that effort is in the long term. I’m also aware that I am using more petrol just to do my plastic-free shopping. I suppose hopefully, I’ll eventually find easier solutions that become second nature and less of a chore.
  5. The most important thing to come out of Zero Waste Week each year for me is that it highlights just how much packaging we use and how much we waste. Until you walk into a supermarket and try not to buy anything packaged in plastic, you have no idea just how much plastic is a part of our lives. I think every one should try reducing their waste for Zero Waste Week or even just attempting one supermarket shop that doesn’t involve plastic, simply for this fact.
  6. It’s not just about the plastic. We are a two car family. My little runabout is pretty efficient, but my husband’s car (and the only one of the two that we can all fit in) is a bit of a gas guzzler. He intends to start cycling to work sometimes and, when it is time for a change, we’ll be looking for a more eco-friendly car. We have an open fire on which we burn coal (smokeless) and occasionally wood. However, the fire allows us to have the heating off for six months of the year and we dry our washing by the fire nearly every night and rarely use our tumble drier, so we feel it equals out. There are many more examples of how our family could be more eco-friendly, but we do what we can.
  7. Ideally, I’d like us to improve year on year. I will take things away from this year’s Zero Waste Week that should reduce our family’s waste for the rest of the year. Then next year when Zero Waste Week comes round again, I will try to make more of an effort for the duration of the week and hopefully take more things forward.

Things I’m going to try this year:

  • Buying dry goods in bulk or from weigh and save stores.
  • Ordering at least some of our milk from the milkman.
  • Considering more alternatives to packaging.
  • Continuing to reduce waste in the bathroom (blog post to come on this)
  • Reusing more.

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