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How to live waste free
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How to live waste free
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How to live waste free
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7 April 2016

How to live waste free

According to the EPA, food is the biggest contributor to our ecological footprint, occupying approximately 30 percent of it, so there’s never been a better place to start.

Written by Cassie Duncan

Behind extraordinary ideas, there are extraordinary people.

Image source: Mink Mingle/Flickr

Give a Fork month has kicked off at Sustainable Table, so to coincide I thought I’d share my best and quirkiest waste-eliminating hacks.

First up, a quick run-down on the Give a Fork campaign. It is designed to start a national conversation about the issues within our food system, and to give environmentalism a bit of a face lift. We want to show the world that you don’t have to quit your day job to have a positive impact on the environment. We’re currently trashing the planet through the way we consume food: takeaway coffee cups, lettuce in a bag, double beef pattie burgers, a raw deal for farmers, the list goes on. According to the EPA, food is the biggest contributor to our ecological-footprint, occupying approximately 30 percent of it, so there’s never been a better place to start.

Carry a re-usable cup and drink bottle (everywhere!).

This one seems like a no-brainer, but lining up for my morning coffee I quickly realised that I’m in the minority by carrying my own. Single-use coffee cups look like they are made of paper, but most of them are actually lined with plastic, meaning they can’t be recycled and end up in landfill, taking years to breakdown. If you’re a little strapped for cash then a jam jar does the trick. Coffee cups are the second biggest contributors to litter waste after plastic bottles and it is estimated we churn through one billion cups each year in Australia alone.

Carry a cloth napkin, plate or fabric bag for orders on the go.

If you often grab a sandwich or muffin on the go, then be sure to have a cloth napkin or bag handy. This saves hundreds of paper bags or cling wrap from ending up in our waste stream. Recycling is not a solution in itself, it’s best to refuse in the first place. This tip is bound to attract stares, but it starts the most wonderful and positive conversations about waste. Go on, I dare you! If you’re not quite ready for this you could carry a paper bag that you re-use again and again.

Ask for your Friday night cocktail shaken, not strawed.

Straws are simply not needed and are used in gobsmacking quantities. They list amongst the top 10 marine debris items globally and although in many councils they can be recycled, saying no is the best option. If you’re screaming at the computer that you could never finish your smoothie without a straw, then invest in a reusable one and carry it with you.

Ditch cling wrap, it’s a total waste.

Cling wrap is used once and tossed, and is a wasteful convenience that comes at a significant environmental cost. Put leftovers in a reusable container or cover your bowl with a plate. Beeswax wraps are a beautiful, hygienic and natural alternative also. I’m in love with mine.

Buy bulk, buy ethical.

Farmers’ markets! Need I say more? Shop there to ensure ethically grown and raised produce and a fair deal for farmers. And what you can’t get at a farmers’ market source from your nearest bulk goods store. I don’t leave home without my cloth and mesh bag survival kit, as well as airtight containers for cheese and the occasional meaty treat.

Ditch toothpaste in non-recyclable tubes (most of it contains palm oil). 

I’ve just ditched the virgin-plastic, non-recyclable tube for preservative-free toothpaste tabs from Lush that come in a post-consumer recycled plastic bottle (that is also recyclable) and amazing naturally-flavoured options! You can also make your own.

Start a soft plastics recycling bin at home.

There are amazing people who are completely plastic-free like Erin Rhoads (aka The Rogue Ginger). You can take so much inspiration from them. For those of us who aren’t quite perfect (ahem, me), you can start a soft-plastic bin at home for any plastic items you collect that cannot be recycled via roadside collection i.e. plastic bags, wrappers, vac-seal packets. There are drop-off points at most supermarkets and some councils.

If in doubt, go veg.

It’s widely known that animal agriculture is a significant contributor to climate change, not to mention animal rights abuses that come with housing over 500 million animals in factory farms each year in Australia. Do your bit and have meat-free days and if you’re ever in doubt about the origins of the meat, then opt for a vegetarian menu item/meal instead.

Avoid food waste: Freeze up batches of par-cooked veggies and dry goods. 

I’ll admit it: I’m a pretty busy person, and time, or lack thereof, gets in the way of my do-good desires. To avoid slip-ups, I do things such as soak and cook up lentils, chickpeas and quinoa on weekends, then freeze them into one-cup portions for easy de-frosting to make a quick salad or stir-fry. This prevents me from buying these goods in packaging or cans as well. The same goes for tired veggies. Before they expire I cook them into portions or turn them into a pasta sauce then freeze them.

So there you have it. What are you waiting for?

Cassie Duncan

Cassie Duncan is the co-founder of Sustainable Table, which has recently released The Clever Cook eBook, your complete guide to reducing waste, saving money and eating well.

Feature image by Mark Mingle

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