Things I’ve been doing to be less wasteful

It was late last year that I watched the first season of the show War on Waste, about how much waste and trash we produce and what we can do to reduce our impact on the environment. I’ve also been reading about living a zero-waste lifestyle, and I wanted to share what I’ve been trying to do recently to be less wasteful.

I like the idea of being less wasteful, but I’m not sure that a zero-waste lifestyle is something I’m striving to achieve to a T. There are products I purchase and use that I enjoy using that produce some amount of waste – products that I don’t like the alternatives of – and I make the choice to continue to use them. This post is just about the changes to my lifestyle and conscious decisions I’ve made to be less wasteful. 🙂

Stop using plastic bags

It’s finally been made a rule in our state of New South Wales (Australia) that big-name supermarkets will no longer provide plastic shopping bags for free. I believe you still have to pay for them, but this is a great start to encouraging people to bring their own reusable grocery bags. When I was younger, it was common for my parents to collect and keep these plastic bags to use as bin tidy bags for trash. However, the amount of bags going in was at a far greater rate than the amount of waste going out to fill the bags. I know this sounds almost strange given that we are informed of how much waste we produce! Those plastic bags sat in storage and we’d grab a new one every time we needed to line the bin – but the pile of bags was constantly being added to. They were never running out.

Nick and I try to refuse plastic bags when we purchase from retailers. It’s still shocking how much plastic packaging is used for products, though. We are still working towards buying more fresh produce and less processed and packaged foods.

A woman with sunglasses wearing an orange sweater and light blue jeans. She is holding a green grocery bag over her arm.
I make this grocery bag look good. 😂

Stop wasting food

As far am I’m aware, we haven’t got an option for composting food in our apartment complex, so food waste like strawberry leaves, avocado skin, and other inedible but compostable food waste unfortunately still goes into the trash. When Nick and I first started buying groceries together, it would get very out of hand and I would buy snacks that I didn’t need and get sucked in by discounted products. For the first few months I had to throw out berries that had gone rotten, milk past its use-by date, and unfinished junk food packets that I purchased on impulse.

I have tamed my habit of buying sale items when it comes to clothes, but with food, and consumables, for some reason in my mind I always assumed it would be eaten. Now we try to stick to a shopping list and only purchase groceries if and when we need them. I try to remember what’s in the fridge and the pantry and attempt to eat them before buying more food.

Drink coffee/tea in a cafe or use a keep cup + use a protein shaker for protein shakes

I didn’t have a reusable keep cup until my in-laws got me one last Christmas, but for months I decided to drink coffee and tea at work or choose the “have here” option. I don’t really see these hot beverages as a to-go beverage anymore, rather a drink to be enjoyed, which means I should take the time to sit and make a social catchup out of it, sit and be mindful as I drink my beverage, or if I need to have it at work, then take a reusable cup.

The same goes for protein shakes – I generally make my own at home or work, but occasionally I will want to buy one from a nutrition store or from the gym cafe. In this case I will bring my empty protein shaker so that I don’t have to take a plastic takeaway cup and straw.

Metal straws seem to be all the rage these days, but I have not invested in one myself because I hardly drink beverages that require straws. 😊

Upcycle and tailor clothing for a better fit or a different look

I used to just sell or donate my items when I didn’t want them anymore. It didn’t occur to me until recently that just because something didn’t fit properly, didn’t mean I had to give it away. If I have lost weight and an item of clothing is too big, I can take it to the tailor to have it taken in. If I don’t like the style of an item of clothing, I can turn it into something different!

I got this shirt almost five years ago and it had a dipped back hem, which I loved.

A woman with long hair wearing a long sleeveless shirt and black tights
The shirt as I originally purchased it

I got it altered to be shorter (since I don’t like long tops anymore) but leave fabric at the front so I could tie a fashionable knot. ☺️ It’s like a whole new shirt.

A woman standing in a park with short, dark brown angled metal fences behind her. She has a hand on her hip
The shirt after I got it altered

I have to admit that while I have found this a good course of action, it doesn’t mean that you will always love an item more if you get it altered. If you don’t like it that much to begin with, be careful with spending money to alter it in the hopes you will like it. I did this a couple of times and I found that while the item of clothing was better, I still didn’t like it much, so I ended up selling or donating it anyway. On the other hand, if this works for you, try to pop to your local tailor and support local businesses. 👏

Another option is to use fabric from clothes to get creative and make things like face washers, reusable makeup pads, dolls clothes for children, or home decor. I personally find that very worn out clothes make good cleaning cloths that can be reused many times.

Purchase from, and add to, the second-hand cycle, instead of buying new or throwing things out

Related to the above, avoid buying your clothes new and try to look in the second-hand cycle. There is so much out there in the second-hand cycle, so much in good condition, and you can often find gems that you will never find in fast fashion stores. Some people buy clothes to only wear them once, realise they don’t like them, while it could be just your style. Buying second-hand is often seen as something poor or “weird” people do. But it can be a good way to save money and you won’t be buying into consumerism either.

This obviously doesn’t just go for clothes. Think technology, like phones, computers, and cars, and things like books, dining chairs, and storage units. You might have taste in some items that are not easily obtainable – perhaps clothes from collections from years gone by, antique furniture, older tech gadgets – and someone might be letting go of that stuff.

As well as buying, consider selling the items you don’t want instead of putting them straight in the trash. I’ve been using eBay and Carousell lately, but perhaps where you live, something like Depop, Craigslist, or Gumtree might be more appropriate. You can find groups on Facebook to swap or sell items, or even have a garage sale.

Many of my most recent clothing purchases have been second-hand, and from clothing brands’ old collections, but they are very much my style. I love these items of clothing probably more than any other clothes I’ve bought completely new. I wore some second-hand purchases in my last two Fashion Friday posts.

Unsubscribe from paper communication

I’ve unsubscribed or opted to have bills emailed to me rather than mailed in the post. It saves paper which will most likely end up in the trash.

Refuse or do not accept things that add to waste

I am more conscious about taking things like takeaway plastic cutlery and brochures/flyers being handed out in the street. I am especially aware of picking up brochures from expos and events, because more than likely these things will end up in the trash, even if they can be recycled. I politely refuse if I know that the items won’t serve a purpose for me. In this day and age it’s easy to take notes on our phone instead, or to have a conversation with someone about a product, that is more valuable than receiving a flyer about it.

Do you do any of these to be less wasteful? Are there any things I don’t have on this list that I should be doing? ♻️ I’d love to hear about it, let me know!

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Comments on this post

I’ve never really looked at waste too much. Guess it is a good habit to have.

We did the same with plastic bags. We often kept them for other stuff. Still do I think.

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That’s great that you’re trying to be less wasteful! I’ve been using reusable bags for years now, especially since my city banned plastic bags about 6 years ago. Even if a store offers paper bags, I still prefer to use my own and carry some in my purse. Plastic packaging, especially plastic film, is still a problem though, so I try to recycle as much of it as I can.

Our city is trying to put compost bins in every neighborhood by 2020, and I really hope my neighborhood gets it soon. We also try to make sure we only buy what we need, but I hate how hard it can be to buy a small amount of food for a recipe sometimes.

The tea thing is my weakness :( I love boba tea so much, and I know that produces so much wasteful packaging. (Ordering online is another weakness I need to work on since that packaging is also wasteful.)

I love how you upcycle and tailor clothing to make it like a new item again! That shirt you altered really does look like a different one afterwards. I’m going through a declutter phase right now and am planning on being more careful about what I buy moving forward. I’ve recently discovered that the places I donate and recycle to might not be very environmentally friendly, so I’m looking into new alternatives now that are less wasteful.

As for not accepting things that add to waste, I recently asked family to only get me gift cards from now on because the gifts I used to get would just add to the waste. (The biggest problem is I can’t seem to stop my in-laws from buying massive amount of baby things, but I’m working on it.)

This is a great list though, and I hope more people will try to be less wasteful too!

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It’s great that you’re trying to be less wasteful. I always tske resuable shopping bags with me and try to reuse or upcycle items, for example my mum and I turn old Christmas cards into tags.

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