This is a frequent lament I hear as people identify with the need to move towards zero waste but see it as as too time-consuming to be practical. We all have busy lives, we all have work, study, homes and children to look after, gardens to tame. Time is a precious commodity, it seems there is always another priority, something else that need to be done, and not enough hours in the day to do it. And furthermore, all you’ve heard about reducing your waste sounds like its going to take even more time. Baking your own bread? Making your own yoghurt? Who has time that to do that?
While I’ll concede activities such as these do take more time that buying it from the shop, there are many little ways you can reduce your waste which take either little or no time at all. Believe it or not some can even save you time. Here are my top 8 zero waste tips for those who are strapped for time.
1. Choose fresh over tinned or packaged
One easy change I made was to choose fresh fruit and vegetables over tinned or frozen whenever I could. This saw me switch from having tinned peaches on my breakfast to banana or pineapple, from always having frozen veges in the freezer to cooking what was in season, and from buying lemon juice in a plastic squeeze bottle to choosing fresh lemons and juicing them myself.
2. Time your shower, and shower less
Depending on your water pressure, you use between 70-160 litres of water for an 8 minute shower. Keeping your shower to 5 minutes (or less) makes a significant water saving over the course of a year. You can get creative in the way you time your shower, the timer on your phone will do it, or you can choose one or two of your favourite songs and hop out when they’ve finished playing, or you could do what I have done and get a shower timer. I got this one from www.earthangel.co.nz.
Showering less often is also a option. Showering daily is a relatively recent thing, and is not as necessary as you might think. Showering – especially long showers with lots of soap – remove beneficial bacteria reducing one of the body’s first-line defenses. It’s really only your armpits and groin which get smelly, so you really need only focus on washing these areas. Experts consider that for sedentary people, a shower once, twice or three times a week is all that is needed. For more information see this article.
3. Wash your hair less…or go no ‘poo
While we’re on the topic you can also try washing your hair less frequently, or even joining the ‘No poo’ (no shampoo) movement. Frequent hair washing, like frequent showering, strips the hair of all its natural oils which encourages the scalp to produce more oils, meaning you have to wash more frequently…and so on. Daily hair washing is also a modern habit. This lovely video from the 1950’s advises women to wash their hair “every two weeks”. Daily washing is a marketer’s dream. “Gentle enough to use every day” is all about getting you to buy more hair products rather than improve the health of your hair.
This year I have joined the ranks of the No ‘Poo movement: people who shun commercial shampoo and conditioner in favour of natural, easily available alternatives such as baking soda, egg, or rye flour to name but a few of the many options. This change was massive for me as I had previously washed my (very greasy) hair daily for the past 25 years. Now I wash once a week with baking soda and condition with white vinegar. Going no poo has many benefits one of which is you actually save time! Not having to wash (and dry) my hair every day has given me back hours of my life.
4. Buy your bread from the bakery
If you don’t have time to bake your own bread then going to the bakery is a very good second. We go to Bakers Delight where we are able to get the loaves in paper bags rather than plastic. Or you can take a bread bag or pillowcase along and pop your bread in that. (This last step is on my to do list).
5. Buy bar soap
This is an easy one: when you buy your soap, go for good old fashioned bars of soap over plastic-packaged liquid soap. Less waste. Same result.
6. Look for paper packaging over plastic
In other words, be conscious of packaging when you shop. For me, this means I buy Greencane toilet paper and Chux biodegradeable kitchen cloths. Although it is on my list to knit some cotton kitchen cloths like these, which is even better.
7. Compost, bokashi, worm farms
We all have food scraps, its what you do with them that makes the difference. We have had a worm farm for some years now, and when the worms couldn’t keep up with the scrap supply we supplemented that with a compost bin. Yet we still had items which could go in neither: meat scraps, eggshells, citrus and onion skins. So this year has been the Year of the Bokashi: bokashi is a way of fermenting food scraps – including all the items just mentioned so they break down quickly in your garden. Once we added this third (and final) method of dealing with food waste we finally achieved a new milestone: we now throw no food scraps whatsoever in our rubbish bin. This is a great result as food scraps the end up in landfill do not compost and break down, rather they give off methane. And an bonus time-saving benefit is that we no longer need to line our bin, No plastic liner, no newspaper liner. Just no liner. Easy. 🙂
8. Reusable grocery bags and produce bags
Even if all of the above sound to challenging, you can still take your reusable bags to the supermarket, saving around 500 plastic bags per year for every reusable bag you use. And if you’re already doing this, you can go one further and get some reusable produce bags to use for fruit and veges.