Great Health Guide


Five principles to decrease waste are: refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle & rot

- Dr Ash Nayate

The reasons why reducing waste is so critical in our quest to protect the environmen­t and live more sustainabl­y was outlined in Zero Waste Living: Part 1, in the previous edition of Great Health GuideTM. In Part 2, we look into the five principles behind zero waste living and find out how we can incorporat­e practical strategies for waste reduction into our everyday life.

1. Refuse

Zero waste living starts with eliminatin­g unnecessar­y items before they even enter our home, from flyers we know we’ll never read to cosmetic samples we know we’ll never use.

Refusing unnecessar­y items doesn’t only reduce waste - it also benefits our wallets. Many people who subscribe to a low- or zero-waste philosophy embrace minimal living, whereby they only make purchases that are necessary, and they don’t participat­e in unnecessar­y acquisitio­n of possession­s. By being discerning about what enters our life in the first place, we end up having to make fewer choices about waste. Before bringing items into our homes, it’s worth asking ourselves why.

2. Reduce

When purchasing necessary goods, we can strive to reduce the amount of waste we bring into our homes. This might include using cloth bags to carry groceries, avoiding pre-packed plasticwra­pped fruits and vegetables, and using mesh bags rather than plastic bags to buy produce. For those with access, bulk stores may be an option for purchasing staples like grains, nuts, beans, and pasta.

Where prepacked goods are unavoidabl­e, opt for those packed in cardboard, paper, or cloth, rather than plastic. For goods that can be stored for a long time or that are consumed quickly in your home, consider purchasing extralarge bags to reduce packaging. A tenkilo bag of rice uses less packaging than ten one-kilo bags of rice. (The caveat, of course, is to only do this with foods you consume frequently - otherwise you may end up inadverten­tly creating food waste).

3. Reuse

We’ve probably all repurposed trash without realizing it; for example, storing memorabili­a in old shoeboxes. Zero waste advocates find new life in items that would otherwise be destined for landfill. Empty jars can be used to store pantry items like flour and sugar, or as freezable storage containers for leftovers, or even to sprout seeds in winter for planting outdoors in spring.

If you find yourself inundated with more materials than you could ever repurpose, then consider offering them to family, friends or neighbours. Or, try listing them for sale on Gumtree or Facebook Marketplac­e.

4. Rot

Around 5 million tonnes of food waste are sent to landfill each year, according to Oz

Harvest. Food scraps have the potential to break down and create a nutrientri­ch soil for producing more crops - and unfortunat­ely, food waste in landfill doesn’t receive the oxygen it needs to decompose.

The most environmen­tally friendly way to dispose of organic waste is to compost it properly. Composting is possible even in small living spaces - even in apartments with no outdoor space (with a Bokashi bin, for example). Alternativ­ely, food scraps can be disposed of in a council green bin or passed along to neighbours who do have a compost system. The website can link you with someone in your area who accepts organic waste for composting.

5. Recycle

Recycling is well suited to paper and cardboard, metal cans and glass. It should be noted that recycling isn’t appropriat­e for all items. Recycling process is still energy intensive and shortens the lifespan of the raw materials. Ideally, recycling should be used in conjunctio­n with the other R’s, to ensure that only those items acquired out of necessity and without repurpose potential, are sent to recycling.

Dr Ash Nayate is a clinical neuropsych­ologist specializi­ng in brain function and resulting behaviour. Ash has almost 15 years’ experience working with children and families, supporting them to feel happier, more confident and resilient. To contact Ash please visit her website.

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