Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Reducing waste

Recently I have been reading the book, "The Year of Living Danishly", about a London couple in their 30s who get the opportunity to move to rural Denmark for a year, and how their life together changes as a result (I should add that I borrowed this as an ebook from the local library).

It is a very interesting book, in that it provides a real insight into exactly how living is done differently, and in particular, the Danish approach to waste, design and longevity. I am not trying to say that the Danes are perfect - those who appear in the book seem to drink too much alcohol and consume too many sugary pastries for my taste - but as a nation Denmark seems to focus on modifying behaviours to limit the effects of the consumer society.

On the same day that my reading was drawing to its conclusion, I ran across a post in the regional paper about a New Zealand couple who were doing a road trip of the country explaining in simple steps how to work towards getting rid of your rubbish bin. Called "The Rubbish Trip presents Reducing our Household Rubbish: The Zero Waste Approach", the seminars aim to provide tips that attendees can pick and apply to fit their lives (website here). The idea is that those small changes will add up to larger changes in behaviour, and that over time, we become more thoughtful and make better choices. 

But what surprised me the most were some of the readers' comments on the site. One poster asked "Will they tell us the downside too?" I was left wondering about this 'downside'.

In working to get rid of our rubbish bins, I could only see positive aspects, such as in reducing toxicity to both ourselves and our environment, lowering our collective carbon footprint, teaching our children to not buy into the throw-away society, retraining our local - and eventually national and international - providers, reducing our costs at the supermarket, and preventing more landfill... I couldn't see a downside. 

When I mention toxicity, I have worked with career clients who have had to transition due to toxic overload syndrome: an illness which seems to often strike people in the health sector. We like to think that our cleaners and disinfectants can only do good for us, but that is not so. There are people amongst us who will have a allergic reaction to perfume, scented soap or even scented deodorant. Because of working with sufferers in the career sector, I no longer wear perfume, make-up, or use scented deodorant. I do use a very lightly scented soap and shampoo, but if I was seeing such a client, would have to shower again before seeing them to rinse even such lightly scented items away. As a nation, we simply don't understand the damage exposure can do, nor do we realise how little it might take to push each of us into overload. 

I haven't been able to do away with my bin yet, or to yet consider it. I know I could bulk buy more to reduce the use of some soft plastics, and would be interested to see what else we could do, providing I make the moves one step at a time, and keep it a lifestyle choice, not a route-march. We currently use a soda stream for fizzy water, very rarely buy fizzy drinks, fill our own milk bottles from Oaklands (we are lucky where we live, as a local company, Oaklands, have vending machines for A2 milk, where we can refill our own glass bottles), compost, cook vege scraps for our dogs, use our own cloth and mesh bags to avoid plastic shopping bags. We go to a local fruit and vege shop and try to avoid buying veg in plastic. We get very little paper rubbish as all our bills and news arrive electronically, and we have no letterbox, but a PO Box with a "No Junk Mail" order. Any paper we do get is stockpiled to start the fire in winter. We keep any glass jars to put our own homemade jam into. We bottle our own fruit, and make our own apple juice from our own trees. We have a vege garden.

Despite all this, we still manage to have a full recycle bin every two to three months, and have a drum of other waste probably twice a year because our shopping habits are still fairly normal. We drink wine... and I have not yet found a way to easily bulk buy bubbly!

But I am still cannot see the downside in lowering our waste. I would be interested if any of you can find it for me.




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