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Reduce, reuse, recycle

How far do you follow the three 'R's of a zero-waste lifestyle philosophy? Tamanna Kalhar suggests some key strategies to help you earn extra eco-friendly brownie points

May 1, 2007
5 min read

Don’t bin it

Contact your local council for details of its waste disposal policies and the nearest recycling facility.

The best option for household organic waste, including food, is home composting. It eliminates the carbon footprint of waste transport and returns valuable nutrients to the soil. Visit: www.recyclenow.com/home_composting/composting/index.html for more information.

Give your clothes a new lease of life by reinventing them. It’s amazing what you can do with some haberdashery and trimmings. It could be as simple as swapping the buttons on your outfits, or using iron-on letters to bring that old tee shirt back into fashion. Use undyed yarn to knit your own jumpers to avoid toxic materials and sweatshops.

Do book swaps with friends instead of buying new. Donate unwanted toys to nurseries or children’s hospital wards.

Don’t buy products with excess packaging; choose those with re-useable containers. Invest in a reusable natural fibre bag to carry your shopping home.

Return unwanted junk mail and ask for your name to be removed from the mailing list by emailing the Mail Preference Service.

Don’t standby, switch off

A computer left on all day results in the emission of 1,500 pounds of carbon dioxide in a year. Even a mobile phone charger left plugged in wastes power and money. Switch off all lights and electrical appliances when not in use. See www.tiptheplanet.com for information on computer power management and other energy saving tips, such as not overfilling the kettle.

Use energy efficient appliances and light bulbs and turn down your thermostat by just 1°C to save one tenth of your home heating bill. Make your home more energy efficient by insulating your loft, lagging your boiler and pipes, and using draught excluders. And switch to a green energy provider like Ecotricity.

Nullify your carbon footprint

For zero carbon emissions cycle and walk as much as you can. Use public transport. If you must drive make sure you do so in the appropriate gear to reduce exhaust emissions and switch off your engine if not moving. Invest in a fuel efficent car. The Environmental Transport Association features the environmental rating of all new cars and other tips on becoming a greener motorist.

Sacrificing overseas air travel will significantly diminish your carbon footprint and personal contribution to global warming. Research train and boat options at www.nofly.co.uk and www.seat61.com and pledge to limit or stop your flights at www.flightpledge.org.uk.

Be sustainable material-istic

For every tonne of paper we use each year, we consume an area of forest about the size of five football pitches. Buy recycled or recyclable products such as toilet tissue and stationery. Look for the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) logo when buying wood products – from paper to raw timber. This ensures the wood comes from a well-managed forest. Re-use envelopes and recycle paper after use. And use e-mail where possible, rather than faxing or writing.

Consume zero waste

There’s a multitude of reasons why you should buy local, organic food. As well as saving on carbon miles and packaging it supports the endangered farmer species and is healthier. Check out your nearest farmers’ market for fresh food, often organic, direct from the farm. Visit www.farmersmarkets.net for more information.

The Organic Directory provides information on organic box schemes and local food resources. Buy seasonal fruit and vegetables to reduce the environmental transport costs. Or grow your own allotment. Call your local council or contact the National Society of Allotment and Leisure Gardeners for information on getting started.

What a waste of water

Fix dripping taps and turn the tap off when brushing your teeth. Install a Hippo water saver – or a brick – in your toilet cistern to save between 2.5 and 3.5 litres of water when you flush.

Ban your hosepipe; use a watering can for the garden and a bucket of water for car washing. Install a water-butt, available at local garden centres. Using rainwater for the garden, toilet and washing machines can save up to 50 per cent of household water use. There are a number of different rainwater harvesting systems available, which can be installed in both new and existing buildings. See www.environmentagency.gov.uk.

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