Five Ways to End our Disposable Way of Life
Human beings are going to drown in their own waste. This is waste that has been accumulating over the past 50 odd years caused by our conversion to a lifestyle of convenience, consumerism and planned obsolescence but there are ways we can end our disposal way of life.
We have adapted so comfortably to a ‘throw-away’ society that we can’t image living without ‘stuff’ – stuff that we often only use once. Watching our response recently to the Coles and Woolworths plastic bag ban is a perfect example of distaste for our perceived inconvenience. This conditioning has blinded us to the growing waste problem we have and the significant impact it is having on our environment.
Australia produces enough waste each year that if it were spread across the ground, it would cover the state of Victoria. But we don’t see it spread everywhere (although I’m starting to see more and more rubbish on the sides of the roads) because we simply throw it away, leaving it for someone else to deal with.
The issue is not just with the products we purchase and dispose of that needs to be taken into account. Before it has even reached our household it has left a trail of industrial waste behind it…all contributing to global warming and the waste problem on its journey.
A great example of this is the disposal coffee cup. Did you know it isn’t recyclable? Only the lid my can be recycled. The ‘coffee culture’ particularly here in Melbourne is something we enjoy very much so why would we spend any time thinking about what we drink it out of? I love my latte as much as the next person but I cannot abide the waste this innocuous activity is causing. It is estimated that Australia uses 1 billion disposable cups per year. So if we want to continue to enjoy this simple pleasure for many years to come, we need to make some adjustments to our behaviour.
Convenience has comes at a price but I don’t believe we need to give it up; we just need to be smarter about it. So here are five solutions that we can all adopt to make a difference. We challenge you to choose one and start making the changes today.
Solution One: Take Responsibility for your own Waste
This begins with purchasing decisions – taking responsibility for your own waste makes you a lot more conscious about the choices you make when buying new ‘stuff’. Check out the Story of Stuff to get a really good understanding of the industrial trail of waste and exploitation of labour that occurs during the creation of new products.
Being more conscious about the products you are willing to purchase helps reduce the household waste you produce. Buying in bulk, composting food scraps and recycling everything you can, will really reduce your landfill pile.
Solution Two: Avoid Single Use
Buy a reusable cup. It is one of the easiest things you can do whilst still enjoying our wonderful coffee culture. If you don’t have time to spend chatting with a friend over a latte at the café, have your cup available. Buy a couple – one for work and one for home. Make it easy to adapt to this new way of living. You may also find some cafe’s will reduce the cost of your coffee if you provide your own cup.
Solution Three: Reuse
Wherever you can, reuse instead of buying new. Why do we need to get fresh plastic bags every time we do the grocery shopping? Why use plastic bags at all? Here are some reusable tips:
- Have a supply of reusable shopping bags always available
- Add to you shopping bags some reusable produce bags
- Reuse food scraps and make compost for the garden
- Need a new outfit, go op shopping and find yourself a pre-loved garment
Solution Four: No more Plastic
- A lot of plastic can be recycled but there is a lot that can’t. Like the disposal coffee cup, plastic has become such an insidious part of our lives that we don’t know how to live without it. Soft packaging plastic can be returned to a lot of supermarkets – look out for the REDcycle bin.
- Save yourself some money and replace cling wrap with beeswax wraps. Remember you can also cover food in the fridge with a plate like grandma did, avoiding plastic wrap.
Solution Five: Buy Less
- Do we really need more stuff? Really think about it. Do you need it or want it? When we ask ourselves those questions each time we have the urge to buy, it is amazing how you realise you can make do with what you’ve got.
We survived happily prior to being told by corporations through clever marketing that we need the latest and the greatest. By educating ourselves and refusing to be manipulated by this, we can start putting pressure back onto them to change their ways so they start producing products more ethically, remove the planned obsolescence and think about reclaiming the resources once the product comes to the end of its life. It then makes it easier for us to live a life of convenience whilst enjoying the simple pleasures gained from being resourceful and not wasteful.