War On Waste, What We Can Do
It’s been a long time coming, but today was a big day in Australia because both it's two giant supermarket chains, Coles and Woolworths, committed to removing single-use plastic bags in the next year. Here, down under, we use 5 billion of them a year. That’s 10 million every single day with only 25 million people. In the States, that number is higher than 100 billion every year. To make them fossil fuels are used and there is the problem that then they don't break down. We already know, plastic bags are a seriously major problem. Having the big guys say no to plastic bags isn’t the only solution but it is one part of it, and hopefully it will bring in a country wide ban, with even more hope the whole of the US will be next. It only makes sense especially as banning the bag is something that has been in many countries around the globe to reduce the devastating environmental plastic is having, especially when it ends up in our oceans and eventually the stomachs of our wildlife. The situation is so severe that scientists even predict that by 2050 there will be more plastic in our oceans than fish. So banning the bag is something that is a no-brainer, but obviously the war on waste doesn't stop there.
This month my children have done Plastic Free July with their whole school and many of our local shops and other schools in the area. It has been a wonderful awareness-raising community project and it gives me hope to see how fiercely the young ones, who we leave this planet to, are focusing on solutions.
They are taking it seriously. Because it is.
It has also got me stumped a few times. Because I thought we were onto it our household. But like anything, unless you are paying attention, things slip through the gaps. By adding the "Refuse" to the other "R's" it was powerful.
I got caught balancing a bunch of art supplies when I left a shop the other day because I refused a bag as I’m “plastic –free”. My girlfriend drank her coffee with the barista out of a cafe's cup, because she forgot her reusable coffee cup but was committed to not using any “one-use” cups. On the good side, I rememebered to take a bottle of tamari and glass containers from home with me when I got takeaway sushi for the kids after school instead of using all the plastic bits and pieces and am becoming a plastic ninja, everywhere we go we are talking to shop owners about what they could do.
And what about what we can do. Every year the average Australian and American family produces enough rubbish to fill a three-bedroom house, producing about 2.5 kg of waste each per day. Reducing our waste personally can be tackled in a manner of ways and no way better put then the standard well-known slogan;
Reducing starts with changing our behaviours. Buying less packaged goods, using less (or no) plastic bags, bottles or single use cups and the major one, buying less in general!
You may have read about my experiment last year to not buy any new clothes for the year as a challenge and a raising of awareness personally on how much throwaway fashion is ending up in landfill. We throw away an average of…
Food waste starts before the produce has even left the farm because suppliers put cosmetic standards on what they will and won't sell. Farmers are left with perfectly tasty food that doesn’t “look right” and it is often thrown out. On the brilliant series, War on Waste they interview a farm that throws away 40% of their produce because it doesn't meet the crazy standards the stores have.
There are groups that are working to distribute the "ugly" but edible food and these “ugly fruit and veg” has trickled into our mainstream stores but what needs to happen is we have to see that food isn’t meant to be uniform. The big, the small, the varying colours, the wonky ones, the double headed ones, we need to have them all mixed – just like you and me. As nature intented it. And we can help make that change by choosing the ugly guys. Showing the chains it doesn't matter.
Personally we shop at the farmers markets and a lot of the food is funky looking – but this is how food is meant to look! The supermarkets claim it’s the consumers, but consumers are often influenced by the supermarkets… we both have to commit. The same goes for all of the issues with our food system – including food labelling, factory farmed products, hidden sugars… I am sure the pressure from consumers is what has tipped the two big chains in Australia today, but with their commitment to ban the bag, they will now influence many other stores, consumers and perhaps even our government. They have a big responsibility.
In our own kitchens, food waste is a big way we can put less into the land with an average of 40-50% of our rubbish coming from food scraps. When we put our food scraps in with our decomposing rubbish, it produces methane, which is even more harmful for global warming than carbon dioxide (and is one of the major problems with raising so many cows for beef!) Instead it is so simple to switch to composting or even worm farming. Even better to not waste the food – to buy only what you are going to eat and use all of the food!
For great advice on how to live "plastic-free" or to take the Plastic Free Challenge this month, check out here.
I also highly recommend you checking our War on Waste with your family and getting the kids involved. We all need to play a part. And we can.