National Zero Waste Week 2017 ran from Monday 4th – Friday 8th September and the green accreditation scheme Investors in the Environment (iiE), run by the environmental charity PECT, was keen to encourage all organisations to get involved! Read on to find out how iiE’s April Sotomayor got on with the week.
Day 1: (Sunday)
I made a personal pledge to not buy anything this week with non-compostable packaging. I am consistently guilty of grab-and-go purchases as a result of not planning ahead and bringing in my lunch (the same goes for supper). I have children and often make pack lunches for school – at a minimum, I really should also be making my own lunch at the same time. So today, I did a lot of boiling of grains and beans and chopping of veg to make a variety of M&S inspired salads – but with less packaging, and of course a lower price tag! I used glass bottles, recycled yogurt pots and old takeaway containers to stack my fridge with a week’s worth of homemade ‘grab-and-go’ lunches! In honesty, this took a couple of hours, which at the time felt pretty defeating, but after nursery and school pick ups on Tuesday I was singing my own praises for this!
I’ve done a big pantry audit to find what food I have that I need to use before its sell-by date. Vowing to use up the remnants of jars and remains of old packets, I’ve put together a couple of interesting meals. No #foodwaste here this week. What scraps we have are going straight to the wormery!
It’s #TrashlessTuesday and we’ve taped up the office bins at work! Taking it one step further, I’ve even marked the recycling bins with Zero Waste signage to discourage deposits, although this is tougher to enforce. Recycling is brilliant, and must be encouraged, but at the end of the day, recycling is still trash and we need to rethink how much of it we’re putting out there.
I’m a bit late in the game for this, but I’ve begun to collect my own personal rubbish in a carrier bag to see just what I’ve generated during the work day. Because I’ve been able to prepare well on Day 1, this has been minimal – with only a few odd chocolate wrappers and a little other packaging. At home, this is another story altogether. This exercise has really shown me how much packaged material we bring into our home – and this packaging primarily stems from purchased food. This comes in the form of both convenience foods and whole foods too. I’m probably doing marginally better than most because we run a whole foods cooperative in my area and I do buy a lot of products in bulk – from grains, to flours, to cleaning materials. Nevertheless, our recycling bin in the kitchen gets filled at least every other day and has even been a challenge this week.
Because I knew Zero Waste Week was coming up, and because we’re leading on the campaign with iiE members, several months ago I started up a wormery. After my first failed attempt (worms and dirt from the garden won’t work as a starting point!), I got a supplement kit with proper ‘tiger’ worms and coir bedding to get it started. After almost two months in, our wormery is running excellently, generating loads of ‘worm tea’ for my flower baskets and the results are pretty amazing. It closes the loop on our food waste at home, as long as its all veggie.
It’s the last day of Zero Waste Week. It’s been a very interesting week, made easier by preparation and planning. If it wasn’t for my afternoon of preparing several days’ worth of lunches and quick mid-week meals, I would have really struggled to keep the levels of rubbish down. This exercise really showed me that being ‘green’ is a journey in this modern world of ours, what we do at work and at home all have an impact.
The biggest takeaway message for me this week has been to ask myself this question before I buy most things: “What am I going to do with this packaging or product once I’ve finished with it?” Where is it going to end up?