Feb 2, 2016

8 ways to reduce dry waste

Dry waste collection happens in our apartment complex every Sunday. We have a separate bag in our utility balcony where we dump dry waste (plastic, paper) on an ongoing basis and on Sunday morning, we keep this bag outside for collection.

Last Sunday, when I peeped into our bag, there was hardly anything. And then I realized that this had been the case for the last few Sundays -  the bag hadn't reached its full capacity for the past several weeks. This made me feel happy and gave a sense of satisfaction that I'm contributing a teeny tiny bit towards reducing waste and garbage.

Our bag that day had plastic milk packets, a few plastic covers and some torn paper bills and receipts. Over time, we have made many changes to our lifestyle that has resulted in a positive impact towards reduction of garbage going to the landfills. I'm sharing those changes here, hoping that you might get a few ideas.

1) Kitchen DIY - I had already written a detailed post on it. Yoghurt boxes, ready-to-eat processed food packets and idli/dosa batter pouches are all made of plastic. They are neither good for your bodies nor for the environment. Try to be self-sufficient in certain practices - set curd at home, make idli/dosa batters and replace processed foods with fresh home-made foods, fruits and nuts.

2) Shop vegetables from a local vendor - I can't digest the fact that we bring in loads of plastic covers along with vegetables whenever we go for weekly grocery shopping to a supermarket or a large retail chain. I don't understand the convenience claim. It's such a stupid practice, if you ask me. Take a cloth bag or a jute bag to your local vegetable vendor. Buy vegetables of your choice and carry them home in a single bag. Sort them at home, wrap in thin wet cotton towels and keep them in fridge. Believe me, it stays fresh for atleast 3-4 days. If you need to wrap in plastic bags, reuse the ones that you get from grocery products like dals, grains or flours.

3) Reduce consumption - I firmly believe that reducing consumption yields 10x better results than recycling or upcycling when it comes to conservation or sustenance of environmental resources. Though the e-commerce boom is helping us in many ways - be it convenience, price or accessibility, the packaging material is creating a huge damage to the environment. Even if you order a single book, the amount of packaging that comes along with it is mind boggling - a thin plastic wrap, a bubble wrap and an outer cardboard box / a thick plastic cover with sealed tapes. Before you hit the "Order" button, think twice and ask yourself whether you really need to buy that specific product. 

4) Make time to cook your food - The proliferation of food tech startups indicate that home cooking is on the decline. The food you order mostly comes in cheap quality packaging made of plastic. Regular consumption of food in cheap plastic containers can be harmful in the long run, leading to diseases like cancer. If reducing packaging waste is not a good enough motivating factor to cook your own food, what if I tell you that cooking can be one of those activities that keep your creative juices flowing? It can keep you healthy and fit too.

5) Reuse paper - Whether it be bills/hand-outs/print-out sheets, check if you can reuse it before you throw it in the trash. One-sided papers can be handy for shopping lists, random to-dos, brainstorming, mind-mapping or even letting your kid scribble with crayons.

6) Carry your own water bottle - Whenever we step out, we always carry a water bottle each for all three of us. We don't buy packaged water unless we are traveling long-distance and we run out of water from our bottles.

7) Carry some bags - In my handbag, I carry a few cloth bags of different sizes. If I need to shop for a few items, I use one of these cloth bags to carry the items home. In our car, we always have 3-4 large sized jute bags that we carry for shopping. We have almost completely stopped taking plastic bags from the vendors.

8) Reduce tissue papers - When I used to work for an MNC, I have noticed many times that people take a bunch of tissue papers along with their lunch trays. I used to wonder why one tissue paper wasn't enough. Then I observed how they were using a tissue paper for every 2-3 mouthfuls of rice/roti. Western practice adopted for Indian eating habit, I presume. Anyway, my point here is that the usage of tissue papers has gone up so much in India in the last 10 years. Our parents eat using their hands or a spoon. They then wash their hands with water and wipe their hands using a handkerchief. Isn't that a better practice? I don't use tissue papers at home but I do see a stand with premium kitchen rolls in every modern kitchen counter. Honestly speaking, I'm unaware of its use but if it's for wiping your hands, try to use a simple cotton towel.

Some of you might wonder if these ideas are practical to implement. My answer is a resounding YES if you can make time for it and care about the future of our children and ofcourse, our Mother Nature.

I'll continue to write more on how I try to reduce waste further. If you have any other ideas, please do share. Would love to hear your experiences.

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