It’s zero waste week, a global week set aside to raise awareness on what we consume and how we can reduce our waste from single-use plastics, food and even how we live daily. We live in a consumer based world but this does not mean we have to conform to what we are sold. Analysing what we consume every day and what we consider as waste will make us realise how much as human beings sharing the planet with other creatures need to be more cautious. This comes as we celebrate the upcoming World Cleanup Day on 15th August.
Going zero waste is a lifestyle we should all embrace. Not only will it protect wildlife that is today choking in plastic but it is cost effective. If protecting the planet is not your thing maybe going zero waste because you will save some cash should be your end goal. Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 12 has even emphasised on ‘Responsible Consumption and Production’ and therefore this is a win-win situation whether you are a manufacturer or consumer and thus each of us has a role to play.
Before we begin, in order to understand how reducing your waste will save money, one must first know how much waste is being produced. Then, discover what you need to do in a world where everything and anything is packed in plastic today or in small amounts and consumerism is a big deal, so as to reach the zero waste/ saving goal.
This is quite obvious but not so many people consider it a saving mechanism. Buying in bulk requires planning on what your household uses more so for foodstuffs such as cereals and flour. Buying a 1 kg of rice in a small packet every week is different from buying 5 – 10 kgs of rice in one packet. How? 1kg rice bought 5 to 10 times every month is more expensive than buying it ones. The ‘Kadogo’ economy may seem convenient but when you do the math, especially with the impulse buying that may result, you will realise that you actually spend more buying less several times.
How does buying in bulk link with the environment? Items packed in bulk, especially those in plastic packaging, will use less plastic. Buying in bulk also ensures you are mindful of what you consume and reduces impulse buying especially for unnecessary single-use plastic items.
We do have bulk shopping places in Kenya but not many people are actually aware of the existence since they are actually few. In retrospect, one can still shop at the supermarket and insist on only buying large items.
Today, there is a detergent for everything. What you use for washing the bathroom floor is different from what is used on a normal floor. What is used to clean certain clothes cannot be used to clean all other clothes. However, did you know, white vinegar, bicarbonate soda and citric acid powder are actually great cleaning agents? Not only are they affordable but they are also friendly for children and for people with allergies.
Have you heard of biodegradable detergents? This is also another option, just remember to buy in bulk.
Buying one 500ml bottled water may not be expensive. However, how many times have you bought a water in a plastic bottle in one year? How much money have you used to buy a bottle which you will eventually throw away after you are done? Saying no to single-use plastic will eventually save you money in the long term.
Plenty of food is wasted in the kitchen. There is no need of buying a lot of perishable food when they will become rotten in such a short while. Ensure that whatever you cook is not wasted as well. This also goes hand in hand with the need to store food properly which will avoid waste.
Also, buy local produce which is in season. If you have a farmers’ market nearby, this is better than buying fruits and vegetables from the supermarket.
From food, snacks and even detergents. If you can learn how to make it at home, do not hesitate. Avoid buying prepared food. Try to focus on making simple meals that can be made with simple produce.
Water is a very scarce resource especially in a largely populated city such as Nairobi. Always ensure that all taps are not leaking. Use of water for washing clothes can be used in the toilet while the final rinse for utensils can be used to soak up the next pile of dishes.
Going zero waste also goes hand in hand with how much energy in terms of electricity your house uses. When there is no one in the room, there is no need of having the lights on. Also, ensure you have invested in fluorescent bulbs which consume less power.
Remember, zero waste is not completely zero. It takes one step at a time to accomplish a specific goal. Once you take even one step and make it a habit, soon enough you will realise how that one change was cost-effective.