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Reducing Waste: Home Edition

By SarahWhelan 13 Mar 2020

Less waste from the things we buy is good for the environment, both in terms of production emissions and disposal. It also means less trips out to the bin, and if you live on the 4th floor like me, this is important!

So how can we reduce our waste without never buying another product?

Recycling has been the buzz word for the last decade but in the waste hierarchy it is the last of the three R's.

As the title of this article suggests, the best thing you can do is Reduce i.e. don't buy it in the first place.

It doesn't mean you can never buy another item of clothing again just stop for a moment before you click buy on that new summer haul. Will last summers clothes still do or could you hold a clothes swap with friends and find something 'new to you'?

In terms of food, the multi buy discount and pre-packed veg can appear better value, but if you aren't going to be able to finish it in time or it has extra packaging then perhaps it isn't worth that little saving.

Buying loose veg gives you the ability to buy exactly the size/shape and amount that you are going to need. Edinburgh is full of farmers markets and a growing amount of packaging free shops.

Shopping for food little and often is the key to reducing how much goes in the bin.

sewing machine

The next stop is reuse.

Your skirt with the broken zip, could you up-cycle it into a pillow case? Or that pile of glass jars for the bin, could they be decorated and used as vases or stores for your loose grains and pulses?

It may take a little more time but the final piece is going to mean more to you than one you bought from a mainstream shop and no-ones going to have the same as you.

If you can't find a use for something you no longer need then, if it is still in good condition, find someone that will. Musselburgh, Portobello and the city centre have a great selection of charity shops eager for donations. Check which one you are going to go to before hand as some specify in books, clothes, furniture or electrics


Avoid single use. It can feel like we have gone full circle, from having the same set of cutlery for generations to plastic one-use forks everywhere but finally the tide is turning and bringing us back to quality not quantity. 

Keep a reusable bag in the bottom of your bag, find a keep-cup or use a good ol' mug for your lunch time coffees and when buying something new think whether by spending a little more it will last you longer and work out better value (and less wasteful). 

tool library

A growing trend in communities is sharing schemes. These work like librarys but for a variety of products. Edinburgh has the tool library where you can hire equipment, affordably, for as long as you need it. After all, how often do you really use your glue gun? By having a community store of equipment it not only saves people money, it also reduces how many products are produced due to less demand. 

Could you set up a similar scheme with friends? 


Finally, it can be worth looking at the way we gift. Christmas, birthdays, weddings, house warmings...they all have a societal expectation of gifting. This can lead to a lot of packaging as well as unwanted or duplicated belongings. 

How about pulling together for a trip away with friends instead of birthday presents or try making your own gifts at Christmas time or give the gift of your time to a friend. Memories and shared experiences will mean a lot more than a joke singing cactus. 

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