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Recycling is important.  But as we’re becoming increasingly aware, it’s by no means the ‘answer’ to the environmental challenges we face – be that beating plastic waste, reducing carbon emissions…  John Vidal has written a good article (‘The solution to the plastic waste crisis? It isn’t recycling’ The Guardian 14 January 2020) stating we need to “starve the beast of consumerism”to really change our direction. We live in a society where consumerism is still king, and “bosses of chain stores stand down if people don’t buy more new stuff from them each year”.  Pretty ridiculous.  He goes on to write,

“Supermarkets switching from one sort of packaging to another may prevent some nasties getting into the sea or being burned but this is not nearly enough. The way to avoid ecological disaster is to starve the beast of consumerism, by buying less and reusing more of everything. Rather than blame meat or toy castles or aeroplane flights, we must change consumer habits and attitudes to consumption.”

Here’s a quick list of what you can do to really make a difference – a refreshed ‘reduce reuse recycle’ with links to local info.

  1. Get clued up

    • Come to a workshop. Come to our FREE expert-led ‘talking waste and climate’ workshop at WOCA on February 8 2020.  Details here.
      This workshop is the third in our series of ACT Now programme workshops.  We also talked food waste at the last workshop with Anais from Replenish, so look out for a blogpost on that soon.
    • Google is your friend.  Read up online – there is plenty out there, including this handy post I found today from Zero Waste Chef which covers 21 Consumer Products You Can (Likely) Live Without.  That leads of nicely to…
  2. Avoid & plan

    We simply need to buy much less.  Part of that is careful planning.  LISTS.

    • Always shop with a list. At our food workshop earlier this month, we looked at waste which happens between buying and bining (so not at the production or selling part of the lifecycle, responsable for a lot of unneccesary waste, but less directly in our power to change).  A key thing which came out of the brainstorm was that we need to go shopping with a clear list, and part of making that list should be checking what we already have.  Obvious, but list-less (and worse, hungry!) over-shopping is a cause of waste.
    • Start keeping an all-year present list.  I mentioned Christmas in the post title as shorthand for ‘recent gift-giving fiesta which comes once a year with predictablity’. Every year, when it comes to birthdays and other gift-giving times, I struggle to think of what we actually need.  And then January comes and I start thinking about getting tickets for a festival we go to every year (Wood, it is wonderful); and as we head into spring I’ll suddenly realise a key bit of camping kit has really bitten the dust and can no longer be patched up.  Oh, if only I’d remembered these things when I was scrabbling around for Xmas ideas for the family.  Obviously, even better if you can have a conversation about ‘stuff’ and gifts with your nearest and dearest and reduce the amount everyone feels they need to buy/gift.  But with some that is difficult, and hey, it is nice to get a present.  And just suggesting this to others could be radical in making them aware of the issue, without alienating/shaming.So, grab a piece of paper and keep it somewhere handy to note down anything you need through the year, which you will have forgotten about when it gets to gift time.  Some other present ideas: money towards annual treats (aforementioned festival); experience vouchers e.g. theatre; kit which enables hobbies and nature engagement, which is built to LAST and can therefore be pricey…  I pretty much already have my list for next Xmas.
    • Here’s a post from Zero Waste Chef on planning.
  3. Fix it

    • Repair cafes are popping up all over Oxfordshire.  The next one in West Oxford is on February 8 2020, 2-4pm at WOCA: Love Your Stuff.  Bring your broken bikes, household electricals, holey clothes and droppy houseplants for some tlc, pracitcal advice and repair.  We’ll have expert repairers on hand.  Not in West Oxford?  There are loads going on all over the place, with many part of the Big Fix on February 15Rose Hill & Iffley Low Carbon runs regular ones, as does Share Oxford.
  4. Swap it / pass it on

    • Bring & Take: LCWO held its first Bring & Take event in 2009, and has held two every year since. Each one attracts 200+ people, and 1000+ items are swapped.  This leads to an estimated 1.53 tonnes of CO2 emissions avoided / 1 tonne waste / 740kg diverted from landfill.  And it is really fun.  Next West Oxford Bring & Take 25 April 2020.  Want to set up your own?  We’re just putting together a how to guide, so get in touch.
    • Join an online hand me on group or start on in your local area.  In December 2017, I set up 2 groups on facebook to enable people to hand on baby and kids stuff, especially things which are unlikely to be allowed or pretty enough for a charity shop.  Hand me on maternity, baby & toddler kit Oxford now has 2.35k members (!) and Hand me on 3-8yrs kid’s stuff Oxford 730+.  This group has ever 1000 offers of things a month, from reusable nappies and breastpads to sure-fire winners like this bike trailer that came and went this weekend.  If you’d like to replicate this group in your area, get in touch – apart from needing some basic moderation to keep posts appropriate and keep things safe, it is ridiculously easy to get going.
  5. Share stuff

  6. Change how and where you shop

    For stuff you can’t swap, we’ve already mentioned the importance of lists and prep.  For so much stuff, secondhand is where it’s at.  From John Vidal,
    “There is real hope, too. The secondhand economy of “pre-loved” goods is bigger in Britain than in any other OECD country, with charity shops and boot sales generating more than £700m and revitalising high streets. It is the antidote to the throwaway corporate culture and the chain stores, which take money out of the local communities. “

    • Jumble sales.  This weekend’s Jumble Fever raised £10k for a good cause, whilst allowing a large number of us to find new treasures for small monies and without the guilt of fast fashion.
    • Charity shops. A quick browse of Oxfam’s Superstore this morning and there were Persian rugs, running kit, fridges, shoes… and the audiobook of The Hobbit on tape – the same version I listened to as a child.  Good value and all money to a good cause.  You can also drop stuff off to hand on at the same time, at their drive-through. Again, what’s not to love?
  7. Recycle

    When you’ve exhausted the above, and need to throw something out, you might find this useful.  Oxfordshire County Council have created this great online search tool to clarify what can go where.  And if, like in this search, you come across something you can’t recycle and has to go to landfill, spend a couple of minutes of your life trying to think creatively and see if you can find a new useful purpose for the item which can’t recycled – e.g. I am going to ring homeless shelters to see if I can deep clean the pillows and hand them over…

  8. If you must buy new…

    • Quality trumps quantity.  Buy stuff that is actually made to last.  My partner goes through backpacks fast, as he always opts for the cheaper option.  This year I’ve persuaded him to spend a bit more on one with a 30 year guarentee.  If he needs another in 30, I’ll pay for it.  Whilst we cannot recommend specific brands/sellers, google can help.  I would love to see a list of producers who make all the basic kit we tend to need for modern life e.g. bags; shoes; appliances with a long term guarentee.  30 years, for many things, should be the norm.
    • Identify packaging-free sources for everything you can e.g. get a local veg box, find a refill station for dried goods…
  9. Demand change

    I want to pull together some good links for this.  Individual lifestyle change is important, but what is CRUCIAL in all this is holding those who hold us in this wasteful system to account.  Some thoughts on how best to do this coming soon.

Any other tips or ideas, get in touch via facebook, twitter or by email.

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