by Nic Bryan
I’m Nic, a mum of soon-to-be-two year old twin boys and a local high school teacher. I’m that dishevelled woman at Ryde Park most days with two little blondies running over to drop their banana peels into the lunch bag to take home for composting. Or collecting dry leaves in our hard-to-miss red wagon.
Like many of us, I recently watched the ABC’s 3-episode series War On Waste. Astounded by how much waste we produce in Australia, I felt inspired to make changes to reduce my own household’s waste. Firstly, I’d politely tell my mother in law that although ‘we DO LOVE’ the 100 freshly made Pierogi (Polish dumplings) she is now bringing around to us weekly, our family (and friends) are struggling to eat them all, and perhaps she could make smaller batches so that we aren’t contributing as many to land fill.
My recent post on the Ryde District Mums Facebook page revealed that I am not alone in my reinvigorated reduce-reuse-recycle thinking. #5forRyde is one particularly exciting new initiative that I urge you to all support with a ‘like’ to start, and also by reading the article they wrote for RDMs. And would you check out the inspiring changes occurring in our nearby suburb – Bag Free Beecroft.
It’s my hope – and clearly yours too – that each of us can make several small changes for life – not just this year while the topic is at the front of our minds. By changing our habits, we will also teach our children by way of example that we care about their planet’s future health. We are a powerful and passionate group, so let’s make a difference.
Below I’ve shared some simple waste reducing ideas, some you know about, some you may not have thought of. Choose and implement one idea each month for the next 6 months. In no time at all you will have new habits for a more sustainable household.
1. USE A COMPOST BIN. DO IT!! Yes, even if you’re in an apartment
This is the single best thing you can do to significantly reduce your methane-producing land-fill waste. My household waste has reduced by about 40% since I started composting our fruit and vegetable scraps, egg shells and newspaper. HUGE! And Mum has started bringing her scraps over to my bin. I love my rotating compost bin for very easy and efficient aeration of the compost. If you’re in an apartment with a balcony, you can use a worm farm or a bokashi bin (the latter even with no balcony) and get the body corporate on board with an outdoor space for you to distribute the compost and compost juice. Ryde locals receive 40% off a large range of products through Compost Revolution. City of Ryde’s website also advertises two subsidised products directly. For a simple introduction, watch Costa Georgiadis’ Guide to Household Composting.
2. BUY SECOND HAND THEN PASS ON. Toys and kids’ clothes for a start
The toddlers don’t care! I realise that Kmart is a magical place where all of our decorating dreams come true. But buying all this new stuff we didn’t know we needed until we entered Kmart is truly wasteful. HOW HAVE WE BECOME SUCH WASTEFUL CONSUMERS THAT WE CARE IF A SECOND HAND COT HAS TEETH MARKS ON IT?! Ask gift givers to give you pre-loved items for the sake of our planet. Ask friends to pass seconds on to you. Find stuff at baby fairs and online buy-swap-sell groups. We hired capsules and sourced second hand cots, strollers, basinet, drawers, bouncers, carriers, white noise machine, baby monitor… this list is endless. I have only purchased 6 items of new clothing for my kids in their two years of life (plus shoes). And proud to brag about it! Do it for your bank account and do it for your environment. Join these local Facebook groups to get started:
3. PLANT A COMMUNITY HERB GARDEN
I’m doing this myself in an accessible garden next to my front mail box. I’ll make little signs (from recycled milk bottles) labelling each herb and another that tells passers-by to help themselves. If Betty, up the road, can avoid buying basil from a grocery store with thanks to my garden, then together we’re reducing her environmental footprint. Initiate this at a local park or school for an even greater impact.
4. USE A MENSTRUAL CUP
Didn’t see that one coming, did you? Perhaps you haven’t heard of them, I hadn’t until recently. Using a menstrual cup means you no longer use disposable pads or tampons that pollute our planet. You’ll save a lotttt of money over your remaining menstruating years and furthermore, menstrual cups are kind to your body. The Lunette Menstrual Cup recently won the ‘Best Eco Friendly’ award at the 2017 Naturally Good Expo in Sydney. One half of the Lunette Australia team is a Ryde District Mum!
5. RECYCLE SOFT PLASTICS
Collect your used soft, scrunchable plastics and drop them at a REDcycle bin. The REDcycle website states that Coles and Woolworths are partners. I now recycle bread bags, biscuit packets, cling wrap, pasta packaging, etc, at my local Coles. Scroll down on the webpage linked here to see the full list of what can be REDcycled.
5. PICNIC/PLAYGROUND RECYCLABLES – TAKE THEM HOME
At the local park – your kids have demolished the 4 muesli bars you brought and the muffin you just purchased for yourself and tried but failed to hide. Take those wrappers home to REDcycle. And the banana peels for your compost bin.
7. WHAT’S IN YOUR HANDBAG/NAPPY BAG?
Hopefully a compact reusable shopping bag or two such as the ones made of parachute material for those times you forget the large reusable grocery bags. And a reusable coffee/tea cup of course. Many Responsible Cafes including several in the Ryde area will give you a discount if you BYO cup. Click on that link back there for a map of local cafes.
8. FRUIT & VEGETABLES – BUY PLASTIC FREE
Those pre-cut bags of corn or celery sticks use plastic unnecessarily and also have a more involved and polluting manufacturing process. I made that last part up, I’m just assuming they do. Collect all of your fruit and veg in a reusable shopping bag then have the cashier weigh and place them into another of your reusable bags. Or you can buy or sew your own reusable fruit and veg bags.
9. REDUCE YOUR USE OF PLASTIC GROCERY BAGS
Ooops, you forgot to bring the reusable shopping bags because as you were leaving home your toddlers were both screaming in the backyard about how it was too windy.
Forgive yourself and improve the situation. Ask the check-out worker to load the plastic bags you are using up to the brim. This goes against their training so repeat your request and reassure if necessary! If you receive an online grocery shop you’ll know that the overuse of plastic bags is astounding. So if you aren’t reusing those bags (e.g. for nappy disposal or rubbish bin lining), drop a bag of bags off at your local daycare centre. They send soiled kids clothes home in the bags. Or take them to a REDcycle bin. However, to make real change, support the #banthebag campaign. Perhaps you can visit a grocery store that provide free boxes for your purchases… just ask them!
10. MOTIVATE AND INSPIRE OTHERS
Tell someone else about what you’re doing and motivate them to do the same. Teach your kids! I’m sure my husband is loving my frequent reminders that he take his reusable coffee cup to work.