Conscious Waste: how we slashed our year’s garbage to 1.5 kg

So you may have heard there is a global waste crisis and plastic is killing our oceans, and we are ALL contributing to it, through the stuff we buy, how we buy it and what we do with our waste.

Globally we generate over 2 BILLION TONNES of waste each year. The average Australian household produces around 1.5 tonnes a year and much of this, like plastic packaging and food waste, is avoidable.

How much waste do you generate? (image © Alan Levine, reproduced under license) 

But the good news is, by following the nine tips below and making a few simple changes to slash your waste you can simplify your grocery shopping, simplify your kitchen (and your home), save money, save time AND save the planet!

It doesn’t have to be zero…

I was always kind of proud of myself that we had such a small kitchen bin — it was only the size that fits a standard plastic shopping bag and that was all the waste our two-person household generated in a week. That was until last year, when I heard about this thing called zero waste, where people are fitting their YEAR’S waste in a small jar! While I wasn’t sure we’d ever manage to get our waste down to that tiny amount, I was inspired to start reducing it. And so, by taking a less daunting Conscious Waste approach, in just a few months with a few simple changes, we cut our weekly plastic shopping bag of waste down to < 1/10th full (and reduced our recycling as well!).

Eventually we realised we no longer needed such a large bin, so we down-sized to 10 litres (using BIO-degradable liners). However, we found that even these bags were mostly empty when bin day came around, so I thought “Hang on, our bin doesn’t include any food waste, so maybe we don’t need to empty it each week”. So we don’t. And that means we no longer have to remember to take our bin out by 4.30pm every Thursday, no more unlocking the gate, wheeling it out to the kerb, then wheeling it back in again a couple hours later. So we’ve reclaimed some time and effort we can now spend on other things! After 3 months our 10-litre bin did eventually fill up, and based on this I worked out we’re generating around 40 litres (4 buckets) of waste a year (uncompacted). In terms of weight this is about 1.5 kg. It’s more than a small jar but it’s still WAY better than 1.5 tonnes!

Our 10L bin that we empty 4x /year 

So how did we do it? Well it was a combination of things, including substituting over-packaged products (e.g. plastic meat trays) with less packaged alternatives, buying in bulk and recycling stuff we didn’t previously (e.g. soft plastics). While I’ve always composted food waste, I also started composting tissues (and started using hankies) and personal care products (which were made from organic cotton and biodegradable materials, though I’ve now switched to reusable ones). So if you’d like a smaller bin and all the benefits that go with it, keep reading…MORE

Climate change making for sour grapes

“The reality is, one person can do a lot and if we get more and more people to start thinking about this, it will make a huge difference to the planet.”
—Caroline Granger, Grange of Prince Edward Vineyards and Estate Winery

BRUCE BELL Caroline Granger, of the Grange of Prince Edward Vineyards and Estate Winery in Hillier, inspects some of the vines at the Closson Road vineyard. Granger said climate change is making grapes difficult to grow. JPG, BI

HILLIER — The owner of a winery here is hoping Prince Edward County council is taking pleas to help the environment seriously.

Caroline Granger has operated the Grange of Prince Edward Vineyards and Estate Winery for almost two decades, but it wasn’t until her daughter Maggie got involved with the operation in 2012 did things begin to change.

“Maggie was the driving force behind it because when she joined me here, she simply said we have to stop producing garbage — no ifs, ands or buts about it — we need to stop,” Granger said with a laugh. “Immediately we reduced our garbage by 85 per cent and we only have one bag of garbage every two weeks. That was Maggie’s initiative and I’m proud of it because we’ve been able to stick to it and, in fact, most of that one bag of garbage is from trash people leave when they are visiting here.”

Granger said the weather in four of the last five years has more than convinced her it is time for immediate action.

“On May 23, 2015 the vines had four little leaves on them and were doing extremely well, but that all changed in a matter of 70 minutes overnight,” she said. “Then by 4:15  in the morning the temperature had dropped to -5.5 C and by 5:30 (a.m.) the damage was done — we lost 90 cent of the plants. It wasn’t as bad for some people, but for others it was a complete loss.”

…Granger said the municipality’s council needs to consider carefully what steps can be taken to reduce the County’s carbon footprint going forward.

“I’ll be the first to admit that this concept is extremely intimidating because this is a huge world we live in and it’s really easy to feel like… what can I as one person do?” she said. “The reality is, one person can do a lot and if we get more and more people to start thinking about this, it will make a huge difference to the planet. We’re hearing from the United Nations that we have very little time to change before the damage being done to the planet becomes irreversible and I really do think people are becoming frightened, but the idea that you need to change the climate of the planet is too big of an idea for many.”