When you’re shopping this Christmas, remember to think of the 3 Rs- Reduce, Reuse, Recycle!
We often only focus on recyclability – is the packaging recyclable and can I recycle it at home? Paper, glass or aluminium may seem like a better environmental choice than plastic because it can be more easily recycled, but recycling is only one aspect of a bigger picture.
Recycling is definitely better than throwing waste in the rubbish bin, but reducing and reusing is better yet.
Reduce – the best option is to avoid waste in the first place as all materials take energy and resources to create. Avoid single use items (not just those made from plastic) and opt for products that require zero packaging such as seasonal fruit and vegetables from local grocers, meat from a local butcher (take your own container) or buy from your local zero waste shop.
Reuse – reusable packaging is a second best option, but only if you’re actually going to reuse it! A glass milk bottle needs to be reused 20 times for it to be the better environmental option – any less and it actually has a greater carbon footprint than its plastic alternative, even if it’s recycled! In 2006, an Environment Agency study found that paper bags need to be reused at least three times in order to have a lower global warming potential than a conventional single-use plastic bag. If you absolutely must have a bag, choosing one that you can re-use over and over is a better environmental option than using it once and then recycling it, regardless of material type.
Recycle – the last resort in your environmental endeavours! Recycling avoids the need to create virgin material but it also requires energy to collect and process so should only be an option if reducing and reusing isn’t possible.
So the next time you‘re out shopping, think about reducing and reusing first:
Do I even need it? Can I avoid it? (Reduce)
Can I use it several more times? Will I re-use it? (Reuse)
It’s a wrap!
Who doesn’t love a perfectly chosen gift from someone special? Don’t forget to include the 3 R’s in your gifts this Christmas! When it comes to wrapping, can you avoid it altogether? A magazine subscription or activity makes the perfect zero waste gift and doesn’t require gift wrapping at all. If you do need to gift wrap, opt for re-usable options such as durable gift bags or boxes that you may already have stashed away at home, or try the simple but beautiful art of Furoshiki, a Japanese method of using fabric wrap.
Choose fabric from scrap stores or charity shops, or use a preloved scarf that can be worn again by its new owner. All these options keep resources in use with minimal carbon impact and the more you re-use the greater the saving! If reducing or reusing isn’t possible, brown paper or newspaper is an easily recyclable gift wrap and can look fantastically festive tied with reusable Christmas ribbon or twine and even hand decorated for a unique touch. Here’s your chance to get creative and do your bit for the planet at the same time!
Whether it’s paper, glass, plastic or aluminium, it’s far better to reduce our consumption and re-use wherever possible. Single use is no use, even if we recycle it afterwards.