Waste not, want not

31 August 2020

Image credit: US Department of Agriculture, CC BY

We have been fans of the broadcaster and natural historian Sir David Attenborough for a long time and we love watching his nature documentaries. Sir David has, however, received criticism for giving too much focus in his films to the beauty and wonder of the planet, and not sufficiently highlighting the fact that humans are wreaking havoc on its fragile eco-systems.

Last year, Sir David released a series titled Our Planet, in which he stresses how climate change and human behaviour are having a devastating impact. The tagline for the series reveals what’s on offer: “Exhilarating visuals and stunning footage of rarely-seen animals mix with somber truths about humanity’s impact on the planet’s habitats and species.” The series is well worth watching.

In a short interview with Andrew Marr for the BBC earlier this year, Sir David was asked what single thing humans could do to help prevent the disasters he describes and to increase the chances of a better future for life on our planet. His reply: “Stop waste – stop wasting food, stop wasting power, stop wasting plastic.” But how do we do that exactly? These are the steps we’re personally taking:*

Food waste
There should be no such thing as food waste in the home. Those two words do not belong together. In our home, we buy only the food we need and we eat everything we buy. Inedible items, such as orange peel, onion skins and used coffee grounds are blended to a liquid mush and used as compost, to provide valuable nutrients for the food we grow and to complete the cycle.

Power waste
We work from home, so our travel is minimal. We are in the process of insulating our home, and we built a greenhouse onto the side of the house to retain warmth. If we’re feeling cold, rather than turning on the heating, we’ll put on warmer clothes or do something physically active. We switch electrical appliances off at the wall when not in use.

Plastic waste
We’re still struggling with this one – it’s difficult to buy many items (be it online or in stores) which are not wrapped in plastic or polythene. Although we’ve managed to get our non-recyclable rubbish down to one 15L bin bag per week, we’re aware that recycling itself is not the ideal answer. Not buying plastic in the first place is the more preferable solution.

These may seem like small actions but, in addition to helping reduce costs, waste and environmental impact, they help develop the mindset that the earth’s resources are finite and that we should be more respectful and appreciative of them. Change your mindset and you change your life.

What steps can you take now?

  • Don’t waste food. Buy only what you need and, if possible, compost your scraps.
  • Be mindful of your fuel consumption and examine what you can do to reduce it.
  • Avoid excessive use of plastic and be aware that recycling is not the best solution.

*The 60-min BBC video Climate Change: The Facts, also narrated by David Attenborough, is well worth a watch too.

4 thoughts on “Waste not, want not”

  1. Brilliant article. I found an article recently [now I cant find it!] which talked about eco washing machine balls that prevent something going back into the drains [microbs???]. I meant to send it to you then. The nearest I have found is this: https://andreadekker.com/laundry-balls So you don’t have to use wash powder etc. Hope it resonates with you, and maybe you could mention something like it in your next newsletter, sorry it’s all a bit vague. I really love the idea of liquidising our food waste and I did try it when you last told me Helen. It is better than having the compost bin, as we have rats up here!! I am loving my new Polycrub, I have a little wren and she visits every day the door is open and I hope she is eating up all the grubs!

  2. Thanks Julia. Yes, I’d heard of laundry balls but I haven’t tried them yet. However, your comment has inspired me to give them a go now, so I’ll let you know how I get on with them. Good luck with your polycrub!

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