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5 Ways to Save on Waste

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by Bryony Harrison (subscribe)
Freelance writer and poet from London; if you would like to read my poetry, please check out my book, 'Poems on the Page', available from
Published April 23rd 2013
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

According to the Metro and the Environment Agency, 290 million tonnes of waste is generated each year causing damage to the environment. Although England recycles 29% more than it did ten years ago, we are still way behind in the grand scheme of things. At 52%, Switzerland has the best recycling rates, while Britain only manages a woeful 17.7%. If we want to improve, then we all have to do our bit, and in Wimbledon the other week, I went to an upcycling fair to get some ideas on how to not only save on waste, but also on money.

recycle, upcycle, reusable bags, rechargeable batteries

1. Reuse

The first table gave out the basic advice that most of us now do (or at least know we should do) already. By giving out free reuseable shopping bags, we were encouraged to stop the plastic bags provided at the supermarket and take our own. This is something I have been doing for years, and whenever I see someone start to put my purchase in a plastic bag, I tell them that I have my own. This doesn't just go for when you're at the till. You know those flimsy plastic bags provided in the fruit & veg isles? Well next time think - do you really need them? You might have no choice when it comes to bagging your tomatoes, but does that grapefruit or melon really need a bag?

Another thing you should start reusing are batteries. You can now buy rechargeable batteries and battery charges practically anywhere, and it saves so much waste. Not only that, but you'll save tons of money because you don't have to buy expensive batteries all the time.

leftovers, recycle, recipes

2. Use Up Leftovers

Don't throw away leftover food, and don't be so obsessed with the the best before date on food labels. Here is what you need to know: the 'sell by date is nothing you need to worry about. It is for supermarket staff only, and is simply the time when they take their products off the shelves. All the food is still perfectly good to eat once it has past this date. 'Best before' means just that. It is when the food will taste at its best, and when it will have all its best nutrients, but there is nothing wrong with eating it after this time. 'Use by date' is technically the time by which the food needs to have been eaten, but you can still get away with it. I always continue to eat food that has gone past the use by date, and have never suffered any ill effects. Only when I start to see a bit of fur growing do I ever throw food away.

Also, if you have any leftovers from a previous meal, look up some delicious recipes that make use of leftover food and give them a second lease on life.

hibernaculum, bugs, insects, garden

3. Bug Buildings

At the fair, it showed how to build a deluxe hibernaculum. A hibernaculum is a place that an animal chooses to sleep. You can make your own state of the art bug hotel in your garden by using a pallet. Most of us won't just have a pallet lying around in the garage, but you can find them easily enough. Most of the time I see them outside veg stalls or construction sites. The grocers and builders will no longer need them, so just ask if you can take them and they'll be more than happy to have it taken off their hands. One man's trash is another man's treasure. Or in this case, a bug's home.

Saw off the individual boards, and stack them on top of one another. You can use nails to secure them in place. Fill each row with twigs, leaves, pots, and other things that an insect might want to give it a snuggly place for the winter.

4. Forage

Foraging for food not only saves money, but is a lot of fun. Just think of those summer days blackberry picking. Around August last year, the lanes were filled with blackberries, and I picked boxes and boxes full. A small 200g tub can cost about 2 at the supermarket, but this way, you can get kilos for free. Plus lots of blackberry pies. At the fair, they introduced me to 'Abundance Wimbledon', which is a scheme run by volunteers who go out and collect food that would otherwise go to waste. They do this in various ways, such as foraging for wild fruit and helping to pick surplus fruit & veg from people's gardens. They then distribute it to charitable organisations, or make chutneys, cakes, etc, to sell at markets.

upcycle, craft, trousers, tablecloth

5. Upcycle

Get in touch with your creative side and make quirky crafts for the home out of old materials. At one stall, there was a woman selling homemade clothes, including a pair of trousers that she had made using an old tablecloth, while another person had made cushion covers out of shirts.
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Why? Helps the environment
When: Anytime
Where: Anywhere
Cost: Free
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