Treading My Own Path, Rethinking Waste and the Two New Kids

Fact of the Week: In 2012 UK Supermarkets gave out 8.1 billion plastic bags, with the average shopper using 11 a month.

Are you an avid recycler? Do you take pride in seeing your recycling bin brimming with glass, steel, aluminium and paper? What if I told you that recycling was yesterday’s news(papers), and there are some new kids on the block?

Lindsay MilesMy name’s Lindsay I’m a green living advocate, writer and educator, and I write the blog I’m really excited to be guest blogging here at the Ethical Superstore over the coming weeks and sharing my passion of all things ethical and green!

Whilst I’ve always been passionate about sustainability, my path really changed two years ago when I watched the documentary Bag It!, about an average American who takes a closer look at our love affair with plastic. It made me realise that environmentalism and sustainability isn’t just about big picture stuff like “saving the rainforests”. Knowing about the issues isn’t enough; we also need to act. It is as much about the little things we do and the choices we make every day. Collectively our choices have massive consequences, and if we make them wisely, we have the power to bring about real, positive change.

The great thing is there are so many ways that we can make a difference. Rethinking waste is one of the easiest. Waste is something we all have in common. We buy stuff, we use it and then we throw it away. Rubbish – literally! I had always been a responsible recycler…until I realised that recycling wasn’t the green solution I’d always thought. It’s not about recycling more… it’s about wasting less.
“Reduce, re-use, recycle” is a mantra we’ve all become familiar with: the 3 “R”s. Well, there are now two new kids on the block.
Meet the five “R”s: REFUSE, reduce, re-use, REPAIR, recycle.

Refuse: The first question to ask is do I need this at all? Think single-use plastic bags, plastic straws, disposable cutlery, takeaway coffee cups and plastic water bottles. This isn’t about using less but making a stand and refusing altogether. Say no, particularly to disposables, and bring you own. Can you switch to reusable bags, request no straw or carry your own reusable coffee cup or water bottle?

Reduce: This is about consuming only what we need, and taking only what we’ll use. It sounds straightforward, but throw in clever marketing and multibuy offers and we often end up buying more than we really intended to! Why else would UK households throw away 4.2 million tonnes of food and drink every year? That’s 6 meals every week for an average household! (Source: WRAP UK)

Re-use: Heard the saying, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it?” Well, if it ain’t broke, don’t buy a new one either! Pinterest is a great source of inspiration for finding new uses for old objects. If you can’t reuse something, try to donate it to someone else who can. Consider too: when purchasing something new, choose things that are made well and built to last.

Repair: …And if it is broke, then do fix it! This isn’t always easy: maybe it requires skills and knowledge we don’t have, and some companies prefer us to buy new products and make it hard (or expensive) to get replacement parts. Repair Café run get-togethers where you can learn how to fix broken items, or you can look online at sites like

Recycle: Our goal shouldn’t be to recycle as much as possible, it should actually be to recycle as little as possible. It goes without saying that recycling is better than landfill, but it’s still an energy-intensive and time-consuming process. Don’t get me wrong; we should definitely still be recycling! However, there are so many points of intervention before we even get to recycling, it really should be seen as a last resort.
We all have different circumstances, beliefs and values, but whatever our situations, there is always something we can do. Everyone can make a difference.

No one can do everything.
But everyone can do something.
Over the coming weeks I’m going to be writing more about waste, particularly our love affair with plastic, as well as some how to’s and tips for being a conscious consumer. I also want to hear your ideas! Are there any topics you’d like to know more about? Any issues you struggle with? Any aspects of ethical consumerism you find confusing? Just let me know in the comments; I can’t wait to hear from you!

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