In my last column (available on mayonews.ie), I looked at the first three of the ‘Seven Rs’ – green guidelines that help us make decisions that lessen our impact on the environment and minimise waste. Those first three were Refuse, Reduce and Reuse. The remaining four – Recycle, Rehome, Replant and Rot – will give you some more ideas for small changes you can make to your daily habits.
I grew up in a house with a three-bin system, and my parents started a fund for my third-level education by saving the money from recycling cans and returning bottles for a deposit. However, we are now aware that despite our diligence, recycling is not actually as straightforward as we’d like to believe.
In Ireland, most materials are collected, sorted and then shipped to other countries, where they may or may not be remade into something useful. Therefore, first we need to reduce our consumption, and then think about ways that we can keep functional materials in use as long as possible. When they are finally worn out, if we clean them and put them in the right bin, and they just might have a second or third lifecycle.
Take stock of what you have at home. Looking at an item, and ask yourself, does it fit? Does it function? Does it spark joy? Or can it go somewhere else to serve a purpose?
Charity shops accept clothing, dishes, books and so on, but I often find it useful to ask family and friends first. I was really thankful that when our first daughter was born, my sister-in-law gave us a massive sack of clothes, some of which had been worn by three or four kids, but were still perfectly lovely – and softer and cosier than new ones. We’ve been able to return the favour by gifting some small home furnishings that just didn’t fit in our new place.
Clothing swaps are also easy to organise. Gather a few friends, ask them to bring their five to ten best articles of no-longer-wanted clothing and trade around so that people go home with ‘new’ items.
This one is quite ingenious, and really connects us with the way things used to be done before we could afford to have a concept of ‘waste’.
Did you know you can stick the base of a head of lettuce or celery into water and start a new plant? You will need to pot them once leaves sprout, and keep them in a sunny spot and water them regularly, but it’s possible to grow food relatively easily.
More-accomplished gardeners know the value of saving seeds and swapping them with others to keep cultivating favourite crops and share the abundance with others, to grow fresh food without plastic packaging!
Food waste is a massive emitter of greenhouse gases, but it has the potential to be put to good use enriching our soil. Mayo County Council sells affordable composters, and waste collectors offer brown bins for food waste if you don’t have space to do it yourself.
It couldn’t be easier to just scrape the cutting board of veg peels and ends into a compost bin, and you’ll spend far less money on potting soil for your new plants once everything rots down for a few months.
McKinley Neal co-runs PAX Whole Foods & Eco Goods, a minimal-waste shop in Westport offering bulk organic foods, reusable goods, household products, eco-friendly personal care items and gifts.