Creating a zero-waste lifestyle is easier than you might think. In Singapore, zero-waste alternatives are appearing faster than you can say refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle. Here are 43 tips to help you transition to less wasteful living.
Don’t be intimidated by the zero-waste gurus who can fit their entire yearly trash output into a tiny mason jar. Yes, that’s impressive and ultimate zero-waste goals. But for us mere mortals, making a few lifestyle tweaks and taking #LittleGreenSteps to consume and waste less is more realistic. And it’s easier than you might think to get started.
What do we mean when we talk about ‘waste’? Well, the official word is anything discarded after its primary use or is deemed worthless, defective or no use is waste. Which means it’s a broad spectrum covering everything from food, plastic and household items to electronic waste, heavy metals, and chemicals. And every year we ditch around 2.12 billion tonnes of waste globally. In Singapore alone, 7.23 tonnes of solid waste was generated in 2019 (4.25 million tonnes of which was recycled). While the amount of waste created is reducing year on year, there’s still a long way to go. And we can all play a part in tackling the waste crisis.
The five r’s
It’s not just about ditching all the plastic crap (but, yes, do that too). The five r’s – refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle, rot – provide an easy framework to help guide you through the transition to zero-waste living. First off, before you buy anything ask yourself whether you really need it (refuse and reduce). Once you’re conscious of how much stuff is actually entering your household, the next step is to ensure things leave your house responsibly (reuse, recycle, and rot). Simple, right? Now that’s clear, here are 43 easy #LittleGreenSteps that will help introduce a zero-waste approach across your entire lifestyle.
43 zero-waste tips
For your kitchen
1. Shop in zero-waste grocery stores. In Singapore, they are becoming increasingly common. Our favourites include Source Bulk Foods, Scoop Wholefoods, Unpackt, and The Social Space. Remember to BYO bags and refillable containers. Talking of which…
2. Invest in glass jars and containers so you don’t need to buy plastic packets of things.
3. Buy your fruit and veggies loose. Because nothing induces a rage quite like seeing a single banana wrapped in plastic (WHY is that still a thing?!). And write to, lobby, or tweet your local stores encouraging them to ditch unnecessary plastic wrapping while you’re at it.
4. Invest in reusable beeswax wrappers in place of clingwrap.
5. Start cooking more at home instead of relying on takeout (and all of the single-use items your dinner gets delivered in).
6. If takeout really is the only option, use foodpanda and explore its zero-waste collaborations with barePack and Muuse. You’ll get your dinner delivered in a reusable container that can be easily returned for future use.
8. Don’t waste food! Did you know that roughly one-third of all food produced for human consumption is wasted annually (that’s enough to feed 3 billion people)? Get into the habit of meal planning and only buy what you need.
9. Get your compost on. It’s easier than you might think to get started and it’s a fantastic way of putting food scraps to good use. Here’s a handy vid to get you started.
Ok, so this might be slightly different from our usual type of video but WHO KNEW COMPOSTING WAS SO EASY?? We just HAD to share the process, when we found out from Azurah, chef and founder at Wilder and Lokalfeed & Kakis that it can be so simple to compost from your apartment.BRB, I'm off to drill holes in my bucket.
Posted by Green Is The New Black on Thursday, 23 July 2020
10. Download Olio. it connects neighbours with each other to share food (and other things) rather than chuck them away. Made a cake but can’t eat it all? Give it to your neighbours. Heading away on vacation and have perishables in your fridge that won’t last? See if there’s someone in your hood that could use them instead. It’s genius.
11. The tiny little packets of herbs wrapped in plastic at grocery stores are such a waste (of money and of plastic). Try growing your own at home instead.
12. Switch your clothes detergent to a refillable container option at zero-waste stores.
13. Use a French press to make your morning cuppa Joe instead of relying on capsules.
14. Switch to loose-leaf tea and a reusable strainer instead of teabags (you’ll taste the difference and won’t look back, we promise!)
15. Ditch single-use ziploc bags for reusable alternatives, like Stasher. Its products are brilliant; non-toxic, 100% silicone, endlessly reusable, dishwasher and microwave safe. They’re great. Need we say more?
For your bathroom
16. Next time you need a new toothbrush, replace it with a bamboo one instead of plastic. Our very own Green Warrior, Melissa Lam creates these bad boys.
18. Still using cotton pads to clean your face? Switch to using muslin cloths or reusable makeup remover pads.
19. Three words: bamboo cotton buds. The plastic ones need to do one.
20. Use good ol’ fashioned bar soap instead of shower gel and handwash. Try this multi-purpose, divine sounding sesame and coconut oil creation from Happy Earth Farm.
22. Switch your bog roll from virgin wood pulp varieties to bamboo paper instead. Bambooloo, for example, uses 2.7 gallons of water to make one roll, versus wood pulp paper’s 37 gallons. It’s a no-brainer. Better yet, keep your eyes peeled on the brand; it’s shortly launching an attachable bidet that easily fits any toilet seat. Meaning you can use even less paper to wipe after you whizz. You heard it here first.
23. Overhaul your skincare routine and try the naked (zero-packaging) range from Lush.
24. Ladies, if you’ve never experimented with a Mooncup or period panties you’re missing out. Tampons and towels; be gone.
25. Defuzz zero-waste style with a reusable razor. The disposable plastic ones are only designed for five to 10 uses before they need to be chucked; what a waste. We’re fans of Lamazuna’s zero-waste alternative.
27. That time when you’re going away for a weekend and need your skincare but don’t want to get sucked into buying mini plastic bottles of everything. Say hello to Bolt Beauty. Its brilliant dissolvable seaweed capsules contain potent skincare, minus any nasties. Once you’ve used a capsule, simply dissolve it in water and huzzah; zero-waste skincare on the go.
For your wardrobe
29. Learn how to sew! Got a wee hole in your shirt? Try mending it instead of chucking it straight in the trash.
30. If you want some new additions to your wardrobe, resist the urge to splurge and try swapping at The Fashion Pulpit instead. Give your old clothes a new lease of life, while simultaneously providing a breath of fresh air into your closet. Swap don’t shop folks.
For the home
32. Are you still getting paper bills mailed to your home? Go paperless and save the trees.
33. Contact SingPost and ask that you stop receiving junk mail. You can either email [email protected] and ask to be removed from their advertising list. Or visit the SingPost website and opt-out of distribution lists here.
34. Recycle. Properly. Remember to rinse your containers and recyclables. If they are contaminated with oil stains, food residues, or anything else it will cross-contaminate everything near it. And it will then get sorted as general waste. In Singapore, a staggering 40% of items are contaminated (!), so next time you’re about to toss a half-full drink into the bin, think again.
35. Switch off your lights and aircon as much as possible.
36. Download Gravo to help you recycle bulky household items and e-waste that is notoriously difficult to dispose of responsibly in Singapore.
37. Next time there’s a big celebration coming up, try gifting an experience instead of things. Here’s some inspo from us if you’re stuck for ideas.
For out and about
38. Refuse plastic bags, and instead carry a Peco bag with you everywhere! They come in super handy for carrying groceries, stuff for the beach, or even your cat (well, why not?).
39. Get yourself a collapsible coffee cup and keep it in your handbag for times when you need coffee on the go. Because caffeine is essential, disposable cups are not. Or sign up to Muuse and take advantage of its reusable cups at some of the best coffee joints around Singapore.
40. Just say no to plastic straws. (We know. Sounds obvious right? But according to a 2018 report, people in Singapore get through a mind-blowing 2.2 million straws a day; WTAF indeed.)
41. Stay hydrated by carrying a reusable water bottle with you. Terrifyingly, Singapore has a bottled water addiction to the tune of $134million per year. Yikes. The tap water is safe people!
42. Get yourself a cute reusable cutlery set so you can refuse disposable cutlery when eating on the go.
43. Thanks to COVID-19, PPE waste washing up on the Singapore shoreline is becoming an increasingly common sight. Get yourself a snazzy reusable mask instead (or use the ones distributed for free by the government!). Check out FaceWedge’s brilliant designs in sizes suitable for adults and kids. FaceWedge has also teamed up with Seven Clean Seas to remove a kilo of plastic from our oceans for every five masks sold.
*Lead image by Harsha Poojari