Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. You must have heard of those! The words were drilled into us from a young age, but it was never really directed anywhere, never with much action. They were just words. However, it now has gotten to a point where we really should be taking extra care of our planet. To do that, we bring in 2 new R’s to the famous 3. Introducing Refuse and Rot to the mix. Refuse is your number one, holy grail, top dog if you will, of doing your part for the planet.

To refuse simply means

“indicating or showing that one is not willing to do something or accept something”.

That pretty much sums it up. We must be comfortable with refusing to purchase goods, based on how they are made, packaged, or if you can simply do without. It is probably safe to say we have all bought, or been given things, that we don’t actually need, but want. Our lives and homes slowly fill up with things that have no real purpose or meaning behind them. An item here and there at first seems harmless but each good carries with it, an environmental cost.

Let us delve a little deeper.

Customers have BIG buying power

Recently Tesco and Heinz announced that their canned goods would no longer be multi-packs in their stores. That is because customers, like you and I, used our voices and let it be known that buying loose cans, in large quantities, should not cost us more than it would if they were tied together.

They listened! And now they have changed it. This is evidence of what we as consumers can achieve by simply placing the planet first and refusing to buy a product. So? Our voice is powerful. If enough people say it, and refuse to buy it, suppliers will listen. If you swap over to a more eco-conscious brand because you want to cut down on your waste, why not tell your old brands why you miss them and why you have swapped over? So, here is your first mode of action

1. Reach out to brands and manufacturers about going plastic free or changing their manufacturing process to not include packaging that will just be thrown away once home. #nosingleuse.

Or, if that is not your cup of tea, try and make smarter shopping choices.

2. Do not (or try not to) buy things packaged in plastic.

The majority of what we can purchase in store or online uses single use plastic in some way, but it can be avoided. Think before you head out to the store, or click the [Checkout] button, about what you are buying and if you can buy it elsewhere without harm to the environment. Firstly, think about what you are buying in the supermarket so you don’t purchase unnecessary food items (like bags of cut up carrots for example) and secondly grab those reusable shopping and produce bags. If you buy loose, fab, it is the way to go! But then do not go and offset that goodness by putting it in the plastic bags they provide. Bring your own, keep them in your car, coat pocket, handbag… anything to make it easier and more convenient for you to make those unexpected but planet-friendly decisions. Think SMART. If you are buying meat, get it from the local butcher, and ask for it to be wrapped in paper or better yet, take a container and ask for it to be put in that. Butchers are full of information on the meat, how to cook it and it keeps the pound local. Finally, choose wine or bottles of beer over cans. Aluminium cans have a plastic lining on the inside of it making it difficult to avoid that plastic altogether.

Refusing can take some practice

If you are not used to doing it, refusing can be difficult at times. It does get easier and you get better at explaining to people why you have said no, or why you have brought your own container etc. It is simply about changing behaviours and moving away from what you originally thought was normal. Like I previously mentioned, making smarter decisions is KEY. Doing this and setting standards for yourself early on makes the whole process a lot easier and more successful from the outset.

Before making a purchase, ask your self is it necessary. Do you really agree with it, the way it is made, the packaging, the shipment (if bought online)? If you buy it, you are voting for it, rooting for it if you will, and most of the time, it comes with an environmental cost. If you said no to any of the above, refuse it. The less you bring into your home, the less you must waste! Obviously, food is a bit different. After all you have to eat. Think before you go and try and avoid convenience shopping but do go and support your sustainable and local businesses that are there helping you and the community all by putting everything they have into their dream. Shop at local markets, and of course zero waste, refill stores! So your third take away from this is:

3. Question it, if it does not sit with you, say NO!

If you do need to purchase something, why not purchase higher quality products, for example wooden toys. Plastic ones are bought and can be used but they are then just thrown away because they can’t be fixed, or the kid has lost interest in them. Same goes for buying gifts for kids. There is no point buying short lived toys, it has no service to the household or the environment…Instead, talk to the parents about what the kids may need (slippers, wellies etc.) or take them out and give them experiences!?

Freebies, you love them, we hate them

Going zero waste, and refusing things that go against this, is not only about what we purchase but also about what is offered to us. That can be anything from junk mail through your post box, getting a goody bag at a running race or party, shampoo bottles in hotels. By accepting these products, whether they are purchased or given for free, we are complicit in the actions that has led to polluted waterways, oceans, countryside’s and landfill. This ties in with the above points; by decreasing the demand or expectations, for these products, especially when joined by others, it encourages the organisations to find solutions that are respectful to our earth and the environment. You just have to say ‘No’. Once you have changed your mindset, it becomes about helping others and showing them why you are doing what you are doing. Here are a few ways you can reduce the number of “free” items that come into your house and share with others.

4. Get rid of junk mail once and for all!

It is easy enough to put a sign or sticker on your door that says no junk mail. Distribution companies and the Royal Mail will respect that and not put any unaddressed mail through your letter box. You can even make your own and tailor it if necessary. For example, "No commercial leaflets, yes to free newspapers". You can even contact the Royal Mail and ask them not to give you any junk mail. It can take up to 6 weeks for it to come into effect, but it is totally worth it. Download this form, fill it in and send it to the address on the form

Register with mailing preference service to stop advertising material that is addressed to you personally or consider contacting the sender directly. Remember, your voice is the most powerful thing and we have the power to do it. Include, full name and address, the date, this sentence: “Please stop processing my personal data for direct marketing purposes in accordance with Article 21 of the General Data Protection Regulations.” A reasonable date that you want the organisation to stop sending you mail - Article 21 says they should do this within 1 month.

5. No plastic straws, save the turtles!

Straws were a big thing to get with your drink… even if you did not need one or could not slurp your drink through it because it was too thick. Thankfully, recently we have been slowly moving away from plastic straws and more towards paper, especially in restaurants or fast food places like McDonald's. But is this better? The waste the needs to be thrown away responsibly. This means they need to be composted, not thrown in the general bin for any? good to come of it.

Moreover, they cannot be recycled as recycling facilities cannot recycle food contaminated paper products. All in all, they are still a single-use item. Why not carry a metal or bamboo one with you so you can have one on the go when out an about? They can be reused time and time again and you will be helping save our oceans and wildlife! You just have to remember to say no straw. Easily done.

6. Receipts! Receipts? Why Receipts?!

Receipts are great little things, aren’t they? No. Besides telling you how much money you have spent; they clog up your purse/wallet and they CANNOT BE RECYCLED. I repeat, CANNOT be recycled. Receipt paper contains a chemical called BPA which is an endocrine disruptor which interferes with our hormones. This was the stuff that plastic bottles used to be made out of but is now banned in the UK for damaging people’s health, linking to cancer, obesity and type-2 diabetes. Who knew aye? Every year, 11.2 billion receipts are printed out and cannot be recycled. Once the receipts have been treated with BPA and BPS, it becomes extremely difficult to separate the chemical from the paper, without releasing harmful chemicals into the air. Ultimately our receipts will end up in landfill. So, how do we keep track of what we purchased? Ask for electronic receipts if possible. Most places nowadays allow you to do this and you will get emailed your invoice directly to you. Remember to say beforehand that you don’t want the receipt, if it gets printed automatically, still refuse it as it means you are using your voice and the more times they hear it… things will change.

So, here are 6 things to help you start refusing your way to a better planet. Learning to say no can be difficult at first, but if you take these small steps, it will get easier. You may think you have no voice when it comes to the large companies, but in actual fact you do. Many have listened, and many will continue to listen, you just need to use your voice and think SMART when shopping/offered products.


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