Life without plastic, it’s fantastic.
It’s difficult to swear off plastic right away, especially when it’s pretty much a crutch. But it doesn’t matter if you can’t achieve a zero-waste lifestyle from the get-go. Instead, try taking baby steps — introduce minor changes to your lifestyle (which you can commit to), then work your way up!
To make this foray easier on you, we spoke to an environmentalist and some savvy eco-business owners on cutting down your daily waste footprint at home!
1. Reuse what you have
One of the easiest ways to reduce your waste is to look into your cupboards and reuse what you already have. There’s no need to buy a brand new recyclable bag if you have tons of free ones that you’ve collected over the years!
For Sarah, founder of The Source Bulk Foods in Singapore, reusing things she owns was one of the biggest steps she took into living more sustainably. “I started by just bringing my water bottle and giant tote bag everywhere,” she shared. “It’s just small, little steps like that.”
To many Singaporeans who grow up lining their bins with plastic bags, there is one glaring issue: if there are no plastic bags, where do I throw my trash? We recommend getting creative, try repurposing your Gardenia bread bags or potato chip bags!
2. Avoid single-use products
Instead of using single-use plastics, gradually make the switch to more sustainable products. After you’ve finished your roll of cling wrap, try alternatives such as reusable silicone lids or beeswax wraps. This way, you don't have to buy replacements!
3. Cook and buy what you need
Food waste makes up a big part of Singapore’s total waste generation. In 2018 alone, 763 million kilograms of food waste was generated – and to put that in perspective, that’s heavier than 54,000 double-decker buses combined!
“If you constantly have leftovers that you throw away, you’ve cooked too much. Cooking just what you need will cost you less in the first place, and you waste less as well,” shares Danielle, co-founder of The Green Collective.
Essentially, you can reduce food waste by buying only what you need. Shopping at zero-waste or bulk food stores will help too as you don’t have to commit to a minimum purchase amount.
4. Shop at zero-packaging stores
It’s more convenient than ever to cut down on packaging waste with these stores popping up in Singapore. By bringing your own containers, you reduce unnecessary plastic usage and save your coin – talk about killing two birds with one stone!
5. Start a compost bin
If you have leftovers frequently, put them to good use by turning them into compost. Recycled biomass made from food waste is chock full of nutrients, which you can use to give the plants in your home/local community garden a delicious treat.
6. Swap liquid soaps with bars
Buying soap bars instead of liquid soap in plastic bottles helps to cut down on unnecessary packaging, plus they’re a lot easier to travel with too!
If you do have plastic bottles, reuse them by bringing them to zero-packaging stores where you can refill them with shampoo, body wash, or even laundry detergent.
7. Cut out single-use cotton pads
For those who use makeup on the regular, it's time to ditch those one-use cotton pads as they add to the waste problem. “There are two ways to get around that – either use makeup removers that don’t even require cotton pads (such as oil-based makeup removers), or make/buy your own reusable cotton pads,” said environmentalist Olivia Choong.
8. Switch to eco-friendly menstrual products
Olivia also recommends trying out menstrual cups and/or reusable pads to cut down on plastic use. Some cups can even be used for years, making them great for the environment.
9. Buy second-hand
We’re sure you have pieces that you wore once and never again. Why not try shopping at second-hand stores if that's a frequent occurrence? You might find hidden gems that look barely-worn, or brand-new clothes for less at thrift stores and Carousell.
There are also clothes swaps happening regularly in Singapore, such as The Fashion Pulpit and Swapathon. “I really like The Fashion Pulpit because I can try the clothes on before deciding whether I want them,” said Olivia. Bring your seldom-worn clothes to these swap sessions so that you can get ‘new’ clothes, for free!
10. Buy consciously
Keep a lookout for brands or labels that use sustainable materials, such as linen and tencel. For example, August Society makes swimsuits out of recycled plastics.
11. Dine in whenever you can
Allan, the co-founder of Reprovisions, believes in saving a little bit “here and there” whenever he dines out. He tries eating at the stores instead, or bringing his own container. “You can begin with bringing a water bottle or Tupperware and utensils around,” shares Alan. “If you want to do some shopping, bring a shopping bag. I’m sure everyone has some at home, for sure.”
12. Make conscious, greener choices
“Think about what you buy. Don’t succumb to multiple purchases just because there’s a sale,” says Danielle. “For instance, by the time you’ve finished the fourth jar of discounted peanut butter, it might be expired already.”
When your plastic toothbrush is on its last legs, buy a bamboo one. Since you need to buy one anyway, just switch to more eco-conscious items. And soon, it’ll become a habit.
For Olivia, it’s important to make logical decisions. “The more stuff we own, the more things we have to deal with and take care of. All that clutter used to be money. We have to realistically do a stock check of the things we need and don’t need.”
13. Invest in quality pieces
“At the heart of it, I think we should just simplify our lives so we end up saving money and creating less waste. I always believe that we should always buy one good item, invest in it, then use it forever. Rather than buying a lousier-quality item which you have to replace every few years,” recounts Olivia. “For example, if you buy a Ferrari, you are likely to take care of it more than any other make. Where possible, buy one, buy well and buy once.”
14. Participate in like-minded causes
Olivia also recommends joining like-minded people or groups. “If you don’t like to talk much, you can be a quiet observer too; sometimes, we can even learn so much more just by observing.”