Reduce, Re-use, Recycle
Energy, and therefore carbon emissions, is associated with everything you buy. You can live more greenly by reducing the number of things you buy, maximising the use you get out of them, and recycling them where possible when they reach the end of their useful life.
Reduce, re-use, recycle tips:
Everything you buy has required energy in the sourcing of its raw materials, its manufacture and its transport to the point of sale. Before they’ve even been bought, consumer goods have generated carbon emissions, and in addition electrical equipment uses energy over the course of its lifetime. Finally, when goods are disposed of, more energy is used to transport them to landfill, incinerate them or recycle them.
For this reason, if you want to live more greenly, you should buy less of what you don’t really need, make sure the stuff you do buy will last and, wherever possible, buy second-hand and give away unwanted goods. Furthermore ‘consumer power’ has never been stronger, so every spending decision you make could potentially affect what you see in shops in the future.
At present the UK is the third most wasteful country in the EU, with the average British household generating about 1.2 tonnes (1200 kg) of waste each year. Plus, when we throw away things that could either be recycled or re-used, we increase the number of new items that need to be manufactured and hence total energy use.
Hampshire’s recycling rate has improved considerably over recent years and Hampshire residents currently recycle 38% of their household waste. For comparison, Germany already recycles 62% of its household waste, so there is still more we can do.
Roughly half of all our carbon dioxide emissions are “indirect” - we don’t have direct control over them, but can take account of them nonetheless. A significant proportion of these indirect emissions are due to “consumption”, i.e. the manufacture and transport of the things we buy. Therefore we can reduce our carbon dioxide emissions by buying fewer things, choosing products which have required less energy in their manufacture and transport, and making them last longer. When something comes to the end of its useful life, it should be recycled if possible (so try to buy things which the label says can be recycled).
This is an area which should save you money – generally, the less you buy, the less you spend. Buying second hand is cheaper than buying new, and you can make money by selling things you no longer need. However, please take care to spend any money that you have saved in an environmentally friendly way!
By consuming less, you help to conserve the Earth’s natural resources. We only have a limited amount of many of the raw materials that are used to manufacture the goods that we buy. If we keep using them at the rate we are doing, we will eventually run out.
Waste disposal causes all sorts of environmental problems. Waste is either sent to landfill (buried in the ground) or incinerated (burnt at high temperatures) to generate heat and/or electricity. Landfill can release toxins, that pollute groundwater, and methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. It also creates problems for local communities (more traffic, noise, odours, smoke, dust, litter and pests). Incineration causes pollution and incineration of fossil-fuel based products (eg plastics) causes greenhouse gases to be emitted. The latter can be mitigated by recovering energy during the incineration process, as it is in Hampshire, but this method of generating energy tends to contribute more to climate change than generating an equivalent amount of energy directly from fossil fuel sources. Find out more here.
1. Reduce the amount you consume
Choose not to consume as much and make things last longer.
Try to buy products which have required less energy in their manufacture and transport. This should become easier as products start to be labelled with their carbon footprint. In the meantime, avoid buying anything with a substantial weight of metal or plastics, and try to cut down on the use of paper.
Register for the Mailing Preference Service to reduce the amount of junk mail that you receive. They can remove your name from up to 95% of direct mailing lists. If you find you are still receiving marketing mail, you can complain to the Direct Marketing Association.
If your household would like to stop receiving un-addressed mail (door drops) you can ‘opt-out’ by contacting Royal Mail and requesting an opt-out form to be sent to your home address.
Reducing your consumption will save you money. It is tempting to spend the savings on luxuries and other goods. However, we all need to think twice to avoid inadvertently causing yet more emissions. One solution is to donate the money you save to charities, for example those that help Third World countries tackle the consequences of climate change or provide free contraception.
Shop less, live more: do something more rewarding (and less costly) with your time such as volunteering for a local group or charity.
2. Buy items which last longer
Choose products which are good quality and so are longer-lasting. This has both direct and indirect benefits - by showing manufacturers that you care about durability, they are more likely to make longer-lasting products in future.
Avoid disposable items e.g. plastic cutlery and cups.
Using washable nappies reduces the amount of disposables going to landfill. Find out more about using washable nappies.
Durable products may cost more initially, but they will usually save you money in the long run.
If products last longer, you won’t have to go shopping as often and you will suffer inconvenience less often when something suddenly breaks or stops working.
3. Buy recycled and recyclable items
Buy recycled products. This helps to create demand for such products, which will encourage more things to be made from recycled materials and in turn encourage more recycling.
Buy things that can ultimately be recycled – think ahead! Indeed, some manufacturers now design products, such as cars and electrical equipment, so their components can be easily recycled at the end of their life. You can see a list of items commonly made from recycled materials here.
4. Don’t buy over-packaged goods
Reduce the amount of rubbish going into your non-recycling (general waste) bins by thinking carefully about the amount of packaging you bring home from the shops. Patronise local shops that sell goods with minimal packaging.
Take a packed lunch to work rather than buying an over-packaged sandwich. Use a sandwich box rather than wrapping your food in foil or cling-film.
Drink tap water rather than bottled water.
Say no to carrier bags (or at least re-use them). Many organisations, including Friends of the Earth, are now selling cloth or hemp bags which can be used instead. Keep a supply of bags in handy places such as your car or your handbag.
5. Buy second-hand (or borrow)
There are lots of places where you can buy things second-hand:
local charity shops;
small ads such as those in the Hampshire Chronicle;
car boot sales such as the ones every Sunday in the old Cattle Market on Worthy Lane in Winchester (08.00-12.00) and at Winchester Football Club on Hillier Way (from 08.30); and
“nearly new” sales at local churches and town halls.
Sign up to the Winchester Freecycle network to be notified about stuff people are giving away in the local area.
Get used books and CDs from second hand bookshops or online for a fraction of their new prices. Or search the Hampshire library catalogue and reserve books online (there is usually a small charge, e.g. 50p).
Instead of buying new DVDs, why not rent them by post for a fraction of what they cost to buy (less than £2 each), for example from LoveFilm. Or visit your local library to browse the latest releases and request new ones.
Check out the Emmaus Winchester - an excellent charity that restores and resells furniture and white goods and many more things to help homeless men and women.
You are creating demand for second-hand products, encouraging people to sell or give away items they no longer need. You can also choose to support local charities and other organisations.
6. Find ways to re-use things
Use your imagination – be creative and inventive!
Try to re-use your plastic bottles, as they are usually made from oil, a fossil fuel, and are fairly energy intensive to manufacture and recycle. They make good bird feeders or you can use them in your garden to plant seedlings or protect young plants.
Use the reverse side of paper sheets for informal printing and as scrap paper and re-use envelopes.
Lend or share items with family, friends and neighbours.
7. Repair things rather than replace them
This is not always as easy as it sounds. Sometimes you may have to cannibalise an identical broken item or find an alternative solution to the repair. At other times it is not possible to find spare parts from the manufacturer or elsewhere or it is not cost-effective to repair things – in this case, voice your dissatisfaction to the manufacturer or to a consumer organisation such as Which?.
It is worth persevering with the search for spares or substitutes because often the repair can be made for a small fraction of the cost of a brand new replacement.
8. Give away or sell things you no longer need
Easier still, take surplus clothes, shoes and books to charity shops or put them in special recycling bins found in supermarket and other car parks.
Sign up to the Winchester Freecycle network to give away unwanted items.
Computers for Charity collects old computers which are under five years old and in full working order from individuals and businesses for refurbishment and sells them at low prices to community groups. Alternatively you can donate computers and other hardware directly using the free “matchmaking” service of Donate a PC.
By selling things, you are providing a supply of second-hand goods, important if people are to buy these rather than new items. By giving things away instead, you can support charities or people in need, or just save money for a friend.
Getting rid of items you no longer need is a great way of de-cluttering your home and reducing the amount of storage space you need.
9. Recycle things that can’t be re-used
Winchester City Council operates a kerbside recycling scheme which collects paper, cardboard, food and drink cans, and plastic bottles once a fortnight. More information about what you can and can’t put in your recycling bin is available from here.
Compost your food waste – visit our food tips to find out how.
Recycle other items such as glass bottles in the recycling banks found in car parks.
Go to the Household Waste Recycling Centres at Alresford, Bishops Waltham and Bar End in Winchester to recycle electrical goods, scrap metal, rubble and paint.
If you’re wondering whether something can be recycled or not, visit Recycle Now. They list awkward or unusual items and how you can recycle or reuse them. Unfortunately plastic bottle tops cannot generally be recycled, so when you recycle bottles remember to remove the lid. However, there are often charity collections for milk bottle tops in particular, click here for more information. Alternatively, bottle lids can be placed in your general rubbish bin where they are sent to one of Hampshire's three state of the art Energy Recovery Facilities (ERF) which provide energy for 50,000 homes through incineration of household waste.
Give your old mobile phones and printer cartridges to charities such as Oxfam. Better still, sell the mobile yourself and donate the money to charity – you’ll usually get more for it than the charity would and (if you pay UK tax) you can “gift aid” the donation.
Set up recycling points at your work and encourage your colleagues to use them. Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) can help you with this.
Research by WRAP has shown that, using today’s mix of landfill and incineration, the UK’s current recycling of paper/cardboard, glass, plastics, aluminium and steel saves the emission of 10-15 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent per year, compared to disposing of them.
If you would like to give feedback on this site, or have any suggestions for improvement, please contact us. We are particularly keen to hear about other organisations and initiatives in and around Winchester which can help people reduce their carbon footprint.
The information on this page is provided in good faith and reflects our understanding of the underlying science and technology at the time of writing, but we cannot guarantee that it is wholly accurate. All figures for costs, savings and other matters are estimates: the actual figures will depend on your particular circumstances and may differ (perhaps significantly) from those shown. Although we have included links to various organisations, we are not recommending these organisations: it is your responsibility to check that they are suitable for your needs. Nonetheless, if you experience difficulties with any of the links or organisations, or believe that any of the information presented here is inaccurate, please let us know and we will update this page if we consider it necessary.