Natural environment  |  Successes  |  18.03.2013


Can an average person really create zero waste at home? This is the challenge that Karen Cannard, a mother from Bury St Edmunds (UK), decided to take on in 2008. She succeeded in reducing her family’s waste to zero within two months. She explained her achievement step by step and as a result she created the “Rubbish Diet”, a 8-week easy plan to slim your bin and save some money in the process. 

Karen Cannard who considered herself an average person in terms of recycling succeeded in producing a zero waste at home within 8 weeks. Although her family had always been careful with separately recycling cardboards, papers and plastic bottles and they even had a composting box, they were still producing three huge bin bags for landfill every two weeks. Ms. Cannard wanted to know how they could stop creating so much rubbish.

She decided to start the challenge of reducing her family’s waste to zero within 2 month. In doing so, she wrote all the steps she made in her personal blog. Suddenly, she started receiving comments from people interested in following her steps. In one week, Karen began to be interested in those people’s rubbish. Before she realised, she was talking rubbish with hundreds of other people advising and encouraging them with tips on how to reduce their garbage bags. That’s how the Rubbish Diet was born, a 8 weeks plan on how to reduce your home rubbish. 

The Rubbish Diet Challenge is not just about - "reduce, reuse and recycle" process.  What makes this challenge different is that it presents a goal and time frame in which you can achieve results that will deliver permanent change. The aim of the challenge is to get you to take a look at your daily habits and lifestyle with fresh eyes, encouraging you to keep the issue of waste at the forefront of your mind in everything you do.

This Diet, introduces a whole range of ideas that could lead to a lifestyle makeover, whether it's in the kitchen, bathroom or garden. Like other diets, you can set your own targets, whether you wish to reduce your waste by 10%, 50% or go for Zero Waste.  

The rubbish diet is structured in a 8 weeks plan: 

WEEK 1: STARTING WITH THE BASICS: It leads you through the local research you will need to make sure you are adequately prepared and includes easy tasks to get you into the spirit of the challenge.

   Examples: You should always bring reusable bags when shopping; never use clingfilm or aluminium foil but reusable containers; say no to junk mail or free samples; and save on consumption of products as toothpaste (with the half of what you use now is enough) or tea bags (they can be used for at least two cups).

WEEK 2: RETAIL THERAPY: It takes you shopping, looking at different types of packaging and guides you through those that are bad for your bin and focuses on ways to reduce what you bring into your home. 

   Examples: Go shopping with recycling in mind: before buying something you should first ask yourself “Do I really need it?, can I buy it without a package?, can I recycle or reuse the package?, can I make it at home instead?”

WEEK 3: WASTE NOT, WANT NOT: It introduces you to food waste and how you can start experimenting in the kitchen to keep your food bills down and packaging out of landfill.

   Examples: You should neither buy 3 lemons because they come in a package when you just need one nor get a “2 and get 3” promotion if you think you may not eat it; froze the leftovers you will not eat the following day; and be conscious of the portions per person when cooking. 

WEEK 4: CLEANING UP YOUR MESS:  It looks at ways of reducing waste from the cleaning tasks, highlighting ways to save money along the way.

    Examples:  Most of the cleaning products have often multiple uses and it is not necessary to buy one product for each activity. You can even create your own products with bicarbonate of soda, vinegar and lemon.  

WEEK 5: DIG FOR VICTORY: It is time to hit the garden, looking at ways in which you can reuse your rubbish and discovering things that are easy to grow.  Even if you don’t have a garden, you might still be able to make use of a windowsill.

   Examples: A bubble wrap can be used for lining greenhouses in the winter or protecting plants that are sensitive to the cold. You can also reuse your old woolly jumper as excellent compost heap topper or a great liner for a basket. 

WEEK 6: UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL: It gets you to discover new products that will help reduce waste in the bathroom.

   Examples: There are some natural treatments that can help you reducing the medicaments consumption: Aloe Vera is great for treating cuts and minor skin burns, Basil leaves help alleviate nausea, Lavender is helpful if you suffer from insomnia or Thyme is great for chest infections and coughs

WEEK 7: THE BIG DECLUTTER: It is time to declutter and find out how you can get rid of things without relying on landfill and how to avoid bringing them home in the first place.

   Examples: Before throwing old things give them to charity, ask friends or go to a local exchange trading systems.

WEEK 8: YOUR VERY OWN ZERO WASTE WEEK: This is the last week of the Rubbish Diet challenge.  After 7 weeks of preparation, you will have the opportunity to go for one week without creating any landfill rubbish at all.

By the time you have reached the week 8, you should be in a position to live a zero waste lifestyle, which is about keeping your waste to a realistic minimum rather than creating no waste at all.  Would you like to try it?

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