Reduce Your Wasteline: Get Social

If you watched Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Anita Rani’s recent series War on Plastic, you’ll have seen that they focused on changing the behaviour of people living on a single street and—spoilers ahead—they managed to reduce the amount of single-use plastics by a whopping 45%. I am firmly convinced that one of the reasons for this success is the social aspects of this experiment: working together towards a common goal can be incredibly motivating.

Likewise, peer pressure is often seen as a negative thing but, if harnessed for the power of good, it can significantly boost results. This was actually something I investigated during my time as an academic researcher, and I’m sure taking part in a study or being on TV doesn’t hurt to jumpstart the behaviour change either!

We didn’t study the “fun factor” in any of my projects but, as anyone who exercises with a friend can attest to, doing things together is just more enjoyable—and it’s more likely to be sustainable in the long run. I’ve offered a few social suggestions over the course of this week, and thought I would summarise them here:

  • Buy in bulk: Can you get together with a group of friends, family, or neighbours to buy in bulk or provide storage? This may be for toiletries like Who Gives a Crap and hundreds of cotton buds, or dry goods from a refill store.

  • Try before you buy: For some plastic-free staples like shampoo bars, it may be best if a group can get together and split the cost of trying different brands.

  • Swap or swish: War on Plastic showed parents getting together to swap toys their children no longer played with. This is a great way to not only extend the life of the toy but also save a bit of dosh. This can be done with a number of products, from household items to clothing.

  • DIY: Making products such as beeswax wraps or morsbags together is a great way to use up material that might otherwise go to waste while having a natter with friends and family.

  • Skill Swap: Don’t know how to sew on a button but can make a mean seedbomb? Perhaps DIY sessions can also include sharing skills, whether it be cooking, sewing, gardening, or helping someone learn to use technology.

There is a bonus side to all of this beyond helping the environment: being social has been shown to increase happiness levels, even for extreme introverts like me. So go ahead and take the chance to reach out to friends and family to see if they’d like to work together to help cut back on plastic waste.

In the meantime, check out the Reduce Your Wasteline Facebook group if you’d like to join a virtual community—it’s just getting started, so please feel free to share your thoughts, your favourite plastic-free or low waste products, or what you’re struggling to find. You never know—someone may have the perfect suggestion!

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