Week nine: Is waste free a waste of time?

Two months into our challenge and we are starting to generate enough interest that even people who don’t give a toss about their rubbish are starting to talk about ours. One media critic said our blog was enough rubbish for one year and pointed out that even if there were 1000 more Kate Valley landfills the area would still be less than 1% of the South Island. Another guy has started a rubbish bag a day group on Facebook to counter our Rubbish Free Year Challenge group! Ha! So our adversaries are both witty and creative. I am sure there are plenty of people out there who agree with them, the question is why? Has this become our religion that people feel the need to defend their way of thinking against it? We never did say that we were campaigning against landfills specifically or that the act of throwing out your dental floss made you some sort of enemy of the peace. We know that there are bigger things to worry about and that we are all on different journeys. Yet for us the Rubbish Free Year is addressing something big. Let me explain. We didn’t start with a passion for rubbish reduction but with a frustration at the way we lived and the system that we lived in.

Taken from our website: rubbishfree.co.nz>home>why focus on rubbish: With a growing awareness of the ethical and ecological disaster that were part of Matthew and I pondered what to do when the solution is difficult, complicated and scary. Being ‘ethical’ was way too huge (and vague) for types as uninformed as ourselves, and narrowing it down to consuming ethically was still overwhelming: is this can of beans/ pair of jeans / dog toy etc produced in harmony with the planet and all humankind? Who owns the parent company and do they invest in the arms trade/ fell rain forests etc? We definitely lacked the time and resources to figure all that out. But the alternative – apathy – annoyed us. In response to the stalemate we somehow came up with the “The Rubbish Free Challenge”. It was smaller and finite, and gave us a simple, tangible question that we could answer ourselves: Will this item (packaging included) contribute to the Landfill?

While the challenge ignores the complexity of whether a product is ultimately a good thing for our world and doesn’t address aspects of lifestyle, it has put the power in our hands, and frequently channels us into the positive paradigm we were trying to connect with. We support local farmers at the farmers market. We support small local business as we seek to return and reuse containers. We buy fair trade and ecologically friendly alternatives because the packaging is usually biodegradable or recyclable. We feel better off for eating fresh, whole foods. We discover community when talk with the butcher or neighbours who we share bulk tofu with or friends when we swap home made relish for jam. Yes, we actually enjoy living rubbish free, and you can’t argue with that!

10 thoughts on “Week nine: Is waste free a waste of time?

  1. I can’t believe that there has been such negative responses from some people regarding your challenge!!!

    Perhaps you can feel some sastisfaction that it has created a very different response with myself and the many people that I have talked about it with. We all think it is great and I have increased the rubbish free measures that we already had in place … reducing rubbish, increasing recylcing and composting, being more aware of packing and environmentally friendly items etc … both at work and at home.

    Keep enjoying your challenge and feel positive that your impact can be measured in the decreases in other people’s rubbish as well as your own.


  2. There’s always backlash against trying to do small things to better the world. I think it’s mainly a guilty conscience, really. I just need to whisper that I’m vegetarian and I get a bigger backlash than announcing that I’m a lesbian. I don’t know why, as I never follow either of those with “and you should be, too!”, but it’s assumed. I think it’s the same principle at work with backlash to your project. Sounds like insecurity to me.


  3. Danika that’s funny!

    I agree with the guilty conscience thing. You see it a lot. People hit out all the time at others who are doing well because they are jelous and guilty that they don’t try harder themselves.

    I try not to feel guilty about what I do or don’t do for the environment but without it I probably wouldn’t care and I wouldn’t try at all. Every time I chuck something into the bin now I think “How could I have avoided using that?” or “could I have re-used that?”. We are now living in a place with a compost bin which has really made a big difference on the amount of rubbish not going in the bin. If we move to a place that doesn’t I will now try a small compost pit (that can be easily filled in when we move or find a neighbour who could use my food scraps.

    Please let everyone know about these web sites

    http://www.simplesavings.com.au/ a great site relevant to New Zealanders too. You can get free advice or pay if you want access to more. So far I am just accessing the free stuff.

    http://www.mealopedia.com a great meal planning site (planning as you know avoids waste)

    http://www.lovefoodhatewaste.com a site that specialises in helping people use up their left overs. Only problem is if you have a dog they might miss out on the left over tidbits that they love!


  4. Hey guys, fantastic to see what you are doing. I have just discovered your website and am looking forward to following your progress over the year. With regards to dental floss – a friend of mine uses one of those hook things that the dentists use (I think her dentist gave it to her). Probably works better than toothpicks because it is sharper and narrower. Also at the end of the day you have to dispose of the toothpicks (even if it is into compost) whereas the hook thing should last for ever.


  5. As others have pointed out: insecurity could well be the source of the some of the criticism you’ve faced. It’s great to read your blog and I think that actions such as yours help push issues into the public conciousness. What was once seen as wacky, foolish or unconventional is often soon seen as common sense once its publicised and recognised for its worth.


  6. Have just found this website thru a magazine and you have inspired me.We are a family of 4 that put out a small rubbish bag a month,but now we are going to increase that further until it’s only one per year. Well done guys.Love all the hints,there are alot I hadn’t thought of.Is there a link where to find your muslie bar reciepe.Looking forward to reading more blogs

    Hi. The muesli bar recipe can be found at: http://www.ecook.co.nz Search that sight once there.


  7. Good on you. I found your blog when I was surfing the internet in the dark during earth hour, trying to research ways to make our impact on the environment less negative.
    You are an inspiration and I have found myself asking shops to take back the packaging, to not give me a plastic bag, I’ve been choosing products based on whether they are recycable packaging wise or trying to find products with no or minimal packaging.
    And this leads to supporting local farmers markets, butchers etc. Keep up the good work, you are definitely inspiring others out there to make changes..


  8. Hey guys, you continue to inspire us. Well done. It generates conversations with our friends (in their late 50’s and early 60’s) and yes we have the memories of the grocer arriving with a box of groceries ordered weekly, the butcher and fishmonger in their van and the fat from the roast being saved to be taken somewhere (in Christchurch) to be made into bars of laundry soap! Thanks for your respectful challenge.


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