Reduce, reuse and repair

If you are planning to host an event, it doesn’t have to mean that there has to be an excess in the amount of waste generated. Finding alternative equipment and being savvy with food waste can reduce the amount of waste and lower the carbon footprint of your event. Our waste less event guide [PDF, 0.5MB] will provide resources and tip for events of all sizes.

We all know recycling is better than throwing things away, but did you know it should be a last resort? Recycling uses resources like energy to turn waste materials into new products. There are a lot of 'R's that should come before recycling including: reduce, reuse and repair! Here are a few of them.

Reduce

Reducing waste means avoiding buying things that will become waste. Here are some ways you can do that:

  • Only buy the food you need, and make sure you eat it. It sounds simple, but food is one of the biggest categories of waste we throw away, and one of the biggest greenhouse gas emitters. We all waste food - find out what you can do at Love Food Hate Waste.
  • Use the Kitche app to help you use up food before it goes off, and the Olio and Too Good To Go apps to share or find surplus food in your community.
  • Carry a reusable water bottle and download the Refill app to see where you can top it up.
  • Take your own containers to a refill shop to reduce packaging. You can re-use packaging containers that you normally recycle, like large pickle jars and wide-top jam jars. Find local refill shops.
  • Choose loose fruit and vegetables. If options seem limited, check what local greengrocers and veg box delivery schemes offer. 
  • Grow your own! Even if you just have a windowsill, there will be something you can grow which usually has packaging, for example: herbs, salad leaves, cress.
  • Borrow - use your library or borrow items in your community (ask on neighbourhood Facebook groups). The Party Kit Network lends out plates, cups etc for parties. Hire rather than buy occasional outfits like prom or wedding attire from local shops or sites like Hirestreetuk.com You can hire carpet cleaners from large supermarkets.
  • Swap clothes. Look out for local 'Swish' clothes swap events (check Cambridge Carbon Footprint (CCF) or Transition Cambridge event listings) to refresh your wardrobe or try out apps like Nuw or Vinted . Want to organise your own Swish? CCF’s Swish Kit (funded by South Cambridgeshire District Council) can be borrowed by local groups interested in hosting their own clothes swapping parties. For further details email nicole@cambridgecarbonfootprint.org.
  • Buy less, choose well, make it last. Vivienne Westwood said this about clothes, but it's a great mantra for all purchases. Each time you are thinking about buying something, ask "Do I really need this?". If you do, choose the best quality you can afford, in a style which suits you and won't go out of fashion. Then look after it by checking care labels and washing instructions.

Re-use

This can mean passing on your unwanted items and buying second-hand. You might be able to find a new use for something that would otherwise be recycled or thrown away, for example, re-using an ice cream tub or takeaway container to store leftovers in the fridge. Or, it can mean choosing a reusable alternative to something disposable. Did you know that you can find reusable:

Pass on your unwanted items to charity shops (some like British Heart Foundation and Emmaus can accept electrical items), sell on eBay, Facebook MarketplaceGumtree or the depop app, or give away through Freegle, Freecycle, the Olio app, local Facebook 'freebies' or 'Life Is A Gift' groups. 

You can pass on your old smartphone to one of the 1.5 million homes in the UK which do not have internet access at home through the charity Hubbub's Community Calling scheme.

Support the circular economy - each time you need to buy something, check if you can find it second-hand in charity shops or online.

Repair

Pop-up Repair Cafe events bring together volunteers who like fixing things with people who have things which are broken. You stay with a repairer while they try to repair your item, so you can learn how it works and what to do to keep it in good condition.

Typically, you can take electrical appliances, bikes, clothing and more to be mended at Repair Cafes. There are no promises and no guarantees, but if the repairers have time, and can fix the item, they will do so, free of charge. To be sure your item is looked at, its best to book it in. Find upcoming events on the Repair Cafe website.  

If you are interested in setting up a Repair Cafe in your community and would like support, or if you would like to volunteer as a repairer, please contact nicole@cambridgecarbonfootprint.org.

You can of course find repair services for various items like clothing, shoes and vacuum cleaners locally. You can find listings for some of these (and submit new ones) in the Circular Cambridge Directory.

If you want to have a go at repairing something yourself, there are lots of video guides online, and iFixit provides repair guides for many products. Love Your Clothes has advice on how to mend and care for clothes to keep them looking good for longer.

Useful resources:

There are lots more R's that we can do before recycling: re-purpose, re-fashion, rethink! How many can you think of?