Recycling allows us all to make a difference in reducing our environmental impact, and it’s important to make sure we recycle as much as we possibly can. Plus, sorting out your trash into the correct bins means your green bin doesn’t become too full too quickly, and you can avoid a nasty situation of your trash not being cleared. Most houses in Oxford come with two large bins – green and blue – and a small green caddy. The large green bin is for general waste, the large blue bin is for recycling and the small green caddy is for food waste. While it might be common sense on what to put in each bin, the trick to sorting is remembering what does not go in each bin! The general waste bin accepts almost everything, except batteries and electronics, which should be put in a clear bag on top of the bin. For the recycling bin, it’s important to not use any bin liners, regardless of whether they’re recyclable or not. In terms of what you shouldn’t recycle, some of the most commonly mis-recycled items are tissue paper, sweet wrappers, hard plastics and Styrofoam, these should instead be thrown in the general waste bin. Lastly, the food waste bin should only be used only for food and tissue paper or kitchen towels, the wrappers should be thrown in the general waste bin. For more information, check the Oxford City Council website here: https://www.oxford.gov.uk/homepage/30/what_goes_in_each_bin.
Rules on recycling may vary between places in the UK and different countries, so there’s no harm in doing a quick search for the information!
On top of sorting out your trash, you could also reuse things that you would normally throw away. Egg shells, tea bags and coffee grounds can be used to fertilize the soil in your garden. Empty the contents of the teabags, mix it with the coffee grounds and crushed egg shells, and sprinkle it into the soil! Empty yoghurt, coffee or even fruit or vegetable containers can be used to store bits of stationery in your own or common rooms. Rubber bands, twist ties and even bread ties can be saved from the bin, and used for just about anything. Instead of simply throwing away plastic bags, use them to line your bins for general waste at home! For old clothes, shoes or other items that you don’t want to sell on the many online marketplaces here, consider either upcycling them, or donating them to one of the many charities here!
Once you have looked at the waste your home produces and how to deal with it, the next step forward is in making everyday or lifestyle choices that go beyond waste. Firstly, you could try and replace the existing bulbs in your house with LED bulbs, which according to energy.gov use up to 80% less electricity, and last up to 25 times longer compared to a regular incandescent bulb!
In terms of heating, you can use your windows and curtains to your advantage! Based on the Stanford Office of Sustainability’s online guide, you should leave your leave the curtains drawn during the day to to let the sunlight warm your room. When the sun sets and, shut the curtains to make your room more insulated. The reverse will apply if your room is too warm!
When you’re in the bathroom, saving water is key! When brushing your teeth, don’t leave the tap running. Instead of cupping your hands to collect water for gargling, use a cup and fill it to a quarter or a half instead!
You could even try shortening your showers with a shower timer! Reducing your shower time by just one minute could save more than 2,900 litres a year per person according to Thames Water. If you bring your phone to the bathroom, try setting a timer while you shower. Alternatively, Thames Water has a 4-minute shower timer that you can order for free. If you’re up for a DIY project, Thames Water also has several devices you can order for free that will help you save water if you have a non-electric shower, including water-saving shower-heads and taps. Read more about it here: https://watersavingdevices.thameswater.co.uk/
In the kitchen, a simple trick you can do to save energy would be to cook with a lid! It can save help save energy because it prevents heat loss from the pot or pan, and your food will cook more quickly! Using the microwave more can also help you save electricity and money. Using a microwave for 10 minutes a day will cost about 3 pounds per year, compared to using an electric hob for 30 minutes per day costing you 90 pounds per year according to Ovo Energy! Microwave cooking doesn’t just mean more microwave meals. You can microwave vegetables, eggs (out of their shell) and even rice! This link has some ideas on how you can better utilize your microwave: https://www.realsimple.com/food-recipes/cooking-tips-techniques/cooking-uses-for-your-microwave#steam-carrots.
In terms of general household cleaning, you can use a solution of distilled vinegar and baking soda as a multi-purpose surface cleaner. It even has the added benefit of removing water scale marks on surfaces or dishes!
If you want to make a greater commitment, you can also consider switching to more environmentally friendly products. Going beyond reusable bottles, coffee cups and upcycled products, you could even switch to local, sustainably farmed groceries or eateries. This is especially important in reducing our contribution to carbon emissions from production and delivery of these products. A detailed list of sustainable grocers and other organizations in Oxford can be found here: http://goodfoodoxford.org/network/
Last but not least, it’s important to still continue practising basic steps such as not leaving lights or electronics on while not in use. This not only allows you to make a contribution towards reducing your environmental impact and utilities bills, but also sets a good and easy-to-follow example for your housemates! We hope these tips help you lead a more eco-friendly lifestyle when living out and at home in general!