Ok. So we’ve Refused something. The next thing we should be thinking about is how we can Reduce something. Again, this can feel like a bit of a negative thing to do – I mean, who actually wants less of something? That goes against all of our instincts. But to create a truly functional circular economy, we can think about how Reducing something, just like Refusing something can actually give us more.
There are many things that are ripe for positive reduction. If we Reduce the amount of items we buy every year, we are not only saving on our carbon footprint, we are saving money. (There is a reason why ‘economy’ is the latter half of ‘circular economy’ – cash is part of the integrated system). If we Reduce our car use, we are doing the same – saving carbon, saving cash, and maybe getting some fresh air and exercise in along the way. Reducing the waste we produce is also critical – currently in Europe about 25% of the food purchased each year is destined for the bin. In the US, that’s about 40%.
Reducing our waste means we are not throwing cash into the bin, but it also means that we are not wasting the physical and environmental cost of creating something – including manufacture, transportation, packaging, and the emissions at the end of the thing’s life. For food waste, that end of life emission includes methane, which is 23x more harmful than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas. Rotting food that is not being composted creates methane.
There are many other areas ripe for Reduction too. Reducing your meat and dairy intake massively helps reduce your carbon footprint. Reducing the distance your products or food takes to get to you also helps reduce the impact (although this can get tricky when it comes to food – a lot has to do with how it is grown and transported – and if it is delicate and has to be air freighted). Reducing the amount you eat ‘out of season’ can also help – no hothouse grown fresh strawberries in the depths of winter for example.
Reduce the amount of single-use packaging and plastic you are using (which crosses into Reuse and back to Refuse). We are not all able to become zero waste champions. For many of us this is unpractical, unfeasible and unaffordable. This is the harsh but true reality. But we can all look at how we can Reduce our impact in other ways.
So, what can we Reduce…?
- single-use plastic and packaging on your goods.
- reliance on our cars.
- eating out of season – what is grown now, near us instead?
- meat and dairy – cutting down is better than not doing anything. We don’t all have to be vegetarian or vegan for the planet to benefit.
- food that is thrown away – plan your meals, eat everything, compost what you can’t.