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Suffolk campaigner Karen Cannard gears up for Zero Waste Week

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I am always sorry to see the end of a long slow-paced summer holiday but ever since my childhood school days, September has rhythmically provided fresh starts, new promises and new ideas. It’s akin to new year resolutions but with warmer weather. Although these days, due to climate change, our seasonal patterns have of course been thrown into chaos.

You may have already read how the latest IPCC climate report has issued a “code red warning for humanity” about our changing climate and its impact, raising the urgency levels of the need for fundamental change.

Although much of the responsibility lies with governments, industry and large organisations to work towards stabilising rising temperatures, all dependent on policy decisions beyond our control, there are always changes that citizens can make, too. This “code red” is an alarm bell for everyone and we need rapid action.

Karen Cannard
Karen Cannard

I certainly need to reboot my own good habits. As someone who has rarely bought things online, the impact of the pandemic changed that, switching to internet shopping and becoming dependent on click-and-collect services for supermarket shopping. Furthermore, my easily-led consumerist nature reared its head again with a desire for a constant stream of new things to distract me from anxieties caused by the pandemic.

When you open the floodgates to the buzz this brings, it becomes more difficult to stop and return to a better balance. As well as buying things I don’t really need, the amount of packaging has consequently increased in our household’s recycling bin, as has our rubbish. Just as an over-expanding waistline might trigger a diet, our expanding waste-line in my bin is my environmental trigger. After all, everything that we bring into our homes has an impact. Right now, mine is bigger than I would like it to be.

If you too are keen to do more to reduce your impact on the environment, September promises to bring with it winds of change that can help you. It is waste awareness season, full of tips and nudges to inspire new ideas and habits to tackle waste and adopt other eco-friendly behaviours.

'Refillables' help to reduce waste by eliminating packaging
'Refillables' help to reduce waste by eliminating packaging

The first is the welcome annual return of Zero Waste Week – 6-10 September - a national (and indeed international) campaign launched by my old “rubbish pal” Rachelle Strauss and now in its 14th year.

If Zero Waste sounds too much of a challenge, Rachelle is keen to address a common concern that supporters and participants might have about the term itself. She explains: “Zero Waste is just an aspiration, a lofty goal – all you have to do is take ONE STEP towards reducing your landfill waste during the week. You don’t have to be completely Zero Waste. Even I’m not, and I’ve been doing this since the early 2000s.”

Hear hear, Rachelle. My personal goal is to replace more of my plastic packaged shopping with rubbish-free refillables, especially using my local refill shop Clear to Sea in Bury St Edmunds, pictured. My shopping already includes top-ups of unpackaged pasta and muesli, some household products, too, but I know I could swap out even more. It’s about switching off my automatic actions and trying to embrace new shopping habits where I can. However, everybody’s rubbish is different. To explore what changes you could make, sign up at www.zerowasteweek.co.uk. Also keep an eye out in next week’s Bury Free Press for additional tips.

Hot on the heels of Zero Waste Week is Recycle Now’s Recycle Week – 20-26 September - now in its 18th year. It celebrates the efforts that most of us make while encouraging us to find out what more we can do. This year’s theme, “Step it Up”, is asking the country to recycle more in the fight against climate change. It’s perfect timing to visitwww.recyclenow.com or www.suffolkrecycling.org.uk for the latest info on recycling. The Suffolk website is particularly extensive regarding local services. I shout about it a lot so you may have already spotted its brilliant A-Z of recycling. It’s packed with lots more information, too.

If the internet is not your thing, I also recommend The Sustainable(ish) Living Guide by Jen Gale and No. More. Plastic. by Martin Dorey, available from bookshops or your local library.

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