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Responsible consumption, a guide to a zero-waste New Year

By Amusa Temitope Victor
15 January 2018   |   3:06 am
It’s early in the new year and there is no other way to hit the ground running than an inspiring new year compliments and ambitious felicitation, may the new year bring fulfillment to set goals and aspirations.

It’s early in the new year and there is no other way to hit the ground running than an inspiring new year compliments and ambitious felicitation, may the new year bring fulfillment to set goals and aspirations.

New year resolution is a tradition in which an individual resolve to change an undesired trait or behavior, to accomplish a certain personal goal or otherwise improve their lives.

A lot of resolutions greeted the air during the early hours of the year 2018, it’s typical though of our contemporary time that every new year ushers in new commitment and devotions to something we struggled with in the past year, from habits and attitudes to friends and decisions not worthwhile. Again, a lot of resolutions and pledges have been made, most of which have been broken over and over again in the very few days that just passed in the year.

Permit me to add a very thought provoking resolution to your long list or perhaps pressing resolution for the year, it’s called a zero-waste resolution. Waste generation has increased in very alarming proportions over the years as demography is an activity indicator in studies of waste management. As the population of human on earth grows the volume of waste generated also grows, the more complicated the living standards of the human population is, the more the complexity in the type of waste they generate. For example, in an agrarian community organic waste from unpreserved farm produce is expected while in the more commercial and cosmopolitan settlements inorganic waste from items meant to easy mobility and accessibility to fast moving consumer goods dominates the large chunk of waste generated.

Indiscriminate disposal of waste is really a pressing issue that needs to be addressed in the new year and it’s indeed a matter of residents taking a firm stand against unwholesome waste management practices as there is no place called away, so the statement of waste is thrown away is shrouded in falsehood and denial of fact, indiscriminate waste disposal has grievous effects on human life, the sanctity of which cannot be trivialize in the new year and beyond. The big question, therefore, is how do we cut down on indiscriminate waste disposal? The very simple answer to which is the geometric reduction in waste generated while adjusting our living pattern to favor good environmental protection practices as our environment is not just the core to healthy living, it is the bedrock of human very existence. There is therefore a call to Responsible Consumption which is premised on a concept called “Waste Management Hierarchy – an order that indicates the preference for methods and actions adaptable to reduce waste generation”.

Waste Management hierarchy is the concept of appraisal of methods of environmental protection alongside resources and energy consumption patterns to evaluate activities which ensures favorable conditions. The core principle of waste hierarchy is to get the most practical benefits from products while reducing the amount of waste generated to the minimum possible level close to a zero-waste level.
Applying the waste hierarchy in human activities can help conserve resources, stare down on pollution, create jobs, stimulate a circular economy and build a generation of environmentally responsible residents. In simple terms the waste hierarchy consists of 3 R’s: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. The concept of Reduce, Reuse and Recycle summarizes an adaptable guide to sustainability. It might also interest you to know the ease in the integration of this concept into human daily activities and effortlessly cut down individual carbon footprint by only simple lifestyle changes resulting in less amount of waste sent to the landfill.

A lot of initiatives have been championed by various state governments in the past under various acronyms, many more are springing up every day, for example, the Kwara Clean & Green Campaign, and the very recent Cleaner Lagos initiative, it is sad to report that despite the massive financial support and investment provided to drive these waste management call-to-actions, most times the initiatives still struggle to make the desired impact, this is because the people still see waste management as the responsibility of government. Indeed, the government is doing a lot to ensure a clean and healthy environment, and likewise maintain the aesthetic and crispy-clean look of their state especially the commercial nerves and high burrow areas to attract investors into their domain, but if most of these initiatives will avail much impact the drive should come from the people. Every resident of the state and community should be made to understand that they aren’t a good citizen of the country until they become responsible consumers who develop a sense of responsibility for their environment and advocate others to be same.

The resolution to reduce waste in the year 2018 can only be sustained when our activities are designed not to generate waste in the first place hence the call for responsible consumption. Responsible consumption is choosing to buy items that are truly needed, reusing the items beyond a single lifecycle and deciding that when at all you want to dispose after exhausting the reasonable item lifespan, you dispose at designated recycling facilities around you, this way you are actively playing your role as a responsible inhabitant of the earth ensuring a safer and healthier planet.

Quite a handful number of recycling centers are springing up across the country, aside from waste scavengers who roll out their cart daily to harvest used metals, waste cartons and other materials considered valuable. Social Entrepreneurs across the country are likewise addressing the indiscriminate waste disposal challenge by using community adaptable business models peculiar to their region, these entrepreneurs serve as a buffer to the commercial waste collectors who charge some amount of money to pick up trash from neighborhoods.

The production and distribution of new items amount for huge carbon footprints as it requires a sizeable amount of energy to extract the raw materials from the earth, a lot of activities that affect the environment to craft the products and distribution of the finished item to the consumers also comes at a cost to the environment. Therefore, reducing consumption to items that are really needed and reusing items over and over again will considerably conserve natural resources, benefits economically as you save money and ultimately protect the environment from pollution attributed to human activities.

Some tips that can help you reduce the waste generation in the new year are; Printing on both sides of the paper, use fabric Napkins as an alternative to paper napkins, use email as correspondence instead of sending paper mails, avoid buying items packaged with non-recyclable materials, buy goods that are durable, after reading your newspaper seek alternative use for it like gift wrapping or children papercraft. Borrow or rent items that are used infrequently, like party decorations, or furniture, lookout for products that has less packaging, buy reusable items other than disposables for example, you can bring your own refill water bottles to work, rather than buying water in single use disposable plastics, you can likewise use water dispenser in your office while ensuring staff comes with their own cups, maintain and repair products, so that they won’t have to be thrown out and replaced just too frequently, buy used items as they are often less expensive and just as good as new.

There is a popular saying that One person’s trash is another person’s treasure. When you have used clothes or unwanted appliances in the new year do not discard them, sell them or consider donating them to someone who needs them this way you are not only going to reduce landfill waste, you will as well be lending a helping hand to someone. Some places you can donate items like working but unneeded electronics, used but good clothes, used books and magazines to are non-profit organizations, local religious centers, schools and community centers or you might as well start a neighborhood used item sales point. This way you will help prevent usable goods from going to landfills and likewise help those in good need of the items you have as trash.

A zero-waste resolution in the year 2018 will reduce environmental pollution, conserve energy, reduce substantially emission of greenhouse gases which contribute immensely to global climate change and its attendant threats, be of economic benefit in that cost will be saved, alienate the need to landfill waste and in no little way help sustain the environment for future generations.

As in the words of John Kasich an American politician “If we intend to provide a better life and a better world, for future generations, we can’t ignore the quality of the environment we leave them”. Therefore, as the year 2018 goes by we all must subscribe to active efforts aimed at ensuring responsible consumption and production which is the 12th goal of the sustainable development agenda. We must reuse materials in many ways possible by upcycling & recycling.

This way we can have a zero-waste 2018 and build a sustainable environment, free from pollution.Amusa, an environmentalist, social entrepreneur, circular economist and zero-waste advocate, is the Chief Executive Officer, Vicfold Recyclers based in Ilorin, Kwara State Nigeria.

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