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"Less waste"; "zero-waste"; "say no to plastic": we hear these all the time. The bottom line is, going green and environmentally-friendly is the trend nowadays.
The eco-conscious message is growing positively, thanks to various environmental organisations and movements that are drawing attention to their eco-friendly benefits.
Some of these include Zero-Waste Malaysia, an online community that shares zero-waste tips and events/talks to promote zero-waste awareness; and Kloth Lifestyle, who provides cloth drop-boxes to keep clothes out of landfills because yes, it contributes to landfill pollution.
But how can homeowners play their part in keeping their home and lifestyle choices eco-friendly?
Whether you’re living in a multi-storey high-rise, or a landed property with plenty of space for your dogs to run around, here are 10 eco-friendly home and living tips to get started!
1) Separate Your Waste
Separating waste is probably something we all learnt in school, but most of us don’t practice it because it can be quite the hassle.
Well, if you want to save the environment then you’ve gotta get down and dirty! Here’s how you can start separating waste at home without feeling too overwhelmed.
P/S: Always remember to wash and clean your recyclables first.
- Level 1 — Separate your recyclable waste from your non-recyclable waste.
- Level 2 — Separate your waste into different types: paper, plastic, cardboard, aluminium, metal, glass, and food scraps.
- Level 3 — Further separate the tetrapaks, e-waste, fabric, rubber, compostable food scraps, and non-compostable wet waste.
Before you send your items to be recycled, take note to contact the recycling organisations beforehand as they may only take in certain items and in certain conditions.
Should aluminium cans be crushed before recycling? (No.) Should tetrapaks be flattened beforehand? (Yes.)
2) Recycle or Reuse Used Cooking Oil
Never. Ever. Throw used cooking oil down the drain. Not only does it clog the piping, but all drains lead to our rivers and in doing so, it pollutes our rivers and affects river life drastically.
Choose to recycle your used cooking oil at Alam Flora and get cashback, or if you wanna get creative, use them to make handmade artisan soap bars.
3) Compost Your Food Scraps
The common misconception about composting is that it’s smelly, dirty, and just another invitation for rodents and cockroaches to visit your home.
That won’t be the case if you compost properly! You can bury food scraps in your garden or turn them into what's called a "Bokashi Fertiliser" that your plants will love!
If you don’t have a garden, you can place them in a container and freeze it, then take it out during the weekend to be buried somewhere else.
Alternatively, a few gardening and planting communities in Malaysia are keen on rescuing food scraps as they make good, natural fertiliser for their fruit trees and vegetable patches.
4) Level Up Your Green Thumb
Grow your own plants, feed them natural compost, and they’ll love you forever. Easy to grow plants include succulents, air plants, aloe vera, mint, spring onions, beansprouts, thyme, and more.
Not only do they keep the air clean, cool, and healthy, but they’re a sight for sore and tired eyes, plus they'll liven up any room.
If you’re worried about your lack of experience, invest in an herb keeper or self-watering pots if you need to. Coffee grounds make excellent fertiliser so don’t hesitate to ask your local cafe for them.
Grow plants well and they’ll supply you with a bountiful harvest that you could just use as an additional source of income.
5) Make Your Own Household Cleaners
It’s actually easier than you might think, and there are many tutorials online that you can mix and match depending on your liking and needs.
The best thing about these eco-friendly household cleaners are that they’re all natural, don’t contain any harmful chemicals or bleach, and can be made with ingredients as common as fruit peels.
Add essential oils into your homemade cleaners so that when you’re wiping down your kitchen counters or mopping the floor, your home will smell fresh, and bugs will be less likely to visit.
6) Buy Bulk/Packaging-Free Products
Packaging-free shops are all the rage now. These shops sell everything from dishwashing liquid and body soap, to even soy sauce and your favourite childhood snacks – all without any plastic packaging!
Just bring your own containers and bottles, fill, and pay. Your local pasar tani and pasar pagi are also great places to buy fresh, package-free produce.
Hidden gems for package-free shopping also include Chinese herbal shops, Indian spice shops, and Malay biscuit shops that sell all the popular munchies.
While you're at it, buy in bulk to save money and share them with your friends and family – they’ll love you even more for it.
7) Can’t Avoid Plastic? Try Ecobricking
Sometimes you just can’t avoid plastic, no matter how much you try. When that happens, create an "ecobrick"!
It functions like a building block that can be used to build various items like stools, tables, or even building structures.
Make sure the plastic is washed, cleaned, and completely dry before putting it in the ecobrick as any bacteria can decompose and affect the quality of the ecobrick.
There are also guidelines to follow when creating an ecobrick, from the size of the bottle to the expected weight of it.
This is to ensure that all ecobricks are standardized and last long. To join the ecobrickers community, check out their Facebook group here.
8) Make Your Own Food From Scratch
Not all of us are kitchen maestros or the next Masterchef, but that doesn’t mean we can’t try to reduce our carbon footprint and eat healthily at the same time.
When you really look into the ingredients of a recipe, you’ll realise that they’re actually quite easy to make and you probably already have the necessary kitchen equipment.
Not only is it a great way to experiment with recipes and food, but it also makes a great bonding activity for parents and their children.
There are lots of recipes ranging from children-friendly to 3-ingredient meals in under 30 minutes, so you’ll definitely save on store-bought food while keeping processed sugars and fats away!
9) Use Compostables For Parties Instead
You’ll most likely a) use your own dishes and cutlery, or b) use plastic ones to save cleanup time when throwing a party.
Instead of that, try compostable (read: made of organic matter that can be easily broken down) party plates and cutlery. An even better option would be to get your guests to bring their own plates and cutlery!
Don’t forget to reward them with extra food, drinks and dessert to thank them for their initiative.
Instead of packet drinks or bottled soda that creates more waste, whip up your own drinks in pitchers or drink dispensers.
Easy recipes include iced tea, fruit-infused water, cordials, and even the deliciously cooling Chinese drinks like barley, luo han guo, and goji berries. If all fails, plain water is the greatest (and cheapest).
10) Find Reusable Options
In this world of innovation, we’ve achieved so much! There’s now a reusable option for anything and everything. Some examples are:
- Paper napkins and wet wipes → Reusable cloth towels
- Baby diapers → Reusable cloth diapers
- Disposable sanitary pads/tampons → Cloth pads, menstrual cups, sea sponges
- Cotton makeup remover pads/wipes → Cotton pads made out of old clothes
- Metal stapler refills → Bullet-less staplers that fold the papers together instead
- Plastic cling wrap → Eco-friendly beeswax wrappers
- Plastic grocery bags → Cloth/mesh bags made from old, leftover fabric
- Paper coffee cups → Silicone or glass coffee cups
- Racks/Bedding frames → Decoration or a trellis for plants
- Tea bags → Loose-leaf teas
Some notable mentions are eco-friendly cleaning alternatives to your home like loofahs and compostable bamboo toothbrushes, refillable tooth-powder, and soap bars that work for both hair and body.
Ready, Set, Go Eco Friendly!
With all this eco-friendly home knowledge you’ve acquired, the choice is up to you now - go green or go home?
Although turning your home into a sanctuary that’s devoid of plastic sounds harder than it looks, it can be accomplished with baby steps and a lot of support from the kind community we have here.
As Anne-Marie Bonneau said, “We don’t need a handful of people doing zero-waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly.”