Jenna Brown

Jenna Brown

Getting Waste-Ed, 20 Tips to reduce waste and help the environment.

Putting the Ed in Education today, folks.

This week my fam and I went along to a waste-free workshop at New Plymouth District Council, and it was a real eye-opener. We were even gifted an amazing starter pack by the council; you can see all of the goodies in the image above. Thanks, NPDC!

I didn’t realise how much waste we (our family) contributed to this huge global problem. Yes, we have a compost bin, we grow veggies at home, recycle plastic & glass, and collect up and recycle our soft plastics at countdown once a month, but we are still way off the mark in terms of taking responsibility for the waste we produce.

The point of the workshop was to educate people about the waste they are producing. The main takeaway I came away with, which is absolutely true, is that’s it’s not good enough to buy something without considering the life of both the product and the packaging. If I purchase something, it’s up to me to know how to prolong its life and deal with the packaging sustainably.
It’s not up to the supplier, the rubbish collections, the government; it’s up to me as the consumer because we all know how supply and demand works. It’s simple economics. If I don’t buy it, and you don’t buy it, and no one buys it .. well, then they stop making it because it’s not profitable. So vote with your hard-earned cash, ladies and gentleman and say “no thank you” to all the waste!

It’s not a blame game or a shame game. You don’t need to feel embarrassed about what you have been doing in the past. It’s up to all of us to get educated and do better. Just become mindful of the things you see around your kitchen, bathroom, laundry, house and make good decisions about the need of your consumables, the lifespan of your consumables and the way you plan to part ways with your consumables. Landfilling everything is not the answer; we don’t have an endless supply of that.

I managed to get some awesome tips about how to improve this problem in our house and would love to share them with you so you can also implement them in your home – any effort is better than none, and I would love to hear in the comments which great tips you are going to start using.

First off, here are a few shocking stats about waste

  • We have created more waste in the last 10 years than we have in the last century
  • 1,000,000 plastic bottles are created every minute
  • It takes 3x the amount of water to create one plastic bottle as it does to fill it
  • 12,000,000 tonnes of plastic goes into our oceans every year
  • NZ households throw away 1.17 BILLION dollars worth of food… every year ($644 per household on average)
  • Kiwis throw away 20 million loaves of bread a year
  • 295 million single-use coffee cups are used every year in NZ. Just because it might say compostable on the side, doesn’t mean it will miraculously compost itself from your bin or in the landfill, it won’t. In fact, they won’t even compost in your home garden due to the plastic lining needed to retain the hot liquid

Some practical tips for reducing waste

  1. Create a meal plan; this saves waste, so you buy what you need and use up what you have, saves money, saves stress (having to decide meals every day, saves time and improves the variety.
  2. Check the dates on your food on a designated “eat me first” shelf.
  3. Eat dinner leftovers for lunch.
  4. Shop online to avoid impulse purchases.
  5. Grow your own herbs.
  6. Grow your own veggies (or at least some).
  7. Use the soft plastic recycling program. Yes, you have to collect it up and deliver it yourself, but it really isn’t so hard. Here is a store locator.
  8. Don’t keep onions with any other vegetables as they will produce gases that spoil each other. Onions need a separate container.
  9. Wrap a waxy wrap around the banana stalks to stop them from ripening too quickly. I tried this; it works a treat!
  10. Store all fruit, other than bananas, in the fridge. If you don’t like cold fruit, bring them out of the fridge the morning you eat them.
  11. Eat your leftovers. The standard food safety rule is 2 hours, then into the fridge, 2 days in the fridge, then into the freezer, 2 months in the freezer. Then it needs to be used (except rice which is 1 hour into the fridge and eaten within 1 day – ensuring you cook it to piping hot as it can easily make you sick).
  12. Make Guacamole with extra Avocados and freeze for later use
  13. Cool cooked dishes for 2 hours before putting them in sealed containers and into the fridge.
  14. Use by dates are directly related to food safety – follow these guides.
  15. Best Before dates are directly related to food quality – could still be OK to eat but may not be at its best. Use your senses to tell if it is still OK or not – a sniff test usually works.
  16. Keep bread in the freezer to avoid waste (it’s the largest throwaway food item in NZ)
  17. Freeze leftover coconut milk in ice cube trays.
  18. Freeze leftover smoothies for iceblocks.
  19. Freeze extra pesto in ice cube trays.
  20. Freeze surplus citrus in ice trays and add them to water for a delicious and hydrating drink.

Do your part and help reduce waste, use the 4 R’s

  1. Rethink – Do you need it in the first place – is there a better alternative?
  2. Reduce – Don’t take it if you don’t need it.
  3. Reuse – It over and over again.
  4. Recycle – Only buy products that are actually recyclable.

OK, so you have to waste some food – what can you do with it?
Investigate the best option for you.
This could be a home compost bin, worm farm or a bokashi.
YES, but how?


We built our own compost bin a year ago out of a few untreated bits of timber and added a lid. You can make one out of anything or buy one ready to go for around $50. All you need to think about is drainage and shelter from the rain, and you are good to go. The compost should be moist but not drenched. The great compost ratio is approximately 70% carbon-based (wood shavings, sticks, etc.) and 30% nitrogen-based (grass clippings and vegetable waste).

Please put all of your scraps in your bin and use the magic compost that comes out of it to feed your veggie garden. It takes very minimal time and effort to manage a home compost bin. Almost none!

Also, there is no transport, no landfill, no waste, why wouldn’t you?
I know… because you don’t own your house, or you don’t have room.
That’s OK … you can use a Bokashi!


A container-based composting system that you keep inside the house. No smell, no bugs, nothing but a great way to reduce your waste and create AMAZING compost. Find out more about Bokashi here.

Worm Farm

You will need a container, bedding (shredded paper or compost), tiger worms or red worms. The worms feed on vegetable waste except for onion and garlic. Add your scraps in layers approx once per week and worms will turn it into compost for you – thanks, worms!.
You can add a layer of old carpet to the top of your worm farm (face down), where the worms will lay eggs, and you will end up with happy families of worms working to turn your waste into perfect compost.

Once they have gone about their business farming your waste, you will end up with liquid in the bottom of your farm (worm tea), which you can use at a 1:10 ratio with water to spread around your plants and veggies. This is the best fertilizer ever and will give you an abundance of crops. Every few months, you can empty the compost (vermicast) from the farm base and add it to your veggie garden as well.

Your Waste Free Home

  • Use glass or steel containers instead of plastic, they have a much longer life span.
  • If you need to use straws, switch out plastic for stainless.
  • Use Stainless Bento boxes for lunches rather than plastic and containers – Bento Ninja sells a fabulous range of all things stainless which you can buy online. Check them out.
  • Switch out plastic pegs for stainless pegs which last a lifetime. I bought my pegs and sock hanger from Bento Ninja and I LOVE them.
  • Line your bin with newspaper instead of plastic.
  • Buy a reusable coffee cup and keep it in the car if you need a takeaway coffee. Or sit and enjoy your coffee, surely you can spare 10 mins?
  • Keep reusable bags in the car for any spur of the moment shopping.
  • Buy local veg boxes if you can’t grow your own. We sometimes buy a farm-fresh box from Munch and Bloom who are our local grower. They deliver the product to us in a cardboard box with zero plastic packagings. Yay! This is locally sourced produce and we also have the option to collect from a local store.
  • Look for non-plastic alternatives such as wooden or bamboo handled brushes, toothbrushes, dish brushes etc…
  • Switch out period products from disposable pads and tampons and look at using a menstrual cup or period underwear which can be reused. I recently purchased the AWWA period underwear which works a treat, I also use a Lunette moon cup depending on what I am doing that week exercise-wise.
  • Look at a pet Bokashi for your dog. Yep, even dog poop is covered, you can check out the options here Dog Bokashi.
  • Buy babies and children’s clothing second hand where you can, they are in it for such a short time!
  • Donate your old clothing and children’s clothing to your local hospice or secondhand shop to give it another life.
  • Use children’s toy libraries rather than buying more plastic.
  • Set up a bank account for your child and ask friends and family who would like to buy birthday and Christmas presents for your child, to add money to the account instead. This can then be used for family activities and holidays instead of buying plastic junk that breaks and gets thrown out within the year.
  • Use Reusable nappies and breast pads.
  • Don’t buy ANY MORE Glad wrap. Use waxy wraps or containers to store food. You can even use shower caps as reusable covers for bowls or plates in your fridge.

    For more information about reducing waste checkout Waste-Free with Kate Meads there are so many great tips and tricks that I have probably missed. But the main message is #DO1THING. Clean up after yourself – your waste and your children’s waste is up to you to manage.


    “This article is included in Twinkl’s Eco-Friendly and Sustainability campaign, and is part of their article Some great ideas to be more sustainable in 2021

Disclaimer: The J Word NZ and its media content are created based on my own experiences and opinions, as well as those individuals who share their stories with me. I do not have any formal medical or mental health qualifications. If you are experiencing any issues with mental health, please consult your doctor or a medical health professional for advice.

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