Refuse and Inspire – Me? Yes, YOU!


If we talk about reducing our waste, we need to tackle how to grow into a refuser.

Isn’t it the hardest thing to do?
It seems like it but I hope to convince you that it is actually easier than you think.

Refusers are just like you and me.

Refuse is THE most important R from the 5-R’s (Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rot). Why? To prevent garbage and unnecessary items from coming into your home rather than just reduce accumulated waste and recycling. It is called PRECYCLE, a much more uplifting word than refuse. Isn’t it?

Growing into a PRECYCLER is capital.

It really needs courage to take action according to your values. I know! With this post, I will try to inspire you to refuse more and get better at saying NO in your own way. No need to become a militant or an angry friend that reminds others how bad they are for the planet. The best precyclers inspire others and start a domino effect without even knowing it.

OK but refuse what?

Good question! Are you disturbed by all the plastic waste? Learn how to refuse single-use plastic. Do you want to buy less? Learn how to refuse to buy new when possible and/or refuse to follow a trend. Are you sad at all the plastic trash when going to a party or an event? Refuse to continue a tradition that is no longer matching your values and get creative. Take action on what calls you the most.

Tips and ideas to help you.

A good way to start is to refuse single-use plastic in your life (bags, take out food, grocery items, hot drink, water bottle, cutlery…).

You will do great by being prepared.

Have a kit ready in the bag you have your wallet in. Your kit should have reusable bags (Adios, plastic bags), a little mug (Goodbye, disposable cups, and lids) and light containers (Au revoir, to go and leftover plastic waste). Then, according to your shopping habits, add anything you need. Smoothie people will add a reusable straw. The bulk shoppers will add all the containers according to their grocery list. To go eaters will add cutlery to their kit and so on. Cotton napkins often come in handy, especially with kids. Be creative, reuse, avoid buying new to create your kit when possible.

When shopping bulk:
1- know what you can buy in bulk
2- add a little star next to each item on your list you can buy in bulk
3- bring a container for each and the best part is you will buy the amount you wish. Bring extra jars for spontaneous purchases.

When you order at the till, explain first what you don’t need. The cashier is used to making certain moves automatically, like giving you a bag, a straw… So be patient and give the person your bag or container before ordering.

Leave another little kit in the car or at your office.

Unwished plastic items are coming into our lives so easily (balloons, gifts from friends and family, shipped items overwrapped,toys, freebies like toothbrush and goodies bag). Especially if you have children!!! Don’t they? Please, welcome the perfect time to learn how to be out the box!

Grocery store giving out samples? Ask the person handing them out to put the sample in your hand instead of the little plastic containers they put them in. Ask the store manager to change their plastic cups to paper ones, or plastic stir sticks (for tastings) to uncooked spaghetti or wooden sticks. If many of us ask for these changes, they will listen.

Reinvent how you want to throw a party especially the ones we are used to preparing for in a certain way (birthday, wedding, official events…). Send a clear message to attendees expressing you are working on reducing unwished waste and plastic items.

Ex: When throwing a kids’ birthday party:

On your invites, you can mention there will be no goody bags (and save money). You can ask for no wrapping on the gifts or no gift. You can bring all the dishes or some and ask the guests to bring their own.

Be inspiring and give your guests some choices and alternatives. Go ahead and mention what kind of gift is acceptable for your family like handmade ones, experiences (tickets for a show, a special day together), food, plants, seeds… Make it simple and fun and you might inspire your guest to do the same with their next events.

Going to a party, phone the parent and ask questions about reusable dishes or throw away ones, if it’s OK to give money as a gift or what kind of experience they would like. Suggest bringing a paper garland to decorate with instead of balloons. Let them know you wish to have less garbage and recycling in your life. A kid’s party is a good time to show kids we care for their future and the future of their friends. It’s doesn’t make sense anymore to throw away pizza boxes (you can’t recycle dirty card boxes), plates, napkins, balloons and all the plastic things from the goody bags.

You might be irritated, thinking how come people still offer wasteful items at events but remember, we all need to first be inspired to do something differently. For many, it would feel overwhelming to start a change but if they have a good experience at your party, they might try it on their own.

Refuse the amount of plastic YOU bring into your house
(products in plastic bottles; shampoo, soap, cleaning products, food)

It is probably one of the hardest things to do. First, go and look in the grocery stores… plastic is everywhere. To avoid these items, you need to change how you see food, cooking, and shopping. You need to be curious about alternatives. You can clean with vinegar and baking soda instead. You can use bar soap or bulk shampoo and conditioner. Many products you can make yourself like deodorant and lip balm. There are so many DIY recipes out there. You can slowly switch to longer life items like razors or reusable feminine pads. Many alternatives are locally made (bar soap, feminine pads, bulk options- see map). Find tips for a waste-free lunchbox. Exchange tips with other like-minded people. Borrow zero waste books for inspiration. Be patient, it takes time but it is a rewarding journey.

Refuse to follow the zero waste trend
(wooden or metal items, glass jars, bee wraps…)

You could get a full on new zero waste kit online but you don’t have to do that at all. Finish your product first, while you do that, find alternatives without shopping too much. Keep your glass jars and some plastic bottles to reuse when buying in bulk. When you are done with your toothbrush then switch to a bamboo one. When you are done with your toothpaste try the Nelson brand in glass jars or make your own. I did buy bee wraps at first and really liked them. Now I make my own. Lunch box, no need to go fancy, reuse what you have.

Refuse and Reduce, what’s the difference?

When you reduce, you downsize, you declutter, you buy less and you simplify. When you refuse, you stop buying items that no longer agree with your values anymore, you change your habits, you say no to others offering unwished items, you inspire the change.

Ready to take action?

You will need to:
Be prepared – have your alternative solutions with you
Be patient – yep!
Be clear – especially at the till and for events
Be curious – explore books, zero waste blogs, DIY videos
Be out of the box – is there a better place to be out of the box than in Nelson?
Be better slowly but surely – it can easily take up to a year to figure out recipes, ideas, etc..
Be inspiring – So many of you are inspiring me.

Please feel free to use the comments below to ask questions or to share your successes and good DIY recipes. You can also use the Facebook page Slimmer Waste to do so.

Let’s be inspiring.

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