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From zero-waste groceries to kitchen libraries: 8 incredibly useful hacks for living more sustainably.

Sustainability Victoria
Thanks to our brand partner, Sustainability Victoria

By the end of the decade, 'single-use’ will be forever considered a dirty word. 

But as it stands, only 12 percent of plastics used in the nation in the past year have been recycled. This seriously highlights our need to cut down on plastic waste.

While we still have a long way to go, more and more Victorians are taking part in the sharing economy and are signing up to circular services to minimise their environmental footprint.

Sustainability Victoria is teaming up with businesses and communities to support a circular, climate-resilient economy through investment and innovation – think groceries without packaging, repair cafes and upcycling.

We can all play our part in cutting down our consumption so if you’re looking for more ways to live sustainably, here are 8 hacks to help you on your zero-waste journey. 

1. Become part of the sharing economy

Apps like Melbourne-based platform ReShare – where you can hire just about anything you can think of – are bringing fresh appeal to the ‘sharing is caring’ philosophy. 

Becoming part of the sharing economy can significantly reduce your carbon footprint, and not only is it better for the environment but it’s better for your wallet too! 

Instead of spending hundreds of dollars on gear for an adventurous weekend away, you can rent it for the exact period of time you're needing it, from locals at a fraction of the cost. 

Anything from camping, snowboarding, surfing and other adventure equipment can be hired, as well as kitchen appliances, baby equipment, clothes and more. 

Popping up all over the place these days are a range of toy, tool and kitchen libraries, where you can pay a small yearly membership fee in return for access to borrowing many different items.

The benefits of the share economy are endless.

2. Try a Returnr Marketplace subscription

It’s little wonder why this zero waste online marketplace received a business grant from the Victoria State Government through Sustainability Victoria. 

A perfect example of the circular economy business model, Returnr Marketplace has designed and developed their own reusable stainless steel containers locally in Melbourne, too. 

Not only that, Returnr blends the freshness and quality of a farmers’ market with a delivery concept likened to the good old milk bottle system. 

It’s so easy, you just sign up for a monthly subscription, make your first grocery order, and the team at Returnr Marketplace deliver everything in their sleek and sustainable containers.

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Before they drop off the next order, you simply leave the containers on your doorstep for collection, and they’ll be washed and reused again!

Their extensive online shop has an array of fruit and vegetable boxes, fresh made pasta, spices, salts, pantry staples, yummy snacks and lollies. And yes friends, they even sell wine… and gin! 

Any grocery item that doesn’t come in one of Returnr’s signature containers, is sold in glass, entirely eliminating the problem of single-use plastics and the guilty conscience attached to them.

TBH, I’m a little peeved we don’t already have Returnr Markertplace in the regional area where I live. I hope this clever little company scales and takes over the country, pronto! The concept is so freaking genius, I wish I’d thought of it myself. 

3. Attend a clothes swap or host your own

One person’s trash is another person’s treasure, and this is certainly the case when it comes to what we wear.

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Clothing swaps have become as on trend as fashion itself, and they’re a whole lotta fun. You can sign up for a large-scale clothes swap event or even host your own swap party with your besties. 

Purge your wardrobe, update it, or both! The best part is you don’t have to spend a cent for a new ‘fit' or contribute to more textile waste. 

There are plenty of online clothing exchanges too, and of course the trusty thrift store always takes donations and offers new looks.

4. Use your local street library

A neighbourhood street library is a great way to connect with your community and find your next great (free) read while offloading your old books. 

If your local area doesn’t have a street library (search for your nearest on the Street Library Australia website where all the registered ones are mapped for you!), you could consider starting up one yourself. They can be pretty easy to make using recycled materials, such as reclaimed wood, and a lick of paint.

Image: Supplied.

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5. Stick to a shopping list to combat food waste

Each year in Victoria, households throw out 250,000 tonnes worth of food, which can be somewhere around $2,200 worth in value. Woah. That's enough wasted food to fill Melbourne's Eureka Tower. 

This is definitely an easy hack to get on board with, that you might have already been doing for years: writing yourself a shopping list, and sticking to it! 

Having a thorough check of what food supplies you have at home (in your fridge and buried at the back of your pantry!) before meal planning and making your grocery list, can really save you money – and keep food you already own from going to waste. It's definitely a small act with a big impact.

6. Head to the repair cafe

If it ain’t broke don’t fix it… But if it is actually broken, don’t throw it away: give it a second life instead. 

You probably have a repair cafe near you and didn’t even know it. 

They can be found at community centres, churches or libraries. Simply take your broken items along to be fixed for free or for a small fee. 

At some setups, they might give you the tools and knowledge to fix your item yourself, or someone might be able to do it for you. You can usually bring anything, from bikes to clothes, toys, crockery, appliances and more.

7. Always have a tote bag on hand

Surely this one goes without saying. 

The convenience of the humble tote bag has made it a mainstay in most of our lives, and rightly so… 

Plastic pollution takes a devastating toll on our oceans and plastic bags are one of the worst offenders. Your cute little tote doesn’t just save money, but it helps the environment every single time you use it.

You totally deserve to look smug when toting your tote! 

8. GYO herbs!

Each time we buy basil, parsley or coriander from the grocery store, it comes in one of those nasty sleeves of single-use plastic. 

But nothing beats having the freshest of herbs readily on hand in your own kitchen anytime. 

Growing your own (GYO!) is a great way to kick the plastic habit to the curb and enjoy the best quality food possible. 

What are your own zero-waste hacks to living more sustainably? Tell us in the comments below!

Try Returnr Marketplace for zero-waste groceries & alcohol delivered to your door.

Feature Image: Supplied/Instagram/@rtnrmarketplace/@carnextdoor/Mamamia.

Sustainability Victoria
Innovations like the Returnr Marketplace are supporting Victoria’s transition to a circular, climate-resilient economy by eliminating single-use plastic. Reducing waste and recycling correctly are actions we can all take that will have a big impact on the environment and Victoria’s sustainable future. Find out about the simple things you can do to reduce waste and recycle more and choose your small act today at sustainability.vic.gov.au/small-acts-big-impact