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We can all do 'one more thing'

“Pass to all emergency services. This is a major incident. I repeat: this is a major incident. We require all standby aircraft and all land-based emergency crews as we are in danger of losing Boscastle and all the people in it.”

My husband, daughter and I were three of those people threatened by the Cornish flooding. As I stood knee-deep in water, wondering if I would ever see my family again, my thoughts turned to climate change.

Rightly or wrongly, I believed I was witnessing it in action and it was a wake-up call that changed my life.

‘We’re in it together’ is the message, along with the knowledge that the collective impact of small, individual changes can be hugely significant

Perhaps your wake-up call was having children. You realise that after you’ve gone, your children and their children need a safe and beautiful planet to live on. Perhaps you have seen images of turtles swallowing carrier bags or of an albatross with a toothbrush and bottle caps in its stomach?

If you enjoy spending money on things that make life more comfortable, then doesn’t it make sense to preserve resources so you can enjoy more of those things?

National Zero Waste Week is a grassroots campaign that encourages householders to reduce landfill waste. It was launched in 2008 and more than 100 people took part that year. Everyone was motivated, committed and, most importantly, when the week was over, most kept their new ‘good habits’ in place.

Last year we had sponsorship from Tetra Pak and celebrity chef Brian Turner OBE - we focused on food waste and 345 people participated.

This year we’ve teamed with MRW to encourage celebrities, MPs and industry leaders to sign up. With the theme ‘One More Thing’, we are asking: “What one more thing could you recycle?”

The keys to the success of Zero Waste Week are making it fun, validating people’s experiences and offering solutions. ‘We’re in it together’ is the message, along with the knowledge that the collective impact of small, individual changes can be hugely significant.

We focus on praise and encouragement. We suggest small personal changes such as using see-through bags for rubbish to eliminate the ‘out of sight, out of mind’ approach, replacing the kitchen bin with recycling containers or putting fruit and veg on the top shelf of the fridge rather than leaving them forgotten in the salad drawer.

I have learned that people want to recycle more but they need clearer and more helpful information.

Take the voluntary on-pack recycling label information, for example. Described by the British Retail Consortium as “the industry standard for communicating with customers”, I saw this information on a product:

Zero Waste Week plastics label

Is that really the industry standard for communicating with customers?

I shared it with readers of my blog, My Zero Waste. Comments varied from “nobody should be using ANY non-recyclable packaging!” and “‘widely recycled’ is too vague to be useful” to “it ought to be mandatory for all producers to state what the packaging is made from; that way customers can decide what to buy”.

I can continue to campaign for the next 10 years and bring about small changes. But many of you have the power to make massive changes by putting your signature on a piece of paper.

Do you have the courage to make a difference?

Rachelle Strauss, founder, National Zero Waste Week 3-9 September 2012


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