But I haven’t got time. How to do your bit when you’re busy

I was thrilled to be contacted by Ruth who signed up to the Zero Waste Week challenge recently. She asked some great questions which I know will help you too.

Ruth said “The two things I struggle with the most are finding time and remembering to do things so I’m hoping you’ll have lots of tips for me.”

Today I want to address the time issue.

I think the first thing to remember is that the Zero Waste philosophy is about doing your bit. No matter what that ‘bit’ is. There is no need to compete with others and there’s certainly no place for beating yourself up. My belief is that everyone doing their little bit soon adds up to significant collective impact.

Take the humble steel can for example. If every person in the UK recycled just ONE more can – rather than throwing it away – that would be 60 million tin cans being diverted from landfill. We can all find time to recycle one more thing, right?

How much time do you have?

We all have demands on our time, whether we’re a business owner, student, stay-at-home parent, full time carer, retired person with commitments to grandchildren or juggling work and life. Although we have many modern conveniences designed to save us time, the reality is we simply try and pack more into the 24 hours we have each day.

But here’s the truth – you have exactly the same number of hours in your day as anyone else. It’s all about how we choose to spend them. Think about it – we all find time to do the things we love, although we might not like to admit it. How many of us have friends who tell us they ‘don’t have time’ to do something, but they never miss an episode of Big Brother or they update their Facebook feed three times a night?

Take a time audit

My first tip for anyone embarking on a Zero Waste journey is to take a bin audit – take a good honest look at what’s going into the bin so you can make empowered and conscious decisions moving forward. It’s the same with time. If you feel you don’t have time to commit to this lifestyle, I’d urge you to take a time audit! I know it sounds boring and yet ANOTHER thing to do in your already busy life, but I promise you this one is a game changer.

Each day for a week, make a note of everything you do from the moment you wake up to the moment you go to sleep. When I did this I was horrified to discover how much time I was frittering on the internet. It was a real eye opener. I believed I was ‘at work’ because my business is internet based, but the truth was I was wasting time and not being as productive as I would have liked. With that knowledge I was able to implement strategies to manage my time more effectively.

Five minutes is all it takes

In my coaching programmes I remind my clients that 5 minutes, just FIVE minutes of absolutely focused time can reap huge rewards. So set aside five minutes a day to commit to your Zero Waste lifestyle. In five minutes or less you could do one of the following:

  • Contact a few companies and get off their mailing lists to reduce junk mail.
  • Go to the Recycle Now website and find out what you can recycle at your kerbside and local bring banks.
  • Take that steel can out of the bin, give it a quick rinse and put it in the recycling container.
  • Take an inventory of what’s in your fridge and plan your next two meals around it.
  • Put your reusable water bottle / reusable shopping bag / containers next to the front door so you never forget them again.
  • Remove your kitchen bin and make it easier to recycle than throw things away.
  • Sew on a button to save textile waste.
  • Put a recycling box next to the printer to divert paper and cartridges from the bin.
  • Research one reusable product you’d be prepared to swap for a disposable one (for example cloths instead of kitchen roll, washable sanitary protection / nappies, stainless steel straws, rechargeable batteries, a wrap ‘n’ mat rather than clingfilm, ‘real’ handkerchiefs rather than paper tissues)

Rome wasn’t built in a day

When you think of it like that, it begins to feel easier and less of a drain on your time doesn’t it? For people who are lacking in time I suggest picking just ONE goal and gradually putting small habits into place. You don’t have to go zero waste over night. It’s like any other goal – small, gradual steps will help you attain success.

We started by giving up disposable carrier bags and focused solely on this for a month. Once we had that habit in place we found out from our council what we could recycle at the kerbside and chose just one material to hone our skills on. Once we were diverting all of that from landfill (newspapers) we added one more thing (glass bottles) and so on, until we are where we were happy with.

I hope this has given you some food for thought as well as practical suggestions you could implement right away. I’d hate anyone not to join the good ship Zero Waste because they felt they don’t have time. Pick one tiny goal; something that will take you less than five minutes a day to perfect and commit to it. If everyone around the world did that, just think of the difference we would make!

Now my question is; what will you commit to today?

Posted in

Rachelle Strauss


  1. Ruth on August 11, 2016 at 9:15 pm

    Thanks Rachelle, that was such a helpful post. I always go at it like a bull at a gate with new projects and then get frustrated by lack of progress, so your tip to just focus on one thing until it becomes second nature is perfect.

    Your comments about doing an audit also made me realise I need to slow down and assess the current situation before I get overwhelmed.

    • Rachelle Strauss on August 12, 2016 at 6:11 am

      You’re welcome, Ruth. I hear you on the initial surge of energy and enthusiasm that can then wane 🙂 Thanks for asking such a great question.

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