Once you have refused, reduced, reused and recycled, you will have significantly reduced your waste and footprint. So what next?

Thinking about the system

There are several frameworks available internationally to help you understand links between consumer (or business) choices and environmental impacts.

Most are science-informed, using insights from ecology, physics and chemistry. One that we like is One Planet Living, instigated by Bioregional in the UK.

The 'circular economy' concept is catching on, where products are designed for later disassembly and upcycling, minimising waste and demand for new resources. Interface carpet tiles use this principle, as do Timberland for some shoes, with soles made from tyres that are designed with this re-use in mind.

Measuring impacts

Useful indicators of your effect on the planet are footprint estimators which use the proxy of hectares of land required to support your current home, travel, food and lifestyle, such as Global Footprint Network (which has a calculator pre-set for Australia but not NZ, and therefore does not take account of our higher proportion of electricity generation from renewable hydro, wind and geothermal energy). The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) has a footprint calculator designed for the UK. In NZ, the WWF encourages actions to reduce your carbon footprint.

Carbon emission from travel choices and of housing use and waste habits can also be estimated. For New Zealand the leading free calculators are at Toitū Envirocare website. Bioregional (UK) have an interactive footprint website that looks at carbon impacts of homes alongside waste minimisation, travel, food & shopping, appliances, water use, etc.

Learning more

14 councils across NZ participate in a community sustainability education programme called Future Living Skills, providing up to 2 million residents with free public access to learning guides on eight aspects of practical sustainability at home and work, including waste minimisation. A number of Councils, for example Palmerston North City Council, support Future Living Skills so their residents have free access to the Sustainable Living Programme. In other Districts individual subscriptions are possible. The materials are designed for informal study groups or tutored classes.

Several councils, including Auckland, run waste education centres such as Zero Waste Zone and non-for-profit Environment Centres or Hubs operate in other locations - they are great sources of advice and inspiration for a low waste lifestyle. The website hosts, Timaru District Council, are watching with interest plans for a sustainability education Eco-Centre in Timaru, to be constructed on a closed landfill.

Business sustainability

The NZ Sustainable Business Network has since 2002 been a forum for business-people who seek contact with others sharing that interest and wish to build markets with consumers who also 'get it'.