Leaving no Trace

Shane Dowling
Mar 19, 2018 · 4 min read
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While I was camping along the West Coast of the US, I heard about the Leave No Trace movement and found the idea very much resonated with me. Recently, I’ve found myself looking around day to day and wondering where I could start leaving less of a trace. We can all hate on consumerism, but lets face it, well all need to consume a certain amount to live in the modern world. So this isn’t a guide on becoming a burlap wearing hermit, it’s just a few things I’ve come up with for to start applying this idea into my life a little more.

Transport

The weather in London has finally started getting a little better, so I’m now alternating running and cycling to work instead of using public transport. Save money, contribute less carbon and free exercise. The benefits are obvious but we all know it’s not that simple. Start small and build from there.

Food

I have a Nespresso machine and looking back, I kind of regret that purchase. They do provide a recycling program(I assume in response to the massive amounts of waste going on), so please do use that if you can. It’s still not great and I do feel guilty about that level of waste. I’ve picked up some re-usable pods and compost the coffee grounds(they’re great for plants). I already have an aero-press with a steel filter that provides almost no waste(beyond the coffee itself), so I am tempted to, swap back to that. Will see if the effort becomes a bother again.

Reducing Waste

Find out what your local authority can take in terms of recycling. For the UK here’s a postcode finder, that displays the information you need.

When things break

Here’s a few things to try before hitting that store:

  • Perhaps the manufacturer has an option to repair the thing. It costs almost no time, so check up on this before doing anything else.
  • If that’s not an option, check out if it’s repairable. See if there’s some ifixit guides available. I have had a Lenovo Thinkpad x230 for several years and have replaced almost everything in it and it’s still a great machine. It’s currently running as a server but could be pulled back out into more regular usage soon if I ever feel like it.
  • If you’re not too comfortable with repairs, see if there’s a repair cafe nearby where someone could help. There’s a recent article here on The Guardian about such places, so take a look and see what options there are.
  • Repairing clothes is not that difficult, take a look into a course. It’s definitely something I’ll be doing in the coming months but right now my girlfriend is excellent at clothes repair, so I do rely on here a little…
  • If you’re into that, consider going to your local dry cleaners, they will often do clothes repair often at a pretty reasonable price. I’ve used them myself for various fixes/alterations and never had anything but good experiences.

When you need to buy something new

There’s a bunch of places where you can buy second hand. eBay, Gumtree, Shpock, Craigslist are all great options when you need something new that doesn’t have to be new.

  • If you can, go second hand. The UK has a number of second hand stores: Cex, Envirophone, Cash Converters to name a few. Make use of these places too when you’re getting rid of a device, free money and perhaps preventing the sale of another unnecessary new gadget
  • If you are into repairs and definitely need a new phone, take a look into a Fairphone. It’s an easily fixable Android smartphone created with ethically sourced labour and parts. Definitely worth looking into. Neat things include individual upgrades to parts, want a better camera? Instead of buying a new phone, just buy an upgraded camera and put it into the phone! It’s a very cool idea.
  • Take a look at the ifixit score to make life easier if it does go down the drain.
  • Check out that local charity shop and see if they don’t provide what you’re looking for. Give some money to charity, reduce waste and get stuff cheaper. There’s really no downside here.
  • Hate shopping? Consider looking for Buy it For Life items, there’s a subreddit dedicated to durable, quality items, so less waste and less boring clothes shopping.

Just buy less

Okay, so there’s a little bit of anti-consumerism going on. I’m not going to bore you landfill stats or other miserable information about waste, that’s not the point. Just maybe take some time to contemplate your purchases a little more, perhaps when you feel the urge to buy item X add it to your calendar for 30 days in the future and see where you get to.

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