I thought I was doing my bit for the environment by taking my own bags to the supermarket and recycling everything I could.

That was until I had a chat with Lucie who for more than a year now has been Living Low Waste. Her main aim is to reuse rather than to recycle and that just makes so much sense.

Lucie, who is from the Czech Republic, came to New Zealand during her OE, fell in love with the place and stayed.

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She said growing up she was taught to be conscious of waste, appreciate food and not throw anything away.

So Lucie has always been aware of what goes in her bins.

A little over a year ago she went to listen to a couple talk about Living Low Waste at Chantal Organics, in Napier.

It hit home with her and her Kiwi partner and they embraced it.

"We thought we were doing quite well but decided it wasn't enough, Lucie said.

"I wouldn't actually advice anyone to do everything at once like we did. It was quite overwhelming. Taking little steps is the answer."

Good advice.

She thinks a good first step would be to have a look around your home and see what you could reuse.

Lucie, who is an active member of Plastic Free Hawke's Bay, did such a good job of re-using and Living Low Waste that the first year she had only half a supermarket bag of litter — for the entire year.

That is just amazing when I think about all the recycling I put out every week and the wheelie bin that gets emptied once a fortnight — and we have compost bins and a worm farm.

It really makes you stop and think about just what you do buy that you end up throwing out. Admittedly most of the stuff in our wheelie bin is garden waste but still surely I can do better.

Lucie takes her own containers when she shops. She rarely shops at a supermarket instead choosing a butchers, and local organic shops and orchards.

She makes all her own cleaners "which are pretty basic using baking soda, vinegar and essence. There are plenty of recipes about. You do have to scrub though".

Ah yes good old elbow grease aye. Some of the cleaners these days require none at all. It's scary to think what chemicals are strong enough to do the work that we used to do.

These are the very chemicals that end up in our wastewater.

The other thing Lucie does is make all her meals from scratch. No packet bought meals.

"I love cooking and yes it does take a bit more time but for me now it's just normal. It's the way we live and it just second nature."

The also rarely use their vehicle, instead biking everywhere.

Lucie certainly inspired me to try harder. Her key message to reuse rather than recycle is a good one. It does require thought and planning (preparing and planning meals in advance) and that's the problem with the way we live today.

Consumers want quick, easy solutions to everything including cooking and cleaning. Working parents don't have time to cook from scratch when they get home with hungry children fresh out of daycare or after-school care.

They want something quick and easy and who can blame them?

I think Lucie's advice to make small changes is really important. I guess we all have to think about what we reach for while shopping. First will it all be used with zero waste and can we buy the same thing without packaging?

There is a lot to think about but think about it — think oceans full of plastic.

Linda Hall is assistant editor of Hawke's Bay Today.