Imagine going an entire year without ever having to throw garbage down a chute or walk the trash out to the driveway? It may sound like some futuristic existence that includes in-home robot incinerators, but regular humans are doing this all the time.
Of course, this is no easy feat. In this current fast-paced world where convenience too often guides our decisions, the thought of putting the time and effort it would take to go zero waste may seem off-putting. But what if going zero waste can actually save you money? Is that enough incentive to change part of your current lifestyle?
What is zero waste?
Right now, the majority of us take part in what’s called a cradle-to-grave system. What that means is we take raw material from the earth, turn it into a product, and once we don’t need that product anymore, we dispose of it in a landfill. What zero-waste proposes is a cradle-to-cradle system. Instead of disposing of a product at the end of its life cycle, we find ways to recycle the material into a new product. Recycling is a core principle of zero waste.
Put another way, living a zero-waste lifestyle means you refuse items that can’t be reused or recycled. Although this may seem extreme, zero waste is a reaction to the current environmental catastrophe in which many believe we’re living. Just the other day, 11,000 scientists backed a study stating emphatically that the world is in a climate crisis. People who’ve decided on living a zero-waste lifestyle didn’t need that announcement to change their behaviour.
Living a zero-waste lifestyle at home
We mentioned that a zero-waste lifestyle involves some of the foundational tenets of being environmentally conscious. Those are reducing, reusing, recycling, refusing and rotting.
Refusing sets the tone for everything else. Refusing products, or items you don’t need is what prevents waste from ever entering your home. Think of napkins when you order takeout or plastic straws. Or maybe the plastic bag when you go to the grocery store. Refusing these items is step one for going zero-waste.
Reducing is a matter of asking yourself, “Do I really need this?” Analyze everything. By doing this, you’ll start to notice that your habits change. For instance, you’ll stop buying plastic and use bamboo instead. Instead of printing tickets for the concert, you’ll use the digital version on your phone. You’ll stop asking for printed receipts, opting to have them emailed. In no time, you’ll soon reduce or eliminate the need for any single-use items.
The next step is reusing. Instead of plastic bags, you’ll bring your reusable bag to the grocery store. Bamboo straws are reusable and compostable, so that becomes your primary option. You’ll purchase a safety razor instead of disposable ones.
Recycling is something with which we’re all familiar. The only thing to keep in mind is to do your research. Things you think are recyclable don’t always fit in that bin.
When it comes to rotting, which is essentially composting, all you need to do is actually do it. Create a separate pile for all food and natural products like bamboo that can reintegrate safely back into the earth. It’s also a good idea to do your research on this. Things like paper towels are compostable, which may not be instantly apparent.
Zero waste on the go
Living a zero-waste lifestyle at home is easier because we can control our environment. When we’re out on the go, either eating out or at work or travelling, things get a bit more tricky. You have to be more prepared when leaving your home. But there are some things you can do to make sure you stick to your goals.
- Carry to-go containers with you in case you need to take food home (make sure they’re not plastic, of course).
- Bring lunch to work as often as possible. On days you do eat out, bring your reusable straw and refuse any extra packaging.
- When travelling, stay at Airbnb homes rather than hotels. Hotels are notorious for single-use items like shampoo and toothbrushes.
- When on vacation, take a picture instead of buying an item that will eventually end up in a landfill.
- Buy in bulk. You’ll save money and produce much less waste.
The value of zero waste
The environmental impact of zero waste is undeniable. The additional benefit is that you’ll consume less, which naturally means you’ll save more – a real win/win. The earth is in a better place, and so is your wallet. All of this is possible with just a small amount of effort. Don’t beat yourself up if you’re not entirely at zero, but a severe reduction in your waste can go a long way to helping reverse the adverse effects that we’ve created on the plane