We live in a consumerist society where products and trends change regularly and anything, literally anything, can be delivered in a click. But is this really ideal for you and the planet? This article will review why and how a zero waste lifestyle is not only sustainable, but ultimately a better choice for the earth, its people, and biodiversity.
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Consumerism and Its Consequences
We have all made impulsive purchases, buying for the sake of a trend. There’s no doubt that this contributes to creating more waste, having a significantly negative impact on the environment.
Before we get into how we can reduce our waste, let’s look at some of the key challenges of the modern world:
Did you know every year we dump a massive 2.12 billion tons of waste? There are many different forms of waste, including organic waste, electronic waste, textile waste, and many others.
The harsh reality is that waste releases toxic chemicals and carbon emissions, which have negative consequences for both the environment and our health.
Ultimately, waste isn’t just sitting in landfills: it’s disrupting ecosystems and biodiversity worldwide.
Plastic pollution is everywhere, and according to National Geographic, shockingly 91% of it isn’t recycled. Plastic can take 50 – 500 years to decompose, meaning it will continue to impact the planet for even thousands of years.
Did you know 3.5 billion toothbrushes are sold worldwide each year? Most get lost in the recycling process and end up in landfills instead.
Other challenges include the amount of energy needed to create these products, also releasing high levels of carbon and directly contributing to climate change.
In addition, plastic waste releases tiny particles called microplastics (recorded over 5.25 trillion macro and micro pieces). They are now in oceans, rivers, and the atmosphere, leading to digestion by animals. In a process called biomagnification, these microplastics are ingested throughout the food chain, even ending up in our own food.
Remember: the more we want, the more resources we need to produce it. The more purchases created globally, the more challenges. For example, more profit is circulated between cash-rich companies and CEOs, more natural resources are used up and more unethical trade and methods of production are used.
Although this can seem overwhelming, it’s essential to understand that using what you already own instead of buying more can slow down these global challenges. Additionally, it’s one of the best cost-saving exercises.
What is a Zero Waste Lifestyle
In the last five to ten years, we have seen many people change their views, behaviors, and habits toward a more environmentally friendly living. Social media has amplified the zero waste movement, and now more than ever, individuals have been able to voice their opinions and create awareness about the state of our planet.
So, you might ask, what is a zero waste lifestyle?
Zero Waste lifestyle is a way of living, a journey rather than a destination, where we try to reduce and potentially eliminate waste from our lives, especially, non-biodegradable and non-recyclable waste such as plastic.
Basically, the idea is to protect our environment by eliminating waste on this planet. But again, don’t be overwhelmed by big goals, and always remember that making small changes is always better than doing nothing.
Adapting a low waste or zero-waste lifestyle potentially can help the planet and generations to come, no matter how small your steps are.
Five Ways to Implement a Zero Waste Lifestyle
If you are new to this topic, here are five easy ways to kick off your zero-waste journey:
1. Review your lifestyle and use the items you have
When you begin, start your zero waste journey one step at a time. When you rush into changing every aspect of your daily behaviors, it can become overwhelming.
So start small, create lists and actions each week to help you get to your goal. In addition, it’s not ideal to throw away all the everyday items you have in the trash; ensure you use all the current products you have until the very last drop and then make the swap.
2. Planning and preparation
Before you go shopping, plan and prepare. This is one of the best ways to reduce what you need. We have all been there, making impulsive purchases. However, although this may feel good at the time, this can be costly.
Impulsive purchases during your regular food shopping trips can prevent you from using the food you already have. Consequently, when you eventually find out your food has gone off and you throw it away, it becomes food waste and releases carbon.
One way to tackle this is by planning a food list or preparing your food portions; this can help you acknowledge the amount of food you have. Additionally, this is a great way to be cost-effective as well as environment-friendly.
Also, don’t forget your reusable grocery bag when going shopping rather than constantly using plastic bags.
3. Reuse, recycle and reinvent
To promote longevity, reuse, recycle, and reinvent the items you already have and question whether you really need an alternative item regardless of whether or not it’s eco-friendly.
When you review all the items in your life, ask yourself whether you need to make additional purchases. If you don’t really need something, put your foot down and focus instead on buying when you really need to.
4. Plastic-free, reusable & zero waste products
If you get to the stage that you need to make a purchase, think plastic-free. As mentioned earlier, plastic has a significantly negative impact on the world, so look for alternative options.
For example, bamboo is regenerative and resourceful. Other sustainable fabrics include organic cotton, linen, wool, hemp, and cork.
Some governments and businesses have banned plastic products such as plastic straws, plastic bags, and disposable coffee cups. Think about the alternatives, plastic-free, reusable and zero waste products such as reusable straws, bags, and keep cups.
Natural resources are at risk of being exhausted. If you are conscious of your buying habits, we can assume that purchasing brand new items may be a ‘need’ instead of a ‘want’; in other words, the last resort!
5. Reduce your waste
Last but certainly not least is reducing waste in your household. When reducing waste is not possible, think about ways to recycle and compost your rubbish and food scraps.
Thankfully, some governments have implemented systems and innovations to encourage waste to be sorted properly, from recycling bins to food compost bins.
Below we offer some simple ideas on how to reduce waste at your home.
How to Have a Zero Waste Home
Here are simple zero waste tips to help you make your first steps toward your zero waste home:
- Reduce food waste: The first and most simple way to reduce overall waste is by starting with food waste. Keep your food fresh for longer by introducing beeswax wraps or plant-based containers.
- Compost: Organic waste or food scraps such as fruits and vegetables can be emptied into a food compost bin; if your local council cannot provide it, you can purchase one online. This is also great for eliminating carbon.
- Time your showers: This may sound daunting, but you’ll be surprised how much water you can save daily. Reducing your water is also a great cost-saving exercise.
- Reuse & reinvent your clothes: Create something new from your clothes. Why not try to make your own tote bag, for example. If you don’t have inspiration or time for something like that, you can always pass them on to someone else or donate them to a charitable organization or local opp shop.
- Use reusable instead of disposable Items: Remember your reusable items whenever you leave your home; carry a reusable water bottle or keep cup, as well as reusable containers and bags.
- Walk or take public transport: Rather than commuting by car, use alternative modes of transport when possible to reduce your carbon footprint.
- Use all your products until the last drop: Don’t throw your products, both cosmetic and personal, out before you need to. If you can, use zero waste products such as a bamboo toothbrush and biodegradable floss.
- Think plastic-free: Protect the planet’s resources, oceans, and biodiversity by reducing the amount of plastic in your lifestyle. Avoid plastic packaging when possible, and consider where your products will end up after you’ve finished with them.
Final Thoughts on Zero Waste Lifestyle
Refuse what you do not need; reduce what you do need; reuse what you consume; recycle what you cannot refuse, reduce, or reuse; and rot (compost) the rest.Bea Johnson, Zero Waste Home
Remember, it takes time for behaviors and habits to change. Don’t be hard on yourself: take it step by step and make small changes. Sustainable living, or more specifically zero waste living, is a journey rather than a destination.
So, enjoy the journey.