The zero waste movement has gained popularity in recent years, inspiring millions of people to examine how much trash they throw away. And while noble, it can be intimidating for many who are worried about what such a lifestyle might entail. You may ask yourself, is zero waste possible? Is it even attainable?
It’s easy to assume that zero waste is about producing no waste at all, but is zero waste possible to live? Can we live completely trash-free, dubbing ourselves as living a zero-waste lifestyle?
Well, sure. If you live off the grid, grow all of your food, DIY personal care products, sew your own clothes, use only natural resources, and walk or bike everywhere, it’s quite possible. In reality, that’s extremely unattainable for most people.
Is Zero Waste Possible?
The good news is that being zero waste doesn’t have to be all or nothing. You can make small changes in your everyday life that can make a difference.
Here is a staggering statistic: according to Global Citizen, households in the United States produce 1,704 pounds of garbage per year, roughly three times the global average. Yikes!
If you’ve set the intention to practice waste reduction, then congratulations! You’re already on your way!
Here are 7 simple tips to help you live a more sustainable, zero-waste lifestyle.
Identify high waste areas.
Where do most of your waste items come from? Food, clothes, books, or beauty products? Before you embark on your zero-waste journey, it’s important to identify aspects of your daily life that generate a lot of waste. That way, you can take practical steps either to reduce or remove them entirely.
Refuse what you do not need.
This step involves saying “no” to disposable items offered to you outside of your home. These include supermarket bags, flyers, straws, cutlery, cups, and other marketing goodies that have a one-way ticket to your trash can. Another way is to say no to mail that you do not want. Stop it before it enters your home.
Shopping has never been easier – with just a few taps on your phone, you can have anything you want, giving you instant gratification. The problem is, that a lot of it ends up in the trash.
A great way to curb your shopping habit is by following the 72-hour rule. This rule requires you to wait 72 hours before buying an item that is non-essential. If something sparks your interest, put it on your wishlist and review it after three days to assess if the item is a necessity or only an impulsive purchase.
Find zero waste swaps.
Single-use plastics are a huge problem and you can be part of the solution by replacing them with sustainable or eco-friendly alternatives. You can find easy swaps for everything from water bottles, produce bags, paper towels, straws, Tupperware, to-go containers, menstrual products, plastic wrap, toothbrushes, cleaning supplies, and more.
Don’t throw away the disposables you already have – reuse them as many times as you can until they’ve outlived their usefulness.
Recycle as a last resort.
For zero waste, recycling is the last resort. After all, the main goal is to reduce the amount of waste we create, as much as possible. What’s more, research shows that tons of recyclables still end up in landfills or oceans because of high contamination levels in the recycling stream.
Be sure to check your local waste management company or city ordinances on what materials are accepted.
If you cannot find any information from your solid waste local contacts, check for curbside programs that may exist to help with recycling in your area.
Always empty, clean, and dry items. Don’t recycle anything smaller than a credit card to avoid jamming the recycling equipment.
Add zero waste habits to your routine.
Once you’ve incorporated zero waste habits into your daily and weekly routines, it won’t take much effort to turn them into a lifestyle. For example, you can compost your leftovers to reduce the amount of food waste you send to the landfill.
You can grow your own food in your own garden, shop for second-hand clothes instead of buying new ones, and buy in bulk to minimize packaging waste. These habits will not only help the planet but they’ll save you money in the long run.
Support eco-friendly brands.
It’s well-known that big corporations are largely responsible for the waste problem we have today. Even though consumers are demanding more eco-friendly products, they’re still slow to respond. Researching low-waste products to use in your home is a start.
Vote with your dollars by choosing products from brands whose practices align with your values. Check their credentials to ensure they’re dedicated to saving our planet by reducing plastic and waste.
Our attempts to make zero waste possible
Ever since we downsized, sold most of our belongings, and began living minimally, we have been in recovery mode. Our recovery did not only include our mental health but the health of the climate.
We want our carbon footprint to be reduced. We were inspired by Béa Johnson. She is best known for reducing her family’s annual trash down to a mason jar. She wrote a book about the process called, “Zero Waste Home“. Reading her book, and following her on social media created a shift in our mindset.
A great rule is to not move your car on the weekends. We bike as much as possible when we run errands, or want to move leisurely around our town. Our Schwinn E-bikes make it so that when we don’t want to pedal, we don’t have to. Win-win!
Setting a “no waste goal” was how we began our low waste journey. For us, low waste is attainable, which will hopefully one day, make zero waste possible.
Ultimately, zero waste is a journey, not a destination. It’s not aimed at perfection but at continual effort so don’t be afraid to start where you are.
The best part is that you are not alone – many around the world also care about the planet and are making positive changes in their daily lives, just like you. If you simply make the attempt to reduce waste, you have come a long way.
A famous quote from Anne Marie Bonneau, a Zero Waste Chef, sums up the zero waste movement beautifully. Bonneau says,
“We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly.”Anne Marie Bonneau
The lifestyle conserves resources and minimizes pollution while saving the planet. Climate change is real. Zero or even low waste practices help to keep the Earth healthy, and in turn, make the future better for others.
This lifestyle embraces practices of a zero-waste lifestyle while realizing that we’re human. We make attempts to create a zero-waste home but aren’t going to beat ourselves up if we do not attain it. Do better, be better. That is a low-waste lifestyle.
Do your research for the specific brand. Look at their website. Are they transparent with their values and mission statement, making sure to highlight their low-waste practices? The Environmental Working Group provides consumer reports for many brands. It falls on you to make the choices that are best for you and your household. Unfortunately, many brands are not shouting their practices from the rooftops, due to the backlash they may receive.