The zero-waste lifestyle is something that I have been researching and learning more about lately. I can not help but think that my daily consumption habits are not the best and definitly need work. I would like to reduce my carbon footprint and not waste so much but really did not know where to begin. Most of the prepackaged foods and personal care items are creating too much waste. I am already implementing minimalism in my life and getting rid of things that I really thought I wanted but do not need. I am currently using the Marie Kondo method in my closet and finding out if my third pair of black yoga pants really spark joy. Come take a deep dive with me into the world of waste free living.
What is Zero Waste? According to the Environmental Protection Agency, Zero Waste means the conservation of all resources by the means of responsible production, consumption, reuse, and recovery of the products packaging and material without burning and no discharges to land, water, or air that threaten the environment or human health.
What is the zero-waste lifestyle? The aim is to throw away as little as possible. The goal is conservation and minimizing pollution. The term has been around since early 2000 when New Zealand had its very first zero-waste conference. There are many zero waste organizations around the world, there are local chapters and global alliances as well. The community is growing and wants more people to join so we all can impact the world in a more positive way by not being so wasteful.
Plastic Addiction According to the New York Times, 8 million metric tons of plastic waste ends up in our oceans. That is enough plastic waste to go around the equator 776 times. That is a scary number and if we keep going at that rate the ocean cannot hold any more waste. The Great Pacific Garbage patch is a real-life trash vortex. It is located in the North Pacific Ocean, and spans from the West coast of North America to Japan. The garbage patch is a combination of the Western garbage patch located near Japan and the Eastern garbage patch located between Hawaii and California. According to National Geographic, it was discovered by a yachter named Charles Moore. The patch is not an island of floating plastic, it actually contains small particles called microplastics and this happens through a process called photodegradation. The vortex is difficult to measure because so much dense material sinks to the bottom. There is no way of telling where it begins or ends. The only way that the vortex can stop growing is by society being more mindful of our dumping practices and to reduce our use of plastics in our daily lives. This is where the zero-waste lifestyle can help.
The 5 R’s of the Zero-Waste Lifestyle
Refuse- This one is self-explanatory, refuse items that you do not need like plastic straws, plastic silverware, and produce bags/ shopping bags that you get at the supermarket. You can always carry your own straws and silverware. If you do not know where to purchase these items here is a great list that can help you out.
Reduce– Do an inventory of your daily routine to find ways that you can reduce your plastic consumption. Use package free reusable items like bamboo toothbrushes, soap, makeup remover towels, and non-disposable razors like this one
Reuse (repair) Reuse old items that you have at home or repair broken items so they can have a second life. This is where your creativity comes in to make old things brand new. Grab a reusable water bottle like this one, ladies try out menstrual cups and reusable pads, or forgo all of that and use underwear built for periods like these. Also, watch buying package teas because a lot of brands contain plastic in their packaging. Opting for loose leaf tea or using these tea bags that contain no plastics is a better option.
Recycle– Another self-explanatory one. Recycle as much as you can. Donate unwanted clothing and household items to Goodwill or other charitable organizations. If you need to make some extra cash, you can always sell clothes to marketplace or use apps such as Offer up to sell unwanted items. If you are unsure what can be recycled check out this list here.
Rot– Finally composting. Take your organic food waste and scraps and use them to make soil for more food. Invest in a portable compost container or start a garden in your backyard if you have one. If you do not have a green thumb you can always use your food scraps to make other food or products. This is a great article that shows you how to make your food scraps tasty.
The key to changing your lifestyle is taking your time and doing it gradually. Changing your habits is not going to happen overnight because they did not develop overnight. In the beginning, the zero-waste lifestyle can be daunting and even expensive due to plastic-free containers costing more and not being available in every retailer where you buy your products. Here are a few simple and inexpensive ways you can implement zero waste in your daily routine.
- Cook More– By making more homemade meals you eliminate the extra packaging and plastic that comes with store-bought items. Also, homemade meals taste better and use fresher ingredients.
- Switch to a refillable water bottle– Americans throw away 35 billion plastic bottles a year. This is an easy and inexpensive fix, many places like airports and hospitals have water fountains with refillable bottle portions that make it easy to refill on the go. If you are overwhelmed or confused about what to buy here is a good inexpensive option.
- Buy in bulk when possible– Due to Covid-19 this one is a little harder but utilize the bulk bins when they are available at your local store. You will only pay for what you need and (we all love saving money) and it will also reduce your plastic waste consumption.
- Stop using disposable straws and carry your own with you- They are unnecessary most of the time and you can either drink from your refillable bottle or cup or carry around a metal or silicon straw like this one
- Refuse disposable utensils and bring washable ones with you- I know you are in a rush and very busy but just keep a fork from home handy or purchase this washable utensil set when you are having a post mates craving.
- Replace items as they run out– This is simple, do not go out and replace every personal care item you own. This can get expensive, keep your coins in your pocket until one item runs out and replace it with a plastic-free option.
- Do your Research- Educate yourself on the Waste free life. Watch documentaries like these ones, read books and go to conferences. If you are interested in changing you must seek out as much information as possible so you can make the best choice for yourself. Always stay informed!
- Be Kind to yourself- This one goes without saying, be patient with yourself and take it one day at a time. It takes 21 days to break a habit so if you mess up correct the mistake and keep going.
I hope these tips help you with your waste-free journey, as for me I am on my way to get a bamboo toothbrush. Happy no wasting!