Chances are high you’ve heard someone talking about zero waste recently. It’s a term, and movement, that has been gaining a lot of traction in recent years. If you’re wondering what all the fuss is about, then you’ve come to the right place friend. Let’s take a look:
What’s The Big Idea?
Waste is becoming a huge problem all over the world. In 2014, the USA alone generated 258 million tons of waste. Of that, 34% was recycled and 52% went to landfill. The amount of plastic waste that ends up in the ocean is also a growing concern, posing a threat to marine life and possibly to humans through the food chain. Given the sheer scale of the problem, many people are now turning against companies and practices that perpetuate the current system.
Defining Zero Waste
The phrase zero waste describes the goal of not sending any trash at all to landfill. Zero waste advocates use the 5 R’s in their quest to reach that goal: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rot. It’s important to consider these in order, as they work in a hierarchy:
- Refuse – Start by refusing anything that you don’t need that will create waste. This could be disposable cutlery, cups, excess packaging, or anything else that will someday end up in the trash.
- Reduce – This step is all about reducing what you actually need to get by. Think about shopping more sensibly – avoid splurging on anything frivolous or giving in to cravings for packaged junk food. Things like meal planning and thinking carefully about your wardrobe can help you reduce your consumption.
- Reuse – Try and replace all single-use items with permanent, reusable alternatives. Instead of a disposable coffee cup, get a permanent one and bring it with you to the coffee shop. Instead of buying foods wrapped in disposable plastic, go to a wholefoods store where you can bring your own containers.
- Recycle – Recycle anything that you can’t refuse, reduce or reuse. This could involve ‘upcycling’ the item (changing its use to prolong its life) or taking it to a recycling centre. The latter is usually seen as a last resort however, as recycling in it’s current form is not always efficient.
- Rot – Compost anything you possibly can. Composting is one of the most efficient methods of recycling out there. It will virtually eliminate your kitchen waste, and create a high quality fertilising soil as its output.
By using the steps above (remember: always in order), many people have been able to make strides towards zero waste. While few people have achieved the goal of sending nothing at all to landfill, many have reduced their amount of annual trash to the size of a mason jar!
Sounds Good, I’m In!
Here are some things you can do to get started on your zero waste journey:
- Get a zero waste kit. There are many online outlets that sell these, and they typically include a reusable produce bag, reusable straw (and cleaner), reusable water bottle and coffee cup, and a bamboo toothbrush. Even having these basic items on hand will make a huge difference to the amount of waste in your household.
- BYOC – Bring your own containers. Rather than shopping in supermarkets where everything is wrapped in plastic, try shopping anywhere that you can bring your own containers, such as a wholefoods store. This means you’ll have to make more meals from scratch, but you’ll also be much healthier and happier for it.
- Start looking at every room in your house and note the biggest sources of waste. Once you know what these are, you can start to research some solutions. For example, in the kitchen consider using old t-shirts as rags for cleaning, or buying reusable E-Cloths if you don’t have any. This will ensure you stop throwing disposable cloths away!
- Get composting! There are lots of solutions available for composting – it really is one of the easiest and most satisfying ways to recycle your waste. For those without access to outdoor areas, consider an indoor composting system such as a Bokashi Bin or a Wormery.
- Keep the faith – The most important change of all is the one inside your mind. Going zero waste can involve some inconvenient or even downright difficult lifestyle adjustments. But with a little persistence, you should be able to reach that goal. Just remember all reasons why you’re doing it: saving money, living healthier, and saving the planet.
Well, What Are You Waiting For?
This planet ain’t gonna fix itself, it needs every single one of us to think more consciously about our ecological footprint. Even if you don’t get to be fully waste-free, every little bit helps. Plus, you’ll be taking the time and care to look after your health and your wallet. It’s win, win, win. So get out there and kick some ass!
Have you recently gone zero waste? We’d love to hear your tips in the comments! And don’t forget to check out the rest of our blog for more tips on how to live a simpler, happier existence.