What is a ‘Zero Waste’ lifestyle and why is it important?
What is a ‘Zero Waste’ lifestyle?
Have you wondered ‘what is a Zero Waste lifestyle’ when you’ve seen or heard about the idea?
The idea of Zero Waste living has become a popular aspiration for people, as we think about how our actions are affecting our environment.
The ‘Zero Waste’ goal is to reduce and potentially eliminate waste altogether. We would value our resources instead of wasting them.
The aim is to send nothing to landfill or incinerators, and to stop dumping rubbish on the land or in the oceans.
“Zero Waste: The conservation of all resources by means of responsible production, consumption, reuse, and recovery of products, packaging, and materials without burning and with no discharges to land, water, or air that threaten the environment or human health.”https://zwia.org/zero-waste-definition/
How can we move towards Zero Waste
We can move towards this goal by:
- reducing what we buy and use,
- reusing and repairing things as much as possible,
- recycling some products,
- composting organic material.
What should we do with the waste we create?
This waste hierarchy pyramid diagram shows our actions in order of most preferred to least preferred.
A ‘Linear Economy’?
We currently have a ‘linear economy’ system. This is where we take resources from the earth to make items, and discard them.
This could be into landfills or burning them. Or, waste items are discarded on the land or in the sea, which pollutes the environment.
Or a ‘Circular Economy’?
The goal of Zero Waste is to move to a ‘circular economy’, where we use resources over and over again. New products are made from recycled or recovered material. Items are upcycled to give them a new life.
Is Zero Waste achievable?
Zero waste may be more of an ideal rather than an actual target.
But it provides some guiding ideas for people to use when they are working to reduce the amount of waste we create.
There are plenty of Zero Waste writers, bloggers and influencers out there with photos of their total rubbish for the year contained in a small glass jar.
This is amazing for them, and they are inspirational. However, this is not always practical or achievable for the majority of people.
It can put people off trying to reduce their rubbish, if they feel they are not perfect at ‘zero waste’. This is a shame.
We can all try to produce less waste, even if we don’t get down to such tiny amounts.
How can I live a more Zero Waste lifestyle?
A key way to cut down on the waste we make, is to stop or reduce how much or how often we buy throwaway items.
Many of the items we regularly buy are single use. A first step to reduce waste is to consider what you buy, and where can you make some swaps to reusable items.
Buying items that we can use for longer, or that we can recycle also reduces waste. And buying second hand gives items a longer useful life.
What are the benefits of living a Zero Waste lifestyle?
Why do people choose to live a lower waste lifestyle? Here are some of the benefits to reducing the amount of waste you create:
1. Environmental Impact
Moving to a lower waste lifestyle is a way to minimize your impact on the environment. Producing less waste means there is less rubbish going to landfill, or pollution on the land or in the sea.
2. Cost Savings
Buying throwaway items that need to be replaced can cost a lot of money over time. Sometimes the initial investment in a reusable item may be higher than the alternative disposable one. But over time, the investment may save you money.
A good example is disposable razors versus a safety razor with replaceable blades. The upfront cost for the safety razor is higher than the cost for the disposable type. But the replacement blades are very cheap, making a cost saving in the long run.
3. Higher Quality Items
Similar to the cost savings idea, when you move to a lower waste approach, you might be able to decide to buy items that are a higher quality. Your purchases may be made from longer lasting materials, and designed to last for many years.
These purchases will pay off over time, especially higher quality clothing, appliances and household items.
4. Less Exposure to Chemicals
A zero waste lifestyle includes recyclable items like glass and metals, and biodegradable options like paper and cardboard.
This is instead of using single use plastic, which contains compounds that have been linked to health issues. See this scientifically reviewed article on plastics and human health from the National Library of Medicine.
5. Healthier Lifestyle
Shifting to a lower waste lifestyle can reduce your exposure to processed and packaged foods. People who are aiming for zero waste often buy food without packaging, and use their own refillable containers. These foods tend to be less processed, such as fruit and vegetables, dairy products, meat and alternatives like nuts and beans.
Of course, it’s not always the case, as you can often use your own containers to get takeaways! However, there can be a place in your diet for takeaways, if they are a small part of the overall big picture.
6. Community Spirit
Lifestyles like zero waste, minimalism and frugality are relatively outside the norm in our Western capitalist societies (although they are how people live in many societies).
Finding groups of like-minded people who want to talk about the lower waste lifestyle can help you feel connected to a community. This can be in person or online – in that way, you can connect with people all over the world who are trying the same approach as you.
7. Be an Example
Working towards a zero waste lifestyle can influence those around you to give it a go too. It can start conversations about ways to reduce waste, which may encourage others to get involved too.
In my experience, talking openly about the things I do to reduce waste has meant that many friends, and strangers online too, have asked me questions about my lifestyle. It’s fun to share zero waste ideas with people in conversations face to face and online. I also contribute monthly articles to local newsletters, as well as post on my blog and social media.
However, I try not to preach or sound smug, as I appreciate that my life is not the same as everyone’s life. And that each of us has different choices available to us.
What do you think a Zero Waste lifestyle could include?
What are your thoughts on embracing a zero waste lifestyle?
Are you taking steps to reduce the rubbish you create?
Please leave a comment about your views on reducing waste – what are your challenges? What holds you back? And what changes have you made so far?