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Our modern consumer culture has devastating effects on the planet – plastic-filled oceans, overflowing landfills, increased deforestation, more pollutant emissions, and accelerated global warming. It's hard to ignore the problem, but knowing where to start making a change can be even harder. This is where the zero waste lifestyle idea comes into play.
The zero waste movement is all about minimizing waste and living sustainably, and it's becoming more popular as people become increasingly aware of the impact their day-to-day has on the environment.
So, in today's article, we'll explore ten ways to adopt zero waste living – one step at a time.
But first, let's see what the statistics say about our waste-producing habits and what a zero waste lifestyle entails.
What Is the Purpose of Zero Waste Lifestyle?
According to the EPA, the Environmental Protection Agency, the total volume of generated municipal waste in the United States in 2018 was about 292.4 million tons, which amounts to approximately 5 pounds of trash per person per day. And this doesn't include construction debris, wastewater sludge, and industrial waste.
The waste produced by American industries is a whole different story. The IDR Environmental Services states that industrial waste produced each year reaches about 7.6 billion tons, again including only solid waste and not toxic and chemical waste.
With this in mind, the reality seems pretty bleak. And you may wonder if reducing your household waste makes any difference. Well, it may not make a huge change right now, but it's all about a cumulative effect and raising awareness.
We do believe that rethinking the way we consume goods and resources can help preserve the environment in the long run. At its core, a zero waste lifestyle is about creating a circular economy where products are designed to be used, reused, and eventually repurposed or recycled. The main idea is to minimize the use of single-use items and instead opt for reusable alternatives.
After all, if everybody would do what their living conditions allow to make less waste, it would already mean almost 292 million tons of waste less every year in the US – and 2.24 billion tons worldwide.
So, let's dive into some simple steps you can take to reduce waste, live more sustainably, and start making a change.
10 Ways to Adopt a Zero Waste Lifestyle
We understand that transitioning to a zero waste lifestyle can be challenging, as breaking old habits is never easy. Plus, it may not even be possible to go 100% waste-free, as not everybody has the same access to zero waste alternatives. Due to this lack of accessibility, the sustainable alternatives that are available are usually pricey.
But you don't have to invest in a lot of new things to start living zero-waste; just be aware of your daily choices and habits, and try some of the following tips:
#1: Refuse Single-Use Plastics
Single-use plastics like straws, water bottles, and shopping bags have become ubiquitous in our daily lives, posing a significant threat to the environment. Therefore, refusing these items is a great way to reduce your waste output. So, get a reusable water bottle for each family member, use a reusable shopping bag (a bag-for-life, as they call it in the UK), and opt for metal or bamboo straws instead of plastic ones.
Composting is an excellent way to reduce the amount of waste you produce while providing your garden with nutrient-rich soil. In essence, composting is the process of breaking down organic materials, such as food scraps, and transforming them into plant fertilizer.
Start by separating your food scraps and yard waste from the rest of your trash. Then, choose a composting method that works for you – it will depend on the climate as well as the available space. Composting can be done in a backyard bin, worm bin, or even a countertop container.
#3: Buy in Bulk
Buying in bulk is not only cost-effective, but it also reduces the amount of packaging waste. If the stores near you allow this option, you can bring your own reusable containers when grocery shopping and fill them with the items you need. This method is especially useful for grains, nuts, and spices.
#4: Repair and Reuse
Before you throw something away, consider whether it can be repaired or reused, especially clothing, furniture, and appliances. Besides eliminating waste, repairing and reusing items can also save you money.
#5: Use Cloth Towels and Napkins
Another way to reduce waste and save some money is switching to cloth towels and napkins instead of using their paper alternatives. These can be easily washed and reused, making them a more sustainable option.
You can apply the same principle to other one-time disposable items with the ones you can reuse, like using old-fashioned nappies instead of diapers.
Surely, using diapers is convenient and can save you a lot of time. However, this is just one of those things you need to do several times to turn it into a habit, and then it won't be such a bother. Simply, use cotton nappies covered with reusable plastic covers, and let your washing machine do the rest.
#6: Ditch Disposable Hygiene Products
We often tend to go for disposable personal hygiene products just because they are more available and easier to use. However, you can reduce the amount of waste you produce on a yearly (even monthly) basis if you start using reusable instead of disposable products.
And so, since razors and feminine hygiene products, just to name a few, are significant contributors to plastic waste, consider other options. For example, you can switch to safety razors or electric razors and reusable menstrual cups instead of single-use sanitary pads – again, if these options are available to you.
#7: Opt for Natural Cleaning Products
Many traditional cleaning products contain harmful chemicals that are bad for the environment and your health. Switching to natural cleaning products like vinegar and baking soda is a great way to protect our rivers and oceans and keep your home clean.
#8: Become a DIYer
We know this might not be everybody's cup of tea, but you can reduce waste by making your own skincare, hair care, and body care products, like face and hair masks, creams, toners, shampoos, bath bombs, and many more. It's a fun and creative way to play with different ingredients and formulate products according to your needs. Plus, this way, you can reuse your empties and old cosmetic containers.
#9: Buy Second-Hand
If you're looking for ways to be more frugal and eco-friendly at the same time, buying second-hand is the way to go. Clothing, furniture, and appliances can all be found second-hand, often in great condition. Thrift stores, consignment shops, and online marketplaces are all great places to find second-hand items.
#10: Say No to Junk Mail
Junk mail is not only annoying, but it also produces unnecessary waste. Sign up to stop receiving junk mail or switch to electronic billing and statements to reduce the amount of paper waste you produce.
Adopting a zero waste lifestyle can be challenging, but it's a rewarding way to reduce your impact on the environment. Start small by implementing one or two of these tips and gradually incorporate more into your daily life. Remember, every little bit helps, and together we can make a difference.
What are the 5 rules of zero waste?
The five rules of zero waste include refusing what you don't need, reducing what you do need, reusing or repurposing what you have and no longer need, recycling what you can't refuse, reusing or repurposing, and rotting or composting organic household waste.
What are 10 ways to reduce waste?
You can reduce waste by refusing plastics, composting, buying in bulk to avoid unnecessary packaging, using cloth towels instead of single-use diapers or kitchen towels, using reusable shavers, cleaning with natural ingredients, DIYing your skin care and hair care, repairing broken items, buying used clothes, and refusing junk mail.
Can zero waste save money?
In the long run, going zero waste can save you money; for example, buying in bulk saves you shopping trips and money you'd spend on gas; getting clothes from thrift stores will also be cheaper, as well as repairing and reusing items that are broken or that you no longer need.
Can you really be zero waste?
While going zero waste might not be 100% possible, you can drastically reduce your landfill contributions by reusing and repairing, composting food scraps and garden waste, and refusing single-use products or products packaged in plastics that are hard to recycle.
What are 5 examples of reuse?
You can repair furniture and electric devices instead of buying new ones, reuse shopping bags, buy drinks in containers that can be returned, give clothes you no longer need to those who need them, and use old towels for dusting.