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The two terms, sustainability and zero waste are often used interchangeably, even though they are not quite the same. Both, sustainable living and zero-waste lifestyle work towards similar goals, one of which is to reduce our harmful environmental impact, bringing about the confusion.
So, in today's article, we'll take a closer look at what sustainability and zero waste mean, their differences and their similarities.
Defining Sustainability and Zero Waste: What Do They Mean?
Sustainability is a more general term and it refers to our ability to meet present needs without depleting the Earth's natural resources, ensuring the ability of future generations to meet their own. In other words, it focuses on the long-term impact our consumer-focused culture has on the environment as well as economy. In addition, sustainable living revolves around promoting social equity and ensuring that economic growth benefits all members of society, rather than just a privileged few.
On the other hand, we have a zero waste concept, which is a more specific goal within the larger sustainability framework. In essence, it refers to the idea that we can manage our daily habits with the aim to reduce our landfill contributions and try to eliminate waste completely. The goal of zero waste is to prevent land, air, and water pollution and secure a healthy environment for all living things, humans, animals, and plants, as well as protect the health of our planet.
So, people who are trying to lead a more sustainable lifestyle want to reduce their overall impact on the environment, society, and the economy. On the other hand, those focusing more on zero waste aim to reduce the amount of waste they produce.
But, both sustainability and zero waste require a shift in our thinking and behavior, as well as changes to the way we live and consume.
Can You Live Sustainably Without Going Zero-Waste?
Zero waste lifestyle is only one step towards living more sustainably. While limiting the amount of garbage we produce does have a major impact on our environment and our planet's future, there are other aspects of sustainability that are equally important.
So, does excluding zero waste from the equation allow us to live sustainably? The answer is yes, as zero waste is not everything we can do for our planet. There are other issues to take into account, such as resource depletion, unethical business practices, as well as social and economic factors.
So, even if your core focus isn't limiting your contribution to landfills and having your consumer mentality in check, you can still live sustainably by applying some of the tips we'll talk about next.
Tips for Living More Sustainably
There are many things you can do if you want to make a change, because it isn't too late yet, and start living more sustainably. Here are a few tips to get you started:
- Save energy and water: Turn off lights when not in use, switch to energy-efficient light bulbs, install low-flow showerheads and faucets, and reduce your lawn watering.
- Choose sustainable transportation: Walk, bike, or take public transit instead of driving alone.
- Support ethical business practices: Make conscious choices as a consumer and use your purchasing power to support companies prioritizing ethical practices. Also, speak out about the lack of ethics and use social media or other channels to hold companies accountable for their actions.
- Buy only what you need: Adopt the mindset of Need Over Want, and purchase only those items you absolutely need.
- Support local businesses: By getting your produce from small local farmers and businesses, you can reduce the environmental impact of transportation and shipping. Plus, it's a great way to support your local community.
Ultimately, while both sustainability and zero waste share common goals of reducing environmental harm, they are two distinct concepts, with zero waste being just one aspect of sustainability. Nevertheless, both concepts are critical for achieving a more environmentally conscious and sustainable future, where future generations can also thrive.