Have you heard a lot about Zero Waste but aren’t quite sure what it entails? In this post we break down what a Zero Waste lifestyle is, how it helps the environment and ideas to help you get started.
What is ‘Zero Waste’?
Zero Waste is a movement to reduce the amount one consumes and consequently throws away. Zero Waste lifestyle choices influence all environmental areas by preventing resource extraction, reducing the amount of materials sent to the landfill or incinerator, and reducing pollution from producing, transporting, or disposing of materials. (Center for EcoTechnology)
Zero Waste defined by the County of Hawaii:
“Zero Waste” is a way of life that promotes the goal of reducing the amount of material we throw away and instead reincorporating by-products of one system for use for another system. There is no such thing as “waste” in Nature. In nature, the by-product of one system is feedstock for another system. Only humans have created this thing called “waste.” We can live this way again through small shifts in our daily activities. In this way, we greatly reduce our impact on Hawai’i Island’s natural environment, and how much rubbish we generate, protect Hawai’i Island’s natural environment, preserve our resources for future generations, and save our community tax dollars. (EPA.gov)
We have all seen the families that have perfected the Zero Waste lifestyle and are able to keep their entire waste for a year in a single glass jar. While we certainly applaud these efforts, for many of us, that just isn’t possible. However, by switching our mindset to reduce, reuse and upcycle we can certainly cut down the amount of waste we produce, which is beneficial for the environment.
How does a Zero Waste lifestyle benefit the environment?
A Zero Waste lifestyle conserves resources and minimizes pollution.
“The U.S. EPA has estimated roughly 42% of all greenhouse gas emissions are caused by the production and use of goods, including food, products and packaging. Reducing, reusing and recycling will conserve that energy and dramatically reduce our carbon emissions.” (Toronto Environmental Alliance)
This approach conserves natural resources and reduces pollution from extraction, manufacturing and disposal. Reducing and reusing means fewer products are made, as people buy less and as products are made to last. Recycling keeps waste out of landfills and incinerators and provides manufacturers with recycled instead of raw materials to make new goods.
How can I start living a Zero Waste lifestyle?
As with any lifestyle change, it’s always best to start slow. A simple way to kick off this new lifestyle mindset is to assess your current waste. What makes a lot of waste in your home? Start there and see how you can begin to minimize waste in this area.
You don’t need to go through your house and start clearing items that don’t fit a Zero Waste lifestyle. However, as your current items begin to run out, you can replace them with more eco-friendly alternatives. For example, ditch the plastic soap bottles for refillable glass ones.
- Pack your lunch for work.
- Brew coffee at home and use a reusable mug.
- Bring your own reusable bags to the store.
- Opt for no straws at the restaurant.
Small changes like the ones above will have you on your way to a more sustainable lifestyle. The goal of a Zero Waste lifestyle is to keep items out of landfills—donate, gift, upcycle and repurpose the items you already have.
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