In the past decade, the idea of going waste free has become increasingly popular. This eco-friendly movement focuses on living more intentionally by reducing our carbon footprint in how we choose to consume. So what exactly is a zero waste, why go zero waste, and how can you start?
What is a zero-waste lifestyle?
A zero-waste lifestyle is a lifestyle where you work to minimize the amount of trash you produce that ends up in landfill or the ocean, while also making smarter and more sustainable choices when you consume.
A perfect zero waste lifestyle can be extremely challenging to achieve in our everyday modern lives, and while perfection seems ideal, it shouldn't be the goal. By slowly making small choices to consuming differently and practicing mindful consumption we are making a difference, no matter how small or often it may be.
It's important to have grace with yourself when working to live a zero-waste lifestyle, nobody's perfect. Set small goals for yourself and work on developing habits that help you live more mindfully, reduce the amount of objects you bring into your home and reuse what you already have to create less waste overall.
Determine why you want to go zero waste
Knowing why you’re committed to living a zero-waste lifestyle will help keep you inspired and committed to building your zero waste habits and lifestyle overtime. There are many reasons why people go zero waste. Many people are attracted to a zero-waste way of life because it:
- Conserves resources and reduces pollution
- Cares for wildlife by minimizing pollution to our ecosystems
- Avoids potentially toxic substances found in things like plastics
- Allows you to live a simpler lifestyle
- Creates intentional habits
- Saves money
- Encourages positive systemic change
These are just a few of the “whys” behind why people choose to go zero waste, but there are many many more reasons that inspire this lifestyle choice. It's important for you to carefully consider all of the reasons why you want to go zero waste when setting out on this journey. Make a list of all your reasons and use that list to inspire you whenever you need support on your journey.
How To Go Zero Waste: Examine your current waste & determine where to prioritize
As you begin your zero waste journey, it is important to first look at how much waste you’re producing right now. Where does most of it come from? Maybe you’ll find your family goes through a lot of paper towels, tosses a ton of plastic containers, or throws out a lot of cardboard boxes.
Once you know where the waste is coming from, you can then figure out where to start tackling it and find ways to become a zero-waste household. For example, you could start using kitchen towels in place of paper towels, use zero-waste floss so you don’t have to throw away plastic containers, and cut down on the number of packages shipped to your home to reduce how many cardboard boxes you’ll eventually throw away.
Don’t feel you have to tackle everything at once. Start small and see what a difference it makes to the amount of trash you produce every week.
Waste free living tips
Start with these small waste-free living tips that can make a big difference.
- Ask yourself if you really need something before buying it. Take some time to think about your purchase, which will help you avoid overconsumption.
- Buy secondhand first when possible
- Appreciate your possessions and invest in items that will last you a lifetime.
- Repair broken items when possible rather than tossing and replacing
- Upcycle instead of throwing something away (e.g., turn an old t-shirt into something useful)
- Start composting. If you have a backyard, you can invest in a tumbler to easily compost your food scraps.
- Know where everything your buying comes from, whether it be food, beauty products or everyday household goods
- Find alternatives for single-use items (e.g., reusable Q-tips instead of disposable cotton buds, or a bag of ground coffee rather than single-use coffee pods)
- Bring your own coffee cup, shopping bag, reusable straw, and water bottle
- Swap your plastic toothbrush for a bamboo toothbrush
- Meal plan to avoid food waste
- Go paperless for all your bills
The zero-waste mindset
Living a zero-waste life begins and ends with mindset. It’s about figuring out what your priorities are in your life and what you really need to be happy. Even if you don’t achieve a 100% waste-free lifestyle, every step you take towards that goal counts! The small intentional habits can make a big impact.