Living a zero-waste lifestyle can be overwhelming. There are just too many definitions, interpretations, and opinions that surround it. Add to that “zero-waste gurus” who raise their eyebrows at anyone whose trash does not fit a mason jar.
So, to clear the air here is a simple explanation of what zero-waste is.
What is Zero-Waste?
Zero-waste aims to send zero trash to common disposal sites, also known as landfills. It promotes a circular economy that aims to say goodbye to trash forever. It mimics how nature works wherein garbage does not exist.
For instance, a goat’s manure can be used as a fertilizer to grow grass, which can then be used for horse pasture.
This is completely different from our current linear economy, which moves only in one direction: we take our planet’s natural resources, create a product out of it, and then dispose of that product straight to a landfill. Unless we start adopting a zero-waste lifestyle, our planet will be uninhabitable in a few years.
But is it really possible?
Although it promotes sending nothing into landfills, even advocates of this lifestyle admit that it’s a herculean task to generate absolutely no waste. Hence, they set goals instead that can get them as close as possible to living zero-waste.
There is no hard and fast rule to starting a zero-waste lifestyle because everybody is different. We all have different needs, different situations, and even different resources available to us. But you can find what works for you by starting from the basics: reduce, reuse, repurpose, and recycle.
Reducing means decreasing the number of resources or products you consume so you can lessen your waste. Apart from reducing what you buy, you can do this by being smart about how you purchase your needs, conserving natural resources, and living minimally.
To give you an idea, here are some ways you can reduce your waste:
- Use energy-saving light bulbs
- Bring your own shopping bag to the grocery store
- Buy essentials in bulk
- Use low-flow faucets
- Unplug unused devices (even when they are turned off)
- Switch to electronic bills
- Compost food scraps
- Walk or use a bicycle to nearby places
- Keep a water tumbler with you
- Wait for a week before buying anything
Reusing basically means using a product again and again for the same purpose until you can no longer use it. It helps reduce the amount of trash you send to landfills. It is also a great way to prolong the lifespan of new things because it keeps them from being used immediately.
Some products that you can reuse are the following:
- Glass jars
- Plastic bags
- Egg cartons
- Unused sheets from old notebooks
- Wine bottles
- Prescription bottles
- Paper bags
- Wrapping paper
Before you start to reuse other products, however, first check if it’s safe to do so. Some products contain too many chemicals, which makes them dangerous to reuse (or even use in the first place).
For instance, many plastic bottles are contaminated with tiny plastic particles called microplastics. Reusing them is not only dangerous to your health. It is also toxic to the environment.
You can also make your life easier by purchasing reusable products like eco friendly cotton rounds by LastObject, organic washcloths by Marley’s Monsters, and bamboo straws by Bambu. These are usually made from sustainable materials and last for a long time.
Repurposing is using a used product for another purpose. It’s a smart way to lessen what you send to landfills. It’s also a fun way to test your creativity because you will discover how many uses a product has aside from its original purpose.
Here are some cool ideas you can try:
- Use a ladder as a bookcase
- Use an old window frame as a towel holder
- Use an old tire as a plant holder
- Use a book as a knife holder
- Use an old shirt as a kitchen towel
- Use a perfume bottle as a flower vase
- Use old spoons as hooks
- Use broken plates and mugs as garden edging
- Use broken pieces of jewelry as fridge magnets
- Use a broken refrigerator as an outdoor cooler
Recycling is converting materials you would throw away into a new material. Not only does this process lessen waste, but it also reduces the consumption of natural resources such as water and electricity to create new products.
However, recycling still requires a little bit of energy. So it is recommended to use this method only when you can no longer reuse or repurpose a product.
Here is a list of recyclable materials:
Now that you know what zero-waste is all about, your next step is to try one of these methods. Once you get the hang of it, move on to learning another method. You can also get creative by coming up with zero-waste techniques that you will stick to.
Before you know it, you are finally living a zero-waste living.