What is Zero Waste?

Many people nowadays have been working on ways to limit their individual impact on the environment. One of the more prominent “movements” has been towards a zero waste lifestyle.

An Overview

All of our daily activities consume resources in some form, whether that’s plastic, energy, chemicals, or any other materials. Most of those activities produce some amount of waste — in other words, leftover resource.

Some activities produce more waste than others. For example, when getting your groceries in a plastic bag, the activity of getting the groceries home produces a plastic bag as waste if you decide to just throw it out. However, if you get your groceries in your own fabric shopping bag that you buy once and use every time you go shopping, or you use the plastic bag for some other activity instead of throwing it out, that means that there is no leftover resource for getting your groceries home.

The idea behind being “zero waste” is to think critically about how you can reduce the waste generated by everyday activities, either by not producing any leftover resources, or by reusing those resources to do other activities.

What’s the benefit? The obvious one is helping to reduce our impact on the environment. Reducing how much waste we produce means we spend less time and energy on the production and disposal of our consumable items, which is a serious driver behind climate change. Another less obvious benefit is the effect that going zero waste can have on your own life. It can help you live a more minimal and conscious lifestyle, as well as improving your health!

More detail on the zero waste lifestyle

In order to go into more detail about what “zero waste” means, it’s useful to first talk about what it’s not. Zero waste gets a bad rep sometimes because of certain people shaming others for every tiny bit of waste they produce. The ideal goal of zero waste is, of course, not producing any waste at all. However, nowadays that is virtually impossible — unless your entire life is built around being zero waste and all of your time is spent on it. For most people that’s not possible, because they have work, school, or other limitations on their time.

So we all produce waste, and it’s practically impossible to eliminate all of the waste in your life (especially when you start thinking about the waste that manufacturers produce for the products you use). Some activities, however, are much easier and more practical to reduce the waste for than others (think about the grocery bag example). Therefore, the goal of the zero waste movement has been shifting from chasing some idealistic world where nobody produces any waste, to helping people reduce the waste of as many of their daily activities as possible, starting with the ones that produce the most waste and are easiest to make waste-free.

Here are some examples of such activities:

  • Using glass storage containers for food at home or for taking your lunch with you to work or school;
  • Regrowing greens such as spring onions and celery instead of throwing out the roots and stems;
  • Walking to a local market and buying fruit and veg in bulk;
  • Saying “no” when asked whether you want a plastic shopping bag or plastic single-use cutlery for takeaway;
  • Buying products that have natural, biodegradable, and/or fully recyclable packaging (this can be difficult if you have to do the research beforehand, but you don’t — we can take care of that for you);

Targeting these “high-impact” daily activities first is important. Since they are easy to change, it will be less overwhelming for you to do so, and to stick to it. Additionally, since they produce the most waste, changing these habits will provide the biggest benefit to our environment and to your life. This is a great motivational feeling for when you decide to make bigger changes, and can help you keep at it in the long run!

Of course, there are many more examples, but these are just a couple of basic ideas for what you can do to reduce your everyday waste. Read on to learn where you can find more examples and resources!

How to find out more about zero waste

Being completely zero waste is an incredibly difficult task, and we already said that shouldn’t be your goal. But even starting out and making changes can be very difficult without support and advice from people who are more experienced. This is why we’ve picked out a few things that we like which can help you get started on your zero waste journey!

The first thing we wanted to talk about is a blog started by Natalie Davies, also known as zerowastedoc, which goes into the nitty gritty of what zero waste is and how to achieve it in different context. The blog is called A to Z of Zero Waste, and it has tons of useful information for anyone that is trying, or wants, to live a more sustainable lifestyle. Don’t be overwhelmed by how many articles there are on there (they’re all good!) — start with what you find interesting, and go from there. If you start with what you enjoy, it will be much easier to apply the advice that you get and ultimately, change for the better!

Another resource that we think you might like is a podcast started by Alice Wass called Reduce, Reuse, Reblog. Alice talks about zero waste, specifically in the context of social media and the online community. She talks about what individuals and companies are doing online for zero waste, and showcases different initiatives and influencers and their message. We found Alice’s content very insightful and urge anyone that is interested in making changes towards zero waste to check out her content (there is also an Instagram page for the podcast). The best way to ensure that you’ll make positive change is to become part of a community that supports it!

To conclude

Lastly, we wanted to emphasize how important it is to start small and set yourself reasonable expectations. Making tiny changes over a long period of time can make a huge difference, and will be much easier than trying to do everything at once!

This is why we are helping people like you take the first steps on their sustainability journey, by offering an easy way to swap out your current everyday products for more sustainable ones. It’s not zero waste, but it’s a step in the right direction, and we’re here to support you through this otherwise difficult process by making it as easy and convenient for you to make the right choice. If that sounds like something you’d be interested in, please consider ordering a Small Steps subscription box!

If you want to find out more about what we do and why we do it before you order, you can read about our mission.

Thank you all for reading this post, and we hope to see you back for the next one. If you found this article helpful, you can check out our other blogs, or our Instagram page, where we share more advice and showcase more amazing people in the sustianability community!

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