Have you ever heard the term “zero waste”? Perhaps you’ve heard about your city incorporating zero waste practices into their future sustainability plans. Maybe you’ve been involved with a non-profit trying to bring others into the zero waste journey. But did you know you can incorporate zero waste practices into your everyday life?
“Zero waste” is the concept of changing purchasing and disposal practices so that all discarded materials are designed to become resources for others to use. It is a process of eliminating the volume of waste that makes its way into our environment. It’s all about reducing, reusing, and recycling – and in the meantime, not producing any trash.
Look at your trash bin today and you might think this sounds incredibly difficult – perhaps even impossible. Going completely zero waste is a huge endeavor, particularly because so many of the goods we buy are packaged (and not always in recyclable packaging). However, incorporating a few zero waste practices into your life can make a serious difference in lessening the impact you have on the earth.
First, take a week to list out all the trash you’ve produced each day (read: anything you didn’t recycle or compost, and instead threw in a garbage bin). After that week, take a look at the trends: what are you trashing most? Is there a way to replace those items with something more sustainable?
From there, think about your purchases: are you buying quality items that last? Reducing the amount that you purchase and use – and truly thinking through what you need most – is one of the first steps in reducing the waste you produce. Oftentimes, spending a little more on higher quality items is well worth the expenditure, as the products tend to last longer and therefore turn into less waste. For example, mason jars, reusable bags, bamboo utensils, and compostable straws are more expensive than their disposable (often free) counterparts. Buy a few of them and take them with you wherever you go to reduce waste.
Then, think recyclable or compostable. Items like cotton balls or dishwashing brushes aren’t necessarily things you want to reuse for long periods of time. In instances like those, look at stores or online for recyclable or compostable options.
Food can be particularly tricky. While you may have a compost bin at your disposal, typical grocery stores package the majority of their food – sometimes in packaging that isn’t recyclable. The ultimate trick here? Go to local farmer’s markets. Bring your own reusable bag and fill up on fresh, in-season produce that supports local community businesses. Farmer’s markets often sell eggs, cheese, and bread in sustainable or low impact packaging. For other items, shop the bulk section of your local health food store – beans, grains, and cereals can all be found in bulk in a variety of grocery locations.
Making your way towards a more sustainable lifestyle isn’t easy. Hopefully these small steps can help drive you down the right path towards an increasingly less wasteful life. All in all, remember that trashed items don’t disappear – they go into a landfill and eventually harm our land and water. Protect the earth, save money, and live better!