I am sure every single one of you reading this will have heard of the term zero-waste. But some of you just joining our community may not exactly know what this phrase entails, so I’ll break it down for you.
The zero-waste lifestyle is a movement started by people that aim to reduce their consumption, and thereby, waste, until they reach the point where they are sending nothing to landfills. The goal is to change the way we consume, from a linear economy to a circular economy; instead of consuming and disposing of something, we should be consuming, reusing, repurposing, recycling or composting all of our somethings.
On Earth, we collectively produce a little over 2 billion tonnes of waste every year, and 33% of that is not managed in an environmentally safe way. For example, we tend to throw food waste in the trash, because we assume it can decompose, being a natural material. However, landfills are oftentimes so densely packed with waste that there isn't enough oxygen reaching the food buried underneath, and since oxygen is necessary for decomposition, it makes it impossible for the food to naturally decompose.
I, personally (amongst many others I'm sure), was introduced to the zero-waste lifestyle by Lauren Singer, founder of trashisfortossers.com. She is one of the few who lead a completely zero-waste lifestyle, and can fit years’ worth of her trash inside one little glass mason jar. When I saw that, I remember thinking to myself, ‘If she can do *that* then I can do *something*’.
“We don't need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly.”
- Anne Marie Bonneau
The zero-waste lifestyle is a difficult one to maintain, but if we all make small steps towards lowering our waste personally, we can make huge steps globally. If you decided today that you wanted to start being a little more conscious, and you wanted to make those around you a little more conscious as well, you could already make an immense impact.
Say you have a direct influence on ten people, being your family and close friends. If a restaurant gets ten customers a day asking for their drinks not to come with plastic straws, then they’ll start to take notice, and potentially swap out their plastic straws for more sustainable options. If a clothing brand gets ten messages a day asking why they send out their clothes in plastic packaging, they’ll start to take notice and maybe look into biodegradable or compostable packaging options. We have so much more power than we think we do.
Since I started my conscious journey, I’ve gotten so many messages from friends saying they bought clothes at a thrift store for the first time, or they stopped bringing their sandwiches to work wrapped in plastic foil.
We have the power to be a positive influence on those around us.
Think about the waste you produce over the course of a week. Do you find that you take out coffee a lot in paper cups? Do you waste a lot of food because you buy more than you can eat? Do you buy a lot of hummus in little plastic tubs? Then, once you’ve found where you're producing unnecessary waste, look for a more sustainable alternative for that part of your life. For example, make coffee at home or buy a reusable coffee cup, plan your grocery shopping better to fit your food intake, or look up a recipe for hummus so you don't need to buy it at the store.
Waste comes from consumption, so just watch the things you buy. Question whether or not you need the item you're purchasing, and then whether or not there is a more sustainable way to get that item.
Of course, there are a few things that we all consume, and thereby, waste, so here is a list of some easy sustainable swaps you can make in your day to day life without having to think too hard about it:
bring cotton grocery bags and produce bags to the supermarket instead of using the plastic ones
choose reusable instead of disposable (plates, cutlery, cups, bags, cameras, straws, razors)
try buying your produce from local markets or bulk stores
get your ice-cream in a cone, not a cup
I hope these little things help you get started on your conscious journey! Just remember that it is a journey, and no one is perfect; praise yourself for the little accomplishments, and don't be too hard on yourself when you slip up. Every little thing you do will be appreciated by the planet.