We currently live in a society that is obsessed with overconsumption, which results in more waste and pollution, and in turn, leads to even bigger concerns. Each year, we recycle more and more, yet unfortunately, we also produce more waste.
Whilst a problem as large as climate change needs to world’s largest governments on board to make systematic changes across society, there are still things we can do as individuals and communities and there are certainly plenty of ways to reduce waste now.
The three R’s, which are: reduce, reuse, and recycle. All three of these concepts help to reduce the amount of waste that individuals toss away.
It is vital to begin making basic changes to reduce the amount of waste we produce. You don’t have to go headfirst into the hippie lifestyle and do everything all at once.
Instead, take little baby steps and be kind to yourself as you do so.
If people combine their small efforts toward a zero-waste lifestyle, it will go a long way toward reducing the global amount of landfill waste.
What is meant by “zero waste living”?
The phrase “zero waste” can be daunting, but it does not have to be.
Put simply, the purpose of low or zero waste is to reuse things whenever possible, reduce the amount of rubbish put out on the curbside for recycling, and avoid sending trash to landfills.
In short, rather than being disposed of, the resources we would usually toss out are always in rotation. Therefore, making it sustainable.
It all boils down to rethinking the system. We currently live in a linear economy in which we extract resources from the earth and dump them in a massive hole in the ground.
The goal of zero waste is to transition to a circular economy in which trash is written out of existence. In the same way that there is no trash in nature, the circular economy mirrors it.
Instead of abandoning resources, we design a mechanism in which all resources can be fully reintroduced into the system.
Why should I consider Zero Waste Living?
Every day, the average American sends 4.4 pounds of waste to the landfill. We live in a disposable society, where we don’t respect our possessions and consume far too many resources.
Aside from our overconsumption issue, landfills are harmful.
They are responsible for 20% of methane emissions in the United States, and they are not aerated to allow for adequate decomposition of natural materials.
Toxins from cleaners, batteries, small gadgets (and other non-recyclable things) pollute the soil and can flow into the ocean and groundwater when it rains.
A lot of waste never even makes it to landfill sites. Instead, it clogs the sides of highways and swirls in the sea.
Plastic is particularly hazardous to the environment, marine life, and human health. It does not biodegrade; instead, it photodegrades, which means it shrinks and shrinks.
Each micro-plankton in the ocean is accompanied by 36 micro-plastic fragments.
Plastic reduces to such a small size that it is present in 90 percent of the world’s drinking water, including the bottled and tap kinds.
Why recycling alone isn’t enough
There is simply too much material to process, and we are just consuming far too much.
Recycling is not an ideal solution. While it contributes to the answer, we must reduce our reliance. It’s also worth mentioning that just 9% of all plastic is recycled.
So the solution doesn’t lie with recycling alone.
Recycling should not be the first line of defense; rather, it should be used as a last resort. The majority of our recycling is not even processed in the United States.
It is processed in China, and China has banned paper and plastic bales with more than 1% contamination.
To put this in context, the best recycling facilities in the United States are now functioning at a contamination level of 4%.
How to Reduce Waste: 35 Methods
Say goodbye to plastic shopping bags
One of the simplest improvements you can make right away is to stop using plastic grocery bags in your household.
According to the Center for Biological Diversity, the average American family gets up to 1,500 of these single-use bags each year, with only 15 (1%) of those bags recycled.
But there’s more – each plastic bag is used for 12 minutes on average before being discarded. Instead of using conventional plastic bags, use reusable cloth bags.
Keep one or two in your car for impromptu grocery runs, and one or two in your purse to ensure you always have a reusable bag on hand.
Get a reusable water bottle
Plastic water bottles may be convenient, but they are a major contributing factor to our planet’s staggering amount of waste.
According to a National Geographic study released in 2019, one million water bottles are sold every minute around the world, with only 30% of them recycled in the United States.
We have some work to do when compared to Norway, which recycles 97 percent of water bottles.
If you’re questioning whether getting rid of disposable water bottles in your home will make a difference, the answer is yes! It takes at least 450 years for just one plastic bottle to totally break down.
So, every time you fill up your reusable bottle instead of opting for a plastic one, you are actively helping to rescue our planet.
Consider utilizing a reusable thermos or a vacuum flask for on-the-go water consumption.
Take a look at your everyday products
If you buy paper towels, plastic straws, and/or disposable razors on a regular basis, this is a wonderful starting point for making little changes.
There’s no need to blow your budget on an eco-friendly spending spree.
Slight tweaks to your current lifestyle can add up quickly, so as you run out of your existing products, we encourage exploring sustainable alternatives.
For example, Swedish dishcloths are a more eco-friendly and cost-effective alternative to typical paper towels.
Also, compostable straws can be used instead of plastic straws, which emit toxic chemicals into the environment as they degrade.
For your shaving requirements, there are plenty of eco-friendly options on the market. Plastic toothbrushes can easily be swapped out with environmentally friendly brushes.
Consider grooming with Bamboo products, as these are plant-based and totally safe for the planet.
Declutter your space
If you take a good look around your home, you’re bound to see needless and/or unnecessary items collecting dust and cluttering up your home.
Decluttering your home is a terrific way to get started with the zero-waste lifestyle. Avoid tossing things away in big amounts in an attempt to start over.
Instead, donate unused clothing and household items, give items to loved ones, compost at home, and recycle.
To make the procedure easier, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has prepared a handy guide on common recyclables.
Ditch the plastic kitchen products
You’ve undoubtedly seen a pattern when it comes to “the zero waste lifestyle” by now.
Because our planet dislikes plastic, it is key to use environmentally friendly alternatives whenever possible.
Families in the United States use approximately 500 single-use storage bags each year on average.
With over 120 million households in the country, that’s a lot of unneeded plastic.
If you have a stash of storage bags at home, they can be reused if carefully thoroughly rinsed between uses; however, we recommend not reusing bags that have been used for raw meats or odorous or moldy goods.
When your single-use storage bags run out, replace them with reusable containers or more durable zip-style bags.
While these solutions are more expensive than typical bags, you will not need to purchase them as frequently.
Consider beeswax goods as a sustainable alternative to plastic wrap. They are washable, reusable, and readily compostable.
Consider DIY cosmetics
Begin to eliminate packaging from your entire personal care routine.
Almost everything, from zero waste mascara to zero waste sunscreen, now offers zero-waste alternatives.
As you may be aware, store-bought beauty products can contain chemicals such as petroleum, and they are typically packaged to catch the eye rather than to conserve the environment.
Furthermore, they are usually outrageously costly.
Making your own beauty products is enjoyable, cost-effective, and allows you to select safe, natural ingredients.
Be conscious of your water usage
This may sound obvious, yet many of us still keep the faucet running while brushing our teeth, scrubbing our kitchen counters, and so on.
Simply turning off the faucet when not in use can save a lot of energy.
In terms of baths vs. showers, filling a bathtub requires significantly more water than a typical 10-minute shower.
Of course, the size of your tub, the type of shower head you use, and the volume of water you use will all play a role.
Grow your own veggies
Growing your own fruits, vegetables, and herbs is a super enjoyable and easy way to help preserve our environment.
Because pesticides and other chemicals may be avoided, this is a safer and healthier alternative than purchasing your produce in-store.
Knowing exactly what goes into your food can provide you with peace of mind, and nothing beats watching a seed or sprout grow into something fruitful and tasty.
To start, consider using high-quality multi-purpose compost.
Change your laundry habits
Rather than throwing every piece of clothing in the laundry after every wear, try simply washing your items when absolutely required.
While you should wash your underwear, socks, and swimwear every time you wear them, pants, skirts, and shorts, as well as bras and PJs, can be worn two or three times before washing.
Line drying also saves a significant amount of energy as compared to machine drying. At the end of the day, the environmental advantages offset the longer drying time.
Add more plants to your space
Many houseplants and flowers work as natural air filters, making it easier to breathe and removing toxins, pollutants, and unpleasant odors from your space.
Indoor plants absorb toxic fumes through their leaves and root systems. If you’ve ever wanted an excuse to fill your home with pretty plants, now’s your opportunity.
Although snake plants and spider plants are two of our favorites, NASA’s famous Clean Air Study in 1989 revealed that at least 29 different plants and flowers do a fantastic job of purifying the air.
Have a read through their list here, which is still relevant today. Then, head off to your local nursery. Just remember to return any reusable plastic pots.
Purchasing used clothing and household products helps to keep the recycling community thriving.
As an added benefit, when you donate lightly worn items or sell them at a reduced price, you are allowing others to explore brands and things that they might not have otherwise had access to.
Thrift stores and neighborhood yard sales are fantastic places to purchase locally, while online sites like eBay and Facebook Marketplace are great for used stuff.
Chill out on the heating
If you like to turn up the heat in the winter and the A/C in the summer, bear in mind that temperature control accounts for roughly half of the average household’s power bill.
While it is impossible to predict what temperature will be comfortable for everyone, being aware of the temperature in your surroundings can help.
So, Rather than cranking up the heat in the winter, cozy up in a sweater and slippers, and let the clean air in during the summer months before you consider turning on the A/C.
Unplug your appliances
It is a waste of energy and money to leave electronics plugged in while they are not in use.
Unplugging everything from kitchen appliances to televisions and computers reduces both your carbon emissions and your electric bill.
Your mobile phone is the main cause of this. Many experts recommend keeping a charge between 40 and 80 percent and unplugging overnight.
These changes to your phone charging habits will help save the environment—and your phone’s life.
Consider E-books instead of paperbacks
If you enjoy reading, there are a few simple strategies to conserve energy. Digital options reduce the need for paper entirely while borrowing and buying used are environmentally friendly options.
If you ever decide to downsize your favorite book collection, think about donating it to a local library or school. DIY projects can also be used to upcycle books.
Everything from colorful balls and flowers to canvas paintings and greeting cards is a great option.
Try out sustainable lighting options
Traditional incandescent light bulbs have a lifespan of roughly 1,000 hours. By switching to LEDs, you may extend the life of your bulbs by up to 50,000 hours, saving you both time and money.
Lightbulbs are generally recyclable; however, not all recycling facilities accept used bulbs because the parts must be separated during the recycling process.
Check with your nearest center to see if they allow these items.
Use bar soap and shampoo
Replacing liquid soap with bar soap is an excellent technique to save waste. While bar soap has always been available for use in the bath and shower, several brands are also producing dish soap bars.
Lush even has a range of beautifully perfumed shampoo bars that last up to 80 washes, so you can switch to a bar variation for your hair.
Shop at packaging-free grocery stores
As you begin to shift to a zero-waste lifestyle, you will become more aware of your purchasing patterns.
Many ready meals come in overly large packages. Choose products with the least amount of packaging and/or biodegradable containers while shopping for food.
Farmer’s markets are an excellent way to get fresh foods with minimal packaging.
Collect your glass jars
Using glass jars and containers for food storage is an excellent method of reducing your use of plastic.
These reusable goods can be bought at almost any bargain or resale store, and they make an excellent substitute for Tupperware and other plastic containers.
If you don’t have glass storage options at home and don’t want to buy in bulk, just wash and reuse glass jars from your refrigerator and pantry.
Many ecologically aware people are eating less meat in order to contribute to the preservation of our planet.
If you don’t want to give up meat entirely, try eating meatless a few times a week, or eat vegetarian options for breakfast and lunch and only eat meat in the evening.
Scrap the sponges
Despite the fact that kitchen sponges are convenient. Sadly, because they are mostly constructed of synthetic materials, they are also bacteria breeders and harmful to the environment.
When it becomes time to replace your dish sponges, consider eco-friendly alternatives such as a plastic-free brush.
Silicone sponges are another environmentally friendly and sanitary alternative to regular synthetic sponges. Silicone is not biodegradable, although it is easily recycled.
Get a water butt
Outdoor maintenance may quickly add up, whether you have an annual vegetable garden or are a self-professed flower addict.
Aside from being eco-friendly, using a rain barrel or butt may help you save money on your water bill.
If you place the barrel just below your gutter’s downspout and live in a rainy country, you should be able to collect enough water to hydrate your plants and/or flowers.
Compost as much as you can. Food scraps and paper are two examples of products that can be composted at home. Look for an indoor composting system or, even better, start a home garden.
Also, attempt to replace non-compostable things with compostable items. Look for restaurants that offer compostable packing materials.
Buy high-quality products
Choose quality over convenience and low prices. High-quality goods, such as furniture and clothing, are designed to last and do not require replacement every few years.
The truth is that seemingly too-good-to-be-true discounts almost always wind up costing you more and generating more waste in the long run.
This is a great way to achieve zero waste. Cancel all paper bills in favor of viewing them online. The same can be said for bank statements.
In the long term, going paperless will save both paper and the environment.
Each day, the average employee consumes two pounds of paper. We may live in the digital age, but we still use much too much paper.
Instead of a notepad, use your laptop to take notes. When talking with coworkers, use email instead of paper.