Beginners guide to zero waste living

Here is the idea of Zero Waste – an ideal that goes back to the basics. As opposed to trying to find solutions to waste management, Zero Waste starts from scratch and encourages people to rethink the way they go about their everyday essentials.

The Zero Waste movement works with 5 (+1) initiatives with which you can embark on an amazing, healthy lifestyle without clutter and unnecessary waste. I find that we often underestimate how much our environment impacts our mental health and well-being. Since I started living by the 5 R’s both my home and me are more balanced, I’m happier because I’m good to myself and the environment, besides saving lots of money and time. How?

The goal is for no trash to be sent to landfills, incinerators or the ocean. Currently, only 7% of plastic is recycled which is a shocking number. Imagine that every single piece of plastic that’s ever been produced still exists (people don’t actually know how long plastic takes to break down as no one ever lived that long… current estimation is everywhere between 250 to 500 years).

Do we want to live in an environment that is filled with nasty chemicals or we want to live in harmony with nature? Not only for myself, but for my family, my future children, my nieces, my friends’s children I am committed to live in respect and harmony with the environment that surrounds us. So, the Zero Waste movement was born to teach us how to live a more conscious life.

What is Zero Waste?

Zero Waste refers to waste prevention as opposed to end-of-pipe waste management. It is a whole systems approach that aims for a massive change in the way materials flow through society, resulting in no waste. Zero waste encompasses more than eliminating waste through recycling and reuse, it focuses on restructuring production and distribution systems to reduce waste. Zero waste is more of a goal or ideal rather than a hard target. Zero Waste provides guiding principles for continually working towards eliminating wastes. 

Reduce, Reuse and Recycle

A special feature of Zero Waste as a design principle is that it can be applied to any product or process, in any situation or at any level. Thus it applies equally to toxic chemicals as to benign plant matter. (Recycling, on the other hand, deals only with simple materials.) 

As opposed to recycling, zero waste is not based in waste management limitations to begin with but requires that we maximize our existing reuse efforts while creating and applying new methods that minimize and eliminate destructive methods like incineration and recycling. Zero Waste strives to ensure that products are designed to be repaired, refurbished, re-manufactured and generally reused.

How to achieve Zero Waste?

National and provincial governments often set targets and may provide some funding, but on a practical level, waste management programs are usually implemented by local governments, possibly with regionally shared facilities. Reaching the goal of zero waste requires the products of manufacturers and industrial designers to be easily disassembled for recycling and incorporated back into nature or the industrial system; durability and repairability also reduce unnecessary churn in the product lifecycle. Minimizes packaging also solves many problems early in the supply chain. If not mandated by government, choices by retailers and consumers in favor of zero-waste-friendly products can influence production. More and more schools are motivating their students to live a different life and rethink every polluting step they may take.

The 5 + 1 Principles of Zero Waste Living

In the book, “Zero Waste Home: The Ultimate Guide to Simplifying your Life by Reducing your Waste” the author, Bea Johnson (read about her below), provides the 5R’s: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rot to achieve Zero Waste at home. The method, which she developed through years of practicing waste free living and used to reduce her family’s annual trash to fit in a pint jar, is now widely used by individuals, businesses and municipalities worldwide.

  • REFUSE – don’t buy anything you don’t need
  • REDUCE – reduce the things you own to what you really need
  • REUSE – invest in reusable tools
  • RECYCLE – recycle according to your country’s policies
  • ROT – compost (this is an absolute game-changer!)
  • REPAIR – repair if you can before you throw anything out

How to start Zero Waste living? 

Here are 10 easy tricks to start living Zero Waste: 

  1. Ditch Plastic Packaging. Glass and stainless-steel containers of all shapes and sizes can be cleaned and reused over and over again, and easily transported.
  2. Eliminate Disposable Paper Products. Rather than paper towels and napkins, choose reusable cloth versions. You’ll quickly save money over costly disposables.
  3. Minimize Food Waste. Revive leftovers, repurpose food scraps into jams and sauces, and stretch your food money by meal planning.
  4. Avoid Plastic Bags. Start using big shopping bags made from canvas, mesh, cloth or recycled/recyclable plastic. You can buy these for about £1 at most supermarkets.
  5. Stop Buying Singles. Buy the largest size available or in bulk and divide into smaller eco-smart containers.
  6. Bring Mason Jars. Use reusable containers such as mason jars for bulk loose items such as rice, granola, grains, oatmeal, dried fruit, and beans.
  7. Make your own Multipurpose Cleaner. In a spray bottle, combine 1⁄2 cup white distilled vinegar with 1 cup water, and add 10 to 20 drops of tea tree, lavender, lemon or eucalyptus essential oil. Shake well before using.
  8. Water Bottles. Use metal or glass water bottles throughout the day for water or coffee.
  9. Separate Your Waste. Keep food and kitchen scraps, garden waste, and recyclables separate.
  10. Recycle Everything You Can. Unbroken glass, some plastics, paper and cardboard, tin and aluminium cans.

Trailblazer of the Zero Waste movement 

Bea Johnson, a charismatic, 42-year-old mother of two from the wealthy enclave of Mill Valley, California solidified her status as a zero-waste lifestyle guru in 2013 with the publication of Zero Waste Home: The Ultimate Guide to Reducing Your Waste. Her blog and her bestselling book, Zero Waste Home (25+ languages and #1 on Amazon.com, waste management category), have initiated a global movement, inspiring hundreds of thousands of people to adopt waste-free living, open unpackaged shops, conceive reusable products, and launch organizations.  Her guideline is simple: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Rot (and only in that order).

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