What is Zero Waste

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My journey started a long time ago when I was drinking water out of plastic bottles, and something in my guts told me,’ this can’t be good for you.’ After hours of research, I found out that I was right. I wondered what the next best step would be? This was when I stumbled across zero waste. But what is zero waste, and how easy can you implement it in your busy life?

As a zero waster, I’ve learned how easy it is to bring reusable shopping bags and containers to the store instead of using plastic ones, carry around my own water bottle and make zero waste lunches for work (instead of buying pre-packaged sandwiches). It might seem like a lot of work but it will save you money in the long run since high-quality products last forever – plus they’re better for the environment!

I also love that these habits have helped me become more aware of what I eat and drink. I’ve become a lot more conscious about the ingredients in my food and even avoid buying things that contain high fructose corn syrup and trans fats.

You might be thinking: zero waste lifestyle? That sounds too hard!

Is Zero Waste even possible?

Did you know that the average American throws away approximately 185 pounds of plastic each year?

That’s enough plastic to wrap around the Earth more than 7 times!

It’s also been shown that if current trends continue, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish by 2050.

This is a huge problem, and it’s one we can all help solve by making a few small changes in our everyday lives.

If you’re reading this article, then chances are that you want to make eco-conscious decisions. But there’s always more than one way to do things and zero waste isn’t for everyone.

The zero waste movement is about reducing the amount of trash we produce, but it doesn’t mean eliminating all trash or never buying anything new again. It can feel like a big change at first because zero wasters often buy less stuff (aka less packaging), cook from scratch rather than eating out, and avoid disposable products like plastic cutlery or paper towels.

And while some people might find zero waste easier than others, it usually requires an adjustment period where your lifestyle shifts to accommodate zero waste practices – especially if you don’t currently live in a zero waste region or zero waste is a new concept for you.

So, zero waste isn’t right for everyone and that’s okay! But before you decide zero waste isn’t for you, it helps to understand what zero waste living is all about.

This way, if zero waste becomes a little more mainstream in the future, maybe zero waste will be easier for you to adopt when it becomes more relevant in your life. Or, if zero waste is already part of your daily routine, zero waste tips can help you be even more sustainable!

Where do I start with zero waste living?

Are you looking for ways to help the environment, but feel like your efforts don’t make a difference? You are not alone. Every day, people make small choices that have a big impact on the planet. But it can be tough to know where to start.

That’s why we put together this list of tips for living a waste-free life – starting today. We hope you find these tips helpful and easy to follow!

The following are waste tips to follow in your daily life.

1. Shop waste-free!

This is one of the top waste tips you can start practicing today. You can shop waste-free by bringing your own bags, containers, and jars when you go food shopping. Just remember to take any produce you buy out of its plastic packaging before putting it into your container (or ask them not to pack it!). If you’re taking public transportation or driving somewhere far, use these shopping tips for zero waste on-the-go!

Check out these options:

Bags from Earth Hero 10% Off with code ZEROWASTEMAN

Eco Lunch Boxes for on the go

2. Stop buying bottled water.

Bottled water creates 1.5 million tons of plastic waste each year, while recycling rates hover around 23%. This means that nearly 80% of plastic waste from bottled water containers is not being recycled. Instead, it becomes waste in landfills, or worse – waste that pollutes the oceans!

When you drink out of a plastic bottle, the heat from your hands transfers to the bottle, causing any trace amounts of BPA (Bisphenol A) in the plastic to dissolve into your water. This chemical has been shown to disrupt hormone levels, leading to an increased risk for neurological diseases like Parkinson’s and thyroid disorders.

Furthermore, drinking out of plastic water bottles causes the migration of phthalates into your body which has been shown to alter thyroid hormone levels, leading to weight gain.

So stop buying bottled water!

Check out these options:

Klean Kanteen, Yeti, Hydro Flask,

3. Say goodbye to your favorite straws (and others).

Plastic waste is one of the most pervasive forms of waste in our environment today, and it’s causing huge problems all over the world. You can help by saying goodbye to your favorite single-use plastics like straws, coffee cup lids, and stirrers.

Check out:

Hay Straws, Simple Straws

4. Break up with disposable razors.

Replace them with recyclable safety razors that last for years. I have fallen in love with the Leaf Razor and even made a video about it explaining how it works. However, I have to admit that after using it for now almost 4 years it has lost its color.

5. Skip the takeout container every time.

Bring your own containers and reusable bags to restaurants, as well as cups for beverages. Did you know that even the takeaway containers that look like they are made of cardboard still have a film of plastic wrapped around them to keep the liquids inside. Which makes them unrecyclable.

6. Utilize cloth produce bags instead of single-use plastic ones.

When you go grocery shopping, bring your own reusable produce bags. There are great natural alternatives like Jute Bags and other cool Tote bags.

7. Bring a travel mug with you everywhere you go!

Ditch the styrofoam cup and say hello to stainless steel mugs. You can also just use the Klean Kanteen or Hydroflask or Yeti (my favorite because of the wide mouth) and fill them up with your hot beverage of choice. All of these companies make really nice travel mugs.

8. Switch up your beauty routine.

Most cosmetics and beauty products come wrapped in tons of plastic. Opt for plastic-free, reusable options whenever possible.

When it comes to our personal care products, we tend to trust the brands that have been around for a while.

But what if those big name beauty companies were more interested in profits than they are in your health? What if they’re using cheap materials and toxic chemicals that can put you at risk?

The good news is there are some easy ways to avoid these risks. And with eco-friendly products on the rise, you don’t even need to sacrifice performance or style!

9. Avoid fast fashion at all costs!

It’s no secret that fast fashion is bad for the environment. The production of cheap clothes has led to mountains of waste, and toxic dye runoff has poisoned water supplies around the world. But what many people don’t know is that buying more secondhand clothing is one of the best ways to reduce your environmental impact.

When you buy a piece of clothing from a thrift store or consignment shop, you’re saving it from becoming landfill fodder. And by avoiding fast fashion, you’re reducing the demand for new clothes, which means fewer resources need to be used in their production.

I can go on about how the clothes are shedding microfibers with each wash and we end up polluting our oceans. Eventually, those tiny fibers make their way back up the food chain onto our dinner plate. Gross. Find eco-friendly clothes here. Do you want to learn more?

10. Harness your leftovers to reduce food waste.

About 40% of the food produced in America gets thrown out each year, accounting for over 20 pounds per person per month. You can significantly cut back on this waste by utilizing your leftovers more often, especially when it comes to produce that might otherwise be bad before you get a chance to eat it!

11. Upcycle waste whenever possible.

There are a lot of cool ways to upcycle used items into new and awesome things. You can take an old t-shirt and turn it into a tank top, or use an old pillowcase as a dust cloth. If you’re looking for something a little more challenging, you could try making a quilt out of all your old clothes.

The best part about upcycling is that it doesn’t require any special skills or tools – just a little creativity and some patience. So if you have some spare time and some extra junk lying around, why not give it a try?

12. Repurpose waste into art projects.

You can find trash in all kinds of places, but the place you might not think about is your recycling bin! When you’re done sorting through your bottles and cans, save a few of them together and turn them into a fun art project instead!

13. Recycle right.

There are a lot of ways to recycle correctly, but the most important way is to make sure that all recyclable materials are clean. This means sorting your recyclables into the correct bins and making sure that there’s no food or liquid waste on them.

It also means making sure that all recyclables are free of contaminants like plastic bags and Styrofoam. I even go as far as removing the little plastic windows from the pasta packaging. But that might be a bit excessive to some of you.

14. Get waste-wise with kids!

You’re the most influential being in your children’s lives, so set a good example by speaking out about reducing your carbon footprint Make waste sorting fun.

You just need to find creative ways of teaching them about it. For example, one idea is to have them create art with recycled materials instead of using new supplies. Another idea would be to go on walks and identify the different types of trash they see along the way.

Another option is teach them how important waste management is by talking about composting or recycling when they ask “why?” It’s also possible for parents to lead by example and do their part first so that kids will follow suit. The more people who are aware of sustainability, the better off we all are!

Every year, 90 billion aluminum cans are manufactured throughout the world. Donate your canned food to shelters or food banks that can make use of them instead of generating more trash!

16. Reuse lighters instead of buying new ones.

Americans purchase an estimated 2.8 billion lighters each year, but most are single-use and can not be refilled. Remember the good old Zippo lighter. Not only do they look much better but they are an investment for life.

17. Give reusable period wear a go.

Reusable menstrual products like diva cups and cloth pads are a great way to add to your zero waste lifestyle routine.

Did you know that the average woman will use over 11,000 disposable menstrual products in her lifetime?

Most of these products end up in our landfills and waterways, where they can take centuries to decompose. Reusable period wear is a sustainable alternative to disposable pads and tampons. It can be reused for years, which reduces waste and helps save money in the long run.

There are many different types of reusable period wear available on the market today, so there is sure to be one that fits your needs.

Not only that, but they’re better for your body – just remember to change them often!

18. Swap to refillable cleaning products

Did you know that a lot of the junk we produce comes from the products we use to clean our homes? For example, disposable wipes are one of the biggest sources of trashing landfills.

Luckily, there’s a simple solution: using refillable cleaning products. This means instead of buying disposable wipes or other cleaning products, you buy a reusable container and fill it up with your favorite cleaning solutions. Not only does this reduce garbage, but it can also save you money in the long run!

Read: How To Clean With White Wine Vinegar?

Shop Pact

19. Support zero waste and ethical brands

There are tons of great zero waste and ethical brands out there who care about their environmental footprints, and it would help reduce waste if we all gave them our support.

Check out these ethical brands:

20. Use plastic-free shampoo and shower bars

Did you know that a lot of traditional shampoo and shower bars are actually wrapped in plastic? Luckily, there’s a super simple waste tip: buy shampoo and shower bars that aren’t wrapped in plastic! It might seem weird at first to brush your hair with a bar of soap, but within two weeks you’ll have completely forgotten about the liquid soap that is 80% made up of water. Wanna learn more why shampoo bars rock?

12 Best Zero Waste Shampoo’s And Conditioner Bars For Your Hair (2022)

21. Replace your plastic toothbrush with a bamboo one

Bamboo is a grass, which means that it grows quickly and doesn’t require any pesticides or fertilizers. When you’re done with your bamboo toothbrush, you can just compost it!

Bamboo toothbrushes also have anti-microbial properties. The bristles are made from nylon-6, which is a synthetic polymer. This means that the bristles will not decay and will not harbor bacteria like traditional plastic toothbrushes do.

Finally, bamboo is a sustainable resource. It doesn’t require any harsh chemicals or fertilizers to grow, making it a much more sustainable option than the average plastic toothbrush.

You should definitely switch to bamboo!

22. Don’t use toilet paper – use a bidet instead

There are many reasons that a bidet is better than toilet paper. For one, a bidet is more sanitary because it cleanses you better than toilet paper. Additionally, using a bidet is more environmentally friendly, as it takes less resources to manufacture and use than toilet paper. Finally, bidets are often more comfortable and convenient to use than toilet paper.

Check out Tushy

23. Swap to beeswax – or vegan wraps

Another tip is to use beeswax wraps instead of sandwich bags. Beeswax is super effective, and there are plenty of vegan brands that make wraps.

Making your own beeswax wraps is a great way to reduce your use of disposable plastics, and it’s really easy to do. All you need are some beeswax pellets, an oven or stovetop, a baking sheet, and an old towel or piece of cloth.

1. Preheat your oven or stovetop to 200 degrees F (93 degrees C).

2. Put the beeswax pellets on a baking sheet and bake them for 5-10 minutes, until they are melted.

3. Take the baking sheet out of the oven and let it cool for a few minutes until it is safe to touch.

4. Dip the old towel or cloth into the melted wax and wring it out so that it’s just damp and not dripping.

5. Put the cloth on a baking sheet, making sure that none of the wax has spilled off, and return to the oven or stovetop for another 5 minutes.

6. After taking it back out of the oven again, let your beeswax wrap cool until you can touch it.

7. Place food in the center of the cloth and fold over both sides, then seal the edges with a small piece of beeswax from your leftover sheet to hold it all together.

How to make Beeswax Wraps

24. Support local farmers and businesses!

Support your local farmer and local supermarket! Rather than shopping at large corporations, these places are more likely to have sustainable packaging. It’s not only one of the easiest tips you can follow, but it also helps support your local economy.

25. Using loose leaf tea

Most modern tea bags are actually closed with polypropylene plastic, which cannot be recycled and should end up in our trash can. All too often however do I see people putting the tea bags in the compost.

Brewing loose leaf tea is a great way to enjoy a hot drink while avoiding the unhealthy additives found in many tea bags. Loose leaf tea also offers more flavor options and health benefits than bagged tea.

What are the 5 R’s of zero waste?

Refuse (Don’t buy products that are wasteful)

Reduce (Choose to use less waste products)

Reuse (Use things over and over again instead of throwing them away)

Recycle (Focus on recycling plastics, paper, glass, metals, etc.)

Rot (Compost things like food scraps so they can naturally decompose into soil).

The linear economy vs. the circular economy

Perhaps this is a new method of living worth attempting. It’s rather contentious, which is why I like it so much. My friends and I are more inclined to live a minimalist lifestyle these days. Perhaps this is the answer to many of our concerns.

The End of Ownership - VPRO documentary - 2015

It is not a zero waste documentary, but a must-watch for you new thinkers out there.

How does Zero Waste Help the Environment?

Going zero waste is good for the environment because it reduces energy-related emissions, methane emissions, plastic pollution in our oceans, and more.

By making small changes in our everyday lives – like recycling and composting – we can all do our part to help keep our planet clean.

Reducing landfill waste means lowering greenhouse gas emissions and limiting human exposure to harmful chemicals like methane gas. It also prevents air pollution that damages crops and spread disease.   

It’s important to remember that every little bit counts, even if it doesn’t seem like much at first.

An easy way to start is by making smart choices about the food you eat.

Zero Waste tips for your home.

To really nail the zero waste lifestyle you have to turn your old home into a new zero waste home.

The first step is to take a look at your home and make note of all the things you use on a regular basis.

Now, find an alternative way to get those items. For instance, instead of buying paper towels, you can keep several washable rags around your house for quick cleanups (and don’t forget to recycle the paper towels).   

Avoid using plastic bags by bringing reusable bags to local grocery stores or investing in a cloth bag that is easy to carry with you anywhere.

There are even Zero Waste apps that can help reduce waste while shopping.

It doesn’t stop there! You continue this process until everything in your home has been replaced with natural alternatives.

Isn’t going zero waste expensive?

Not necessarily.

A good way to start is by finding second-hand replacements that are still in great condition. For example, instead of buying new shoes, you can visit your local thrift store for gently used footwear.

You may find that there are better alternatives to take care of your needs, and it might even be refreshing to see things through a new lens.   

The goal is to simply start making small changes – no matter how expensive, easy or time-consuming they may be – because every action counts!   

Zero Waste lifestyle isn’t about deprivation; it’s about learning what you really need and how much you can live without.  You can find amazing second-hand clothes on Apps like Poshmark or Grailed.com.

Is a zero waste lifestyle possible?

Zero waste is living with the most minimal effect on the environment as possible. It means that everything you buy or use has some sort of worth at its end of life, otherwise known as a ‘durable life’. This could be through composting, recycling, reusing, or upcycling.

Recycling involves turning an item into another item with similar properties to its original purpose – plastic bottles can be made into furniture for example. Composting involves using organic matter to create rich soil for plants and trees which helps improve their growth and health – banana peel compost anyone? Reusing something does not involve altering it in any way from its original form – this includes giving clothes to charity shops or up items from the side of the road or in second hand shops. The last one, upcycling is turning something into a product of better quality and longevity than the original by altering it slightly – like turning an old record player into a plant pot for example!

However, there are some things which can’t be recycled such as certain types of plastics but these should be avoided at all costs. There are also certain conservation techniques you could use to make your food last longer such as fermenting vegetables and making your own cheese and wine!

Although living simply and reusing items appears expensive and puts others off (especially when not everyone has money to throw around), we often do not think about the environmental cost that our lifestyle brings. Overpackaging is horrible for the environment and food waste is a disgrace when others are starving!

Our biggest enemy within this lifestyle is a habit. Think about how many times you throw away an item because you do not like it or it has gone out of fashion and chances are, in a few months time you will be buying the same thing again (because we all seem to) and this goes for everything from clothes to razors.

Think about how many times we buy our coffee in-store only to leave the cup in the huge bins which end up polluting our streets? Or when we get that sandwich on the train and then add it straight into the bin when arriving at work? A zero waste lifestyle involves us challenging what we think is necessary and when we actually need it.

What about Greenwashing?

You don’t have to get rid of everything straight away. Much of this lifestyle simply involves finding better alternatives within what we already use, which includes simple things such as maybe using a reusable water bottle instead of buying bottled water every day! Yes, I know many people hate tap water but everyone can find a way around this whether it be in a flask or in a Brita filter jug. You do not need to go out and buy a whole new wardrobe in order to fit into the zero waste movement when lots of companies often provide second-hand items.

Just because someone has a zero waste lifestyle does not mean they do not eat chocolate or take selfies (as hypocritical as it may seem at first). We all live different lifestyles and we don’t need to change everything overnight but what we can do is think about the little things which add up over time. It’s these little things that make us think twice before flushing another baby wipe down the loo!

Why not put it in a big hole?

The problem with putting it in landfills is that it can release toxins. Batteries, Televisions, and computers get thrown out, and they contain substances like arsenic, acids, lead, and others, which eventually end up in our environment. They seep into the soil and groundwater due to rainfall.

More than 60 million plastic bottles end up in landfills and incinerators every day – a total of about 22 billion last year

A lot of our trash doesn’t even make it to landfills. It gets thrown on the ground or blown off the truck and finally ends up in the ocean. Plastic is one of those big evil guys that we are trying to cut out here. It is the leading cause of death in marine life. 1 million seabirds die from plastic each year and 100,000 marine creatures a year die from plastic entanglement due to fisheries discarding the nets into the ocean.

Ok, but let’s take a quick look at a landfill.

What is a landfill?

There are two different types of landfill.

  1. A dump where we bury all of the trash in a big open hole. Lots of rodents find a way to it, and you see the vultures circling in the sky. This is what most people think of a landfill.
  2. A landfill is built on top or into the ground. Isolated by a plastic liner and covered daily with soil. It is an anaerobic environment, meaning no air can get to it and help decomposition.
Whats is Zero Waste

Is Zero Waste even possible?

When I talk about ‘zero waste,’ the most common reaction I get is, “That’s impossible…how can you expect to create NO trash at all??!” And yes, in some way, you are right. It is impossible not to create any trash. But we can, however take steps in the right direction. May it be reusing more items or reducing the way we consume. This part is also very welcoming to your wallet.

We are all part of the economic waste stream. Our purchases produce waste that we do not see, both upstream and downstream.

Photo of author

Hendrik Kaiser

I've studied biology and lived for 3 years on an off-grid permaculture farm. I love kitesurfing and keeping my body healthy and fit. Hence, I care so much about keeping our environment clean and being as zero waste as possible. Being a zerowasteman is a superpower everyone has inside of themselves, and I want to teach you how you can unleash it.

6 thoughts on “What is Zero Waste”

  1. Zero waste is an interesting topic, because my local try to impose the rule of ‘no handling plastic bag’ in all supermarket and minimarket previously, but failed. There are a lot of protest because many people who buy things in market may not planning it initially (e.g.: they are hungry after working hour and just want to buy some snacks without planning to go to the market previously). 

    I agree that zero waste may be good, just a bit hard to implement it on large scale. Maybe we should from ourselves and our family first. I will think about how to implement zero waste with my family. Please keep writing about zero waste in your blog to give us some inspiration about how we can implement 🙂 Thank you.

    Reply
    • Hi Alblue, and thanks for your interest in my blog. You are right it is definitely not easy to be zero waste, especially since we are so used to the comfort of packaging. I used to be one of those workers that would just get a quick bite and throw the plastic away, not thinking any further. For me, the trick was to just think a day ahead and have my meals prepared and in a takeaway container. Boom one problem solved. But yeah it is one out of thousands. Not to overwhelm anyone here, lets just become more aware of it and bring your reusable bottle and your prepped food to work 🙂

      Reply
  2. Hi Admin, zero waste is great because the consequences of burning or discharging these wastes is a big threat to our environment and also makes human health vulnerable. It is so saddening to see the amount of sea creatures that die each year as a result of plastic entanglement.You are right, we can do something to promote zero waste by reducing the way we consume certain products or by reusing more items.Thanks for your tips on the steps to take towards living a zero waste lifestyle, especially, saying no to straw and having a re-usable drinking bottle.

    Reply
    • Hi Gracen, no ones ever called me Admin before… but thank you:) Yes go, girl, we can do it, we have done it before. I mean my grandma never had any plastic wraps they just used glass containers and beeswax wraps. Thanks for your comment and please spread the word, we only have this one planet.

      Reply
  3. I absolutely love this insightful article because it is full of great information. This is fascinating and intriguing to me.zero waste lifestyle is for everyone.zero waste is the conversion of all waste resources into reproduction ,we can become a zero waste agent in our environment. this article is helpful thanks for the insight 

    Reply

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