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Zero waste living: what it is and how to get started

You may have been hearing about this thing called zero waste living lately. This new subfield of environmentalism is quite new but has been popularised massively by social media. It feels like everyone’s yearly trash now fits in a mason jar, as they shop for organic produce with their net bag! However, zero waste is so much more than an Instagram trend. Let’s talk about where it came from and what parts of the lifestyle you can start implementing in your daily life!

The Zero Waste International Alliance

The origins of the movement go back to the foundation of ZWIA, the Zero Waste International Alliance, and Richard Anthony who initiated it. ZWIA makes its goal to set standards for governments, businesses and waste management, which will make the world a waste and plastic free place.

While ZWIA is doing amazing work, other people stand behind the popularisation of the movement amongst us all: bloggers and writers such as Bea Johnson or Lauren Singer, and many other internet personalities. They have been spreading not only the essence of zero waste but also many helpful ideas on how to achieve this ideal waste and plastic free world.

The principles of zero waste

Bea Johnson presents the zero waste pyramid in her book The Zero Waste Home. In it, you can find the 5 Rs, guidelines or principles which guide zero waste living. The first one is to refuse – simply say no to anything in your life that will create more waste than it is worth. Following that, reduce the number of things you rely on, redefine what it means to need something in your life. Next, reuse what you have, or purchase reusable alternatives to single-use items, such as makeup wipes. The fourth step is to recycle. However, be careful! Metal and glass can be recycled indefinitely, while plastic and paper can only be downcycled a few times before they are sent to the landfill. Lastly, rot your food scraps to prevent them from producing harmful methane in the landfill.

How do you use them?

As you take these five steps, you should be able to drastically lower the amount of waste your home is creating. For example, maybe you enjoy drinking soda, and so you buy a few plastic bottles of it every week. Try reducing the number of bottles you buy in a week, or maybe even think about whether you need soda in your life in the first place. If that does not work for you, try reusing. See if you can find a soda maker which makes carbonated water that you can then flavour with syrup!

You can use the 5 Rs to go fully zero waste and accumulate all your trash in one mason jar, or you can simply get inspired and find some ways to limit your impact on the environment. Maybe you want to try going plastic free – the 5Rs can also help you with that. And they can even be of use if you are striving for a more minimalistic approach to life. Just remember that a lot of people doing little things to limit the amount of waste that they produce is far more impactful than a few individuals living completely zero waste. This author is available for freelance work on Fiverr, check here for more info.

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