So what does it mean to live a zero waste lifestyle? What may sound impossible and radical is actually quite easy. We’ll show you what the new zero waste trend is all about.
Looking into a zero waste lifestyle is worth it: Waste-free living saves time, money and combats climate change. Plus, saving the planet is simply loads of fun.
What is a Zero Waste Lifestyle?
Simply stated, living a zero waste lifestyle means producing absolutely no waste. In a sense, you boycott trash. It starts with going without a straw for your smoothie, not having a receipt printed out at checkout or taking your coffee-to-go in your own reusable mug.
All inevitable waste is reduced and reused, recycled if necessary or composted. Clever zero-wasters keep unavoidable waste – e.g. medicine bottles – to an absolute minimum. In short: The key to living a zero waste lifestyle involves putting your creativity and resourcefulness to use.
Why a Zero Waste Lifestyle?
According to data compiled by the EPA for 2017, the average American produces approximately 4.5 lbs of garbage per day. This translates to a yearly total of around 262.1 millions tons of trash, half of which is sent directly to a landfill.
It’s to no surprise that consumer product packaging materials make up the largest percentages of types of waste: Paper and paperboard (25.0%), glass (4.2%), metals (9.4%) and plastics (13.2%).
The next best alternative to proper recycling methods is creating absolutely zero waste in the first place. Living trash-free with a zero waste lifestyle saves resources and protects the environment. By avoiding toxic substances such as BPA (contained in plastic packaging) you also protect your own health and that of others.
The Zero Waste Home
One element of living a zero waste lifestyle is maintaining a zero waste household. A proper zero waste household is plastic-free and does not contain items that cannot be recycled or composted. Zero wasters practice plastic-free shopping and stick to reuseable alternatives to many regular household items.
There are alternatives for practically everything. Paper tissues are replaced by cloth handkerchiefs, plastic toothbrushes by wooden ones and dish sponges by cotton rags. This lifestyle concept even included zero waste toothpaste.
Utopia’s tip: Life without Plastic: Easy Tips for Everyone
For electrical appliances such as computers, phones or refrigerators: Use them as long as possible, repair as needed. If the appliance or device cannot be saved, dispose of them properly.
Zero Waste Grocery Shopping
Garbage really starts to pile up after you’ve been grocery shopping. It often feels like the bulk of what you carry home from the supermarket is actually just packaging waste: bags, cups or boxes we use only once and thrown away. Zero wasters living a less-is-more lifestyle don’t put up with this.
If you think about grocery shopping, waste avoidance still sounds reasonably feasible. For example, you can buy loose goods when shopping at the farmers’ market and use canvas or cloth bags to carry it all home. Things get a bit trickier with foods such as pasta or rice, however. Then come hygiene items, washing and cleaning agents that seem to make a zero waste lifestyle appear all but impossible.
But remember: Part of a zero waste lifestyle is being resourceful. Instead of buying the latest eco-unfriendly chemical cleaner in a plastic spray bottle, why not make your own cleaning supplies? Here some clever and sustainable household cleaning hacks made from all-natural ingredients:
- Homemade Oven Cleaner: 3 DIY Methods Better Than Chemical Cleaners
- Unclog Your Drain Without Harmful Chemicals
- Get Rid of Nasty Drain Smells: 4 Household Cleaning Agents for the Kitchen and Bathroom
- The Best Way to Clean Tile Floors Without Chemicals
- Homemade Window Cleaner: DIY Glass Cleaner for a Streak-free Shine
- Homemade Dish Soap: DIY Dish Soap and Dishwasher Detergent
Zero Waste Lifestyle: Reusable Packaging
Believe it or not, it’s also possible to maintain a zero waste lifestyle when grocery shopping. Those who want to keep their errands waste-free should keep the following in mind: Reusable instead of disposable and glass instead of plastic. Milk, yoghurt and cream, for example, are available in reusable glass bottles in almost all larger supermarkets.
At some fresh produce counters in the supermarket, you can have sausage, cheese, antipasti or spreads packed in the tin you brought along – without any packaging waste. Have a hunt around your neighborhood for stores that support the zero waste movement.
Flea Markets, Secondhand Shops and Community Exchange
You can easily find unpackaged furniture such as cupboards, tables and household items such as dinnerware and cooking utensils at your local flea market, secondhand shop or in your classified ads.
These are all things that you do not necessarily have to buy new. Used furniture usually looks antique and vintage and lends your interior a unique look.
Then there’s clothes. Fast fashion has us in its grips when it comes to buying clothes. The fashion industry has convinced us that forever updating our wardrobe is necessary, or even better: normal. And once we’re done with one season’s collection, we don’t think twice about tossing that old t-shirt or top.
Here’s a solution: Create your own minimalist wardrobe and say goodbye to those closet-clearing searches for the perfect outfit in the morning. Thrift stores are a great place to start this leg of your journey towards a zero waste lifestyle. You’ll find the best new additions to your minimalist wardrobe at the lowest prices possible and ensure nothing new had to be produced in revamping the selection in your minimalist closet.
Zero Waste Lifestyle Tips: Do It Yourself
In the case of household essentials such as personal hygiene items, staying waste-free can be quite the challenge. It’s is often extremely difficult to find shampoos, soaps, detergents and cleaning agents without plastic or paper packaging. But when there’s a will to lead a zero waste lifestyle, there’s always a way.
When it comes to living a lifestyle of zero waste: Everything that you can’t buy without packaging, you produce yourself. Toothpaste, for example, can be made from baking soda, stevia, or medicinal clay. You can also easily make your own homemade shampoo or natural body wash and spare yourself the questionable ingredients and plastic packaging.
Here’s are some of Utopia’s own personal hygiene, health and beauty DIYs to keep you on track towards a zero waste lifestyle:
- Homemade Conditioner: Three All-Natural Recipes
- 3 Soap Recipes: How to Make Homemade Soap
- Homemade Hand Sanitizer: DIY-Recipe With 2 Ingredients
- Natural Home Remedies for Colds: 6 Easy Recipes
Upcylcing: Sustainable Reuse
Putting your hands to work more often makes you think twice about wasteful consumption. Once something has outlived its initial use, ask yourself whether you can’t repurpose it in a meaningful way. For example, you can upcycle that ripped t-shirt into a new dust rag. Or use the color comics section of your Sunday paper as sustainable gift wrap. Creativity is key to living a zero waste lifestyle.underlined orange are partially partner links: If you buy here, you actively support Utopia.org, because we will receive a small part of the sales proceeds. More info.
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