The Power of Zero Waste Living
What is “zero waste”? // Everyday, we use disposable plastic and other materials that wind up in landfills and add to the constant trash problem we are now facing. Zero waste living focuses on ultimately reducing the amount of trash and waste one produces on a daily basis. This is done through baby steps of slowly cutting down what we use and finding substitutes for otherwise disposable items.
Why does it matter? // As many scientific experts say, the world is on the brink of major climate and environmental issues if we do not change our ways, and FAST. In order to preserve our planet, it is necessary we all make changes to decrease our waste and ensure less trash in our oceans, forests, and our own backyards.
What does it do for you? // When making these sorts of lifestyle changes, one can oftentimes wonder what the actual pay-off is. After all, such adjustments can seem pricey and time-consuming. However, many find that switching to zero-waste living simplifies their lives by reducing the constant bombardment of choices we have in our daily lives. Your house grows less cluttered as you buy fewer disposable items that will eventually find their way to Goodwill or the trash. It can even save you money as you invest in items you will not need to continuously replace. And of course, switching to zero-waste definitely has the “do good, feel good” component as you know you are helping our ecosystem by not contributing to the pollution problem.
6 Ways to Take Baby-Steps Toward Reducing your Waste
Carry a Reusable Water Bottle // This has by far been one of my favorite switches. By carrying a reusable water bottle, I now save the dollar bills I would otherwise put in a vending machine to get a Dasani and instead get to keep that money in my pocket. Plus, I now consistently drink a lot more water than I did before simply because I have a water bottle on me at all times. I personally love S’well bottles (I have one in a really cute Lilly Pulitzer print with mermaids on it!) as they clean easy and the metal keeps your water crisp and cold.
Bring Your Own Shopping Bags // This one can be especially tough for me to remember. Everyone has reusable bags, but how often do we actually remember to stick them back in our cars or carry them with us to the grocery store? But then when I forget my bags, I end up with tons of plastic grocery bags shoved in a drawer in my kitchen, doomed to being tossed the next time that drawer gets overly full. Using reusable bags prevents this from ever happening. Not to mention, they are sturdier and prevent any breakthroughs where a jar of salsa slams onto your tile floor and your house smells spicy for the next week and a half (speaking from personal experience). When I do forget my bags (hey, it happens), I ask for paper and compost the bags.
Shop Thrift // The average pair of jeans takes 1800 gallons of water to make. Is It just me, or does that seem like a kind of insane amount of water to produce only one outfit pair of pants? To lower the environmental impact of clothing production and shipping, I try to buy items second-hand. It serves a dual purpose: lower the amount of clothes that end up in the dump and prevent a new piece from being sold in the first place. Plus, you can even score amazing, sturdy brands for much less than you would if you were buying it new.
Ditch the Straw // The no-straw trend has certainly become a trendy way to reduce plastic consumption. Even celebrities like Jeffree Star have jumped on the train and have stopped using plastic straws entirely. Plastic straws really lack in the utility department because they aren’t always necessary for drinking a beverage and are only used once before getting chucked. Instead of using these straws and disposing of them after one use, I have invested in reusable metal straws. They are easy to clean and carry about and even make drinks taste fresher.
Avoid Plastic Packaging // I was surprised to learn that recycling is not the end-all be-all solution to the plastic problem. As it turns out, you can only recycle certain types of plastic and, even then, it can only be recycled so many times before it becomes an unusable waste. Not to mention, plastic has chemicals which, over time, can seep into your food and ultimately make you sick. Oftentimes, our food has unnecessary packaging that we really could do without (such as cut-up fruit in plastic containers). Rather than selecting those items and paying a premium for the packaging, you can buy these products fresh and place them in glass containers. This ensures not only that you are reducing your waste, but that your food is fresh and saving you money.
Buy Products that Last // We live in a world of disposable fashions, where trends come and go in the blink of a season. Such attitude toward clothing means we oftentimes go for affordable pieces designed to only last a few months. This short life cycle for clothing pieces means that we get rid of clothes before they are truly worn out and no longer usable. A lot of the clothes donated to thrift shops still ultimately find their way into a landfill, further perpetuating the waste. Instead of buying and tossing lots of item pieces, it is better to try and purchase a few quality, classic pieces that will stand the test of time. Patagonia is a great company in terms of not only selling sturdy, long-life clothes, but they also aim to produce their products in the most ecologically sound way possible.
Don’t Over-Do It // It can be so easy to go absolutely overboard with zero waste, especially as one wants to dive head-first and buy all the cute minimalist items to replace the ones they already have. This, however, can easily cause burnout as one completely overhauls the way they live and consume products. My biggest recommendation through this whole process is to use the things you already have until they just cannot be used anymore. Tossing items you already have in the bin to buy new “zero-waste” products simply prevents full appreciation of items you already have and put them into landfills long before they are ready.