Last Updated on August 19, 2021 by Milo Martinovich
The Zero Waste movement is in full force, and it has many converting to the zero waste lifestyle. Waste is constantly being thrown out without a second thought. Floating islands of garbage litter the oceans and we continue our normal, day to day lifestyles as if waste just magically disappears. Luckily, if you are reading this article, you know that going zero waste can be a rewarding and meaningful experience, for yourself, your community, and the world as a whole!
What does going waste free mean?
Going zero waste means living your life with a primary focus on creating no waste. Waste is everywhere, from traditional food packaging to single-use water bottles, and the majority of household items that come in plastic packaging.
It’s not just plastics and other inorganic materials though. The University of Southern Indiana states that every American is throwing out about 1,200 lbs of organic material every year (source)! That material is easily composted and can help generate healthier soils and growing mediums around your house and community gardens.
While a ton of material that makes it to landfills is compostable and makes an easy adjustment when trying to remove waste production, a lot of the material headed to the dumps won’t break down for hundreds, or even thousands of years. That’s where going zero waste can make a huge difference. The more people that adopt it, the better the results become.
Going zero waste makes small adjustments to your everyday lifestyle and changes how you shop for food, clothing, household items, and everything in between. From assuring that items are shipped in compostable containers and packaging, to choosing natural alternatives to products rife with plastics, going zero waste will become a lifelong journey of betterment!
What are the benefits of the zero waste lifestyle?
Going zero waste has an array of benefits, which can include:
- Less waste produced in the household, lowering waste bills.
- Looking into waste free alternatives is also great for aiding a minimalist lifestyle, in which you can nail down what you need in your life and what is just unnecessary clutter.
- Getting rid of plastic can reduce endocrine disruptors in the household, leading to better hormonal health for the whole family.
- Less build up in the body of unhealthy preservatives, harmful chemicals, and inorganic substances.
- The knowledge that you are living a healthier lifestyle that not only helps you but helps the world.
- Supporting smaller companies that care for the world, not just about profits.
While there can be a multitude of other benefits, depending on the individual, most people going zero waste will agree that these listed benefits are universal!
Does going zero waste make a difference?
According to the EPA, the average person generates about 4.5 lbs of waste per day that ends up at the waste facility (source). While some of that is recycled. The majority isn’t. If you can completely reduce your waste accrual, you are making a difference. The change starts with one person at a time.
Going zero waste will make your own household healthier, as mentioned earlier. The switch to waste free products makes consuming healthier foods and consumer products easy since zero waste companies rely on healthy ingredients for the user and the world.
If you go waste free, you can influence your family and social circles to adopt similar habits. Nothing is more powerful than recommendations from people you trust. You’ll find that going zero waste can be relatively easy and highly rewarding with simple lifestyle changes.
Waste free products tend to be produced with fewer emissions from factories, shipped with less packaging, weigh less than traditional products, meaning more can be shipped per load, and end up producing little-to-no waste for the consumer. All that put together leads to a much healthier impact on the environment and the user.
What would happen if everyone went did this?
If everyone went waste free, we could put a stop to the endless accrual of waste in your landfills, oceans, and communities. But, the likelihood of everyone going zero waste is low. Instead, going waste free yourself and influencing those around you to make simple changes that reduce waste production significantly will go a long way.
Imagine you live in a zero-waste household. Your family decides to try out some waste free products that you recommend and love them. They decide to continue using zero waste products and reduce their waste production by 50%.
Your friends and coworkers are intrigued as well. You point them in the right direction and show them how you have changed your lifestyle. They reduce their waste output by 50% as well, with a few attempting to go full zero waste.
They tell their friends and family and the cycle continues!
Now we have hundreds of households cutting their waste in half, with some going zero waste altogether.
So, are we all going to go waste free? Probably not.
Can we all make small, easy changes to reduce our waste output by 50%? Yes, getting to that number is easy!
Is zero waste possible?
It all sounds awesome, but the reality of the matter is that going zero waste isn’t as easy as flipping a switch. The waste free ideal scenario means creating no waste at all. But, that’s almost impossible.
- Consumer items are shipped around the world, creating emissions.
- Some things are almost impossible to convert to zero waste easily, like buildings and cars.
- Everything is manufactured somewhere, and the likelihood of switching to all hand-made products that don’t create emissions and waste is impossibly low in the modern world.
While this may make you feel down in the dumps (get it?), the waste free lifestyle still makes a huge difference and shouldn’t be viewed as an all or nothing effort. Instead, change what you can and reduce and reuse the waste that you can’t remove easily.
If you can reduce your waste output by 50%, 75%, or even 90%, you are making a huge difference and your waste free practices are useful!
How to live a zero waste lifestyle, starting today
Ready to get started going zero waste? First, let me say that you are doing something great and meaningful! You should be proud of whatever effort you can put into this venture.
So, how do you get started? Well, here are a few guidelines to put into use on day one:
- Start by using what you have on hand until you simply can’t use it anymore. Going zero waste does not mean going out and purchasing all zero-waste consumer goods and throwing your old stuff away.
- Every time you throw something away, make sure to sort it to one of three categories: compostable, recyclable, or harmful waste. If you can compost it, either yourself for your garden, or through a community compost program, do so (composting is a great way to perform small-scale regenerative agriculture to improve your garden fertility naturally!). When you can’t compost it, find out if it is recyclable. If it isn’t compostable or recyclable, it goes in the garbage.
- Waste that isn’t compostable or recyclable must be removed from your household for good. Research a zero-waste alternative. For example – you throw away a shampoo bottle that can’t be recycled. Now, you can research online for zero waste shampoo products and only consume those items moving forward. Repeat the process over and over until you find your household doesn’t produce any non-compostable, non-recyclable materials.
- Recycling is great, but going waste free takes it further! Repeat the process that you just did for waste products for all the waste that you can recycle, which removes virtually all waste from your household when the efforts are combined.
- Take it a step further and analyze if you need the products that end up in the compost pile, recycle bin, or garbage can. You can reduce your overall consumption of products and make your zero waste lifestyle even more helpful for the world. Even zero waste products do create waste at some point, no matter how small. For example, you might use lotion often. However, if you can improve your diet and lifestyle to remove the need for lotion, you are saving the need to purchase any lotion at all.
That’s the whole process of going zero waste. Each household is different, and each person has different needs. Some people can go waste free in a month and some may take years. That’s okay! The thing that matters is a continual effort in the right direction.
The waste free lifestyle – get started today!
So, now you know the power of going zero waste and how to go about it, starting your journey at day one! I encourage you to put in the necessary effort to create a healthier life for you, your family, your friends, and future generations. We are at the tipping point of waste production, and change is necessary. Don’t rely on huge corporations to make the changes. You change your lifestyle first and the companies will follow suit. After all, they won’t be making any money if you aren’t buying their wasteful products!
Hopefully, this guide has helped you understand the waste free movement a little more and encouraged you to start today! Please leave me a comment below with any questions or concerns, or even ideas to adopt when going zero waste.
Good luck on your waste free journey!
8/19/21 – Added more context about composting and how it’s beneficial for our holistic lifestyle goals.
7/24/20 – Originally published.