If you’re looking to live a more sustainable lifestyle and minimise your environmental footprint this year, a great place to start is by embracing the concept of zero waste living. People who commit to a zero-waste or low-impact lifestyle opt for sustainable and reusable alternatives to single-use items, recycle and compost materials, strive to use as little single-use plastic as possible and minimise the amount of trash sent to landfills by buying less, upcycling and reusing resources.
Here are five simple goals to aim for this year that will help you to achieve a zero-waste or low-waste lifestyle:
1. Ditch single-use plastic
Single-use plastic is pervasive in modern life. From disposable cutlery and straws in restaurants through to plastic food packaging in supermarkets, everywhere you turn, there it is. While it is near impossible to rid your life completely of plastic, many zero waste advocates have been able to cut down their trash by up to 80-90% just by ditching single-use plastic and by making a conscious effort to avoid it where possible.
Saying no to plastic at every opportunity – from plastic bags when you’re out shopping, plastic-lined coffee cups when you’re at a cafe, plastic straws when you’re ordering a cocktail – will help to reduce plastic waste and inspire others in your life to do the same.
Related Post: 12 Simple Ways to Use Less Plastic
2. Carry reusables and jars
Avoiding single-use plastic is much easier if you take your reusables with you. Reusables are the eco-friendly alternatives to single-use items because you can wash them and reuse them over and over again. Most zero waste advocates carry these five basic reusable items every time they leave home:
- a reusable bag
- a reusable coffee cup,
- a reusable water bottle,
- food containers (for takeaway food or taking home leftover restaurant meals),
- and reusable cutlery.
Of course, if you’re going grocery shopping or packing for a trip, you’ll likely need to bring more reusables with you such as fabric produce bags and glass jars, but the five items listed above make up the core essentials in most zero waste kits.
For more practical day-to-day zero waste tips, make sure to read the following zero waste books:
- Bea Johnson’s ‘Zero Waste Home : The Ultimate Guide to Simplifying Your Life by Reducing Your Waste‘
- Australian zero waste advocate Anita Vandyke’s book ‘A Zero Waste Life in Thirty Days‘, and
- American zero waster Kathryn Kellogg’s ‘101 Ways to Go Zero Waste‘.
3. Compost kitchen waste
The UN Food and Agricultural Organisation estimates that 1.3 billion tonnes of food is wasted globally each year. According to the organisation, if food waste was a country, it would be the third highest emitter of greenhouse gases after the US and China. Food waste and scraps, when landfilled, can produce a greenhouse gas called methane which is much more potent than carbon dioxide. Rather than sending your kitchen waste to landfill, compost them. We’ve covered this topic in great detail in our recent article ‘A Step-by-Step Guide to Making Compost for Beginners‘.
4. Buy second-hand
The world not only has an overconsumption problem, but an overproducing problem as well. It seems that there are more goods produced each year than there are buyers for them. Ellen MacArthur Foundation an environmental charity advocating circular design, estimates that 87% of textiles used for clothing is landfilled or incinerated and only one percent of these textiles is recycled. Which is why buying second-hand is key to making use of existing resources and limiting resource waste.
By shopping second-hand you can help to lessen the demand for virgin resources needed to produce new items. For instance, did you know that it can take up to 2,700 liters of water to produce a cotton t-shirt? By buying second-hand you can reduce the need for precious water and the chemicals needed to grow crops such as conventional cotton, and save money since second-hand goods are often priced cheaper than brand new items. In the words of Elizabeth Cline in her book ‘Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion‘ “buying less costs less”.
5. Learn to recycle properly
Do you know whether you can recycle soft plastics such as bread packaging, chip and pasta packets and confectionary bags in your country? Do you know where to recycle your broken and unfixable mobile phones and electronics? A quick online search will reveal the drop-off recycling locations for items such as car batteries, old computers and broken mobile devices and soft plastics in your location.
In Australia, Melbourne-based recycling organisation REDcycle makes it easy for consumers to keep soft plastics such as plastic bags and food packaging out of landfill through their REDcycle program, a partnership with two of Australia’s biggest supermarket chains Coles and Woolworths where customers can drop off their soft plastics at any of the REDcycle bins located at the front of these stores (you can learn more about this brilliant recycling initiative here).
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- Daily Sustainable Habits: 7 Ways You Can Reduce Your Waste
- Bringing Frugality Back: Why Living Frugally is More Sustainable
- 16 Everyday Items That You Probably Didn’t Know You Could Recycle
- Individuals in the Developed World Consume More of the Earth’s Resources. Here’s How to Consume Less…
Cover image of Kathryn Kellogg’s book 101 Ways to Go Zero Waste.