Don’t know anything about Zero Waste? It doesn’t matter, you are just one step away from becoming an expert. You will take away the practical keys to definitely reduce your waste.
The first time I heard about Zero Waste I was immediately repulsed. How is it possible to live without generating a single waste? That’s impossible. I didn’t really understand what it was all about. It’s not about putting your garbage in a can for a year. It’s not about living without buying anything.
Zero Waste is about changing the way we live with the goal of reducing our waste as much as possible. That doesn’t mean we live a life of scarcity. On the contrary, it helps us live a fuller life.
Table of Contents
- What is zero waste
- How to live a zero-waste lifestyle
- Where do I start to lead a Zero Waste life? 12 tips for a Zero Waste lifestyle
- 1.- Stop drinking bottled water
- 2.- No plastic bags
- 3.- Don’t buy cartons of milk or juice
- 4.- Use reusable bags for grocery shopping
- 5.- Toothbrush
- 6.- Use cloth handkerchiefs and napkins.
- 7.- Use bars of soap
- 8.- Buying in Zero Waste stores
- 9.- Walk around the city.
- 10.- Rent everything you can
- 11.- Use alternatives to cling film and aluminum foil
- 12.- Give experiences as gifts
What is zero waste
Zero Waste is a philosophy of life that tries to reduce our waste as much as possible, with the ultimate goal of reaching zero. However, the most important thing is not to achieve the goal, it is to enjoy the way to get there.
To lead a Zero Waste life, all you need to do is apply the 5 R’s rule.
If you manage to include the 5Rs rule in your daily life as a habit, you will be a Zero Waste expert. This will allow you to lead a fuller life, rich in experiences and unforgettable moments. In addition, you will be contributing to living in a less polluted world. What more could you ask for?
Order is very important and must be applied from top to bottom. Reject first and recycle last. The first two R’s refer to prevention. The next two with responsible consumption and the last one with the waste process.
Let’s look at each of them in detail.
This is the most important step. If you don’t want to have to manage waste, don’t generate it.
Rejecting is the best option for everything we don’t need. We must learn to reject with education, a smile, and gratitude.
Here you will need a lot of patience and understanding. Not everyone understands at the first time that you don’t want an advertising pen or a receipt, but a brief explanation is usually enough.
We must reflect on whether what we think we need, we really need or not. Even having passed the filter of rejecting, we can reduce in two ways:
Something we think we need, but the need comes from outside. For example, a new piece of jewelry, a new garment, etc. Do you really need it? What does it bring you?
The other situation is that we already have another object that does the same function (duplicate). Duplicates are normal and it is something that requires us to find our balance.
As you are reading, Zero Waste helps us to lead a minimalist lifestyle, it makes us reflect on what we have and why we have it.
To give second, third, fourth… life to objects in their original form. This R is not to be confused with recycling, where what is done is to take advantage of the materials to make another object (or the same one) again.
Reuse would be, for example, using glass jars to store our own preserves or to transport food.
When we reuse we avoid the generation of new waste and we take advantage of all the effort used in the reused object.
Nowadays, programmed obsolescence and advertising encourage us to change everything that breaks down. This form of consumption generates a large amount of waste.
For example, a laptop computer should be in use between 33 and 89 years to compensate for the emissions generated during its manufacture.
Repairing before replacing is, therefore, a very good way to reduce our waste.
In our house, it is complicated to recycle, but we have the possibility to classify the different materials to facilitate its later recycling. Depending on your level of awareness, and the country where you live, your commitment to recycling will be greater or lesser. The usual is to separate our waste between:
- Paper and cardboard
- Other types of garbage
- Collection points for special materials (paints, batteries, electronic devices, furniture, etc.)
Nature does not generate waste, it is humans who generate it.
Do you know what goes in each bin perfectly? If not, look for information at your local council or ask the collection company directly, they will provide you with a list of what goes in each bin.
But remember, this is the last step and the important thing in Zero Waste is to reduce our waste.
How to live a zero-waste lifestyle
Before starting to make meaningless changes in our lives, the first thing to do is a little exercise of reflection. Why do I want to do it?
This “WHY?” will be what makes the difference between maintaining a habit over time or it being something fleeting.
To help you on this path, I am going to present four reasons that can inspire you:
As you have just read, these are 4 compelling reasons, let’s look at each of them.
Perhaps this is the reason I am the least objective. My main value is health and all the decisions I make are based on that.
In my case, I came to Zero Waste fleeing from the chemicals and problems that plastics generate in our health.
When you start to consider what you buy and the way you live to reduce the waste you generate:
- Moving away from harmful chemicals.
- Looking for more natural and local foods.
- Using more natural cleaning methods.
- Eating a more vegetarian diet.
- Contributing to reducing the environmental pollution.
Living according to the Zero Waste philosophy gives us better health and quality of life.
When you apply the 5 R’s rule you consider all or most of what you buy. In most cases, those impulse buys end up in the first two R’s: reject it (we don’t need it) or reduce (we already have something like it and don’t need another one). Which means an immediate saving of money.
If we pass those first two filters, buying second-hand (reuse) will also save us money.
When we make it a habit to reflect on each purchase, we will inevitably save a lot of money. Indirectly, we will also be reducing our waste.
It is closely related to money. Because when we work we are exchanging time for money. Therefore, when you buy things you don’t need, you are actually paying with your time.
Time, to me, is much more important than money. Once you spend it, you don’t get it back. Money is a change you can get back.
Plus, you save the time of going to buy something you don’t need. Although there are people who like to go shopping, this is not my case. I prefer to be doing other things like walking in nature.
What legacy would you like to leave for future generations? What would you like the world to be like for your children’s children?
It’s clear to me: a better world than the one I found. And for this, the Zero Waste lifestyle helps to make the most of natural resources and reduce our environmental impact.
You may think that it doesn’t really change anything you buy or stop buying. But by simply stopping using plastic bottles for drinking water, you’re saving a lot of resources.
Where do I start to lead a Zero Waste life? 12 tips for a Zero Waste lifestyle
The first step is to observe. Look at our garbage, garbage is a great indicator and tells us what we can improve. If you don’t already separate the garbage you generate into different bins, this is the first step.
Once we have the garbage separated. We will have to observe what we generate the most and look for an alternative using the 5R’s rule. The goal is that, with a single action, our waste will be greatly reduced.
In the beginning, it is important not to get overwhelmed and not to try to cover everything. You have to do it little by little. Focus on taking one small step and when it’s solidified, take the next one. In this way, we are building a solid foundation for a Zero Waste lifestyle.
It can motivate you to take pictures of the garbage you generate before starting the change and the garbage you generate after a few months of awareness. The change will be spectacular, you’ll see.
1.- Stop drinking bottled water
It’s not healthier, and it doesn’t taste better. Start drinking tap, spring, or spring water. To improve the taste there are alternatives, the one I like the most is bamboo charcoal filters or binchotan.
We invite you to watch this video about The Story of Bottled Water where you will see that bottled water is not always better than the water that comes to our house through the pipes.
2.- No plastic bags
When you go shopping, take cloth bags, a basket, a wooden basket or a shopping cart.
Also, whenever you leave the house take a cloth bag with you (it will save you a lot of bags).
3.- Don’t buy cartons of milk or juice
You can use a glass bottle and look for stores that sell milk in bulk. Another option, easier and healthier, is to stop drinking milk and make your own vegetable drinks at home.
Take your water bottle with you
Leave the house with your reusable water bottle. It can be glass or stainless steel. Avoid refillable plastic bottles (even if they are BPA free) they are not beneficial to our health.
4.- Use reusable bags for grocery shopping
Carrying your own cotton bags avoids containers that, although they are made of paper, require resources for their manufacture.
If you know how to sew you can make them yourself or you can also buy them.
Look for 100% organic cotton (GOTS certified). This way you can be sure that there will be no chemicals touching what you are going to eat.
Every 3 months it is recommended to change your toothbrush. Depending on how you brush your teeth you may be able to do it longer, but at least every year you generate 2 toothbrushes.
Replacing your plastic toothbrush with a bamboo toothbrush is a small action that reduces plastic in landfills and oceans.
Unlike plastic, bamboo is a biodegradable material. So it will not pollute the planet for hundreds of years. With a bamboo brush, you will only generate the bristles (which are usually nylon and will have to go to the general garbage bucket).
6.- Use cloth handkerchiefs and napkins.
Avoiding tissues and paper napkins means avoiding a single-use item.
I have two large cloth tissues for when I leave the house and about 15 small ones in a small box in the kitchen. Since then, I have never bought tissues again.
7.- Use bars of soap
Showering with solid soap is a great way to take care of your body and stop filling it with harmful chemicals. Plus, the scent of handmade soaps is a pleasure for the senses.
There are solid alternatives for both body and hair.
It can be a little tricky to find them without any packaging, but there is no comparison between a small piece of cardboard and the typical liquid soap container.
When you go on a trip, you can take it with you in a soap dish (stainless steel to last a lifetime). You’ll avoid the hassle of liquids at airports and wasting mini-packaged soap in hotels.
8.- Buying in Zero Waste stores
The more we buy in bulk, the more we reduce our waste.
At first, it requires discovering the stores around us that sell products in this way. A good starting point can be an internet search.
9.- Walk around the city.
Reduce the use of the car, travel by bicycle, walking or public transport.
Avoid, as much as possible, using the car for short trips around the city. It is less time-efficient and we are not talking about pollution.
10.- Rent everything you can
Material things, we don’t really need them to be ours. What we need (and not always) is to use them.
When we rent, we share the same object among several people. In addition to increasing the time of use, we avoid the production of new objects and reduce our waste.
So, next time you go to buy something, think if you can rent it.
11.- Use alternatives to cling film and aluminum foil
Cling film and aluminum foil are widely used for food storage. In addition to the food contamination problems generated by these forms of food wrapping, they are single-use objects.
There are several alternatives that we can use to reduce or stop using cling film or aluminum foil:
- The weight of the food itself on a dessert plate.
- Glass or metal lunch boxes.
- Waxed cloth wrapping (Bee Wrap). There are also vegan ones (without beeswax).
- Cloth snack bags.
- Silicone bags (very useful for freezing).
12.- Give experiences as gifts
When you are going to give something as a gift or when you are asked what you want for your child’s birthday, encourage experiences instead of material things. Dinners, getaways, workshops, courses, etc.
The important thing in life is to accumulate experiences, not things.
As you have seen, starting with Zero Waste is simple. The important thing is to be clear about WHY we do it, this will give it meaning and it will be easier to maintain this way of life.
To start, remember to look at your garbage and choose what would have the most impact. With the 14 Zero Waste alternatives that I have presented to you, I am sure they will inspire you.
After that, it’s a matter of time to get into the habit of applying the 5R’s in our daily lives. Our waste will be reduced, little by little, in a natural way.
Now you have the tools to become a Zero Waste expert. And, if you are not yet in favor of Zero Waste, how much waste are you willing to accept?