Zero Waste: A Challenge Anyone Can Start Today

Zero Waste

With all the eco friendly talks and topics about doing more for the environment, the topic of zero waste has arised. Zero waste might sound something personal and not that complicated. Which can be true, everyone takes a step towards zero waste lifestyle, a small step will do, it is not hard. However, to truly achieve ZERO waste might be a different story. The important takeaway is that everyone takes a small step toward zero waste and we can all make the earth a better place for the future generations.
Let us take a closer look at what zero waste entails, the benefits of working towards zero waste and some tips.

What is zero waste?

The idea behind zero waste is to eliminate the amount of waste and trash that is being produced or discarded. It can be a type of lifestyle that cuts down on the amount of waste you produce to near zero. Or the new way of manufacturing with a reduction of waste being produced when making the product. This is caused by the excess amount of waste and trash that are being piled up in the landfills, throwing into the ocean or the incinerators causing pollution and other environmental issues. Zero waste is to help prevent and reduce the amount of trash that is being produced and thrown into landfills. As mentioned before zero waste is more than just an individual mission, it is something is best if the individual and corporations do it together. It is definitely not something easy to do, but don’t worry, the golden rule of 5Rs will help you with starting your zero waste lifestyle.

5Rs

Zero waste's 5Rs
In order for zero waste to work, it is important to remember the 5Rs. The 5Rs stands for Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Rot. The 5Rs will help you reach almost zero waste. Let’s break down the 5Rs and how to implement them into your life.

Refuse

Like many ethical choices and lifestyles, you might have to make some sacrifices, refusing to use certain products that are likely to increase waste. Such as single use products (instant coffee, flyers, brochures or other small things that will just collect dust and end up being thrown out anyway or just products with a lot of unnecessary packaging.. By resisting the urges to collect them or buy them in the first place can reduce the amount of waste you end up having. This is step 1 of zero waste, Refuse.

Reduce

Reducing is the second important step for zero waste lifestyle. Reduce excessive buying, only by what you need, a minimal way of living. Reduce the need to buy single used products and replace them with reusable options. For example, instead of buying water everytime you are out, you can reduce it by bringing your own water bottle. Bring a handkerchief to replace single use paper towels. Get reusable straws or refuse to straws unless necessary. There are many options available that can help you reduce the amount of trash, buying reusable or buy things that you need.

Reuse

Reuse, repurpose or repair is a great option. By repurposing, reusing products you are extending the lifetime of that product and no trash. Reusing also entails selling some of your used goods, buying used goods, thrift, donating them, any options that can stop the product or thing from just ending up in the landfill is the ultimate goal for zero waste.

Recycle

Recycling has been around for a long time, and it is a great way to reduce waste. By recycling you are properly disposing some material so that they don’t end up in landfills or the ocean, which is great. However, recycling has many downsides, for example, not everything is recyclable. When things are properly cleaned or recycled, it still ends up in the landfill. And recycling requires technology which can be expensive and not every place has a good recycling program. So it is best to consider the first 3Rs, Refuse, Reduce and Reuse.

Rot

Rot or compost your trash. This might be the most interesting one, but also time consuming and requires more effort on the participants. Rot is a great solution for food waste or other organic waste. There are many options for you to Rot your waste away, you can make your own compost which is a great option if you have a garden. Other ways include contacting local service that can collect the food waste or compost, or see if your local government provides compost collecting service. If this is a hard one for you, it is totally ok not to do it, just focus on the first 3Rs to achieve the best zero waste lifestyle you can.

Zero Waste’s Benefits

Zero waste help reduce the pressure on earth, as theres no planet b
Now that you know the 5Rs of zero waste lifestyle, you must be wondering is it worth doing so much? What are some of the benefits with becoming zero waste?

First off, did you know that in the United States, “roughly 4.4 pounds of trash per person per day” is being produced?(LEAHY) So imagine you just cut that down by 1 pounds of waste, that is 365 pounds of waste a year. That’s a lot. So one of the biggest benefits would be decreasing the amount of waste being produced and decreasing the chance of them ending up in the ocean or the landfills. So that is definitely something good, not just for you but others. Trash that ends up in landfills won’t decompose properly but instead create dangerous gas that often accelerates or contributes to global warming.

Another benefit would be you can truly become minimalist. One of the golden rules of zero waste is to only purchase things you need or absolutely want, refuse products that have excess packaging, no special meaning or just something you don’t need. Which in return can also save you money because you are only buying things that are necessities, buying fresh food without packaging, reusing, thrifting and so on.

Save money!! According to one zero waste blogger, Kathryn Kellogg, her husband and she was able to save about $5,000 USD a year just by buying fresh food without packages, buying in bulk and making their own products.(LEAHY) Also, when you replace single use products with reusable ones, you are saving money each time you reuse it.

It is easier than you expect to begin. Pick a room or a section of your life you want to focus on, for example, if it is food, you can choose to buy at a local farmer’s market or fresh food that doesn’t have packaging. Or if fashion is something that you like, try checking out thrift shops or online sites that sell used clothes (depop, mercari…) not only are you saving money, you can also make some by selling your used and no longer wearing clothes there. There are so many ways you can start without much effort, just a tiny change.

It is Possible

Zero Waste Tips Drawing
Zero waste is not hard, the hardest part is to know what to do and where to begin. However, after reading this article, you already have the basics of zero waste: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Rot. Now you just need to put your mind to it and start with something small. It could be just going through your closet and gathering some clothes you no longer need or wear, donate them, sell them and make them into something. The important thing is that you are doing something about the issue. It is also important to remember the concept of zero waste is to get as close to zero as possible. In reality it is almost impossible to get 100% zero waste, but everything you do to get close to that zero is what makes the difference.
I hope you enjoyed and have an idea of how to start your zero waste lifestyle.



Resources:
LEAHY, STEPHEN. How People Make Only a Jar of Trash a Year. 18 May 2018, www.nationalgeographic.com/news/2018/05/zero-waste-families-plastic-culture/.
               
Author: Monica Chang
On my own ethical journey since 2010. Always happy to learn more!