Chances are you’ve heard the term “zero waste” recently. While this is by no means a new idea, many people are finally realizing the negative effects all of our waste has on the environment. Yet the term itself can be a bit intimidating. How can we possibly be zero waste, in a day and age where nearly everything is packaged in plastic?
Reducing waste doesn’t mean cutting out waste completely – although there are people out there who are doing just that. The zero waste trend is encouraging people to think more about their consumption and make easy changes to do their part.
While many new products have entered the market – cloth produce bags, stainless steel straws, beeswax food wraps – going zero waste doesn’t mean buying more. Do you have a stockpile of unused plastic bottles of shampoo? No need to throw them away and buy a shampoo bar. If you already have a few spare toothbrushes, don’t rush out and buy a bamboo one before the rest are used. When you run out of a product, that is the time to do your research. Is there an environmentally-friendly, package-free version of your daily products? Can you make them yourself? Can you repurpose an item to be used as something else?
You don’t need to be a DIY homesteader to reduce your waste. It’s not necessary to grow all your own food, sew all your own clothes, or make all your own beauty products. You don’t even need to go out and purchase tons of trendy ‘zero waste’ items. Small, simple changes can do wonders for the health of both you and the environment. Here are just a few reasons why zero waste matters, and how reducing waste can change your life in a positive way.
Why is This so Important?
Going zero waste can seem overwhelming at first. Nearly everything in the grocery store is wrapped in plastic! Unfortunately, throwing those plastic wrappings into the bin is not the end of their story.
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Plastic pollution has reached critical levels, with an entire truckload of plastic entering our waterways every minute. By 2050, it is estimated that there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish by weight. After coming into contact with marine plastic, the likelihood of coral becoming diseased rises to 89%. Many marine organisms are unable to distinguish plastic from food, and others become entangled in it.1
Large pieces of plastic aren’t the only problem. Microplastics – pieces of plastic no larger than 5mm in diameter – are also contaminating the environment at a rapid pace. Many of these microplastics are in common household items, such as facial exfoliants. Others are produced when larger pieces of plastic break down, such as synthetic clothing materials. As the plastic particles break down, more and more toxic chemicals leach into the soil and water.2
How Reducing Waste Can Improve your Life
Plastic pollution is a huge environmental problem, and reducing plastic consumption is extremely important for the future health of the earth. However, reducing waste is also beneficial on a smaller scale. A zero waste lifestyle can help you eat healthier, spend less money, learn a new skill, and become more organized.
You’ll Eat Healthier
Think back to the last time you went to a grocery store. How many items in your cart were pre-packaged? A big part of going zero waste is learning how to eat without single-use packaging. This means that frozen meals are no longer on your grocery list, and you’re purchasing more unpackaged items such as fresh fruits, vegetables, bulk grains, nuts, and legumes. You’ll eat less processed foods, and perhaps even learn to cook a few new meals!
You’ll Drink More Water
In the US alone, more than 60 million plastic water bottles are thrown away each day.3 When choosing to go zero waste, a reusable water bottle is essential. This doesn’t need to be an expensive item – a simple large mason jar will do! When you carry a water bottle around with you everywhere you go, you’ll get into the habit of constantly refilling it. It’s also perfect to have on hand when the only other option is a drink in a plastic cup or bottle.
You’ll Spend Less Money
Many people mistakenly believe that a zero waste lifestyle requires purchasing a lot of expensive, reusable items. A big part of reducing waste isn’t purchasing more, but rather learning how to purchase less. Do you really need that $5 cappuccino when you can brew coffee at home? Do you really need to get takeout when you can cook a simple meal?
When you do purchase reusable items, the initial investment will help you save money in the long run. Cloth napkins reduce the need to buy paper towels, while a reusable water bottle reduces the need to purchase drinks in plastic bottles. Some grocery stores are even starting to charge a fee when you use plastic bags!
You’ll Learn New Skills
While you don’t need to learn how to make all of your own products, going zero waste may help you find a new hobby you never knew you’d enjoy. Whether it’s making your own soap, crafting a chemical-free dishwashing liquid or experimenting with homemade beauty products, you may find that you love the DIY aspect of reducing waste. This comes with the added benefit of knowing that your products are all chemical-free.
You’ll Become More Thoughtful
Deciding to reduce your waste can help streamline your life. Before heading to the grocery store, you’ll need to know how many jars, containers and bags you’ll need for everything you need to buy. How many times have you purchased a new “must have” article of clothing, only to get rid of it later? How many times have you bought a package of cookies on impulse, only to regret the decision after eating them all in one sitting? By focusing on reducing waste, you’ll learn to put more thought into what you are consuming.
Taking it One Step at a Time
Going zero waste isn’t something that happens overnight. It’s important to remember that every small step makes a difference. If everyone chooses to reduce their consumption of single-use plastic, we can all work together to make this world a better place.
Photo credits: BogdanSonjachnyj/shutterstock.com, Lizardflms/shutterstock.com, Ireine/shutterstock.com, roubicko/shutterstock.com