I’m sure you’ve heard of expressions such as “zero waste lifestyle” or “eco-friendly living” and you might be wondering, what do they actually mean? Not to stress, Eco at Heart has created a beginners guide on what zero waste is, how the movement started and how to tread a little lighter on the planet, without becoming completely overwhelmed.
WHAT IS ZERO WASTE?
What started off as a term only used by government bodies, is now one of the biggest buzzwords of our time. Zero waste encourages the redesign of a product’s lifestyle, so all resources can be reused or upcycled. To be put more simply, it can be defined as sending nothing to landfill. Zero waste aims to transition individuals, small and large businesses, organisations and governments to a circular economy. If you’re not familiar with the circular economy concept, it’s an alternative to the traditional linear economy that aims to keep products in use for as long as possible. This process extracts the maximum value from a product, and then the resources and materials used are recovered and regenerated at the end of the product’s lifecycle. Both zero waste and the circular economy aim to create a sustainable future.
Now, you may be thinking, this sounds great, but what’s the harm in sending my rubbish to landfill? Well, with rapid population growth and urbanisation, it’s estimated that waste generation will increase from 2.01 billion tonnes in 2016 to 3.40 billion tonnes in 2050, with 33% of this waste already being mismanaged globally through open dumping or burning.
Unsustainable management of waste is contaminating the world’s oceans, clogging drains and causing flooding, transmitting diseases, increasing respiratory problems and other health problems in individuals from burning, harming wildlife such as birds and turtles that consume waste unknowingly, and affecting economic development, through industries such as tourism.
THE ZERO WASTE LIFESTYLE MOVEMENT
Individuals around the world are currently taking sustainability into their own hands in order to create a healthy and thriving future for us all. They are at the forefront of a conscious movement that has successfully contributed to the decline of wasteful and unsustainable packaging of products and produce worldwide. Their efforts have led to reduced litter and rubbish in natural environments through the refusal to buy or accept single-use plastics as well as actively taking part in clean ups. One of the latest trends in reducing waste is through adopting a minimalist mindset in which a person only buys and owns what they really need and ensures these investments are good quality, long-term products.
But these actions aren’t new ideas and zero waste living isn’t really a new concept, it’s actually old school. Our grandparents lived sustainably every day, they just didn’t use trendy words and hashtags – it was just considered the norm. Safety razors, handkerchiefs, glass milk containers, reusable woven shopping bags, daily fresh produce, hand-me-downs, DIYs and buying in bulk to save money, are all a blast from the past!
STARTING YOUR ZERO WASTE LIFESTYLE JOURNEY
Although zero waste is the goal of this movement, it’s important to remember that generating absolutely “zero waste” is close to impossible as so many things are actually out of our individual control.
One person’s actions and commitments may look different to someone else’s, but this doesn’t mean one is ‘more right’ thank another. If you live in the city, you most likely have more access to bulk food stores, however, if you’re located in a rural town, you have the option to purchase and consume food closer to home. So, instead of aiming to produce 0% rubbish, choose to live a zero waste lifestyle to lower your impact on the environment in the best way you can. Do your little bit of good for the planet with things you already own, where you are and what you have access to, rather than completely sacrificing your current lifestyle needs and health.