The American population represents just five percent of the world’s population, yet generates nearly 30 percent of the world’s garbage.
While it’s fair to say that you are only one person among millions of Americans, the reality is that positive change starts with individuals like you choosing to live zero waste lifestyles. If you’re serious about seeing positive change, it’s time to get involved.
What is the Zero Waste Lifestyle?
When first introduced to the term “zero waste” most people skeptically raise their eyebrows and say something condescending like, “It’s not possible to live a life where you create no trash.” Unfortunately, this statement would be correct. In our current society, waste is always present. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t strive towards living waste free and laying the groundwork for a future society where it is possible.
“Zero Waste is a 21st century movement that aims to shift our economic system from a linear economy (our current global system) to a circular economy,” Jane and Simple blog explains. “It guide[s] people in changing their lifestyles and practices to emulate sustainable natural cycles, where all discarded materials are designed to become resources for others to use.”
4 Tips for Living a Zero Waste Lifestyle
Wanting to live a zero waste lifestyle and actually doing it are two very different things. Here are some tips to help you actually start putting your desires into action:
1. Stop Using Disposable Items
One of the most inefficient and wasteful things you can do is purchase disposable items. While they’re convenient, there’s almost always a better alternative. For example:
- Replace paper towels with reusable rags
- Bring your own shopping bags to the store
- Use earth-friendly sponges for cleaning
- Use glass jars instead of plastic food containers
2. Recycle Everything
Most people know that things like plastic, paper, and glass are recyclable, but the larger or more unique an item, the less likely it is that consumers know it can be recycled.
Before throwing anything away, be sure you research the best possible form of disposal. For example, did you know that old junk cars can be recycled, rather than just tossed into a field? You can also get a pretty sweet return on the metal and parts.
“Junkyards tend to determine this amount by assessing the weight of your junk car and then multiplying that by the current price per ton of scrap metal,” Rusty’s Auto Salvage explains. “They may be able to remove certain functional parts and scrap them individually, too. If this is possible, then that could add to the value of your vehicle.”
You might not have a car that needs to be junked, but the point is that you can recycle just about anything. Think carefully about what you’re tossing.
3. Compost Food
You should never throw food away. If you aren’t going to eat something, it should be composted. Live in an apartment where composting isn’t possible? Almost every major city has compost collection services or locations nearby.
4. Stop Purchasing Packaged Food
In addition to properly disposing of your food, you also need to purchase food the right way. Stop buying packaged food, because most of it isn’t recyclable. In addition to buying in bulk – which cuts down on packaging – you should be strategic with how you shop.
“I bring my own bags to the store and fill them up with grains, nuts, or legumes from the bulk bins. I also shop at the farmer’s market, where most venders sell their fruit in compostable cartons, not plastic,” zero waste advocate Katherine Ripley says. “Finally, I make as much as my food from scratch as possible.”
Do Your Part
It’s easy to get overwhelmed with the idea of living a zero waste lifestyle. You read blogs from people who seem to be doing all the right things, while you’re still struggling to get the basics down. But remember that zero waste isn’t an all or nothing responsibility. You have to start somewhere – so don’t get dismayed when the progress is slow. You’ll eventually start to transform your lifestyle and, with each passing month, you’ll discover that the process of reducing waste and living sustainably becomes more natural.