An introduction to reducing unnecessary rubbish and working towards a zero waste life.
Words By: Hudson Brown
Promoting a rewarding lifestyle through simplicity and mindfulness, the zero waste movement has emerged in response to the shortsighted nature of consumer culture and global environmental concerns. Rising in popularity throughout the 1990s, initially the ‘zero waste’ term carried theoretical overtones as governments sought a solution for worsening city waste and manufacturing pollution. However, in recent years the term has expanded into a broad philosophy that includes the practical changes individuals can make to reduce their impact on the environment, while also enjoying a greener, more thoughtful existence.
Despite prominent zero waste personalities squeezing several months worth of rubbish into tiny containers, for the average person looking to alter their consumption habits, there’s a variety of practical steps that almost anyone can accomplish. From composting to repurposing furniture or just understanding your buying habits, going zero waste is not nearly as formidable as it sounds.
Assess your own buying habits and discover what you can live without
Understanding how you generate waste is key to figuring out which adjustments will make the most difference within your home. For many people, the kitchen is the prime rubbish producer due to frequent shopping trips, takeout deliveries and general food waste.
“Forming relationships with your local grocers and market stallholders is the ideal way to avoid unnecessary food packaging, while there’s also the added benefit of supporting independent businesses from your immediate community.”
While some supermarkets have wisely introduced plastic-free aisles, the vast majority still contribute a significant percentage of single-use plastic found in the home. When possible, forming relationships with your local grocers and market stallholders is the ideal way to avoid unnecessary food packaging, while there’s also the added benefit of supporting independent businesses from your immediate community.
Some standard household items don’t always have elegant like-for-like alternatives, but there’s a variety of shrewd solutions include using washable fabric or beeswax wraps to enclose food, tattered clothes as paper towels and glass jars as replacements for plastic containers. You can also make use of progressive services like Who Gives A Crap, a social enterprise that delivers fully recycled toilet paper, while also using 50% of profits to build toilet infrastructure in the developing world.
Cut down the clutter in your home
For those who follow a zero waste lifestyle, the motivations are often as much about the minimalistic benefits as the environmental. Before completely committing to going zero waste, it’s the ideal time to declutter your home and give yourself the cleanest possible canvas to work around.
As you take stock of your possessions and make conscious decisions about what to forgo, before long you’ll have an enriched space that features only your most valued belongings. Meanwhile, you can give away these superfluous items to friends or charitable organisations or even repurpose the materials to create something new and useful.
Explore your neighbourhood to find the best places to recycle, upcycle and donate
Being resourceful is fundamental to following a zero waste lifestyle. And there’s no better resource than the services that already exist within your community. From specialist recyclers to furniture upcyclers and electronics refurbishers, there’s almost certainly an abundance of eco-conscious businesses, social enterprises or charitable groups that support the necessities of zero waste.
“Being resourceful is fundamental to following a zero waste lifestyle.”
Predictably, thrift stores play an important role as they replace the wasteful nature of so-called ‘fast fashion’, while also providing somewhere to ethically donate your unwanted clothing, furniture, kitchenware and even electronic goods. There’s also a wealth of online services that provide important information and support. One such example is ShareWaste, an online map of publically available composting facilities. Catering to people who aren’t able to compost in their own homes, ShareWaste presents those who have their own equipment the opportunity to nominate themselves and compost food waste from across their community.
Learn how to say ‘No’
When our living spaces become overrun with junk, it’s largely because of our inability to reject things we don’t actually need. Learning how to say no might sound simple, but it’s imperative when it comes to living out the ideals behind zero waste. Keep in mind, whether it’s junk mail, free handouts or some other impulse purchase, one way or another almost everything you consume ends up in landfill eventually. While it can feel restrictive at first, soon you’ll find your home clear of clutter and providing a space for the more important things in life.
“Learning how to say no might sound simple, but it’s imperative when it comes to living out the ideals behind zero waste.”
While it’s easy to assume going zero waste requires a monumental shift in your lifestyle, in reality it’s about taking small and productive steps. The motivations for doing so might range from the environmental to the minimalistic or financial, but what’s certain is that the philosophy behind zero waste fosters a greater appreciation for your possessions, while also helping you reduce your impact on the wider world. And with continued uncertainty around climate change policy, going zero waste is a meaningful way individuals can shape a cultural shift that’s greatly needed.