What’s inside this article: If you’re interested in adopting a zero-waste or low-waste lifestyle, but don’t know where to start, these seven tips can help you on to the path to success.
The increasing production of waste is becoming one of the most dangerous environmental issues faced by the world.
Can you believe an average American produces 1,704 pounds of trash every year? Most of which is sent to landfill. However, due to the nature of landfills, this waste takes much longer to decompose than it would in optimum conditions – and we’re quickly running out of landfill space.
However, the number of items we use and throw away has other implications besides filling up the landfills.
- The production of new items is very resource-intensive, meaning it costs a lot of water, energy, and/or land.
- When an item is sent to a landfill prematurely (which it often is), these resources are at least partially wasted.
- The production cycle also involves the release of greenhouse gasses
Making the decision to go zero-waste (or low waste) can offset these environmental damages and help you reduce your carbon footprint.
The good news is that we can all play a part in solving the problem by reducing our personal waste production.
The zero-waste movement is one (of several) keys to a future without the need for landfills. Plus, even if you don’t plan on adopting a completely zero waste lifestyle, there’s a lot we can all learn from this lifestyle.
Here are seven tips that can help you get started.
1. Learn your materials
Various types of materials have different environmental impacts – learn to recognize them and avoid the most wasteful ones.
Plastic is easily the most environmentally damaging of the common materials used for product manufacturing and packaging but, remember that other materials have an impact on the environment too.
As a first step, get in the habit of choosing paper, glass, or metal over plastic.
2. Be wary of packaging
Whenever possible, try purchasing products without any packaging – from produce to cosmetics.
While you hopefully shouldn’t have too much trouble accessing package-free produce in your local store, it may be more challenging to get hold of other package-free foods or household products
Search online for plastic-free, low waste, or zero waste stores in your area and see what they have in stock – you may be surprised by the variety of packaging-free options.
3. Identify eco-friendly and not-so-eco-friendly products
Get in the habit of researching information about a company and its products before you buy from them.
As more of us are looking for eco-friendly products, some companies aren’t being completely honest about their environmental impact. One of the best ways to find out if a product is genuinely eco-friendly is through third-party websites.
Sustainability labels, such as Rainforest Alliance, Fairtrade, or FSC, are another great way to indicate a product’s sustainability. However, be wary of fake labels and always look up any certifications you don’t know to check if they’re genuine.
4. Don’t waste what you already have
When you’re striving towards a zero-waste home, it’s common to feel like you need to get rid of all unsustainable items you own.
However, this actually does more damage than good. Of course, if we’re speaking of high energy consumption lightbulbs or inefficient electronics, you might be better of replacing them, but most common household products should be reused and reused until they fall apart.
These products already exist – resources were already spent to make them – so don’t send them to a landfill if they still have some use in them.
5. Find reusable alternatives
We all have products we use on a regular basis – some of them may be single-use, such as paper towels, cotton balls, straws, and menstrual products. The good news is that almost any single-use product now has a reusable alternative.
Look up which reusable options you have available and give them a try. If you don’t find something you love at first, don’t give up. Try searching for other alternatives.
6. Start composting
A lot of the waste we throw away could be composted. As mentioned before, waste sent to landfill doesn’t decompose well. Because of that, it not only sits around for a long time – it also produces methane, a greenhouse that’s 84x more potent in the short run than CO2.
Composting can be picked up by any zero waste home – you no longer need a garden to do it.
If you live in an apartment, a worm bin might be just the solution for you. Alternatively, you can also join a nearby community garden to use their compost.
7. Recycle correctly
Some materials have great recycling potential and some… not so much. Both glass and metals such as aluminum can be recycled indefinitely, which makes them a suitable solution for a low waste or zero waste home.
Paper and plastic can only be recycled a limited number of times. While for paper, composting is also an option, plastic, on the other hand, ends up filling up our landfills, as it’s usually only recycled once. Additionally, only some plastics can be recycled.
Did you know that every bit of plastic ever made is still on the earth today?
This makes recycling a good solution for some materials, but it also explains why it’s better to simply avoid products containing others.