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When talking about the zero waste movement, many questions arise, and it’s almost impossible not to wonder –
Does zero waste make a difference? To shortly answer this question:
Yes – zero waste can make a difference.
It is a radical action to avoid such ordinary, everyday things as plastic packaging and single-use plastics. The zero waste movement breaks the unsustainable and wasteful production/consumption cycle. It is focusing on high-quality, long-lasting ethical products.
Depending on different factors, zero waste can be very intimidating to start and even impossible to achieve. But this shouldn’t stop you from trying to live more sustainably.
Now, let’s observe some commonly asked questions about zero waste, including:
- The zero waste movement – what is it?
- Does zero waste make a difference?
- 4 zero waste lifestyle tips for beginners
– Why zero waste is bad? (negative aspects)
– Why zero waste is important?
– What are some other ideas for living a sustainable lifestyle (which doesn’t include zero waste)?
– Does zero waste mean no recycling?
– How to be zero waste without a bulk shop?
The zero waste movement – what is it?
The goal of zero waste is to produce as little trash as possible.
The zero waste movement contains a set of beliefs: Rethink, Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Repair, Compost, and Recycle.
The best way to achieve it is through:
- Rethinking what we need and the way we buy
- Refusing and saying NO to things we don’t need
- Reducing the things we use and focusing on long-lasting products
- Reusing what we have
- Repairing what we can, instead of throwing things away
- Recreating & DIY things whenever possible
- Composting our food waste
- Recycling as little as possible (more about that later)
Does zero waste make a difference?
People who are adopting the zero waste lifestyle live with the everyday intention of not wasting or misusing resources.
Instead of that, they use and rely on high-quality, long-lasting, ethical, local, package-free, or compostable products.
The zero waste movement strives to reduce and eliminate a significant portion of waste production through conscious consumerism.
While it’s challenging to go zero waste in an imperfect world, that doesn’t mean we can’t make a positive impact.
Ultimately, it’s not about perfection; it is about trying YOUR best, improving, and getting better along the way.
Small things done by millions of people around the world can make a positive change and the opposite.
When people make an effort to avoid single-use products, this will pile up. If we all believe that our choices can have a good/bad impact, we can change things for the better.
4 zero waste lifestyle tips for beginners:
1. Do not overthink and do not aim for perfection
If you choose to live a more zero waste lifestyle, don’t overthink, and don’t stop yourself because you won’t be “perfect.”
Do it if you want to: use fewer resources from our precious planet, lower your waste, be a conscious consumer & save money.
Think about the pre and post-life of the products you buy. Try to avoid the things that will end up as a waste in the end, and look for alternatives.
2. Do not feel guilty
It can be challenging to not feel guilty if you buy things in plastic, especially in the beginning, but don’t be harsh to yourself.
Try to find the thing you need package-free. If you can’t, take the best option you see (even if it contains packaging or plastic).
Don’t forget that the point is to do what it’s accessible and available to you.
3. Try the 80-20 rule:
The point is to try to buy 80% of your groceries (and other things) plastic-free and package-free.
Then, the last 20% can contain packaging and some plastic. It just gives you this mental peace that you are ALMOST zero waste, which is still pretty good.
In the beginning, it can be even 70-30 (70% package-free and 30% with packaging). Just start, and you will slowly become better and better.
4. Don’t compare your journey with others
We all have different needs, resources, and options. Maybe you are on a vegan diet, and you certainly need a B12 supplement that comes in (possibly plastic) packaging.
Or you need particular medications (in packaging) that are important for your health. Or perhaps, you live in a smaller city, with no access to bulk stores, so you need to buy packaged grains or other legumes.
Try to find the best available option + consider reusing some of the packaging. The most important thing is that you are trying your best to live a more sustainable & low-waste life.
Why zero waste is bad?
Zero waste has negative aspects, as with every other thing. Some of the “bad” things about zero waste are:
- Focusing just on the physical trash is good, but there is more to it. The reality is that waste comes in many forms. For example, your energy consumption generated greenhouse gasses from traveling or your food choices, etc. Focusing on merely buying things without plastic isn’t always the most important thing.
- Furthermore, many people critique the “zero” in zero waste. We can’t be genuinely 100% zero waste, as we figured that we need always to consider other “waste” streams and the energy we use. So, the term can be a bit misleading, which can be a negative aspect.
- Zero waste can be more expensive and definitely more time-consuming. Often, you will spend more time searching for plastic-free products, DIY-ing things, etc.
To find more disadvantages and tips on how to tackle the “bad” side of zero waste, read this article.
Why zero waste is important?
Zero waste movement is important because it promotes values that are beneficial and good for our planet.
It is essential because it doesn’t matter how perfect someone is.
In the world we live in, being completely zero waste is hardly possible. And that’s okay. The goal is to do anything we can, live more sustainably, and be kinder to our planet.
Slow and gradual change will positively impact our environment, even if we are not perfect.
To learn more about that, find 16 surprising benefits of going zero waste.
Are there other ways to live a sustainable life (which doesn’t include being zero waste)?
To live more sustainably means leaving fewer carbon emissions. This doesn’t always have to include ditching packaging or plastic.
There are other great ways of lowering your carbon emissions or/and reducing the amount of waste you create. Some ideas include:
- Contact companies/stores: Write them an email and let them know that you love their product, but you are trying to lower your waste. Ask them if they plan to switch their packaging to a more sustainable one.
- Shop secondhand: Fast fashion is having a substantial negative impact on our planet. Consider shopping secondhand.
- Ask for less package: When you are ordering something, send an email asking them to avoid plastic/extra packaging.
- Pick-up trash: Organize a local garbage pick-up or do it with a few of your friends in an area that needs a bit of cleaning!
- Consider flying less: If possible, think first of other ways of traveling, such as a bus or a train.
- Try to lower animal products consumption: Animal agriculture leaves one of the most significant impacts on our planet. Find more about the benefits of reducing meat consumption, and why you should try to look at and incorporate plant-based alternatives.
For more ideas, check this article.
Does zero waste mean no recycling?
Zero waste doesn’t exclude recycling. However, it is essential to remember that recycling comes AFTER waste prevention – it is the last resort for living a zero waste lifestyle.
The idea behind this is to lower the waste you create, taking into different consideration factors in your individual life.
Don’t forget that the idea is to pursue the goal of “zero” trash, but that will always depend on your options.
For example, if you don’t have a bulk store, and your only option is to buy canned beans, that’s perfectly fine. Just find the best option you have, and then recycle the packaging.
How to be zero waste without a bulk shop?
Unfortunately, the majority of products we want or need in our everyday life are sold in packaging.
Sometimes, it can be a hustle to get it package-free, especially if you don’t have a bulk shop nearby. In that case, there are still some things you can do.
- Always choose loose. You probably have bigger supermarkets, where they offer loose veggies. Get reusable produce bags, and buy your fruits and vegetables from there.
- Get reusables, if you can. This includes a reusable water bottle + container, a bag, utensils, maybe a coffee mug or a metal straw, etc.
- Farmers market. Most cities have a market, at least once or twice per week. That’s an excellent opportunity to get fresh, local produce.
- Find the best available option. Try to find the things you need in more sustainable packaging, such as glass, aluminum, or recycled paper. (reuse + upcycle the containers if you can)
- Look for places with a small bulk section. I was walking through a big supermarket in a regular shop, and I was happy to see a small, bulk section with different nuts and legumes. (see the picture below!) You don’t need to find an exclusive bulk shop with a massive range of products. Try to see if there is a conventional supermarket close to you, with a small bulk section.
Zero waste is a fantastic movement, and even though it has bad sides:
- Zero waste CAN make a difference.
- The positive aspects outweigh the negative ones.
- There are different ways to live more sustainably that don’t involve excluding plastic altogether.
- You shouldn’t aim for perfection, and you should focus on doing what’s available to you.
- Also, do not compare your journey to others, and simply focus on your personal actions.
I would love to hear your thoughts on all of this. Do you think zero waste makes a difference? Feel free to leave a comment below, and let me know what you think!