It sounds tempting, doesn’t it? No waste in your life. The freedom of choice – choosing to do and feel good. Well, you’re in luck because people are making it easier to live greener and set the roots for a zero waste lifestyle. Like I’ve said, I’m not here to tell you how to be, because I’m not 100% zero waste either. I AM here to enlighten you on ways to feel fulfilled and happy by choosing healthy habits. One of the ways I can do that is by education. So, what is the zero waste movement?
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I didn’t tell you yet but zero waste lifestyles aren’t quite possible unless you’re living naked on a deserted island, using the land for natural resources and food. But you’re likely living in either the country, suburbs, or city where using leaves as a cover-up isn’t accepted, and taking apples from a nearby tree is considered stealing. We have limited spaces to call our own, so let’s make the best of them.
Note: Going plastic-free is not 100% doable either, but we can get close according to the Mindful Momma blog. Learning 15 steps to green living will help get you on track.
What Causes Waste?
Well, it’s mostly the result of human action. So, yes we are the trouble-makers when it comes to waste. It’s easy to throw things away into the wrong bin or buy items out of convenience without eco-awareness (how it affects the environment after use).
Waste can be sub-categorized into municipal waste, human waste, animal waste, industrial waste, and so on. We can help control natural plant and animal waste, but an estimated 97% of waste is from industrial use, which means human-based construction (mining, factories, mills).
While this seems out of reach, consumption waste is something we can start right now. We toss our clothes, papers, and products around without thinking about where they will end up. With the rise in population comes an increase in consumption, and thus more waste.
This buildup stretches into 3 main areas.
3 Results of Waste Pollution
There are a few main causes of waste pollution. Waste 4 Change discusses 5 environmental pollutions from too much waste, which are all valid and disturbing. I summarized a few findings and prefer to categorize waste production into 3 main causes: Air, Water, and Land.
The air we breathe in is likely toxic, even just a little. It’s because of:
- Burning of fossil fuels
- Release of CO2 from wildfires
- Agricultural activities
- Indoor exhaust from products
- Radiation spills
By water, I’m referencing any waterway: the ocean, lakes, ponds, rivers, etc. Habitats and full colonies of life exist underwater and that’s something we can’t forget. Water pollution can mean:
- Plastic in the ocean
- Oil spills
- Illegal dumping of waste
- Contamination in drinking water
This is what we live on. Sure, some people live on boats in the water, but the majority of people live in houses on land and we are polluting our own living space. We enforce:
- Trash on beaches
- Oil spills
What Is the Zero Waste Movement?
So, how can we do better and what is zero waste? Out of the plethora of definitions in the works, I like the version from the Washington Zero Waste International Alliance: An ethical and efficient goal to guide others in changing their lifestyles to eliminate waste and materials and practice sustainable natural cycles. In other words, recycle and reuse everything so nothing goes into landfills.
The Pros and Cons
As with anything, there will be multiple sides and opinions. Here are a few benefits of going zero waste and a few cons that I’ve come across so far.
The Benefits of Zero Waste
- Reduced greenhouse gases – Processing waste means using energy (burning fossil fuels) which leads to the release of methane (84 times more potent than CO2) which contributes to global warming and heat diseases. This is one of our most pressing global issues at the moment and for a valid reason!
- Less pollution (air, noise, ocean, etc.) – The less waste that is produced, the less opportunity for it to end up in the ocean, muddle our sense of sound, and cloud our air. I was in Paris a while back at an overlook, surprised by the pink night sky when I realized that the color was from total illumination. By going zero waste, ideally, we’ll have more natural alternatives to energy use. This helps our planet because with less light pollution, for example, we can see the night sky and monitor it clearer for future generations.
- Conserves resources – By reducing and reusing, we are saving our natural resources from being over-used. Our earth only has so much to give; taking without giving back is a recipe for bad karma.
- Healthier habits for future generations – We want our grandchildren and their grandchildren and the rest of the family line to live a healthy life, right? Breathe in clean air, be able to run barefoot in the green forest, swim with dolphins? By going zero waste, we are setting others up for success, not just ourselves.
The Cons of Zero Waste
- Expensive – What we are doing by aiming for zero waste is switching to high-quality, eco-friendly products which can mean more moolah spent… at first. Note that reusing items is more of an investment than a frivolous purchase. So at first, it’s a little pricey, but long term you’re spending less. Remember, there are always ways to save and be savvy.
- Time-consuming – Smart decisions take thought, which takes time. You might be held up on reading ingredient lists at the grocery store (guilty) or mentally battling buying that cute dress you saw at Forever 21 (say no to fast fashion), BUT try taking a deep breath and know that lifestyle changes like this one are not going to be perfect but you’re doing your best. What is the zero waste movement? It’s a movement, not an end result.
How Do I Start the Zero Waste Movement?
You’ve already started! If someone asks, “What is the zero waste movement? Does it even matter?” You can now answer with, “It REALLY matters, so let me tell you a little somethin’ somethin’ about it!” The point is that you are educated enough to relay important information and spread the word about healthier living.
Another quick tip to start is remembering the 5 R’s:
- Rot (compost)
Reduce your carbon footprint, reuse items like grocery bags and hand-me-downs, refuse products and services that don’t cater to the environment, recycle materials and start an open closet policy with your roommates, and rot things out that should be composted instead of thrown in the trash.
5 Easy Zero Waste Swaps
Starting something new isn’t always easy, but it’s worth it in the long run. Here are 5 eco-friendly and easy swaps you can make at home or on the go with your everyday products and tools.
1. Water Bottle
2. Shampoo and Conditioner Bars
3. Dropps Detergent Pods
4. Plastic Free Food Container
5. Recycled Plastic Fast Charger
With these wonderful tips and an explanation of a topic come the actions that follow it. Keep reading The Zero Waste Series on how to live a zero waste lifestyle in the kitchen, the bathroom, and more! We are paving the path to greatness people, one step at a time! As always, thanks for reading 🙂