Zero Waste – Guide to Living This Sustainable Lifestyle

Zero waste is a sustainability movement that aims to decrease consumption and increase recycling.  Through eliminating single-use objects like plastic and reusing products, practicing a zero waste lifestyle can improve the life of our planet.  Ready to learn more?

Reducing consumption, maximizing recycling, and minimizing waste are goals of the zero waste sustainability movement.  If we produce more responsibly, conserve resources, and minimize or eliminate waste we can contribute to decreasing our impact on the environment.

Have you ever wondered what you can do to help minimize pollution?  Did you know that you can help decrease greenhouse gases through small, daily actions?

What Is Zero Waste?

Zero Waste is a sustainability movement that is all about maximizing recycling, reducing consumption, and minimizing waste.  It is a concept that focuses on minimizing waste, considering consumption habits, and recognizing what can be eliminated. Zero waste can involve simply buying and consuming less to produce less waste, or it can include recycling and upcycling items that are no longer wanted or needed. One person’s trash is another’s treasure! Living a lifestyle that embraces zero waste can help declutter your life and the environment.

There are several ways of defining zero waste:

  • Conservation of resources through responsible production and consumption, reusing products and recovering materials and packaging without threatening human health or the environment.
  • Elimination of discharges of waste and materials to air, water, and land.
  • Reduction of solid waste to nothing or close to nothing

Benefits of Working Towards a Zero Waste Life

When we make the decision to work towards a zero waste lifestyle, we can make huge impacts not just in our own lives but in the health of our planet!  When we minimize our waste, we lessen the impact of landfills which we all know contributes to greenhouse gases and global warming!  Let’s look at some more benefits we create with a zero waste life:

  • Conservation of resources
  • Minimizing pollution
  • Community building
  • Conservation of energy
  • Creation of new jobs
  • Saves money
  • Improved economy
  • Healthier lives and wildlife

These all sound like wonderful advantages that would benefit everyone, but can we do this?  Is zero waste even possible?  Let’s discuss.

Glass bottles - Zero Waste - Gone Minimal
Glass bottles

Is a Zero Waste Life Possible?

First of all, zero waste doesn’t necessarily mean no waste whatsoever.  It’s about reduction of waste through consumption changes, recycling, and reusing.  Consider all of the single-use items we use every day-do we really need these things?  Or are they just a convenience?  These as well as the packaging materials included in our online orders, plastic products, even the food scraps we throw in the trash every day add to the waste we create every day of our lives. 

Even some of the paper products we use to clean our homes, wipe our faces and hands, and blow our noses aren’t truly necessary.  Can we live without these things to reduce our waste and live a zero waste lifestyle?  Absolutely!  Let’s take a look at how we can do this.

How to Start Living a Zero Waste Lifestyle

Think about all of the products and resources you use every day.  Are there any you can do without?  Let’s start with some easy ones:

Stop environmental pollution - Zero Waste - Gone Minimal
Stop environmental pollution

1.     Paper Products: Have you thought about the paper napkins you use at every meal?  What happens when you’re done using them?  You throw them away!  The way I see it, that’s money going in the trash.  Consider buying some cloth napkins in cotton fabric and even colors and patterns.  These can be washed and reused over and over!  Same with facial tissues-using a cloth hanky in their place will eliminate that waste as well.

2.     Food Scraps: Do you cook at home with fresh ingredients like produce?  Then you probably have food scraps, which you would throw away or put down the disposal.  Why not compost instead?  If you create a compost pile or bin, you reduce that waste and even have fertilizer for your yard and gardens!

3.     Single-Use Plastics: When you go to fast food joints, do you take the plastic utensils?  Don’t!  Use your own silverware rather than these-or recycle them.  Same with plastic straws-don’t use them and sip from the cup or use a reusable straw made from metal or compostable materials (yes, compostable straws are a thing now!). 

4.     Plastic Bags: These bags you use by instinct at the grocery store are not recyclable in most places.  They may be convenient, but they are one of the worst things for our planet.  Invest in some reusable grocery bags that can accommodate more grocery items and are much friendlier to our environment!

5.     Packaging Materials: You know every time you order a product online they’re going to put it in a box that’s too big and surround it with air pockets or paper wrapping to stabilize the product, right?  Most of the time these materials are recyclable, which means less waste.  But consider going to the store yourself to purchase these products if possible-then you won’t have to deal with excess packaging materials!

There are many other things you can do to reduce your consumption, but does this sound feasible to you so far?  It can be a big lifestyle change, especially if you’ve been consuming products for many, many years.  Why not start with a single day?

Here is a helpful video with methods to approach a low-waste style of living:

Plan to Go Zero Waste for a Day

As with any lifestyle change, start small to make it feel less overwhelming.  Begin with a no plastic straws or no paper napkins day.  Then start using a reusable drinking bottle rather than plastic single-serve water bottles. 

When you’re ready, move on to finding other purposes for your eggshells, banana peels, and even coffee grounds like a compost pile or your vegetable garden for fertilizer.  Keep making changes every day or every other day that you can make without totally disrupting your life-this can help you in being successful in your lifestyle change!

Examples of Real People Working Towards Zero Waste

I asked 5 family/friends what top 3 common everyday things they can think to reuse or find some other way to prevent it from going to a landfill. Here is what they shared and what I learned:

Everyday ItemTally of Family/Friends
Paper feminine products2
Paper napkins4
Newspapers and magazines3
Plastic bags6
Food by-products (eggshells, coffee grounds, etc.)4
Junk mail, advertisements5
Paper cups and plates2
Anything Styrofoam1
Coffee filters, pods3
Packing materials1
Egg cartons3

Other Resources:

Going zero waste is not impossible to achieve-but it does take some careful planning and strategizing.  If you can identify the single-use, excess, and unnecessary items you use day in and day out, you will be able to alter product consumption and even save some money!

With a little recycling and reusing you’ll save time by not collecting waste for trash pickup day.  Imagine what could be possible if we got everyone involved in trying it!  In the long run, it’s beneficial not only to our pocketbooks, but to planet Earth!

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