In the past year, I’ve become interested in the idea of a zero waste life. To be honest, I’d never even considered it before. I was recycling, (sometimes) composting, and using tupperware over Ziplocs. I bought in bulk and did my best to buy only what I needed, though my best wasn’t that great. Either way, I was feeling pretty good. Then, sometime last summer I listened to this podcast interview with Bea Johnson of Zero Waste Home and my world was rocked a little bit.
Suddenly, I realized, I was doing very little. Generally, I am not what one would consider “granola”, for lack of better terminology. I’m not an environmental activist by any means, but I do care about the earth. The number of acres covered in garbage is astounding and we are all guilty of contributing to that. I won’t claim to know the stats and numbers, but I’ve heard them all and it was enough to convince me to do more.
Recently, I read Erin Boyle’s zero waste resolutions, and was reminded of that podcast, and how much garbage I’m contributing to this planet. It prompted me to think about my own contributions and evaluate how I could do better.
So, what is a zero waste life? It’s pretty straight forward: create as little waste as possible. Johnson claims to only fill a liter jar of trash each year. That’s impressive.
The benefits of a zero waste life*
- Less garbage going to the landfills
- Healthier eating, as packaged foods are generally less healthy than bulk or farmers market options
- Live a life not based on consumerism
- Inspiring others to treat our planet better
How to start a zero waste life
Zero waste is absolutely not something we can achieve overnight. It comes in baby steps over a long period of time. I’d guess that it would take the average person several years to achieve zero waste, or something close to it. However, once you start, you’ll start to notice more areas of your life that could use some pruning, then some more, and then some more. It’s the domino effect, so a little will lead to more, you’ve just got to start with a little momentum. Here’s a few baby steps you can take to start your zero-waste journey, if you’d like:
- Start saying “no” to junk coming through the door. Turn down the free pens and lip balms and flyers. Simply leave them behind.
- Cancel all junk mail. Spend a week or two looking at the mail that comes in and immediately hop on the computer to switch to paperless billing, or call the number to cancel those coupons that show up. Use a service like Catalog Choice to stop the junk mail in its tracks.
- Purchase good quality, reusable containers and stop buying Ziplocs, plastic wrap and aluminum foil.
- Swap out paper towels for reusable rags.
- Buy as much food in bulk as possible, and reuse the containers.
- Bring your own thermos to the coffee shop, and carry a reusable water bottle.
- Say no to paper plates, plastic cups and other disposable household goods. (Do you camp? Find sturdy reusables to bring on your trips instead of disposables.)
These are just a few ways you can get started on a zero waste life. I honestly haven’t done enough, and have a long way to go. Personally, my end goal isn’t zero waste. My goal is to minimize waste wherever possible. With busy lives as well as two pets, zero waste just isn’t completely plausible. Little by little I’m making swaps, certainly not all at once. I believe this is a choice that should not be made lightly, and should be well thought out. By doing one small thing at a time, and seeing the benefits of it, you’ll be more motivated to making more changes.
Is a zero waste life something you’d try? A few resources for the curious:
– The Lively Show podcast interview with Bea Johnson of Zero Waste Home
*some of the items on list list were adapted from this post on Zero Waste Home