The Hype around Zero Waste & Tips to get you Started
If you had asked me back then what zero waste was – I probably would have answered ‘erm….it’s about living without plastic…??’ And I suppose I was partly on the right track.
So just what does ‘zero waste’ mean?
The zero waste alliance defines zero waste as ‘the conservation of all resources by means of responsible production, consumption, reuse, and recovery of products, packaging, and materials without burning and with no discharges to land, water, or air that threaten the environment or human health.'
In simpler terms zero waste is about living sustainably, without harming the environment or our own health. Basically, it’s about reducing the amount of waste that is sent to landfill. Now, let’s be real…is it actually possible to live 100% waste free? Unfortunately in the society we live in, it is pretty darn hard. Look at the supermarkets, the department stores, our own kitchen even. Fruit & veg is wrapped in plastic, department stores sell endless plastic kids toys and hey most of us have kitchen utensils that we bought somewhere along the way that we'll probably never use!
Now that’s out of the way, let’s consider a different viewpoint. It may not be possible to live 100% waste free (well we should never say never...right?). But if each and every one of us made the decision today to start reducing the amount of waste we create and send to landfill then we are well on our way to living a zero waste lifestyle.
So perhaps we should call it an ‘almost’ zero waste lifestyle, or living ‘nearly’ waste free. Either way, it doesn’t matter what we call it, what matters is our intention. Without the intention, or the desire we will simply continue living the way we always have. But with the intention of living a zero waste life and doing better for the environment and our oceans, we can start making changes – right now!
For our family of 4 (plus the pets), our goal is to live as waste free as possible. This means reducing the waste that goes in our curb side bin each week, that would otherwise end up in landfill.
The waste that ends up in landfill is detrimental in so many ways. It can create dangerous toxins, not to mention the leachate which is the liquid formed when waste breaks down and that can end up in our water ways, plus the methane that is released from food waste not breaking down properly…eek. If this isn’t enough to motivate change, then what is? (environment Victoria.org)
If you find the zero waste philosophy a little overwhelming, why not look at it a little differently. What are some small things you can change to help you reduce your environmental footprint and what are some things that are not negotiable. Perhaps you can easily say no to those plastic shopping bags, but you do love your zip lock plastic bags. That’s fine. Just do what works for you, take it one step at a time and slowly you will feel better about the bigger changes required.
The aha moment, and steps towards living waste free
Once we realised that we COULD reduce our weekly waste, well...things just clicked into place and it all got a little easier!
Here are some steps you can start implementing today, to help you on your zero waste journey.
RECYCLE! Now I don’t just mean throwing your juice cartons in the recycle bin. I mean really learn about what CAN go in your recycle bin and what can't. Look on your food packaging for the recycle labels. Contact your council to double check what can go in your recylcle bin. Contact schools to see if they have any recycling programs set up. Recycle your soft plastics with the REDcycle scheme. Donate old clothes/housewares to op shops. Buy recycled products to encourage a circular economy…(this is a whole other blog article).
COMPOSTING! Whaaat?? I hear you say. Surely food just breaks down like normal when it’s sent to landfill. Unfortunately when food is sent to landfill it does not break down like it should (lack of oxygen), and can produce methane (a greenhouse gas). So get a compost bin and start composting your food waste, and make a conscious effort to waste less food.
REUSE & REPURPOSE! This is one of my favourite tips for going zero waste. Firstly, it’s about buying ‘reusable’ products rather than disposable. Such as reusable coffee, food wraps and drink bottles. Secondly it’s about reusing and repurposing household items instead of throwing them away (I possibly have waaay too many condiment jars stored in our cubboard for reuse…). Reuse jam/condiment jars for pots/bulk food storage. Reuse old cloths as rags and cleaning cloths. Repurposing does require some level of creativity, look to Pinterest for inspiration. But I’ve seen old cd’s used as coasters and old knives used as hooks, egg cartons used to plant seedlings…to name a few.
RETHINK! Now this is a big one, as it requires a change in your thought patterns, daily habits and well…lifestyle. You really do have to rethink your purchases, and what you can change. Rethink how you have been doing things so far, and how you can now change things in the future. Such as – do I need to buy that packaged food or should I just make it? Do I need that plastic water bottle, or am I better of buying a reusable one?
These ideas are the basics for getting you started on your zero waste journey. Sure, this is just the tip of the iceberg. We could look further into how the products are manufactured, what are the processes involved, who is involved, and what is their ‘carbon footprint’. But…well that’s a topic for another day!
We’re in this together and no one’s perfect
We are each on our own journey. Even a few months ago when I went shopping for bed sheets I thought I was buying 100% cotton sheets, only to get home to find I’d bought sheets that were part cotton and part polyester (eeeek….i’d only recently learned of the detrimental effects of polyester). I argued with myself over this one for awhile – ‘Should I take them back?, hmm…they were a good price, but they are plastic and ruining our oceans, I don’t really have time to return them'. Needless to say I kept the sheets but decided to be more careful about my purchasing decisions in the future.
Some weeks we do better than others. But by educating ourselves and by making conscious purchasing decisions we HAVE been able to make some positive changes, and you can too, we all can!
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