If you have heard of the term “zero waste” but are not entirely sure what it means, then you have come to the right place. Climate change is the biggest threat to the environment today, so it is time to take action and do what we can to save our planet. Keep reading to find out the answer to the all-important question, what does it mean to be zero waste and also how you can improve your ecological footprint.
What does it mean to be zero waste? Here’s everything you need to know!
The new movement of zero waste is rapidly gaining momentum for its aim to totally redefine the system. In our current linear economy, we take resources from the earth just to dispose of them in a giant hole in the ground when they are no longer of use to us. The ultimate purpose of zero waste is to steer clear of our linear economy and adopt a circular one, where rubbish becomes non-existent, and instead of disregarding resources, we create an entirely new system where all resources can be resumed fully back into the system. This innovative concept could help us reverse some of the damage we have done over the years and give our planet a better, more sustainable future.
It cannot be denied that we are facing a huge environmental crisis, and it will continue to spiral out of control unless we take action now. To put the problem into perspective, take a look at this year’s Earth Overshoot Day. By July 29th 2019, humanity’s resource consumption for the year will exceed the Earth’s capacity to regenerate those resources. The overshoot day is continuously coming earlier and earlier each year, proving that our consumption rates and growing population is causing detrimental, long term problems for our planet. It is for this reason that campaigns such as #MoveTheDate and Zero Waste are becoming more prominent in society today.
Our reliance on landfills to dispose of our unwanted resources highlights the fact that we are living in a flawed system. The purpose of a landfill is to bury our waste in a way which will be isolated from groundwater, kept dry and not come into contact with the air. These conditions mean our rubbish is unable to decompose and instead remains in the ground for hundreds of years. An extension of the zero waste movement is referred to as zero waste to landfill. Zero waste to landfill promotes the idea of streaming waste and diverting the unwanted materials to other uses. For example, glass will go to be re-melted, plastic can be reused to make new packaging, and food waste can be used for composting. Eradicating our need for landfills is an excellent way to improve our resource consumption but is also fairly economical. Landfill tax rates are continuing to rise, meaning general waste disposal costs are rising year on year. If we all make a conscious effort to minimise how much waste goes to landfills, the money which is saved can be invested and used to support environmental charities such as Natural Resources Defense Council, Rainforest Alliance and Marine Conservation Institute.
In order to be zero waste, it is likely you will need to make a few lifestyle changes. Obviously, some are easier than others, so we recommend starting off with the easy changes and progressing from there. Aside from the obvious eco-friendly initiatives, such as opting to have your home electricity powered by renewable energy, there are many other ways you can promote a zero waste lifestyle from the comfort of your home. We have compiled a list of zero waste swaps, ranging from easy to hard, which you can utilise at home, so you actively do your bit for the planet.
- Bring reusable bags when you go shopping
- Use handkerchiefs as opposed to tissues
- Opt for food in recyclable packaging whenever possible
- Use solid shampoos and soaps
- Make or buy reusable face wipes, kitchen cloths and wet wipes
- Compost your vegetable scraps
- Change your bills and bank statements to paperless
- Buy groceries lose when possible
- Buy secondhand or high quality ethically produced clothing
- Buy loose leaf tea and coffee from beans
- Grow herbs and vegetables
- Reduce or remove meat and dairy from your diet
- Pickle, ferment or freeze any surplus food
- Use public transport
- Buy as much food as possible from local, seasonal producers
As we all spend a lot of time at school or our workplace, it makes sense to incorporate zero waste strategies while we are there. In fact, organisations like the Earth Restoration Service focus on educating and inspiring young people to make a difference to the local ecosystem through reflowering and reforestation. Their collaboration and work with school across the country has not only increased awareness of the current environmental crisis with 50,000 children and their local communities but has led to the planting of over 60,000 new trees. For ways which you can help save the planet and work towards being zero waste at school or work, try the following:
- File digitally as much as possible
- Set printers default to double-sided printing
- Recycle as many materials as possible
- Bring lunch in a reusable lunch box
- Create a scratch paper bin and encourage employees/pupils to use this before using a new piece of paper
On the go
Even when you are out and about, you should always be making an effort to live a zero waste lifestyle. You can do this on the go by using a reusable water bottle or carrying a reusable straw around with you. To make the biggest impact on the environment when you are on the go, you need to consider your form of transport. We all know how bad cars are for our ecosystem, in fact, in this article by The Guardian, it states that the UK government aim to ban the sale of petrol and diesel cars and vans (including hybrids) by 2040. Instead of using a car to get around, if the distance is short then your best option is to walk or cycle. Alternatively, for longer journeys, you should use public transport as much as possible.
Saving the planet one step at a time
The zero waste strategy is good for the economy, the environment and the community. Adapting a zero-waste lifestyle starts with small changes that make a huge difference – so, think more carefully about your waste and attempt some of our zero waste strategies mentioned above to get you started.