What is Zero Waste?

You may have seen a lot of articles out there titled something like, “5 ways to make your bathroom zero waste.” If you’re not familiar with that term however, you may be confused as to what people are talking about.

Without more context, zero waste sounds like a bathroom you never poop in, but it’s actually a way of life that was normal just a century or two ago. The goal of a zero waste lifestyle is to eliminate as much waste as possible from your life, business, or country–depending on who is working on waste reduction.

Does “Zero Waste” mean zero waste?

No. The goal is, of course, to get as close to zero waste as possible, but our throw-away society makes that virtually impossible. You can strip your diet down to only what you can find in bulk bins, walk everywhere you go, and only wear natural fibers, but even then you’re likely to struggle to find a bra with no plastic parts or prescription medications outside of packaging.

Instead, “Zero Waste” is the common term for going low waste, or trying to figure out how to repurpose or eliminate as much waste from your life as possible.

For many of us, the zero waste lifestyle is something we are priced out of to a great extent. The only zero waste bra out there costs $90aud, and farmer’s market produce, often the only kind you can find without stickers, usually commands a higher price than the grocery store.

Even if you’re only making a single small change however, it still benefits the environment. Whether that’s making vegetable broth out of your food scraps and eating your leftovers instead of throwing it away, it’s a step towards zero waste. That’s what matters.

How to get started

If you want to start cutting down on what you throw away, your first step should be to take a look inside your trash can. Once you’ve filled your trash can, take a look at what’s in there. What have you thrown away?

If you see a lot of potato peels and apple cores in your trash can, a compost bin can convert it from ‘trash’ into a useful fertilizer for your garden. If your biggest culprit is paper towels, switching to rags can go a long way to reducing waste.

Thanks to the ever growing trend toward green living, there are more products out there that can replace single use products we normally consume. Menstrual cups instead of tampons, reusable keurig cups instead of plastic ones, reusable produce bags instead of single use plastic ones.

These are all great examples of what is out there, but you don’t always need them to cut out waste. It can be as simple as buying a second hand coat instead of a new one, or mending what you already have instead of throwing it out.

Zero waste isn’t just for consumers

Customers have had much of the responsibility of waste dumped on them, but the struggle is systemic. Businesses that may want to switch to more environmentally friendly alternatives often struggle to source affordable options.

In order for zero waste to be easier on consumers, businesses, and countries as a whole, everyone needs to work together to make that happen. Every baby step helps, no matter who you are, or what you do.

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