What is Zero Waste? (It’s Not Just About What You Throw Away)
Truth be told, when we started on our zero waste journey, we had no idea what it entailed. But what we did know was that we wanted to explore and dive into new ways of living more sustainably. We quickly learned that living a true zero waste lifestyle is not just about what you throw away – it really is a way of life and a change in how we think about and approach things in our everyday lives.
We all need to be more mindful of what we do with items that reach the end of their useful lives. But real zero waste is about more than just end of life. When trying to live a more sustainable, eco-friendly lifestyle, it is important to remember that zero waste begins with what you buy and bring into your home.
In order to live more sustainably and move closer to a zero waste way of life, we need to think holistically. We need to look closely at each and every item that comes into our homes – from the very first stages of its lifecycle, to the very end. We’ve started to look at what items are packaged in and what they’re made of.
Why buy a plastic bottle if it comes in an aluminum can that’s much more recyclable? Why use paper towels when an old rag upcycled from an old shirt will do? Why buy that new item when you can find a used one in great condition for cheaper?
We need to think about how we can refuse to buy anything that causes waste of any kind, at any stage. For example, we might reject items that involve wasting energy, water, land and resources – such as textile fibers or food crops that are not grown in a sustainable way. As well as, of course, rejecting single use plastics and other materials that pose a waste problem at the end of their useful lives.
Another key thing to consider is that a zero waste lifestyle involves reducing overall consumption as much as possible. We all need to think about how we can buy less and buy better to reduce all forms of waste, and move to a circular economy (at the moment only 8.6% of the world is in a circular economy), where there is no such thing as waste, and excess always returns to the system. This was an important lesson for us to learn as we began our journey toward reducing our carbon footprint, our energy footprint and our consumption of things we didn’t need.
Where did Zero Waste Originate?
Zero waste is a concept that has gained popularity in recent years, but its origins can be traced back to the 1970s. At that time, the world was facing a growing waste crisis, with landfills overflowing and incinerators causing pollution.
In response to this crisis, a group of environmentalists, led by Bea Johnson, launched the zero waste movement. Their goal was to create a world where waste was eliminated entirely, by reducing, reusing, and recycling materials to keep them in the economy and out of the environment.
The movement gained traction in the 1990s when the term “zero waste” was coined by Paul Palmer, a waste reduction consultant. He believed that the goal of waste management should not be to dispose of waste but to eliminate it entirely.
Since then, the zero waste movement has continued to grow, with individuals, businesses, and governments adopting its principles. The principles include reducing waste generation, promoting reuse and repair, composting, and recycling.
The zero waste lifestyle has become increasingly popular in recent years, with people adopting a more conscious and sustainable approach to consumption. Many are choosing to live waste-free by carrying reusable water bottles, using cloth bags instead of plastic ones, and opting for products with minimal packaging.
The zero waste movement has also influenced businesses to adopt more sustainable practices. Companies are redesigning their products and packaging to be more environmentally friendly, reducing their carbon footprint, and implementing circular economy models.