You’re probably an avid recycler but are you doing it efficiently and is it enough? There are a whole host of households going the extra mile and striving to live a ‘zero waste’ lifestyle. This goes above and beyond what most of us have come to know as living economically.
Zero to Hero – What Is Zero Waste?
The concept of zero waste is encouraging people like you and I to turn away from ‘single use’ items and packaging. Instead, we should embrace reusable items. This ranges from buying second-hand clothing to reusable water bottles and bamboo toothbrushes.
The general aim being that you don’t send any waste to landfill. Most zero waste experts will tell you that it’s not exactly zero waste. For some it’s just enough to fill a mason jar at the end of the year. Check out #zerowaste on Instagram to be amazed at how little rubbish some people generate in a year!
Gina from Gypsy Soul says “for me personally, it’s a way of keeping my personal consumption in check. Now I think before I buy anything. Do I really need it and how can it be disposed of if I no longer need it?”
Making small changes in our daily lives will change the way we waste. Kate Arnell from popular blog Eco Boost says it’s all in the simple swaps and daily actions.
I have found that refusing things I no longer need, reducing what I do need and reusing wherever possible, not only saves money but also means I can dramatically reduce the amount of waste I produce. Recycling should be a last option, not an answer.
No Time to Waste – Why Is a Zero Waste Lifestyle so Important?
So why is recycling not enough? Since researching for this article I actually found that 70% of the plastics I was putting into my recycling weren’t actually recyclable. OK this is an oversight on my part. But if I mistakenly thought I was doing my bit for the environment, how many others are doing this too?
When we asked why the ladies had decided to cut back on the waste they were creating, they both agreed it was a gradual process. Kate read an article about Bea Johnson, author of Zero Waste Home which had a real impact on her. So when she found the book in her local charity shop she couldn’t ignore it. “I read it and decided then and there to start transitioning to a zero waste lifestyle. It felt empowering and satisfying to know that I didn’t have to contribute to our waste problem any more.”
Gina started taking an interest in environmental issues at University. “It’s only in the last four years that we have tried to embrace a zero waste lifestyle. I was starting to get really stressed about the amount of waste we were producing as a household.”
I have to admit I agree. The amount of waste we attempt to recycle in our house each week is phenomenal. My research has shed light on how much we thought we were helping, when in fact we are contributing quite a lot to the waste problem.
Don’t Be Such a Waster – How Can We Start Implementing Changes?
Both ladies stated that it was never going to be an immediate change, they have both had their struggles. “Going zero waste is definitely a journey and not a destination,” says Gina. “It takes time to research alternatives, find suppliers and form new habits. It’s certainly not something that can be achieved overnight.”
We asked Kate for tips to make a start. “I started out finding reusable alternatives for our disposables. But I would say the best thing you can start doing is getting into some new habits. These can include saying no to freebies and refusing straws when ordering a drink. And always remembering to bring some reusable containers when you go grocery shopping.”
Be Kind to Yourself and Embrace the Inevitable Challenges
Like any new change, living zero waste is not without its challenges. Gina has come up against some location issues. “[The UK] is not designed to help anyone trying to live a more sustainable lifestyle. Plastic packaging is everywhere. It can be really hard to find companies that provide goods without packaging.”
Starting out on a zero waste journey feels a little overwhelming and Kate says she faced this along the way. “Sometimes I feel overwhelmed at just how much plastic has worked its way into our lives and the insane amount we’re throwing away – crazy right? A material that has been designed to last forever is mostly used in convenient single use, throw away items.”
For most of us getting other members of our household on board would be the biggest hurdle. Gina admits that her partner is not as enthusiastic about the lifestyle, which can be difficult. But she’s found ways to highlight the benefits. “I’ve found the best way to deal with this is to keep explaining how much money we are saving by living this lifestyle. He can relate to saving money. I guess it’s just a case of finding common ground to make it work for everyone.”
Kate also had a partner who wasn’t as eager to start the journey, but says her husband is now fully on board. “I have found that simply focussing on myself and leading by example, my family and friends have started to ask questions and make changes in their own lives. Everyone has been really interested but I haven’t ever preached at them. It’s up to them to make the change.”
Don’t Forget to Celebrate the Emotional Rewards!
With the inevitable bumps along the way both Kate and Gina agreed that living a zero waste lifestyle is incredibly rewarding.
Gina recalls the times she has stopped to appreciate all the efforts. “One such moment for us was last year when we managed to remove all our bathroom bins as we no longer needed them. I felt quite proud that day!”
For Kate it’s all about how her efforts have gone on to inspire others to take up the same journey. “I like to know I’m not contributing to the waste issue and through my youtube channel and blog, I have inspired others to start out on this journey too.”
So ‘zero waste’ may seem like a bold statement. But these inspiring women make it feel like a completely obtainable lifestyle. Be sure to check out their blogs and YouTube channels for a fascinating insight into their daily lives.
Naturally we wanted to know the best place to start a zero waste lifestyle. So Kate and Gina have kindly shared their top getting started tips.
Kate Says it’s about the 5 R’s:
- Refuse what you do not need.
- Reduce what you do need.
- Reuse (choose second hand items where possible and invest in some reusable alternatives for the disposable items in your life. There is a reusable alternative for everything!).
- Recycle only what you cannot refuse, reduce and reuse.
- Rot (aka compost).
Gina says keep it simple:
- Start small.
- Conduct a waste audit so you know what you are throwing away.
- Enjoy the journey and don’t get stressed.
- Do your research. Find sustainable alternatives.