How To Live a Zero-Waste Lifestyle

by Megan Kioulafofski
zero waste lifestyle jars

As we become increasingly conscious of our impact on the planet, we ask how to live zero-waste? Not a day goes by without a news story about the devastating effects of plastic waste on the environment and ocean biodiversity.

What is zero-waste?

Zero-waste is a lifestyle where we strive to create the least amount of waste possible. We dodge single-use plastic in favour of reusable alternatives. We also make conscious decisions about every purchase we make.

Every single day we are faced with dozens of choices. The way we see it, every penny we spend is a vote, so remember to vote for what you care about. If you don’t need a plastic bag for your groceries, don’t buy one – or, better still, carry your own cloth tote bag wherever you go.

Even food waste can be reduced through conscious shopping and cooking. Don’t buy items for the sake of it, and when you need to throw stuff away try to compost rather than trash. Living a zero-waste lifestyle is so much easier than you think. It all starts with education and adaption. Keep reading to learn what zero waste is, why you should consider living zero-waste and how to live zero waste.

minimalist zero waste kitchen

Why live zero-waste?

There are currently an estimated 12.7 million tonnes of plastic waste in the ocean. This plastic waste comes from a variety of sources, including single-use consumer products like plastic bags and bottles. The fishing industry is also a large contributor to the ocean’s plastic problem, with an estimated 46% of plastic waste in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is from fishing nets.

The negative impact of plastic waste on the planet’s wildlife is insurmountable. Around 1 million seabirds die every year from injuries caused by ingesting or entangling themselves in plastic waste. While hundreds of thousands of sea turtles, dolphins, whales and fish are seriously injured or killed by plastic in the ocean.

You may be wondering how plastic gets in the ocean. Most of the plastic found in the ocean travels by river from highly polluted areas of landfill. So even if you put plastic in the bin, there’s still a very high chance it will end up in the ocean.

When it comes to dealing with plastic waste, living zero-waste is the way forward. Recycling is commonly thought of as a way to deal with plastic waste. But I bet you didn’t know that recycling uses a LOT of energy!? Not to mention that plastic items can only be recycled so many times before they are sent to landfill with the rest of your household rubbish. Plastic has fibres similar to paper, and each time it gets recycled the fibres shorten. Paper can only be recycled around 7-9 times, and plastic can only be recycled around 4-6 times. Yeah, this blew my mind when I found out too!

Living consciously and sustainably is all about producing less waste to start with. This enables us to take control of our impact on the planet. If everybody took the following steps towards a zero-waste lifestyle, we’d see huge changes to the planet – from land to ocean, and everything in between.

If you’ve been wondering “what is zero-waste?” and you’re ready to learn how to live this lifestyle, keep reading for some very simple tips and tricks you can introduce into your life today.

How to live zero-waste

There are several very easy switches you can make to become a more conscious consumer. Avoiding all single-use plastic isn’t always possible but reducing the amount we buy is not hard at all with these simple tricks.

Invest in strong shopping bags

It can be tempting to choose a single-use carrier bag every time we go to pick up groceries. You may even ease the guilt by convincing yourself that you will use it again. That may be true, but eventually, this bag will break, and you’ll need to recycle or trash it. In the end, it will become part of the problem rather than the solution.

To avoid this we can opt for natural fibre bags, such as organic cotton reusable produce bags or organic cotton tote bags, you’ll become part of the solution. A strong, natural fibre bag is not only great for groceries, but you can use it for anything. From beach days to clothes shopping, a baby bag or a packed lunch, these bags so versatile you won’t believe how often you reach for them.

We recommend keeping a couple of these organic cotton bags in your car and one in your handbag, this way you’ll never be caught short.

Opt for plastic-free fresh produce

You only need to walk through the supermarket to see how common single-use plastic has become. Where retailers would previously provide loose products and paper bags, you’ll now find fruit and vegetables wrapped in cellophane or in plastic containers. Although convenient, we already know about the damage single-use plastic can do to the planet and all who live here. But what can we do to avoid it?

The answer is: shop at local greengrocers. This way you’ll be buying local produce, meaning a smaller carbon footprint too. Instead of being drawn into multi-buys, where you end up wasting excess food, you can choose just the items you require for your planned recipes.

Many fruit and vegetable stores will be happy to see you use your own reusable produce bags. We get looks and compliments all the time, most people are very curious and intrigued to see us using them! By shopping this way, you’re minimizing food waste, your carbon footprint and even your plastic waste – it’s win-win-win!

Buy dry ingredients in bulk

Another fantastic and easy way to reduce your plastic waste is to buy dry ingredients in bulk. Keep old jars from sauces and chutneys. You can then use these again at the dry goods store for flour, nuts, seeds, grains, dried fruit and much more! Be sure to check with the store owner as they may want to weigh your container before you fill it up – this way you’re only being charged for the products you have bought.

bulk food jars with labels

So far, we’ve discussed three very simple ways to reduce your plastic waste. Are you ready to learn more about how to live zero-waste? The next point is a good one!

Compost your organic waste

You don’t have to be an avid gardener to make your own compost. Did you know that you can compost all organic food waste and several other common household items including coffee grounds, tea bags and even paper napkins?

Composting in your own home is much easier than you think. All you’ll need is a large compost container for the garden or yard and a smaller caddy in your kitchen. Pop all the food scraps into the caddy and empty regularly into the compost bin. Over time this will biodegrade, and you’ll be left with amazing compost you can use or share with your green-fingered friends!

If you’re not up for composting at home or you simply don’t have space, why not search online for a local initiative? Many areas welcome compost donations for allotments or public gardens.

Stainless steel water bottles

The next point about how to live zero-waste should be an obvious one. Over one million plastic drinking bottles are purchased every minute – that’s 20,000 per second! In 2016, fewer than half of the bottles bought were collected for recycling while just 7% of this number were turned into new bottles. This is another reason to dodge recycling and not buy plastic altogether. Sadly, the majority of plastic bottles are found in landfill or the ocean, just like the rest of single-use plastic waste.

Say no to plastic bottles and purchase a stainless-steel water bottle. By buying stainless steel, you are guaranteed several years (if not lifelong) use from the bottle and you’ll never have to buy a plastic bottle again.

When you’re out and about, use a water refill app to discover businesses nearby where you can top-up your water bottle. It’s as simple as that!

Say no to straws, or bring your own!

The final point on our list is a highly publicized one. The internet is full of videos of beautiful sea creatures, including seals, dolphins and turtles, suffering from ingesting or inhaling part of or a whole plastic straw. Starbucks, Hilton, American Airlines and Marriott are all among companies that have banned plastic straws in recent months, or are planning to ban plastic straws worldwide in 2019.

stainless steel straws and smoothie bowls

Unless you need a straw, the best thing to do is simply say no. However, we recognize that straws are beneficial for a few reasons including for people with disabilities or parents of small children. For that reason, we recommend picking up your very own reusable straws. Our favourite straws are made from stainless steel, but you can also get silicone or biodegradable.  

Embrace these six points and you’ll be well on your way to a more sustainable life. What are your top tips for how to live zero-waste? Share your wisdom in the comments below and let us all become more conscious and caring individuals for the planet.

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