Table of Contents
When it is time to take out the trash or tidy up your home, do you always come to a startling realization that “Gosh, I didn’t know I have so much junk”? Besides recyclable waste such as paper boxes, cardboard boxes, aluminum cans, and glass bottles, other waste in the general waste bin such as clothes, paper cups with plastic coating, plastic bags, and straws must be sent to the incinerator or landfill. Some consumer electronics such as laptops, cell phones, or batteries must be recycled by specialized recycling organizations.
Are you tired of taking out the trash every day, constantly tidying up your home, spending a lot of money on purchasing new products, and feeling guilty about the amount of waste generated every day? Why not try several simple techniques to experience a Zero Waste lifestyle!
What is the Zero Waste lifestyle?
For decades, people have grown accustomed to the linear consumption model, where raw materials are manufactured into products through mass production to lower costs, and the products are discarded, incinerated, or buried underground permanently after they are used. In pursuit of market share and revenue growth, manufacturers are constantly reducing product life cycles by launching new products every year or even every quarter. At the same time, product structures are made more complex, thereby making maintenance more difficult and imperceptibly encouraging consumers to purchase new products instead of prolonging the lifespan of old products. As a result, more waste is generated.
The zero waste lifestyle is inspired by the concept of zero waste, where the five principles of zero waste—Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Compost—are applied to reduce the purchasing of products and accepting them as gifts, and extending product lifespans and ensuring that waste is discarded correctly to prevent the unacceptable disposal of any product in life. This allows waste to be processed in levels 4 and 5 of the Zero Waste Hierarchy. Please read this article: What is Zero Waste? Zero Waste principles and examples on more zero waste-related principles and disposal methods.
The zero waste lifestyle cannot be achieved overnight; it is a progressive process that involves gradual improvements of every little detail in life, including shopping habits, product selection methods, product use methods, and waste disposal. The zero waste lifestyle can be practiced in every aspect of life such as food, clothing, accommodation, transportation, education, and entertainment. Let us strive toward the ultimate goal of a zero waste lifestyle by making changes that will result in the lowest cost!
Why is zero waste important?
Starting with every individual, we can change society through zero waste living, returning to the sustainable economic model from before the Industrial Revolution and encouraging manufacturers to produce products that are consistent with the zero waste philosophy. This can in turn improve the environment. At the same time, most zero waste products possess characteristics such as safety, durability, and low pollution, allowing consumers to purchase high-quality products more easily.
Zero waste living and circular economy
A circular economy emphasizes three goals in a bid to create a comprehensive circular economic model for resources: zero waste, reducing waste, and increasing the quality of recycled materials. This facilitates the circular use of resources and prevents the problem of raw material depletion or the accumulation of large quantities of waste. For the general public, the most important aspect of realizing a circular economy is the zero waste lifestyle, choosing products that are designed with a circular economy in mind and disposing of the products at the end of their life cycles via resource circulation approaches. In doing so, people can achieve the goal of zero waste and become a part of the circular economy.
5 benefits of zero waste living
Reduce the time spent on taking out trash and tidying up the home
The zero waste lifestyle reduces the amount of waste generated in life to prevent the house from being crammed with unusable products. At the same time, it also slows down the speed at which waste bins are filled up, thereby saving dozens of minutes spent in taking out the trash and tidying up the house. This gives people more time to watch their favorite shows, share interesting stories with their families, or play games to refresh their bodies and minds instead of being tied down by household chores.
Many city management bodies will charge a service fee based on the amount of waste discarded when helping residents dispose of trash. So, reducing waste will also reduce the processing fees needed every month. The zero waste lifestyle also includes buying less products and extending product lifespans. This also helps to decrease the expenses associated with buying new products. In the long run, it will prevent the problem of rising product prices due to the depletion of raw materials.
Increase the durability of everyday life products
People leading a zero waste lifestyle tend to choose more durable and low-maintenance products. Are you still reminiscing about the days when clothes could be worn for five years without tearing and tables that could last a decade? Perhaps you are not a fan of being forced to discard something you like because it has suffered some minor damage and cannot be repaired? Maybe zero waste living can change the world according to our expectations through the power of consumer demand.
Reduce the chance of incinerators or landfills in the living environment
Waste must be disposed of through incinerators or landfills. Since every incinerator has a limited capacity, if waste continues to increase, more incinerators must be constructed accordingly, resulting in poor air quality in the surrounding environment. When landfills reach their capacities, other locations must be found to build new landfills. Some of the landfills are converted into green spaces after decommissioning, but even more landfills have not been adequately treated and discharged wastewater or pollutants into the surrounding soil, thereby threatening our living environment. The zero waste lifestyle will increase the lifespan of landfills and incinerators, in turn decreasing the rate at which they are constructed.
Foster healthy living
Waste that is disposed of through incinerators and landfills or is discharged into the environment directly will impact the environmental quality and jeopardize people’s health. Reducing waste at the source by applying zero waste methods can mitigate the environmental impact of waste. Furthermore, most products manufactured according to the zero waste principle can be recycled or composted, and most of them are produced using relatively simple non-toxic materials, thereby protecting consumers’ safety and health.
Beginner’s guide: 20 ways to live a zero waste life
Think for five more seconds before making a purchase
Have you had the experience where you ordered a product because it appeared in an advert or it was endorsed by some internet celebrity, only to realize that you don’t even need the product once it is delivered to your home? Perhaps you have purchased a product peddled by a vendor or featured on a sales promotion sign, only to discover that you already have the same product at home, or the product is something that you seldom use? Before buying any product, think about what problems it can resolve. How often is it used? How much will it cost every time it is used? Where do you keep it when it is not in use? Lastly, think about whether you need the product. It is believed that by going through the thought process, people can clear up a great deal of space at home and save a ton of money.
Check the expiration date before buying food
Food has a certain expiration date, and although sometimes it is still edible, it will taste less satisfying. Most people will not enjoy soggy biscuits, sticky candies, or tea that has no aroma. Consequently, it is advised to make a list of foods at home and their expiration date, so that you can assess whether they can be consumed before they expire when buying food.
Purchase high-quality classic clothes
Clothes are unrecyclable and can only be discarded as general waste. The fast fashion trend in recent years has taken the globe by storm in the hope of keeping consumers up to date with the latest fashion trends through affordable prices and rapid style changes. However, when the fad subsides after several months, these garments will be forgotten in the corner of people’s closets and end up in the waste bin someday. Furthermore, in pursuit of affordability, fast fashion usually has problems such as inferior material and tailoring, hence the lifespan is limited and people tend to not repair the clothes if they are damaged. Instead, they simply replace their old clothes with other cheap, new clothes. Although purchasing high-quality classic clothes may cost more money, the clothes are more cost-effective in the long run because they are more durable and will not go out of style. Additionally, a large amount of waste can be decreased this way.
Avoid trying new things
Trying new things is human nature, but new flavors may not always meet one’s expectations and preferences. It’s alright if you can finish it but if the taste is too unpalatable, it will have to be discarded. Avoid trying new things; choosing food that you are familiar with and that you like can effectively minimize waste. However, if you want to try new tastes, the least you can do is finish the food!
Choose repairable products
In the process of product design modifications, products have gradually become more complicated and delicate, which has also made them more difficult to disassemble and repair. Some manufacturers declare that out-of-warranty products will not be repaired and serviced even if customers are willing to pay for the service as no spare parts are in stock. Purchase products that come with long-term maintenance services to extend their lifespans and reduce waste.
Purchase recyclable products
When buying a product, determine how it will be recycled and disposed of at the end of its life cycle. What type of recycle bin should it be placed in? Or should it be sent to a specialized waste disposal facility? Choose products with labels indicating recyclability and recycling methods to ensure resources are recycled and reused.
Use compostable single-use products
Sometimes, for the sake of health, safety, or convenience, we may be compelled to use single-use products (SUPs). Since most SUPs are designed to be relatively thin and light, they are difficult to collect and recycle for remanufacturing purposes. If compostable materials are used, SUPs such as straws and tableware can be returned to the soil via composting to capitalize on their light and thin characteristics.
Reuse single-use products
Although this may sound contradictory, many SUPs such as plastic straws or plastic shopping bags can be reused. If you have used these SUPs when you are away from home, try cleaning them and using them several more times before discarding them in the waste bin!
How we use products every day will directly influence their lifespans. Cherish items you own, avoid hitting or dropping them, and use and maintain them per the manufacturers’ recommendations to prolong their life and reduce the frequency of product replacement, thereby saving money and decreasing waste generation.
Avoid purchasing overpackaged products
Have you had the experience where the layers of packaging on a product you have purchased end up being much larger than the product itself? For instance, a simple charging cable is packaged in a paper box with a plastic window, inside the paper box is packaging foam that holds the cable in place, which is in turn wrapped in a plastic bag. Lastly, the cable comes with a twist tie and a meaningless instruction manual. Choose products with simple packaging. Although it is less fun and ritualistic to unbox products with simple packaging, people can make significant contributions toward zero waste living.
Choose designs with replaceable consumables
Choose products with replaceable consumables to reduce packaging waste. For example, ballpoint pens and correction tape with replaceable cartridges, or laundry detergent, shampoo, and oil refills. If refills are used, determine whether the packaging is made of composite materials because composite materials are not recyclable, and the final waste generated may not necessarily be less.
Bring your own shopping bags and reusable cups
When away from home, you can bring your own shopping bags and reusable cups to avoid bringing more paper bags or plastic bags home. When buying beverages, you can also make use of reusable cups or obtain water from a drinking fountain instead of beverages and bottled water. By doing so, you can save money and reduce the amount of paper cups and plastic bottles used.
Sort and recycle waste
Even if we have chosen products made of recyclable materials, if they are not adequately sorted and recycled after use, the products will be discarded as general waste, thereby undoing all previous good work. So, let us sort waste properly to conquer the last mile in realizing a zero waste lifestyle!
Compost at home
The ideal way to dispose of organic substances is composting, breaking them down into CO2, water, and nutrients that can be returned to the environment. Find a small space at home to engage in home composting using vegetable stalks, fruit peels, and coffee grounds that are produced daily. In addition to reducing the frequency of taking out the trash, composting also regularly produces nutrient-rich humus for gardening and plants at home.
Refer to this article for home composting methods: How to Compost at Home for Beginners Step by Step!
Sell, give away, and buy high-quality preowned products
Products that are not being used will always turn up in everyday life, so you can try to sell or give them away before discarding them, allowing them to generate more value for other people. Also, you can purchase high-quality preowned products instead of new ones to save money and reduce the production and consumption of new products.
Purchase ugly fruits and vegetables
Ugly fruits and vegetables are discarded because they have slight blemishes, scars, uneven colors, or irregular shapes. According to United Nations statistics, 14% of food produced globally is wasted between harvest and retail. Now, to reduce food waste, many supermarkets are packaging and selling ugly fruits and vegetables at a discount, so buy as many ugly fruits and vegetables as possible if you can because they are just as flavorsome as their more expensive counterparts, and it is a fantastic way to practice the zero waste lifestyle.
Use baking soda instead of detergents
To save cost and bolster cleaning performance, detergents may contain phosphates, fluorescent agents, bleach, and formaldehyde that can contaminate the environment when we use them to clean various items. Instead, people should use baking soda, which is also an effective detergent, to reduce hazardous wastewater.
Use compostable tea bags and coffee pods
Tea bags and coffee pods allow us to enjoy delicious beverages in no time. Before you enjoy the drink, try to imagine how tea bags and coffee pods pile up like mountains; traditional tea bags are held together with plastic while coffee pods are made of a mixture of plastics and aluminum, making them unrecyclable. The best alternative is to brew beverages using tea leaves and coffee beans, but if convenience is the priority consideration, you can select compostable tea bags and coffee pods, allowing the packaging and contents to be composted together and returned to the environment.
Read ebooks instead of physical books
The visual appeal of a shelf full of books, the feeling of paper at the fingertips, and the pleasant sound of turning pages are all reasons why many people love physical books. However, after they are read several times, the books are likely to remain on the bookshelf for a long time. Since every piece of paper is made by cutting down trees, we should replace physical books with ebooks as much as possible. If you miss the feeling of paging through a book, why not go to a library or book rental store, order a cup of coffee, and spend a quality afternoon reading? By adopting such an approach, we can ensure that every physical book can be read by more people.
Make use of public transportation
What does taking public transportation have to do with zero waste? When using transportation, we often neglect a source of waste: tires. They are made of natural rubber, artificial rubber, carbon black, steel wires, and various auxiliary agents. With so many raw materials blended into a single product, it is no wonder that tires are difficult to recycle and decompose. Most of the waste tires can only be used in small amounts as an asphalt additive or fuel. While being used, tires will gradually wear out and release a large amount of microplastics into the environment. Using public transportation instead of driving a car or motorcycle allows every tire to carry more passengers within its lifespan and lowers the amount of waste generated.
From low waste to a zero waste lifestyle
When many people hear the term Zero Waste lifestyle, the first thought that comes to mind is that it is impossible. We generate waste every day including toilet paper and plastic bags, so how can zero waste living be achieved? renouvo believes that the zero waste lifestyle represents an attitude toward life. With the current developments in science and technology, zero waste life is a virtually impossible goal, but we can gradually reduce waste starting now by practicing the concept of environmental protection in everyday life in a bid to strive towards the ultimate goal of zero waste living.