What Is Zero Waste?
What Does a Zero-Waste Lifestyle Mean?
People living a zero-waste lifestyle strive to use as little single-use plastic as possible, instead opting for sustainable and reusable alternatives. Those who get into the lifestyle work to steadily replace everything from food packaging to hygiene products to clothing with more sustainable, plastic-free alternatives.
What Is the Goal of Zero Waste?
The immediate goal of a zero-waste lifestyle is to send zero trash to landfill. However, because we don’t live in a zero-waste world and so many things are out of our control, most people in the movement acknowledge that sending nothing to landfill is near impossible, so they emphasize just doing as much as you can, and not putting too much emphasis on being perfect.
The ultimate goal of a zero-waste lifestyle is to reduce one’s consumption of single-use plastic and one's personal environmental impact as much as possible, and to inspire others to do the same.
Why Live Zero Waste?
The average American produces about 4.4 pounds of trash a day, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). That’s 1,606 pounds of trash a year, per person. So by reducing the amount of trash you create, you could literally save thousands of pounds of trash from entering landfills — proving that one person really can make a difference.
Waste in landfills, whether it’s biodegradable, plastic, or anything in between, will emit greenhouse gases, which directly contribute to climate change. The EPA notes that in the U.S., municipal solid waste (MSW) landfills account for about 14 percent of human-caused methane emissions, making landfills the third-biggest source of human-related methane emissions.
Why Isn’t Plastic Zero Waste?
Plastic is a non-renewable resource, made from fossil fuels as part of the oil industry, as explained by the Surfrider Foundation. That means the process of drilling for oil to make plastic is unsustainable. To top it off, only 91 percent of plastic actually gets recycled, plastic releases greenhouse gases once sent to landfills, plastic take hundreds of years to disappear (all plastic ever created is still on Earth today), and plastic often breaks down into microplastics which pollute oceans.
How to Start Living Zero Waste
If you are interested in working your way towards a zero-waste lifestyle, there are so many easy ways to get started. Many zero wasters recommend beginning by looking through your trash and recycling bins to see what you’re throwing out the most.
For example: If your garbage can is filled with food scraps, start composting. If your bin is overflowing with paper products like napkins, paper towels, and tissues, invest in some cloth napkins, cleaning cloths (which you can easily upcycle from old towels), and hankies. And if you notice a lot of food packaging, start shopping in your grocery store’s bulk section, or looking for foods packaged in recyclable packaging.
Zero Waste Products to Get You Started
If you’re anxious to get rid of all your plastic-packaged and single-use products when transitioning to a zero-waste lifestyle, remember that it’s more eco-friendly to use them up, and then replace them with eco-friendly alternatives when you need to. Some classic products that may help you reduce your waste (and save money over time) include: a reusable water bottle, reusable grocery bags, reusable bamboo utensils, a reusable stainless steel straw, reusable cloth makeup rounds, a bamboo toothbrush, glass or metal food containers, and beauty, skincare, and hygiene products that are “naked” or packaged in glass.
Can You Really Grocery Shop Zero Waste?
Yes! Green Matters has plenty of tips for going zero-waste grocery shopping. If your store has bulk bins, you can bring in your own jars, containers, or bulk bags, get the tare weight, and fill them up. If not, there are so many other ways to reduce your impact in the grocery store.
Why Is Shopping Secondhand Considered Zero Waste?
Before buying something new, many people who live zero waste will check thrift stores, secondhand clothing apps (like Poshmark and thredUP), and eBay for the item secondhand. Not only will shopping secondhand save you money, but it also takes something out of the waste stream that may have gone to landfill otherwise, and it reduces the demand for new products. Win, win win.
What Zero Waste Blogs Can Help?
Green Matters is filled with tips for reducing your impact and living zero waste, and we’re also fans of a few blogs and YouTube accounts that can help you get started. Check out Going Zero Waste, Shelbizleee, Zero Waste Home, Trash Is for Tossers, Zero Waste Chef, Wasteland Rebel, and Wild Minimalist.
How Is Zero Waste Good for Your Health?
By using less plastic for food storage and packaging, your food and skin will come into less contact with plastic every day. As Because Health explains, that means you’ll be exposed to less BPA, which is a potential carcinogen, and phthalates, which are potential endocrine disruptors.
Additionally, trying to avoid plastic-wrapped meals and snacks may lead you to choosing less-processed foods and eating healthier overall. For example, things like fresh produce, fresh bread, and bulk coffee beans are often easy to get package-free. The same goes for personal hygiene — products that come in plastic-free packaging are often more natural, meaning you may wind up exposing your body to less chemicals.
The "Interceptor" is the latest from The Ocean Cleanup.
Dry shampoo has plenty of benefits — but traditional dry shampoo also has a bunch of drawbacks.
This is by far one of the hardest struggles of being a zero-waster, at least for me, personally: Figuring out how to bring home leftovers from a restaurant without the single-use containers that eateries so often hand out.
Repel gnats without harsh chemicals.
Get your shave on without producing any waste.
Going plastic-free should not mean sacrificing makeup. As someone who both loves zero-waste living and playing with a full face of lipstick and eyeshadow, I don’t think I could ever choose one or the other.
Now that you have made the essential zero-waste bathroom swaps like buying bar soap, a bamboo toothbrush, and buying an all-metal safety razor, you may be wondering about the upkeep.
Reduce your waste and lower your impact!
Clothing recycling isn't as complicated as it sounds — here's a guide.
Is it possible to be zero waste as a college student? Here are some of our best tips.
If you’re already making your own shampoo bars and zero-waste, non-toxic bar soap, then it feels about time you learn how to make DIY conditioner bars.
Making your own deodorant isn’t just good for your body — it’s also great for the planet.
Single-use diapers account for 2 percent of the U.S.'s landfill waste.
How to make your home zero-waste, from the kitchen to the bathroom.
For an easy-to-make, at-home eyelash growth serum, you only need a few household ingredients that are generally found either in bulk or in more sustainable containers than your typical products that come in single-use plastic.
Ultimate Guide to Eco-Friendly School Lunches: Recipes, Lunchboxes, and Everything Else Your Kid May Need
Keep your kid's lunch as zero-waste as possible with these tips.
Being zero-waste and traveling may seem impossible — but there are definitely steps you can take to minimize your impact.
Treating your pets for fleas is stressful enough without worrying about the harmful ingredients in most medications.
Anne Hathaway is going green.
There are so many easy ways to lower your carbon footprint around the house.
The U.K.'s 5p fee on bags has been extremely effective.
Bye-bye, tiny bottles!
Avocado isn’t just delicious — it’s also a great tool to use as a zero-waster!
Believe it or not, there’s a lot of waste that comes with being pregnant, starting with the pregnancy test to confirm you really are having a baby
Even after going zero-waste, you still might be screaming for ice cream. After all, it’s just that good.
Shawn Mendes is Flow's new Sustainability Ambassador.
If you think vinegar is just for pickling vegetables or for making homemade dressings, then prepare to be amazed by all the surprisingly wonderful things vinegar can do around the house.
Your actions can make a difference.
Interested in finding out how to use soap nuts in your laundry routine?
Keeping yourself and your own carbon footprint in check as a zero-waster is difficult enough. Throw a pet into the picture though and that’s a lot more waste to deal with.
Baking soda could be your zero-waste secret ingredient — especially when it comes to cleaning your home!