What Is Zero Waste?

zero waste lifestyle

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.

Most Recent

  • Sustainable Toilet Paper Companies
    Home

    Sustainable Toilet Paper Companies, For a Wipe You Can Feel Good About

    By Sophie Hirsh
  • How to make bath bombs at home
    Style

    DIY Bath Bomb Recipes That You Can Make at Home

    By Andrew Krosofsky
  • Crafts with baby food jars
    Living

    12 Ways to Reuse Old Baby Food Jars: DIYs, Recipes, and More

    By Andrew Krosofsky
  • Rice water benefits
    Food

    Exploring the Health and Beauty Benefits of Rice Water

    By Andrew Krosofsky
  • What to do with leftover rice
    Food

    7 Delicious Zero-Waste Recipes to Repurpose Your Leftover Rice

    By Andrew Krosofsky
  • Best online thrift stores
    Style

    You Can Shop Secondhand From Home, Through These Online Thrift Stores

    By Andrew Krosofsky
  • Where to buy used toys online
    Parenting

    Recycled Fun: 5 Great Places to Find Used Toys Online

    By Andrew Krosofsky
  • How to dispose of crayons
    Living

    Can You Recycle Crayons? How to Dispose of Them Responsibly

    By Andrew Krosofsky
  • cruelty-free dog products
    Pets

    Cruelty-Free and Sustainable Dog Care Products, From Shampoo to Paw Balm

    By Sophie Hirsh
  • Zero Waste Tea Companies
    Food

    7 Zero-Waste Tea Companies That Mix Flavor and Sustainability

    By Andrew Krosofsky
  • Compostable Problems
    Technology

    Biodegradable Packaging Isn't Where We Need It to Be, to Actually Help Reduce Waste

    By Lizzy Rosenberg
  • Environmentally-friendly printing ideas
    Living

    How to Make Your Printer and Ink More Sustainable

    By Andrew Krosofsky
  • Cruelty-Free, Eco-Friendly Skincare
    Living

    Cruelty-Free, Eco-Friendly Skincare Brands for Sensitive Skin

    By Sophie Hirsh
  • How to build a composting toilet
    Living

    DIY Tips for Making Your Own Composting Toilet

    By Andrew Krosofsky
  • Recycle old paint
    Living

    How to Recycle Your Old Paint

    By Andrew Krosofsky
  • Low Waste Chef
    Food

    A Zero-Waste Chef Gives Tips on Reducing Your Impact in the Kitchen (Exclusive)

    By Lizzy Rosenberg
  • Plastic Free July Ideas
    Community

    Ideas for Taking Plastic Free July Beyond Reducing Single-Use Plastic

    By Sophie Hirsh
  • Dish Sponges
    Living

    Stock Your Kitchen With Our Favorite Compostable, Reusable, and Zero-Waste Sponges

    By Lizzy Rosenberg
  • Plastic Free July accounts
    Home

    Zero-Waste Instagram Accounts to Follow This Plastic Free July

    By Sophie Hirsh
  • Marie Kondo
    Living

    Marie Kondo Shares Organizational Tips and Tricks for Sparking Joy, Sustainably (Exclusive)

    By Lizzy Rosenberg
  • Best organic and natural baby food brands
    Parenting

    The Best Zero-Waste and Organic Baby Food Brands

    By Andrew Krosofsky
  • Sustainable Supermarkets
    Community

    Find Out Which Major Supermarkets Are the Most and Least Sustainable

    By Sophie Hirsh
  • Gluten Free Pasta Straws
    Community

    These Gluten-Free Pasta Straws Will Brighten Up Your Cocktail, Sustainably (Exclusive)

    By Sophie Hirsh
  • How to recycle aluminum foil properly
    Living

    Foiled Again: Our Quick Guide to Recycling Aluminum Foil Properly

    By Andrew Krosofsky
  • What is upcycled food
    Food

    These Companies Are Upcycling Food Waste Into All New Products

    By Andrew Krosofsky
  • Companies Produce Single-Use Plastic
    News

    Just 20 Companies Produce 55 Percent of Single-Use Plastic on Earth

    By Sophie Hirsh
  • Bidet attachments
    Home

    Affordable Bidet Attachments to Take Your Toilet to the Next Level

    By Sophie Hirsh
  • Zero-waste hand soap tablets
    Living

    Our Favorite Zero-Waste, Cruelty-Free Hand Soaps

    By Sophie Hirsh
  • Eco-Friendly Marketplaces
    Home

    One-Stop-Shops for Sustainably Shopping Online That Are Better Than Amazon

    Check out this list of our favorite sustainable online marketplaces.
    By Sophie Hirsh
  • Compostable Bags
    Home

    Are Compostable Bags Really Compostable? What You Need to Know This Int’l Compost Awareness Week

    By Sophie Hirsh
  • Toilet Paper
    Community

    Who Gives A Crap About Toilet Paper, Anyway? How This TP Company Is Doing Things Differently — Exclusive

    We interviewed Who Gives A Crap cofounder Danny Alexander to learn more about the sustainable brand.

    By Sophie Hirsh
  • Sustainable Athletic Wear
    Style

    Sustainable Athletic Wear Brands for Eco-Friendly Workouts

    Is it possible to find sustainable athletic wear?
    By Sophie Hirsh
  • Home Depot tiny houses
    Home

    Turning Home Depot Sheds Into Tiny Houses: Everything You Need to Know

    By Andrew Krosofsky
  • Do tiny homes have bathrooms?
    Home

    How Do Bathrooms Work in Tiny Homes?

    By Andrew Krosofsky
  • Expert Zero-Waste Tips
    Living

    Level Up With These ~Weird~ Tips for Expert Zero-Waste Living

    By Sophie Hirsh
  • Going Zero Waste
    Living

    How to Start Going Zero Waste: 7 Steps for Beginners

    By Sophie Hirsh
  • When did the zero-waste movement start?
    Living

    How Long Has the Zero-Waste Movement Been Around?

    By Andrew Krosofsky
  • Zero-Waste Shops
    Living

    How Do Zero-Waste Shops Work?

    By Andrew Krosofsky
  • What are the best cruelty-free chapstick alternatives?
    Living

    5 Cruelty-Free Lip Balms to Soothe Those Chapped Lips

    By Andrew Krosofsky
  • Is a zero-waste society possible?
    Living

    Will a Zero-Waste Society Ever Be Possible?

    By Andrew Krosofsky
  • Zero-Waste Stores Profitable
    Living

    Zero-Waste Stores Can Be As Profitable As Any Small Business (Exclusive)

    By Andrew Krosofsky
  • recycling zero waste
    Community

    Do You Still Count As Zero Waste If You Recycle?

    By Andrew Krosofsky
  • What are the best zero-waste hair care products?
    Living

    Zero-Waste Hair Care Tips to Keep You Stylish, Sustainably

    By Andrew Krosofsky
  • Recycle Shoes
    Style

    How to Recycle Shoes: Sneakers, Slippers, Boots, and More

    By Sophie Hirsh
  • Zero-Waste Bronx
    Living

    The Bronx's First Zero-Waste Shop Is Making the Lifestyle More Accessible (Exclusive)

    By Sophie Hirsh
  • Can you change the color of hydrangeas with coffee?
    Living

    Is It Actually Possible to Change the Color of Hydrangeas Using Coffee?

    By Andrew Krosofsky
  • Eco-Friendly Dog Beds
    Pets

    6 Eco-Friendly Dog Beds to Keep Nap Time Sustainable

    These eco-friendly dog beds will help keep your dog’s nap time as planet-friendly as possible.
    By Sophie Hirsh
  • Best thrift stores in Brooklyn
    Living

    6 of the Best Thrift Stores in Brooklyn

    By Andrew Krosofsky
  • Corona Biodegradable Six-Packs Barley
    News

    Corona Rolls Out Biodegradable Six-Packs Made From Barley Waste

    By Sophie Hirsh
  • Eco-Friendly Hair Ties and Scrunchies
    Living

    Eco-Friendly Hair Ties and Scrunchies to Get You Through Bad Hair Days, Sustainably

    By Sophie Hirsh
  • What percentage of recycling actually gets recycled?
    Community

    What Percentage of Recycling Actually Gets Recycled?

    By Andrew Krosofsky
  • Who started recycling?
    Community

    These Sustainable Pioneers Are Responsible for Modern Recycling Techniques

    By Andrew Krosofsky
  • Zero-Waste Lip Balm
    Home

    Zero-Waste Lip Balms — Natural, Cruelty-Free, and Vegan Options

    By Sophie Hirsh
  • Lia Flushable Pregnancy Test
    Living

    You Can Finally Buy Lia, the Flushable, Zero-Waste Pregnancy Test

    By Sophie Hirsh
  • Zero-Waste Influencers
    Community

    These Zero-Waste Influencers Don't Care About Being Perfect: "This Idea of Perfection Is Impossible"

    “This movement isn't exclusively for perfectionists."

    By Sophie Hirsh
  • What to do with old phone cases
    Living

    Can You Recycle Old Phone Cases? How to Dispose of Them Sustainably

    By Andrew Krosofsky
  • How to dispose of razor blades
    Living

    How to Safely Recycle Razor Blades

    By Andrew Krosofsky
  • The best ways to store plastic bags
    Living

    The Most Creative and Eco-Friendly Ways to Store Plastic Bags

    By Andrew Krosofsky
  • International Women's Day
    News

    Celebrate International Women's Day With These Books by Women About the Climate

    International Women's Day is every March 8 — honor women in the climate movement by picking up one of these books.

    By Sophie Hirsh
  • Grocery Store Plastics
    News

    Which Grocery Stores Use the Most Plastic, According to Greenpeace

    By Lizzy Rosenberg
  • How do reusable grocery bags help the environment?
    Living

    How Do Reusable Grocery Bags Help the Environment?

    By Andrew Krosofsky
  • Will Starbucks fill a reusable cup?
    Food

    Given Current COVID-19 Restrictions, Will Starbucks Still Fill a Reusable Cup?

    By Andrew Krosofsky
  • Can reusable grocery bags be washed?
    Living

    Can Reusable Grocery Bags Be Washed?

    By Andrew Krosofsky
  • Innovative Zero-Waste Toothbrushes
    Home

    7 Innovative Zero-Waste Toothbrushes That Go Beyond the Bamboo Brush

    By Sophie Hirsh
  • Sustainable Beauty Products
    Style

    5 of Our Favorite Sustainable Beauty Innovations From 2021

    Check out five of our favorite new, innovative, and sustainable beauty products from 2021 (and late 2020).
    By Sophie Hirsh
  • Recycle Fluorescent Lightbulbs
    Technology

    How to Recycle Fluorescent Lightbulbs — No, You Can't Just Throw Them Away

    By Andrew Krosofsky
  • What to do with Amazon boxes
    Home

    What to Do With Amazon Boxes — Besides Just Recycling Them

    By Andrew Krosofsky
  • Sustainable Mardi Gras
    Community

    How to Celebrate Mardi Gras With Zero Waste

    By Sophie Hirsh
  • recycling center
    Community

    Recycling Centers You Can Tour, In-Person or Virtually

    By Sophie Hirsh
  • Eva NYC
    Style

    How This Affordable Hair Care Brand Ditched Plastic for Aluminum (Exclusive)

    Eva NYC's hair care product range has completely transitioned from plastic to aluminum packaging, and still manages to be an affordable, zero-waste option.
    By Sophie Hirsh
  • What Happens To Ugly Produce
    Food

    Four of the Best Ugly Produce Companies, to Avoid Food Waste

    By Andrew Krosofsky
  • gm thumb tonledesign
    Style

    7 Sustainable Fashion Brands That Upcycle Deadstock and Fabric Scraps

    By Sophie Hirsh
  • Textile recycling near me
    Living

    How to Find Textile Recycling Near You

    By Andrew Krosofsky
  • Reusable Cotton Rounds
    Living

    These Reusable Cotton Rounds Are Sustainable Alternatives to Single-Use Facial Wipes

    By Stephanie Osmanski
  • How to make your own candles
    Home

    How to Make Natural Vegan Candles at Home

    By Andrew Krosofsky
  • what to do with carrot tops
    Food

    Exploring the Unsung Culinary Uses of Carrot Tops

    By Andrew Krosofsky
  • What to do with non-winning lottery tickets
    Living

    What to Do With Non-Winning Lottery Tickets, Since They Can't All Be Winners

    By Andrew Krosofsky
  • No buy month
    Living

    How a No Buy Month or Shop Stop Can Help You Live More Sustainably

    By Andrew Krosofsky
  • Reusable Notebooks
    Technology

    The Best Reusable Notebooks + How They Work

    By Andrew Krosofsky
  • sustainable home decorating
    News

    These Low-Waste Decorating Tips Will Liven Up Your Living Space

    By Lizzy Rosenberg
  • organic tampons
    Home

    6 of Our Favorite Organic Tampons

    By Stephanie Osmanski
  • eco friendly floss
    Home

    The Best Eco-Friendly Flosses for Zero Wasters

    By Stephanie Osmanski
  • low waste artists
    News

    Support These Low-Waste Artists to Decorate Your Home Sustainably

    By Lizzy Rosenberg
  • reusable ziploc bags freezer
    Home

    The Best Reusable Ziploc Bags — Freeze and Store Food With Zero Waste

    By Sophie Hirsh
  • environmentally friendly gifts lede
    Community

    Eco-Friendly Gifts to Keep Things Zero Waste This Holiday Season

    These affordable environmentally-friendly gifts are perfect for the 2020 holiday season.
    By Sophie Hirsh
  • shampoo bar
    Home

    How to Find the Right Shampoo Bar for Your Hair

    By Stephanie Osmanski
  • can you recycle recycled plastic
    Home

    Can You Recycle Recycled Plastic?

    By Andrew Krosofsky
  • zero waste low impact
    Living

    What is the Low-Impact Movement? How It Compares to the Zero-Waste Lifestyle

    By Sophie Hirsh
  • zero waste swaps that save money
    Living

    Zero-Waste Swaps That Can Save You Money

    By Andrew Krosofsky
  • period underwear
    Living

    Period Underwear Is An Easy Zero-Waste Swap — Here Are 5 Options

    Here are five sustainable and affordable options.
    By Sophie Hirsh
  • zero waste food covers
    Food

    Store Your Food Zero-Waste With These Reusable Container Lid Options

    By Andrew Krosofsky
  • hanukkah eco friendly
    Home

    The Ultimate Guide to an Eco-Friendly Hanukkah: Recipes, Candles, and More for a Lit Holiday

    Looking for tips for an eco-friendly or zero-waste Hanukkah this December? We’ve put together the ultimate guide.
    By Sophie Hirsh
  • why is veganism key to zero waste eating
    Food

    Why Veganism Is Key to Zero-Waste Eating

    Though the terms don’t always mean the same thing, there are some clear reasons why veganism is actually the key to zero-waste eating.
    By Andrew Krosofsky
  • how to make recycled paper
    Home

    How Recycled Paper Is Made, and How to Make It at Home

    By Andrew Krosofsky
  • how to recycle watercov
    Home

    How Recycling Water Can Lower Your Environmental Impact

    By Andrew Krosofsky
  • thanksgiving instagram captions vegan zero waste
    Food

    Thanksgiving Instagram Captions to Show Off Your Vegan or Zero-Waste Turkey Day

    We've rounded up some funny, thought-provoking, and clever ideas!
    By Sophie Hirsh
  • zero waste living books
    Living

    8 Books to Help You Go Zero Waste or Live More Sustainably

    Zero-waste living doesn't have to be overwhelming — and these eight books about sustainable living are all extremely helpful.
    By Sophie Hirsh
  • cruelty free mascara
    Style

    These Are the Best Cruelty-Free, Zero-Waste Mascaras

    By Stephanie Osmanski
  • zero waste mouth wash coronavirus
    News

    Mouthwash May Prevent COVID-19 — Here Are Our Favorite Sustainable Varieties

    By Lizzy Rosenberg
  • thrift flip ideas
    Style

    4 Trendy Thrift Flip Upcycling Tutorials — No Sewing Required

    These thrift flipping ideas are easy, stylish, and require no sewing!
    By Sophie Hirsh
    • CONNECT with Green Matters
    • Link to Facebook
    • Link to Twitter
    • Link to Instagram
    • Link to Email Subscribe
    Green Matters Logo
    Do Not Sell My Personal Information

    © Copyright 2021 Green Matters. Green Matters is a registered trademark. All Rights Reserved. People may receive compensation for some links to products and services on this website. Offers may be subject to change without notice.