What is Zero Waste Living?

Have you seen the term ’zero waste’ popping up everywhere, but aren’t quite sure what it means? Zero waste living is, quite simply, reducing any landfill waste to an absolute minimum.  If a company makes a product, let’s say a toothbrush, and then a store sells you that toothbrush, throwing away not only the packaging but eventually the toothbrush, is now your responsibility. So what if you said ‘no’? What if you started to reject products packaged in wasteful materials? Do you think the companies would change their ways?

That’s the basic premise behind adopting a zero waste lifestyle. That if enough people demand change with their pocketbooks, companies will start to change the way they do business. We’re living with a linear economy rather than a circular one, and we’re running out of resources...fast.

But It’s Impossible to be ZERO Waste

Have you heard the term ‘zero waste’ and your first thought was “impossible!”? Well, you’d be right. It’s not actually very possible to create absolutely zero waste, unless you live completely off the grid without ever putting a cent into to economy. Does that mean you shouldn’t try? Of course not! While our purchases can often create tons of waste in their production that we never even see, starting with the waste we willingly welcome into our homes is a good place to start.

One Person Can’t Change Anything

Sure, one person alone can do very little, a group of people can do a lot. And maybe, more importantly, the spending power of a group of people definitely can. The zero waste lifestyle not only encourages you to speak out against harmful waste production with your voice but equally with your spending habits.

I Already Recycle

When we were taught to recite Reduce, Reuse, Recycle in school, they failed to reinforce that the words are in order of priority. Meaning that we should first try to reduce the waste in our lives, then try to reuse anything we can and lastly to recycle. A shocking number of recyclable materials end up in landfills (even if you toss them in a recycling bin) with only 9% getting recycled. Don’t throw your arms in the air and start chucking your recycling in the garbage though! Every contribution to keep trash from being burned, piled up or floating away to sea is a good thing.

Zero Waste Is a Fad

While it may seem like going vegan or Paleo, zero waste lifestyles aren’t about perfection. They’re about effort. There’s no ‘cheating’ and the only way to fail is to decide you no longer care. Every step you take towards reducing the waste you personally contribute to landfills is a win for our planet and our future. While it may seem like a hip or trendy fad, lots of fads have become a normal part of everyday society. On August 20, 1990, the Washington Post called bicycling a hot fad for the "bleached-haired, music-hall type". Sound familiar?

The ‘throw away’ culture created in the 50s encouraged housewives to save time by simply throwing plastic plates away. This was also a trend that society fed with its pocketbooks. Imagine what good we can accomplish if we put our heart, minds, and money behind it.

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  • I am wondering if we bring our own reusable containers to the store if they will put say strawberries, for instance, into them and keep there clam shell containers.?

    Nancy on
  • In Europe , especially Switzerland, consumers actually remove the item from the package at the store and leave it there. Wonder how Costco would react to that tactic?

    Kim Freeman on
  • Love your post here, and your wraps! A small piece of history you could add: also back in the 80’s the environmental lingo (amongst environmental professionals, at least) was that there were 4 R’s. Somehow the 4th R got dropped from common parlance and teaching. The 4th is REFUSE. P.S. I’ve just returned from a year of living in Germany where household waste management was a fine art – a bin for paper, one for compost, one for waste (tiny and never full), ones for glass (sorted by colour) and the biggest one – by necessity – was for plastics. Their waste consciousness and personal responsibility for it was encouraging and habit forming. And my friends there loved the wraps I gave them when I moved back to Canada. :)

    Laurie A Barlow on
  • Things to think about… FDA has a big part in saying how things should be packaged, for the safety of food-grade items. And if anyone has ever worked in the medical field, you’d be amazed at how much is thrown away! That’s gotta be half of our landfill, right there! So, is Zero Waste possible? Perhaps on an individual scale. Thanks, Etee, for being part of the conversation!

    Jenice Wolgemuth on
  • I was thinking that it would be great if the fabric in you excellent wraps were made of hemp instead of cotton, which has a nasty chemical footprint, even if the cotton is grown organically.

    Barbara Yelverton on
  • I would like nothing more than to have companies be more responsible with their packaging & products & for consumers to notice! I have written to a major berry producer explaining that I will no longer buy their berries because of the plastic clamshells they pack them in & asked if they could please consider changing to a more responsible alternative. Many things at Costco I won’t buy either because of the plastic packaging. I’ve noticed products that say they are green typically have excessive packaging often plastic packaging. Striving for zero waste does seem like an uphill battle. But if we can have engaging conversations about it, reach out to companies & be conscientious with our purchases that is certainly a positive start. Thank you etee!!

    Madeline Lyne on
  • Love your message, and absolutely agree that reducing plastic and non-recyclables to the bare minimum is possible – and if we all participate, manufacturers will have to take notice. THIS IS DO-ABLE if we do it together. Thank you – and keep spreading the message!

    Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.

    Leanne on
  • My English grandmother had a goal of throwing away less than 2 inches of garbage in her garbage can weekly. She had nearby farms that could use food waste for pig food, and there was no plastic used to wrap the food items she bought. She would be shocked with the amount my husband and I (a retired couple) put out for collection every week, —and we make a big effort to recycle.

    Mary Townsager on
  • Hi I have cut my waste to once a month, but the little i do throw out i cut up, so little impact on the environment

    Jules on
  • I am very encouraged with this article. I have strived for atleast thirty years to waste less but I feel overwhelmed by the amount of packaging that comes with routine purchases. I use my own market bags, I reuse plastic bags, cutlery and cups. I don’t buy bottled water. I compost. I use white vinegar to replace many other cleaning purchases and I use your etee product to replace stretch wrap. But my trash/recycling bins continue to fill up!
    Glad for the perspective. I will share on Facebook. Thanks!

    Kathleen B. Guinn on

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