With my ample free time, I end up researching a lot. I go down rabbit holes I never expect to venture down, but here I am.
I started with some YouTube videos about minimalism, a lifestyle I admire but don’t see myself following. Another lifestyle, on the other hand, is now an eventual goal, and that is to live zero-waste. It means what it seems: reducing the waste we produce every day to very small amounts, if anything. Nothing you use has to go to a landfill or incinerator. You can truly reduce, reuse, and recycle everything. By choosing to live without waste, you will eliminate all discharges to land, water or air that are a threat to planetary, human, animal or plant health.
When I say everything, I mean everything. If we look at the amount of waste we produce every day, the number of products and items we use that are in some sort of packaging, it’s slightly alarming.
What are the benefits of living without waste? Firstly, you’ll be racking in some dough. Since waste is a sign of inefficiency, the reduction of waste can reduce costs. On a larger scale, we would see faster progress because a zero waste strategy improves upon production processes and improving environmental prevention strategies which can lead to take larger, more innovative steps. Obviously zero waste supports all three of the generally accepted goals of sustainability – economic well-being, environmental protection, and social well-being. Also we would see overall improved material flows because a zero waste strategy would use far fewer new raw materials and send no waste materials to landfills. Any material waste would either return as reusable or recycled materials or would be suitable for use as compost.
How do we transition toward zero waste? The change doesn’t even have to be all-encompassing: if we each even chose to make a few small changes, the impact would add up exponentially. For example, never use or buy plastic water bottles or disposable coffee cups. Bring your own metal canteen or thermos with you. Bring your own canvas tote bags to stores so your answer to “Paper or plastic?” is neither. They even make cloth produce bags so you don’t need those flimsy plastic ones that are frustrating enough to open. Ask for your bills to be online and to reduce down junk mail. And, of course, we all know how I feel about thrift stores…buying second hand is best.
Once you start there, then you can do even more. Don’t use plastic silverware or straws by bringing your own metal/bamboo versions. Use mason jars or other take-away containers instead of plastic tupperware (even take these containers with you to restaurants for leftovers). Buy from the bulk section whenever possible, again using reusable bags. Admittedly, not every town has a grocery store with a decent bulk section, but at least avoid the extra plastic packaging because no matter how much “cleaner” you think food is when it’s covered in multiple layers of plastic, that isn’t true. Use cloth napkins in your kitchen instead of paper. Make your own cleaners with vinegar and baking soda rather than ten different chemical cleaners for the house. Learn how to compost food. Avoid plastic wrap like the plague (soft plastic is some of the worst when it comes to waste). Switch a plastic toothbrush for a sustainable version.
And if you think that’s enough, there are people out there making their own everything to avoid packaging. They make their own toothpaste. They buy soap (including face wash, shampoo, and hand soap) only in bars. There’s even recycled toilet paper out there. The potential a zero-waste lifestyle really stems into every aspect of life. If we become very conscious of everything we do in our lives, I can see why people would just get plain frustrated and want to change things up, especially to benefit the environment.
Because no matter how “zero waste” you’d ever want to go, we desperately need to change our current habits. We must look at every item we own and use and ask ourselves, “Is this item necessary? Can I make it myself? Is there a more sustainable version out there?” The changes involved aren’t so far-fetched anymore, in my opinion. This isn’t just a hippie, tree-hugger issue.
Don’t get me wrong, we’ve made a lot of progress when it comes to the environment. Reusable energy sources are more popular and efficient now. All of the recyclable and sustainable products out there are more widespread and easily accessible. But now it’s time to take action to an individual level. We must act in optimism and awareness. I do believe we can continue to make a difference and reverse the damage already done, but it’s a group effort.
When I’m not stuck in a dorm and use up my current products, you bet I’ll start the process to produce less waste. I’m starting with reducing my overall use of plastic and going from there. It’s something I plan to keep you all updated on as I plan things out. I don’t see myself being very strict with every single product in bulk, but those little changes are definitely feasible. Call me a nerd or hippie, but this stuff makes me super excited. I hope you will all consider taking this venture with me to truly show the world some love.
Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie