What is Zero-Waste? Is Zero-Waste Possible?

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Concept 

You must have heard about the term ‘Zero-waste’ before. Ever thought of going zero-waste? I am quite sure, you wanted to but the idea of trying to fit your yearly trash into a jar seems quite impossible practically, especially in today’s world. I thought the same too till I researched and got to know the problem is the misconception about the digit “ZERO”. Lets first understand the concept before we come to a conclusion about whether going Zero-Waste is possible or not.

What is Zero-Waste?

The term ‘Zero-waste’ is a philosophy to embrace a minimalistic modern lifestyle. It prioritizes environmental and economic sustainability. It isn’t just about cutting off plastic and eating clean. It encourages to adopt a more thoughtful, conscious and meaningful life choices.

Zero is just a goal. It’s something that cannot be reached. You cannot reduce your waste to zero. But it’s a process where you get social, economic and environmental benefits. The closer you get to the goal, the more is your lifestyle sustainable.

Cradle-to-grave VS Cradle-to-cradle

Now, there are two different approaches to waste management.

The cradle-to-grave model is a linear system. It starts with resource extraction, product manufacturing and then finally disposal into a landfill.

The cradle-to-cradle system, as the name suggests, is a circular loop where all the material is either recycled or reused. And ultimately, there is no waste. In this way, all the resources are fully used. This is like redesigning the resource lifecycle. This system focuses on reducing, reusing, recycling, and composting instead of disposing of. 

Why should I consider going ‘Zero-Waste’?

Here are some of the benefits the Zero-Waste lifestyle brings

  1. The fundamental approach of this goal is to conserve natural resources. Reducing and reusing materials means fewer products need to be manufactured.

It takes 20 times less energy to make an aluminum can from recycled materials than raw materials.

     2. Zero waste helps in creating equity in the community. For instance, food that is wasted can be redistributed to food banks.

     3. It will also save you money. Reducing waste can drastically reduce costs. It is good for the economy too. There is a common misconception that adopting a zero-waste lifestyle is expensive on its own. But the truth is, you don’t need to buy anything new. Take a small step by simply refusing unnecessary items or reusing the products you already own. Adapting a zero-waste lifestyle is cost-effective. You consume less and buy only to replace something. It helps promote sustainability by providing environmental protection, social and economic wellbeing. 

Reducing, reusing, and recycling materials create 10 times more jobs than disposal.

   4. It saves you time. Most people consider this a time and energy-consuming task. But actually, it’s the opposite.

Cities Succeded to implement Zero-Waste

Before answering “Is Zero-Waste Possible?” I’ll like to name a few cities that have successfully implemented zero-waste. A total of twenty-three cities and regions signed C40’s Advancing Towards Zero Waste Declaration. It aims to reduce the waste generation rate per capita by 15% by 2030.

These cities and regions include San Francisco, Auckland, New York, Dubai, Sydney, London, Tokyo, Milan, Paris, Toronto, Philadelphia, Portland, Vancouver, Montreal, Texas, Austin, Adelaide, and many others.

Read more about 6 Top Countries Leading in Renewable Energy.

I like to especially mention the Japanese town “Kamikatsu” here. This town has completely made it to Zero-Waste. The efforts started in 2003. The residents sort their waste in 34 specific categories. They have stores where people leave their unwanted clothes and furniture and can exchange them with the things they need. Local women work in a factory where they make new items like teddy bears from old, discarded materials. Here only 20% of the waste is disposed of in landfills with the rest being reused, recycled or composted.

For more information, watch this video to see how they achieved zero-waste in Kamikatsu.

Is Zero-Waste Possible?

Tips to get started with Zero-Waste

Remember ‘Progress is better than perfection’. There is no way to go zero-waste overnight. However, even small acts can make a great contribution. Here are some easy tips to get started;

  • Keeping 5 Rs in mind

You must have heard of the 3 R principle that is Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. But recently, the terms of Refuse and Rot have been added in it.

Refuse:

Refuse to buy any material that you don’t need. Likewise, refuse products with lots of packaging. Learn to say ‘no’ to unnecessary things. Like a plastic straw at a restaurant.

“It’s only one straw,” said 8 billion people.

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Reduce:

Limit the number of products. Buy only those items which you need. Try using less of everything.

The most environmentally friendly product is the one you didn’t buy.

Joshua Becker, founder of Becoming Minimalist

Reuse:

Reuse the products multiple times. Repair broken items. Purchase products that can be reused such as steel water bottles. Glass and stainless-steel containers can be used for storing and packaging.

Recycle:

Sort out recyclable materials like glass, paper and packaging products.

Rot:

Most of the waste collected is organic. You can reduce the waste dumping if you compost organic material. Like fruits and vegetable peels, tea bags, coffee grounds, and eggshells.

“Waste not what the Earth gives us.”

Eat natural

Stop eating processed or packaged food. Start eating real food like vegetables and fruits. You can also minimize your food waste by meal preps. Use the leftovers. Prepare your sauces and jams.  

Avoid plastics

I cannot stress enough how harmful plastic is for our environment. Eliminate plastic products from your life and look for alternatives. Use cloth or mesh bags. They can be reused multiple times and are easily available. You can also sew them yourself.

Buy in bulk

The best way to minimize packaging material is to buy items in bulk. Stop buying single servings.

Bring your own container/jars

Use your reusable containers or jars to store food. Invest in good quality, insulated, reusable metal or glass bottle to keep beverages. Bring your lunch to the workplace in a reusable lunch box.

Conclusion on What is Zero-Waste?

Zero Waste is a motivation that ultimately leads to less amount of waste. You can reduce your footprint with every small step you take towards a sustainable lifestyle. But it’s not only beneficial for the environment. The additional plus points include eating healthy, saving money, and managing stress. 

As Anne Marie aka Zero-Waste Chef says, “We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly.” Let’s make a promise to help make our planet waste-free. 

You can start with 30 days zero waste challenge.

You can learn more about the environment by listening to some of the audiobooks we recommend.

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