|From grocery bags to diapers to cigarette butts, we practically live amid garbage. In 2018, the world generated about 3.5 million tons of plastic and other solid waste each day. That’s 10 times the amount a century ago, the World Bank said. Doesn’t your heart break when you saw the polar bears in the Arctic Circle lying among trash? That’s how far the plastic waste we generated has reached. Yes, we have trash in the Arctic Circle now. If that isn’t enough, one of the world’s most progressive countries—the United States—is producing 250 million tons of garbage a year. That’s 4.4 pounds of trash per person per day.
Thankfully, there are movements, particularly among young millennial women. They are working to live a zero-waste lifestyle. And they’ve been successful at doing it. In a year, they only produce trash that can fit in an eight-ounce mason jar. Is this possible?
The challenges are there. It’s the same kind of challenge you faced when trying to cut your electricity bill. It’s all about discipline. Building a sustainable and organic lifestyle takes discipline, right? But weren’t you able to do it somehow? You discipline yourself enough to unplug appliances because of vampire power. You research before you go to a lighting store because you need to make sure you’re buying the right energy-saving light bulbs.
It has become second nature to you to pick energy- and water-saving bulbs, showerheads, faucets, air-conditioning units, and many more. This is the same principle you should apply when opting for a zero-waste lifestyle. Discipline yourself to choose items that won’t adversely affect the environment.
Understanding the Challenges of a Zero-waste Lifestyle
Before you commit to this lifestyle, remember the challenges you have to face. Make sure you’re ready for these. Starting this kind of lifestyle is costly. You have to invest first in reusable containers and even transform your yard into a garden that can grow herbs, fruits, and vegetables. That will require money at first.
It is also time-consuming. Instead of disposing of items, you have to clean and reuse them. Instead of picking a straw and cup and throwing them after you’re done with your frappe, you have to bring back your reusable cup and wash it back home. The same principle applies to reusable water bottles, eco-bags, cloth napkins, etc.
You live in a capitalist world. This means that it is less likely you will encounter reusable items in coffee shops and restaurants. Grocery stores will continue to use brown paper bags or plastic bags. These are against your zero-waste lifestyle. If you live in a rural area and have to order items online, the packaging that the items will come with is made of plastic.
Finding Solutions to Live a Zero-waste Lifestyle
These challenges don’t mean this lifestyle is a lost cause. Many people are doing a zero-waste lifestyle successfully. Katherine, who lives in a small house in San Francisco with her husband, has done a lot of composting and recycling over the last two years. As a result, she and her husband produced a trash pile that can fit inside a 16-ounce jar. That’s for two years’ worth of trash.
A zero-waste lifestyle is about making the right choices and making time for it. Before buying anything, ask yourself if you need it. Read the labels. Is there a better alternative? Can you make it instead? These questions have made it easier for Katherine to pursue a zero-waste lifestyle. Instead of buying herbs from the grocery store, she grew them in her little garden. She invested in reusable bags and containers. She takes these with her when she goes out to eat or buy from the meat shop.
Katherine makes sure that she reuses, recycles, and upcycles more than she throws aware things in the trash. You can make compost out of eggshells. She only cooks what she and her husband can eat. Katherine is very conscious about eating right and not wasting any food they cook. If she has excess fresh food that’s about to go to waste in the refrigerator, she takes this to a local food bank.
For her, living a zero-waste lifestyle is easier than consuming and buying things. In fact, in a year, they managed to save $5,000. That’s money that she normally would have spent on buying commercial coffee, clothes, and shoes that’ll go to waste in a year or two.
While there are challenges to this kind of lifestyle, it is not completely impossible. There are plenty of resources on the internet. People who are living this lifestyle are happy to share information and knowledge. They advocate for it, and they want as many people as they can encourage to start a zero-waste lifestyle.