We give you some tips on advice on how you can gradually make the change and introduce ‘zero waste’ into your life
We live in a throwaway society. As part of the endless cycle of consumerism, landfills sites are overflowing with rubbish, and incinerators keep burning. But a book published in 2013 – Zero Waste Home: The Ultimate Guide to Reducing Your Waste by Bea Johnson – brought fresh attention to the idea of reducing waste, and it continues to inspire a number of zero-wasters worldwide.
According to the Zero Waste International Alliance: “Zero waste is a goal that is ethical, economical, efficient and visionary, to guide people in changing their lifestyles and practices to emulate sustainable natural cycles, where all discarded materials are designed to become resources for others to use. Zero waste means designing and managing products and processes to systematically avoid and eliminate the volume and toxicity of waste and materials, conserve and recover all resources, and not burn or bury them.
“Implementing Zero waste will eliminate all discharges to land, water or air that are a threat to planetary, human, animal or plant health.”
Adherents to the movement believe that by following a minimalist aesthetic and placing more value on our resources, we can all live more sustainable lives. With statistics from the Environmental Protection Agency showing a massive percentage (up to 40 per cent) of America’s greenhouse gas emissions come as a result of creating food and non-food items, as well as disposing of rubbish, it seems a focus on cutting down on our consumption of consumer goods globally would benefit the environment.
While not all zero-wasters are vegan, it is a philosophy that connects well with veganism, with its focus on the environment as well as more mindful living. According to activist Susan Lawson: “For me the two things go hand-in-hand. It seems strange to me that someone would focus on reducing their footprint by reducing their waste, but then drink milk, for example. But I would always applaud any effort by anyone to live less wastefully and more compassionately, whether that is reducing rubbish or food waste.”
Asa Bjornsdottir is the founder of iRaw Healthy Habits, an organic vegan raw food producer. She says: “Wastage comes in so many forms. One of the biggest wastes is food packaging. There are so many ways to approach the ways we consume in order to reduce waste. One quick easy way is buying fruit and vegetables from the local farmer where you can pick the items you like and carry them home in your own reuse bag. That in itself eliminates many stages of packaging besides you also get to pick the food items you like the best.
“Most councils offer compost option nowadays, this is a good way of putting the food, should there be a wastage, to good use. I’d like to be a little radical as well and suggest you increase your intake of fruit and veg as there is very little wastage. I, for example, juice the whole lemon, including the skin, as I buy it organic and unwaxed. If you don’t want to juice them, finely chop the peel keep it in a jar in the fridge and use as spice in your cooking.
“It is estimated that at least 100kg per person of food is wasted in a year but by consuming with increased awareness we can do so much better.”
It can be intimidating to see committed zero-wasters pack a year’s non-recyclable rubbish into a single jar but according to Susan, it is important not to feel too overwhelmed. She says: “The very word ‘zero’ suggests that unless you are 100 per cent perfect, you’re not doing it right. Again, I would say any reduction you can make is a good step in the right direction [see tips].”
Asa from iRaw is positive about the future of the zero waste movement. She says: “People are becoming more and more aware of what’s happening around them. When I first moved to the UK I had been sorting my wastage for some years in Norway, however it was just starting here. Now you can see it everywhere. There is also increased awareness of waste in the media – there is a lot of talk about eliminating packaging or reducing it as much as possible at least. At iRaw we would like to be able to deliver our product free of packaging directly to the consumer and contribute to more sustainable future.
“It is a general knowledge that plastic for example can take up to 500 years to compose in the nature. Why would we want to leave something like that for our children to worry about? I would love to see an initiative coming from the government to motivate more people to contribute to less litter and reduced wastage.
“I was very pleased when the vendors started charging for the shopping bags as I had been carrying a bag with me everywhere for some time when this happened. Now people seem to be more aware and I want to believe they think twice before taking a plastic bag in the grocery shop.”
Some easy ways to cut down on waste
‘Fast fashion’ – where trends change quickly and consumers repeatedly invest in low quality, cheaply made clothes – is bad for the planet as well as low paid workers. Cut down on clothes waste by investing in second-hand and vintage items rather than new every time.
Dispose of disposables
With more and more people eating out and buying pre-packaged foods, an increasing amount of single-use items including cutlery, plates and cups are making their way to landfill sites. Try to avoid using these items – by bringing your own cutlery and travel mug, you can cut down on your wastage. Bringing food from home to work means you can cut down on unnecessary packaging on pre-made sandwiches etc.
When it comes to your home, think about what you can reuse. For example, cloth napkins instead of disposable, lunch boxes instead of sandwich bags, kitchen towels instead of kitchen roll.
Rather than buying heavily packaged fruit and veg, try visiting a market and taking your own bags. When shopping, always remember your own bags to cut out the need to take plastic ones from the shop every time.
Go big or go homemade
Try making your own nut or oat milks and storing them in reusable glass jars to avoid buying packaged milk. You can also make your own cheeses. If you buy nuts in bulk, it is cheaper, and you cut down on packaging too (which you can then recycle).
ZERO WASTE – THE FIVE ‘R’s
- REFUSE the things you don’t need (junk mail, for example).
- REDUCE the amount of things you do need (be more minimalist, have less clutter).
- REUSE as much as possible (see point about disposable cutlery).
- RECYCLE the waste you cannot reuse, reduce or refuse.
- ROT (compost) everything else.