• Niki

What is Zero Waste?

Updated: Mar 1, 2019

Zero Waste is about sending nothing to landfill and having to recycle very little.

It’s about refusing what we don’t need, reducing what we use, reusing what we have, repairing what we can, and recycling as a final option.

It’s about rethinking the way we do things.

It’s about consuming less and making conscious choices about what we need to purchase, supporting companies that are doing ethical and fair business, and are committed to reduce their environmental impact.

Is a Zero Waste lifestyle more expensive?

One of the main points of a ZW living is to reduce the number of things that we use and purchase out of habit. If you’re doing it ‘right’, you won’t be buying tons of new stuff, instead you will make the most of what you already have and only buy what and when it’s necessary.

When you opt for a plastic free or waste conscious product, generally speaking, you are also choosing a natural, ethical product. Most of these are made from natural ingredients, by real people who run their own businesses or work for a small, independent micro organisation. Therefore initially, when you look at a product that’s plastic free or ZW, it might be pricier, than the everyday alternative, but you must also look at other things, such as ‘How was it produced?’ ‘What is it made of?’ ‘What is harmed during its lifecycle?’ ‘What kind of business produces it?’ ‘How long will it last?’ etc

All these questions are part of the informed decision making that we all have nearly forgotten, because our buying practices have been driven by catchy advertising campaigns and unrealistically low product prices.

Take shampoos and shower gels as an example. Many moons ago, all around my bathtub, I kept bottles and bottles of shampoos and shower gels. Few of them were Christmas presents, most of them were bottles bought by me, for me, mostly for ‘why not?’, because they smelled nice, looked pretty, were on a sale or promised to turn my hair into a beautifully lush, shiny and smooth mane. Most of them, of course ended up being never used... Getting rid of them was one of my first steps towards a low waste life, and it felt wonderful!

Simplicity makes life more functional, tidier, more practical, but that doesn't mean, it makes it boring. Haven't you seen all those stylish photos of bathroom shelves or kitchen sinks with pretty much nothing on them? To me, they tell a very different story to boring.

The other thing about simplicity that it sure frees up a hell of a lot of time to do actual fun things, as opposed to doing ‘fun shampoo-upon-shampoo shopping’ or ‘fun dusting and organising of shampoo bottles’.

It also, ultimately saves you money, so the answer is ‘No, ZW lifestyle is not more expensive', if you are looking at the bigger picture.

Is Zero Waste more time consuming?

In a way, yes. Initially, when you are researching new products, making well informed buying decisions, you bound to end up spending more time doing so, as opposed to walking into a supermarket and robotically chucking everything that you may or may not need into your trolley.

Getting used to and into a new routine takes time, but time is a funny thing. It always feels like that you don’t have any, and in the end, you always seem to find some for things that you enjoy and want to do.

Although, if research is not something that you enjoy doing, you can look for an independent shop that specialises in ZW and plastic free products, and leave them to do the hard work.

Is it possible to produce Zero Waste?

No. The reality of life, as it is, for now, on this planet, doesn’t allow us to reduce our waste to actual nothing. The term doesn’t exist in practice, even the most hardcore Zero Wasters end up with some rubbish. (Saying that, their efforts are more than inspirational, and their ‘rubbish’ is pretty much equals with nothing in the ‘real’ world...)

The term ZW is guidance, reassurance, inspiration, motivation or whatever you, as an individual attach to it. For me it is a surreal concept, that is forever daunting and haunting. I don’t like it.

When I first saw photos and posts about people, cramming their entire years' worth of waste into tiny glass jars, I was mesmerised. I thought ‘This is it, this is amazing!’ Then I looked around me, and quickly lost all my will to try to make a difference and save the planet. The changes I needed to make to reach the ultimate goal of the ‘tiny glass jar’ seemed so overwhelmingly distant, so painfully impossible that I was ready to give up, even before I began.

Luckily there is an ever-growing number of people who are interested in a greener, more conscious, lower waste-producing lifestyle. So, I came across it repeatedly, and finally I realised how powerful small changes can be, if they are done consistently, by a lot of people. I also realised that I much prefer the term Low Waste, and that it is better to leave Zero Waste for the rock stars of green living, the heroes who swapped their rubbish bins for glass jars.

Why do it then?

Let's have a look at some of the hard facts about waste, plastic in particular:

  • 18 billion pounds of plastic waste flows into the oceans every year from coastal regions.

  • 40 percent of plastic produced is packaging, used just once and then discarded.

  • Globally, we recycle less than a fifth of all plastic.

  • Nearly a million plastic beverage bottles are sold every minute around the world. About half of this will not be recycled.

  • About 8 percent of the world’s oil production is used to make plastic and to power the manufacturing of it.

  • The amount of microplastic in the ocean surpasses the number of stars in the Milky Way galaxy.

  • By 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish.

It might seem impossible, money and time consuming. It might feel like it's a lot of effort that doesn't pay off. In the end of the day, you, as an individual, might not plan to stay on this planet for much longer than another 50-70 years, and maybe it doesn't matter much, if you spend that time surrounded by rubbish and by dying ecosystems.

But, it is also possible that you thrive for change, for a life less 'plasticky', for a happier environment, for a healthier planet... and that may be just the reason to lower your waste.

"Be the change that you wish to see in the world." Mahatma Gandhi