The zero waste lifestyle: what it is and how you can give it a try

You may have inadvertently seen the headlines: “four years’ trash, one jar” or “the zero waste traveller”, but what is this whole ‘zero waste’ thing you might ask? To put it simply, it’s an extreme experiment of producing no waste and it’s become a movement to raise awareness of our consumption habits. 

The zero waste lifestyle starts off as a challenge to see whether someone can avoid throwing out any rubbish or waste for a pre-determined amount of time. Many of these ‘challenges’ start off with a goal of one month but tend to transform into an ongoing lifestyle choice, drastically changing the way people consume.

In practice, the zero waste lifestyle is not easy. It requires meticulous planning and strong motivation. At first it’s a burden to remember to carry around your reusable shopping bag, cup and water bottle, yet with time you get the hang of it. But as you wander the aisles of the supermarket, you come to the drastic realization that you’re mostly limited to the fresh produce isles.

Of course you can recycle cardboard and plastic, so these don’t count towards your waste contribution (but this is debatable among the hard-core zero-waster!). And you will obviously compost all scraps of food.

But what you don’t realize until you analyze the situation is that those box-packaged biscuits that you desperately want are also lined with plastic wrapper that’s not recyclable. Darn, I guess you’ll have to go to the local bakery and ask them to put the fresh biscuits in your reusable bag. You’ll also find yourself in the farmers market a lot more often. Which isn’t all that bad. In fact, you’ll end up cooking a lot more at home, eating a lot healthier, and saving a lot of money. Oh, and did we mention you’ll be helping save the planet?

So this all sounds really great, but quite difficult, so we thought we’d give you some encouraging and practical advise on how you can go about trying out the zero waste lifestyle:

  1. Set yourself a realistic goal. If you think a month of zero-waste will be too challenging, start with a week! Ensure you fully immerse yourself in the challenge for the week.

  2. Equip yourself with a zero-waste starter kit. This will include:

    • Several reusable shopping bags

    • Smaller bags (or mason jars!) for produce and bulk goods

    • Mason jars and Tupperware for food storage

    • A reusable coffee cup

    • A water bottle

    • A compost bin with biodegradable liners

  3. Plan your meals for the week and put together your shopping list. Your meals may change once you realize that some of your ingredients come covered in non-recyclable packaging. So be flexible and creative – it can be a fun challenge to come up with new recipe ideas!

  4. You probably won’t need to do any shopping besides for food in a week. If you desperately need something else, though, try a charity shop first or visit freecycle or gumtree to get a gently used product.

  5. Stay open-minded. After the first two or three days, you’ll have a moment of realization as to how much waste you produce through your consumption. Ride on this wave of motivation and reflect on it. Think about how much waste you have probably produced in your life and think about how much you can save from now on. 

Take these basic tips and try them out for a week! That’s all we’re asking, just a week, and you never have to do it again if you don’t want to. But it’s probable that you’ll have a bit of an epiphany and this might spark you to make some longer-term changes in your life, even if they’re little changes.

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