If we chat to our parents or grandparents — we’d realize that a zero-waste lifestyle isn’t a modern concept. We’ve all loved the hand-me-downs from our elder siblings or observed our mums re-purpose old sarees to craft décor accents. Our elders preferred whisking skincare products from leftover kitchen ingredients or growing a kitchen garden for daily needs.
So, if you’re wondering if a zero-waste lifestyle is possible, it certainly is. We’ll talk more about it in the following sections.
What is a Zero-Waste Lifestyle?
Picture credit: Aware Animals
As the name suggests — a zero-waste lifestyle aims to reduce wastage and offer any item more longevity. We can positively impact the environment with this lifestyle. Less consumption is a virtuous cycle that leads to reduced purchases, lesser use of raw materials and resources like water for production and fuel for transporting products, reduction in excess production and wastages and lower chances of exploitation of workers paid unfair wages. By constantly reusing or recycling, we send little to nothing to landfills. Often considered a sustainable life — a zero-waste lifestyle is more than a way of life; it’s a commitment.
Less consumption is a virtuous cycle that leads to reduced purchases, lesser use of raw materials and resources like water for production and fuel for transporting products, reduction in excess production and wastages and lower chances of exploitation of workers paid unfair wages.
Why Live a Zero-Waste Lifestyle?
The World Counts reports that we dump around 2.12 billion tons of waste globally in a year. The same report observes that the wastage is also because we discard 99% of items within six months of purchase. That’s quite a wastage if you think about it! If we look at the following graph by The World Bank, we notice that most of the garbage ends up in landfills.
Picture credit: The World Bank
That pair of shoes that we love and buy is destined to end up in a landfill within no time if we don’t offer it a new lease of life or use it longer than we intend to. With habits like overconsumption, hoarding, and excess shopping — we’re overloading the planet with junk. Apart from piling up garbage that ends up in landfills, it takes years for some items to decompose; and some never decompose at all.
Most households barely produce a jar of waste in a day with a zero-waste lifestyle. This becomes an important way of living because we reduce greenhouse gas emissions and, by reducing our carbon footprint, enhance the quality of life.
How to Lead a Zero-Waste Lifestyle: A Starter Guide
- Know why you’re starting a zero-waste lifestyle: A zero-waste lifestyle requires commitment and self-control. The only way to master it is to learn why you’re doing it. Are you a climate control crusader? Are you trying to be economically sustainable? Do you intend to be more responsible towards the world? Do you want to leave the planet in a good shape for your kids? Figuring out your purpose will help you stick to the path and not succumb to temptation.
- Eliminate single-use products and plastic: This sounds challenging but only till you get the hang of it. You can ditch single-use products like plastic or paper straws, paper napkins, mineral water bottles, etc and carry metal or bamboo straws, shopping bags, cloth napkins, and water bottles. Reuse these items as much as you can. Don’t forget to check out brands like Chhapa, Hemis, Go Native, etc for quirky accessories. Also, if you regularly order from a restaurant, ask them if you can bring or use your boxes for takeouts.
- Streamline your shopping list: We often end up buying more than we need. For instance, if you’re visiting a store for groceries, buy enough produce that’ll last you for a week. We recommend chalking out your meal prep in advance to know what to shop for, thereby reducing wastage. And along with reduction, do look out for plastic; if your favorite products come wrapped in plastic, you may want to think twice before buying them. A body wash that you love may smell great, but if it comes in a plastic tube, we urge you to pick a handmade soap instead which is almost always guaranteed to make you feel better too. Making wiser choices is what matters!
- Consider bartering with your friends or community: Don’t need something you have? First, ask your friends or a close-knit community if they need it. Often, others see use in the products we longer need, and in such cases, we’re increasing the lifetime of a product. So, go the old-fashioned way and exchange what you don’t need with something you need. You’re also fostering a community of responsible individuals who reflect before discarding items by enabling this habit. Besides, if you’ve always loved something from a friend’s closet, this is the best way to get your hands on it.
- Composting is the way to go: Got any vegetable peels, leftovers, rotten fruits, dried flowers? Start composting in your kitchen garden or composting buckets. You can also add used coffee or tea powder to your compost pit, but note that acidic and non-acidic substances should be layered separately. We suggest you learn or seek help from composting experts before you start.
- Explore second-hand or thrift stores: You may be surprised to discover some great finds at thrift or second-hand stores. Whether you’re shopping for apparel or books, it’s best to explore the thrift stores in your city. With greater awareness, there is now a budding culture of thrifting, with more people shopping for second-hand products at either online or offline stores. For second-hand books, you can check out Bookchor; for apparel and accessories, we recommend Chavyu, Aima Vintage, or even Aimee, which has quickly become a celebrities’ favourite too. If you have products that you no longer need, have a conversation with the store owners to sell them.
Picture credit: Meme Generator
- Learn to DIY at home: From cleaning products to decor items — there’s a lot that we can whip at home. We’ve been making hair gels, pillowcases, dishwashing soaps, stain removers at home, and we’re doing just fine! When you DIY, you don’t just learn the art of conservation; you also learn how basic household items are safe and non-toxic solutions to many every day issues. For instance, did you know white vinegar with citrus makes for an excellent fabric softener? You can skip that fabric conditioner for this homemade miracle. Also, it would be great fun to paint or customize your tote bags and accessories your unique way, right?
- Shop from zero-waste stores in your city: Zero-waste stores stock up on cooking essentials, cleaning supplies, organic produce, and skincare range. All these products are consciously sourced, and the stores strongly advocate fair trade and wages. If there’s a zero-waste store in your city, grab a tote bag from your kitchen, and head over to one. Some zero-waste stores also host awareness drives on the zero-waste lifestyle or DIY workshops.
- Work with organizations for waste management: You don’t have to do it alone; work with global or local organizations to vanguard waste management. For instance, Saahas Zero Waste, a Bangalore-based startup, ensures that no waste is sent to landfills. Similarly, Delhi-based Scrapped collects kitchen waste from different areas for composting. ExtraCarbon is a store that sells all the items that you may otherwise discard. It is making recycling more convenient by enabling a pick-up service. Figure out which local chapters are hosting waste management drives or leading recycling activities in your city. You may either volunteer with them or utilize their services to reduce wastage at home.
Before you commence your zero-waste journey, here’s a word of advice: you don’t become a zero-waste champion overnight. If you’re unable to follow all the above tips — don’t be disheartened. Like all great things, zero-waste living is a process that takes time. While you’re at it, remember that a zero-waste lifestyle doesn’t have to be boring. Inspired by Lauren Singer, even Anne Hathaway chose the zero-waste lifestyle and made it a major part of her life. It’s what you do with what you have that matters.