Many people try to live a greener, more sustainable lifestyle by recycling and buying clothes and furniture secondhand. Adding zero-waste practices to your daily routine is another way to achieve this goal. While it may seem like a challenging task, it only takes a few small changes to cut back on how much waste your family produces.
Understand the Spirit of the Zero Waste Philosophy
Despite what the name may suggest, zero-waste living is far less restrictive than you might think. People who follow the zero-waste philosophy understand that producing no trash at all is an unrealistic goal. Instead, they make environmentally conscious purchases and reuse what they can to limit the amount of material they throw away.
Set Achievable Goals for Zero Waste in Every Room
Switching your habits to live a zero-waste lifestyle takes time and practice. With a few small steps and changes, you can minimize your family’s waste production one room at a time. Small changes can make a big difference in your environmental footprint, from choosing repurposed and reclaimed furniture to opting for reusable containers and packaging-free cleaning products.
Avoid Plastic Packaging on Food
You can also make smarter shopping choices at the grocery store to reduce your use of plastics. Buy snack foods and pantry items in bulk rather than in individually wrapped packages to create less garbage. Take a reusable shopping bag with you to the supermarket to avoid bringing home more single-use bags. If possible, skip plastic-wrapped meat and bread by shopping at local farmer’s markets.
Invest in High-Quality Furniture
Buying the right furniture can help you reduce waste as well. Cheaply-made indoor furnishings wear out quickly and break easily, especially if you have rowdy kids and clawing pets in the house. Low-quality outdoor furniture is also more susceptible to rusting, splintering, mold and pests.
High-quality outdoor furniture made with wood, metal or wicker is well worth the extra cost. Since these durable and eco-friendly pieces stay sturdy and beautiful for many years, people often pass them down for generations. As a result, your high-end tables, dining sets and seating arrangements are less likely to end up in landfills.
Consider moisture-resistant teak, heavy-duty wrought iron or sleek metal decor options when shopping for long-lasting, zero-waste furniture. Use a furniture buying guide to help decide whether metal or wicker pieces are best for you. Performing regular furniture maintenance and investing in cleaners and covers ensures that your patio furnishings will last even longer.
Avoid Fast Fashion
Being more conscious of the clothing you buy can reduce waste production as well. Fast-fashion garments, which are cheaply made and low-priced, are detrimental to the environment. The clothing contains potentially harmful chemicals and dyes, and their mass production results in higher carbon emissions as well as soil and water pollution.
Secondhand and thrift shops are a great alternative to big-name clothing retailers. Sew up rips and patch holes in your garments to get more use out of them, and use hand-me-downs from your older kids to dress your little ones. Also, rather than buying a brand new tuxedo or gown for a single occasion, consider renting clothes from a designer retailer instead.
Use Recyclable Products
Switching to recyclable, biodegradable products is essential to living a zero-waste lifestyle. Pick reusable water bottles, straws and hand soap dispensers to limit single-use plastics in your home. Paper bags and parchment sheets are eco-friendly ways to pack lunches and wrap gifts. You can also make reusable dryer sheets or use wool dryer balls to reduce waste on laundry day.
Evaluate Zero Waste Pros and Cons
Adopting these practices may seem like a great idea to some, but others may still be wondering if making all these changes is really possible or even worthwhile. If you’re still on the fence about switching to a zero-waste lifestyle, consider the following pros and cons.
Advantages of a Zero-Waste Lifestyle
There are an array of benefits associated with a zero-waste lifestyle. Beyond helping the environment, making positive changes like these can improve just about every part of your day-to-day life. Here are a few points to consider:
- Reduces Water and Land Pollution: Less waste in dumps and landfills means fewer toxins in the soil and less run-off into waterways. This keeps the local plant and wildlife safe and prevents the contamination of your city’s food and water supply.
- Supports the Reduction of Global Warming: Landfills also contribute to greenhouse gas emissions, so throwing away fewer materials can reduce the amount of carbon dioxide that they release into the air. Zero-waste practices like using your washer and dryer less frequently scale down your carbon footprint as well.
- Can Save You Money: You can save quite a bit of money by getting your clothing and furniture secondhand. Also, buying bulk and making your meals from scratch is far more cost-effective than buying takeout and pre-packaged foods from restaurants and grocery stores.
- Has Physical Health Benefits: Since a zero-waste lifestyle involves buying whole foods instead of packaged and processed meals, and you’ll likely end up making healthier choices. As a result, your meals tend to be more balanced and free of harmful chemicals and additives.
- Encourages Positive Systemic Change: Government officials and business owners are starting to take notice of the zero-waste philosophy. Many companies have done away with Styrofoam products, and a few states and regions have banned single-use plastics at large retail and restaurant chains. More businesses may adopt these eco-friendly practices as this trend continues.
Disadvantages of a Zero-Waste Lifestyle
While green living offers plenty of perks, it also presents some new challenges. It’s important to consider these concerns so that you can develop a zero-waste plan that works for you and your family.
- Requires Time and Discipline: Zero-waste living means changing your shopping, cooking, decorating and housekeeping methods. Getting the hang of it requires a lot of research and practice, so you have to decide whether the benefits are worth the effort.
- Means Breaking Old Habits: Some of your favorite products may not have zero-waste alternatives. As such, you may have to give up certain snack foods, hygiene products and clothing brands to live this lifestyle.
- Can Be Expensive: Recyclable and reusable items tend to cost more than disposable products. You may end up paying twice as much for items in glass containers than you would for the same product wrapped in plastic. High-quality, zero-waste clothing and furniture may also be more than your budget can handle.
- Not Realistic for All People or Environments: Many of these practices require access to a wide range of high-end, eco-friendly products. If you live in a food desert, have a larger household to support or have limited income, a zero-waste lifestyle may be impractical for you.
- Can Feel Like a Burden: Pollution and global warming are massive issues in our world, and many institutions still use products and practices that harm the environment. Even if you can limit the waste that you and your family produce, you may still question whether your efforts are making a difference.
Is Zero-Waste Right for You?
The idea of going zero-waste can be daunting, but this lifestyle is far more doable than many people assume. Every little bit helps and it’s okay to take baby steps rather than diving into a strict new lifestyle. You can start with something as simple as bringing your own bags to the grocery store and work your way toward more sustainable habits as you become more comfortable.