As we near the end of 2019 "Zero-waste" is fast becoming the buzz word of the year.
Lately, trends in better living have become cornerstones of everyday conversations. Friends or family, co-workers or schoolmates – everyone you talk to will have something to say about a new hashtag born from the fast rising and uber trendy eco-conscious lifestyle.
“The ultimate test of man’s conscience may be his willingness to sacrifice something today for future generations whose words of thanks will not be heard.”
One such term, zero waste living, has been gaining credence amongst Generation Z as they become the voices and faces behind many of the activism campaigns for a greener and kinder world.
Zero waste living came as an extreme reaction to the sudden deluge of information that surfaced circa 2017, and since then, it has become its own medium and its own message. Quickly distancing itself from all other reductionist or eco-friendly lifestyle moves, embracers of zero-waste took over the internet with blogs, vlogs, books, videos and advice columns.
Zero-waste travel was soon to follow, although owing to its obvious pitfalls, it is still the lesser of the two extremes and has remained in the margins of this movement.
However, reactionary media aside, this all-or-nothing type of revolution also got quick reviews and is now starting to seem less and less plausible in the light of, well, real life. A very good critique of this trend was delivered by the YouTube channel Our Changing Climate in a video where he urged his viewers to think beyond their own singular impact and weigh their absolute reduction of waste to the trail of refuse left behind them that they don’t get to witness.
It can get very real, very quickly these days, if the topic is waste and our roles in generating it. The general umbrella term ‘waste’ can include a range of sub-categories such as paper trash, household garbage, kitchen refuse, e-waste, grey water, human waste and of course, food waste. What we add to the problem of waste depends on many aspects of our lives, starting from what we do to who we are as a person. It also comes down to our standard of living and economic state, because how comfortable we are in life directly corresponds with how much we are willing to care about the environment around us.
Therefore, today we talk about how to adapt sustainable habits about waste reduction and waste-control in ways that are easy to access, possible to maintain over time and that don’t essentially mean transitioning to a new lifestyle altogether.
First, let's take a few essential steps
Make ‘spring cleaning’ a regular event: Cleaning out big shelves, kitchen cupboards and closets is a good way to keep an eye on how much you have and how much you buy annually/monthly. Soon, you will start to enforce stricter rules for yourself and others in your home and bring down your purchases and subsequently, your disposal of them.
Recycle with a vengeance: If you are lucky enough to live in a part of the world that has recycling programs, be a part of them. If there is no collection facility, organise drives in your neighbourhood or just a couple of houses around yours, and go together to the recycling centre every week. Remember, a large part of our planet still does not recycle, so if you can do it, do it.
Invest in long-lasting reusables: Switching out your plastics and other daily disposables with durable materials can help you instantly reduce waste at a personal level. Read more about making such changes mindfully and gradually in our blog here.
Now whilst these initial steps don't produce zero-waste, they are great steps to ease you in and help you take stock of your accumulation habits. Once you get to a point that you are ready to commit and do more, there are a number of ways to reduce waste on your home front. Let’s have a look at them now:
Tips On How To Reduce Waste
Meal plans are an ideal upgrade for anyone looking to simplify their dietary decisions, eat healthier and cut down on ordering in. But an added advantage to this switch is the amount of waste that is reduced. By buying what you need for a week, you bring down the food and packaging waste by almost 75% (because you make food for seven days in one or two days and thus, buy only one-two times). You can also make better use of your non-disposable silicone lunch bags, steel utensils and other non-plastic dishware for prepping and storing food for a few days. Also, with the freedom you get in these meal-plan varieties, it could be just the boost your dietary habits and immune system were waiting for this season!
On average, a modern mobile phone user changes phones once every fifteen months. Apple and Samsung, the bigger competitors in the market, schedule their upgrades to match these habits. While upgrading your technological and electronic armory is almost an essential today, it is difficult to ignore its carbon footprint. There are now companies willing to take your old phones, laptops and other electronic paraphernalia off your hands and even give you some money for them. A quick google search for ‘e-waste management’ will give you plenty of options for pick-up or drop-off for all manners of electronic objects that are nothing but junk for you. Just think how good it will feel to finally get rid of that one old toaster that has burnt more bread than it had toasted in its better days. Empty up that kitchen-bench space and put a little succulent there!
Apart from giving away broken or malfunctioning electronics, you might also have some cell phones that you just don’t use anymore. There are always shoes that are too high heeled to wear, coats that just don’t fit well and those beautiful watches that you don’t wear anymore because your aesthetic has changed. But you kept them because they were special, expensive, unique or just too new to give to charity so quickly.
Do you have a friend who might like to have them? Maybe a cousin/niece/nephew who has grown up in the last few months? Even an acquaintance you think would look good in them. Make a post on Facebook, announcing that you are having a ‘giveaway day’ for some special items you no longer want to hoard. Put up some nice pictures and write something about them. Offer drop off if you want to see the person, or pay for shipping.
A nice sendoff might be exactly what you need to part with that hard-to-release object and feel good about it. This is definitely the less painful way to find out what ‘sparks joy’, a trick that has stayed up on the charts for good reason.
You might already know about this, but re-using your kitchen waste with composting will give you a greener and healthier garden and a compostable toilet is a huge win for human waste reduction. Simple to set up and widely available to suit every size of home, composting units can really make a difference in your daily output of bio waste.
USING IT ALL UP:
This one is not so often talked about but it’s key to what we are trying to do here. Buying a new lotion or face mask, trying the new shaving cream, getting a subscription box when all you needed was a new body oil – these are habits common to us, the Instagram generation. What we don’t realize is that this pile up can really affect our waste-reduction goals. By very strictly controlling your purchases in this department, you can make a large dent in your annual plastic and packaging waste. Using a product to the last drop is just as satisfying as opening the new jar, I promise you.
Up-cycling is on trend at the moment, and it is a great way to bring a stylish personal charm to your own home. Olive oil tins, spaghetti sauce cans, soda bottles to small jars of cream, almost everything can be turned into a planter. Hundreds of green-thumbed bloggers can show you how to clean out and plant anything from succulents to sprawling money plants into your empty plastics. Remove their labels and use as is or paint them a uniform fun colour; grow plants using soil or hydroponically. Keep on your windowsill or give away as gifts and keepsakes; the options are endless. The joy – immeasurable.
SAY NO TO PRINT MEDIA:
Finally, cancelling printed newspapers, magazines, brochures and marketing literature is a significant way in reducing paper wastage and saving trees. Subscribe to e-versions of everything you read for an effective reduction of your weekly waste pileup. This will also save you a trip to the recycling bin and help keep the planet a little greener.
By mindfully making an effort to include a few of these small changes in your daily habits can make a difference in the longer run. Do you have other ways to reduce waste? Tell us about it in the comments. When it comes to living green, everyone can be a pioneer of change.
Article Written by Guest Writer Karishma Gaur who likes cats, books and soda pop, but one of these things is not like the other two. She teaches English and writes to earn and then spends it all lavishly sponsoring rescue kittens, shelters and her own coterie of feline munchkins. Her current favourite thing to do is to live green, clean and very lean. (Well, not as lean as she’d like but she picks her battles). You can find her arbitrary collection of thoughts and cat selfies over at gnarlienerd (Instagram) | gnarlynerd.wordpress.com (blog) | @karrietweets (twitter) Read more of Karishma's articles at The OM Collective here >>>