Choosing to go low waste—or as it’s often called, going zero waste—is a lifestyle choice all about reducing the amount of waste you produce. It’s all about action on the individual level, opposed to a collective movement. Sounds both super simple and challenging at the same time.
If you’re most on the “sounds challenging” side of things, you’re not alone! For the majority of people, going zero waste isn’t feasible, which is completely ok. That’s why we're choosing to focus on a low waste lifestyle, and giving you practical tips to add to your everyday life. Always try to be gentle with yourself and remember that you don’t have to a lifestyle overhaul to make positive changes.
The idea behind the movement
As you can see from Google Trends, interest in the zero/low waste movement has exploded in recent years. In the early 2000s, it was basically nonexistent, and has seen a drastic increase in the last four years, since 2017.
The core principle behind the movement is simple: to limit, as much as possible, what you send to landfills. In the eyes of low waste proponents, while recycling is great, this is an even better model because you’re limiting the amount that needs to be recycled in the first place.
Another goal of low waste is to have compounding positive benefits on top of being good for the environment. Going low waste helps reduce stressful clutter and mindless spending. It encourages us to reexamine our relationship with stuff. You might remember our blog post from last week, where we went a lot more in depth about that topic.
But remember—the goal isn’t to be perfect, it’s just to give it your best try! Even if you focus on living a low waste lifestyle 3 days of the week, that’s 3 more days than before. Every step makes progress.
In order to reap the full benefits of low waste, make sure you try to find balance. Yes, low waste is sustainable for the environment, but in order to maintain a low waste lifestyle, focus first on finding a way to do it that’s sustainable for you. That will lead to longer-lasting habits and longer lasting benefits!
Here are some easy tips for beginners in the low waste space. The first one sounds amazing, but can be a little tricky in practice: try not to spend money on things you throw away immediately! This includes things like paper towels, disposable cups, water bottles… single use items!
(The exception: toilet paper.)
In the long term, investing in reusable hand towels, wash cloths, makeup wipes, and the like can actually save you money. These products may only need to be replaced yearly, or even longer, opposed to monthly. They can also easily be hand washed in the sink and hung to dry.
Our second tip is to refuse—think of it as an additional “r” for the reduce, reuse, and recycle saying! Politely decline items like plastic straws and bags when they’re offered, or even tell people in advance
you’re not interested. This way, instead of you having to throw something away, that item can go to someone who wants it; and the less demand for something there is, the less it will be produced.
You can also avoid a lot of packaging waste by buying items in bulk or second hand. Another bonus for your wallet. We’re far from the first people to sing the praises of Costco!
The next tip is another “r”—rot! Ok, that one is a bit of a stretch. But many people don’t realize how accessible composting can be, even if they live in an urban area. In fact, it can be even easier. There are many local organizations that provide residents with composting bags and bins, and then come around one a week to pick it up, just like normal trash! Even if a service like this is not available to you, there are still other ways to compost. Try contacting local farms, community gardens, or greenhouses and see if they’re accepting compost material.
Our final tip for beginners is that when you do want to throw something away, look into low waste alternatives. This includes recycling and composting, as well as donating! Clothes, shoes, books, household items, and more can all be donated to different services. Even clothing that is damaged or stained can sometimes be sent to a clothing-specific recycling center.
If you want to dive even deeper into the low waste world, Kathryn Kellogg’s blog Going Zero Waste is a place rich with resources, encouragement, and community.
What do you think? Is a low waste lifestyle for you? Try it out for a week, and visit our socials to tell us what you thought, what went well, and what maybe didn’t!