The reasoning behind the Zero Waste movement is simple:
- If you refuse to buy or accept products with wasteful packaging, the demand for those products will decline.
- By refusing to purchase products stored in single-use plastic, you’ll help address our planet’s burgeoning plastics problem. You’ll also eliminate many toxins from your life and our environment.
- By streamlining your shopping list and what you accept into your house, you’ll also streamline your life. You may find you have more time as a result—to do the things that matter.
The Zero Waste lifestyle may look different depending on where you live, but everyone can participate on some level. Urbanites often have more choices for bulk products or may be located closer to retailers willing to fill up personal containers. Rural residents may have more options for food production and reducing their food miles. The goal is to do the best that you can with whatever resources you have.
The 5 R’s of Zero Waste:
- REFUSE what you don’t need. This prevents unwanted items from coming into your home and end up in the trash.
- REDUCE what you do use. This equals less waste overall.
- REUSE whatever you can. Can you extend the lifespan of something by mending, handing down, or repairing? Reusing also means swapping disposable products for reusable ones that can easily be laundered instead of thrown away.
- RECYCLE what you can’t refuse or reduce. Saving resources from the waste stream by recycling is one option, but keep in mind that some items will not recycle indefinitely and will end up in the landfill at the end of their (often short) lifespan. These are the items that zero wasters try to avoid.
- ROT what’s left over. Composting food scraps, paper pieces, and wooden or bamboo toothbrushes returns nutrients and fibre back to the earth.
How to Get Started
A Zero Waste lifestyle starts with looking at your overall habits and trying to change those that generate waste. Here are some guidelines for those considering this approach for the first time.
1. Streamline what you bring into your home.
If we bring less through the door, our homes will be easier to manage and we’ll have less waste overall. This goes for the food we buy, the clothing we wear, the toys we permit our children to play with, and everything else in between.
2.Shop at bulk food stores using reusable containers.
If you are lucky enough to have a local grocery store in your neighbourhood, which most of us do in India, you’ll have access to a wide variety of unpackaged products, from dry goods to fermented foods to chemical free home products. Carry your own bulk containers and refill them every time you shop to avoid the plastic packaging waste. You also end up saving a few bucks when you shop in bulk.
3. Refuse unnecessary products and promotional items.
Saying “no” can be challenging in a culture where we’re taught to be polite and take whatever’s handed to us. But the reality is that most promotional items are poorly constructed or made from cheap materials that won’t last long before breaking—ending up in the landfill before the year’s out. Most people will understand if you explain, without judgment, why you don’t need the item.
4. Carry your own containers for takeout.
In addition to bringing your own containers while shopping, carry your own set of reusable containers for eating on the go. This includes carrying your own water bottles that can be refilled and avoid buying plastic water bottles. Carry your own steel cutlery wherever necessary when you step out for that evening chaat or late night ice cream.
5. Reconsider some of your favorite products.
Can you replace some of the products you buy with others that come package-free? Many people who adopt a Zero Waste lifestyle find that they don’t need the variety of products they once thought they couldn’t do without. This includes some cleaning products, personal care products, and cosmetics. We at down to earth offer a variety of such zero waste personal and home care products that you can choose from.
6. Use up what you have.
Before replacing every item in your house with Zero Waste alternatives, use up what you have and dispose of the waste responsibly. Where possible, recycle the component parts. Make changes when it makes sense to do so. Take one step at a time, changing one aspect of your lifestyle at a time. Zero Waste isn’t something that most people do all at once.