The Zero Waste lifestyle is becoming a more popular phrase But what does it really mean. It’s far more than just recycling your disposable plastic bottle. The Zero Waste lifestyle is about sending nothing to landfill or thermal treatment (aka Incineration). This does not mean that we do more recycling. In fact, the opposite happens. We recycle less because we find upstream ways to avoid having material to recycle in the first place.
The key to Zero Waste lifestyle is decisions!
Deciding to buy something or not. Deciding to Avoid, Refuse , Switch, Reuse and Reduce. It is a decision rich consumption lifestyle, evaluating the consequences for waste of each decision we make to acquire something. The real goal is to try to avoid landfill / incineration (the destruction of resources) and keep resources in circulation as long as possible in multiple useful life-cycles.
I may never reach ZW nirvana but I feel it is just over the horizon.
Making early choices.
As we consume resources in our daily lives (Food, products, services, stuff) the decisions made in the early part of the lifecycle have the biggest impacts. This applies to the design, manufacture and re-manufacture and support activities (maintenance) of manufacturers and the purchasing choices of consumers. In this decision making top-down approach recycling is a last resort: it is always better to avoid, refuse, reduce, re-use and repair before recycling anything. It is an iterative process because you must re-examine decisions all the time when faced with your residual waste. Simply ask how this waste is still remaining – and examine all the decisions made along the way that got you into this waste situation. Constant refinement of decisions with the end of pipe consequence in mind will ensure you progressive eliminate bad choices and reach as close as possible the Zero Waste nirvana.
I recycle all the time but I’m not at ZW nirvana just yet, It’s a journey and I’m on it, along with many other fellow travellers. ! So as a ‘ZeroWaster I’m always thinking about my residual waste, refining my earlier choices, and aspiring to do better next time. I may never reach ZW nirvana but I feel it is just over the horizon. I’m getting ever so close and I enjoy the company, support and advice of fellow travellers.
What does a Zero Waste lifestyle look like in normal life?
It’s all about doing something more and progressively trying to cut your waste. Zero Waste choices and informed decisions are your tools.
- SEEK LONGEVITY: It is about choosing the right durable products that are well-made and built to last, that can be repaired or re-manufactured, and won’t end up in landfill/incinerators once life-expired. The Manufacturer or Supplied should have a takeback/recycling programme in force. It may cost a little more at the time you buy but it will save you money in the longer term.
- SHUN DISPOSABLES: It is about choosing reusable products over single-use disposable items. There is a re-usable coffee cup in the photo below. Which one is it?
- FAVOUR OLD over NEW: Do you really need a new item. e.g. car? Look to second-hand over new where possible, and valuing resources already in circulation.
- SATISFY YOUR NEEDS not WANTS? Do you really need the item? Do you really need the amount on offer (e.g. special offers on food quantities than may not be right for you). You need to avoid temptations and impulse purchases and refuse anything not needed.
- EMBRACE SHOPPING LISTS : Your best ally in the fight to remain focused on what you are going to the supermarket to buy. What’s not on the list is not needed. Make the list at home before you set off. Check your larder/fridge etc for your actual needs and volumes required and stick to it.
- ASK QUESTIONS and QUESTION ANSWERS: It is about asking questions of the supplier and retailer to find out what they offer for recycling, maintenance and packaging recovery. How much recycled or re-manufactured content is in the product?
- EMBRACE RE-USE: Think of novel ways to re-use your stuff or components. Find new and better ways of doing things, re-using things and substituting for unsustainable products or processes.
- DOUBLE VISION: Think ahead. Before acquiring something think about how your relationship with it will end. Then decide the best option for a Zero Waste outcome at the end-of-useful-life point.
See more on Zero Waste lifestyle on our video page.
What does your Zero Waste lifestyle look like? Have you started your journey yet?