The Zero Waste Alliance International has described it as a goal that is “ethical, economical, efficient and visionary, to guide people in changing their lifestyles and practices to emulate sustainable natural cycles, where ALL discarded materials are designed to become resources for others to use.” With more people than ever following this trend and starting their own ‘Zero Waste’ journey, it’s time to take a look at why it has become such a popular lifestyle.
If you didn’t know already, it's mainly young millennials who are at the forefront of this trend; sharing their journey on social media to thousands of followers. The humble mason jar has become the icon of this trend - some have been able to fit two years’ worth of trash into a single jar!
We, as Australians, generate a lot of waste. The average Aussie produces about 1.5 tonnes of waste per year, and collectively we waste up to $8 billion worth of edible food per year. This is an enormous amount of waste that can be reduced with some minor lifestyle changes.
Is the Zero Waste Lifestyle Achievable?
Though the Zero Waste style of living is extremely admirable, it can often place unrealistic expectations upon the average person. For some, it’s an all or nothing mentality; we think this needs to change. Zero Waste is the Ultimate Goal but Low Waste is the Reality.
At Flora & Fauna, we believe that any effort made to reduce waste or change detrimental habits should be commended. For many people, it’s simply unrealistic to generate no waste whatsoever. We live in a society where waste is inevitable. This also reflects our modern way of living; the extreme value placed on material wealth and over-consumption is wrecking our planet and our self-worth.
Fighting poverty and implementing proper waste management systems are also extremely important factors in tackling our waste problem. For the underprivileged, cheap foods laden with disposable plastic are unavoidable. In order to make it easier for the consumer to reduce their wastage, there needs to be a stronger emphasis on government-imposed taxes and regulations on corporations producing packaging waste.
Adding to this is the nature of our fast-paced style of living – convenience is everything! Think about how often you buy and throw away plastic per day. Takeaway coffee cup on the way to work? Sushi rolls in a plastic container at lunch? It’s estimated that Aussies use 1 billion disposable coffee cups per year and 373 million disposable plastic bottles! And these are things we can alter - by making small changes every day, we can create big impact longer term.
What we should be avoiding.
As consumers, we need to avoid unnecessary waste. And by this, we mean avoidable waste. Walk into any supermarket; one thing you’ll notice is the sheer amount of extra plastic. On fruits, vegetables, frozen goods – you name it. Also, think about your online shopping habits; many fast fashion brands use an enormous amount of plastic packaging to ship your items. All of this plastic waste is avoidable! Here are some more items to avoid purchasing:
- Disposable plastic water bottles – opt for a Reusable Bottle instead. Not only will this reduce the plastic waste you create, you will also save money in the process.
- Takeaway coffee cups – Take 15 minutes to relax and enjoy your coffee in a mug by dining in, or simply carry a Reusable Coffee Cup with you, so you are never caught off-guard through the day.
- Plastic bags – both for grocery shopping and fruits/veggies. Bring a cotton tote with you and some Green + Kind Reusable Produce Bags - an easy alternative for single-use plastic fruit and vegetable bags when shopping, and they are super light so they won't register on the scales either.
There’s also the plastic that you don’t immediately notice or think about – things like individual lolly wrappers, ‘windows’ on packaging, the lining on products and labels/tags. Next time you are shopping, look around and think about other ways you could cut down.
Steps towards a Zero Waste lifestyle.
The biggest motivator to start a Zero Waste lifestyle is to ask yourself: “Do I really need this?” and “What will happen to this item when I throw it away?”. Think about everything you purchase, consume and dispose of – is there a way that it can be done with less plastic wastage as a result? Just remember, it’s not about being perfect. Realistically, it’s more like a ‘low-waste’ lifestyle. Here are some more tips to get you started:
- Buy from bulk food stores – BYO jars, containers and bags can help cut down significantly on plastic waste, especially when buying items like oats, nuts, rice and pasta.
- Say no to junk mail and fliers, and switch all your bills to paperless.
- Meal prep in reusable containers to avoid disposable plastics from a single meal, and to help reduce food waste.
- Buy second-hand where you can or purchase sustainable/ethically produced goods. Australia has some great home-grown ethically produced fashion labels like Torju and Tasi Travels.
- Upcycle, mend, donate or get creative with the things you already have!
Going Zero Waste shouldn’t be daunting or unrealistic. Don’t let the perfect photos of the trash in the tiny mason jars discourage you. Remember, everybody is in a different stage of their journey; don’t compare yourself to people online. Just do the best you can with the resources around you!