Today I wanted to talk about the Zero Waste movement. This isn’t a blog post about convincing you that you are some terrible human for using plastic products or for throwing something in the trash. This post was inspired by seeing one too many of those kind of comments and not wanting to see people deterred from something that has more than just environmental benefits. So let me dive in:
First the main idea behind Zero Waste is to overall reduce what waste you produce and what waste ends up in the landfills. The goal isn’t to produce no “Waste”; it’s to make sure every piece is taken care of in the best way possible and to be more thoughtful about the waste we create. This can mean things like composting, recycling, terracycling, buying used, and reusing. Now why should you make the commitment or take steps towards it:
This is the first reason that pops to mind. It keeps trash out of oceans and away from wildlife. It does help with the emissions that affect our air quality. I remember hearing once that the average person in the USA made around 4.5 lbs of trash per day. That is the size of our kittens right now. That is the weight of an entire bag of sugar or flour. Reducing that does more than just help the environment though.
Moving towards zero waste has saved us immense amounts of money. It seems counterintuitive because most people think you have to buy these speciality products to be able to afford to do this. I argue that for the most part it will save you much more than it costs, especially at first. First there are so many free recycling programs in many neighborhoods and cities or even as part of trash services. If you reduce your waste by recycling by half or even a quarter you could downgrade your trash services and trash bags and save money there. Instead of buying a single use water bottle, a reusable water bottle can easily pay for itself within 5-10 uses. Avery has had his bottle since 2012 (Yes he does wash it). There are so many examples like this that would make a huge impact on your budget over the year and you can feel good about helping the planet while doing it.
While you don’t have to give up processed foods, you will probably see yourself moving away from it! This is absolutely great for you. I have been cooking at home more than ever with lots of produce and I have been doing it for my husband and I for under $75 a month. That includes treats and alcohol. You learn to buy in bulk, at local markets, and can even preserve your food. You are also keeping fewer chemicals in your home and moving towards more natural options.
I have to admit this might be my favorite and most unexpected benefit to moving towards a zero waste lifestyle. Our house is becoming cleaner and smells great. Here is my favorite example. When my college friend had a roommate who once threw rancid meat in the trash, left it there for days, and then demanded that one of her other roommates deal with it. It had made the entire place start to reek and they all got into a fight about it. Plus it took like three weeks before I’d go and see her from the smell. I used this example because with zero waste you tend to have less food waste because you tend to need to plan out meals better, but even when you do your food can go right into a composting plan and not be sitting in your home for weeks. Now, Avery and I rinse all of our recyclables that had food in them, use a smaller trash can, and are composting most of our food waste. We have less materialistic things overall and have less clutter! What a win!
These are just a few of the examples I have about the positive benefits of going zero waste. But it can be really intimidating and unappealing to go this route. It does take a little bit more effort some days but if you get in the habit, it really isn’t bad at all. In an upcoming post, I will be putting together a really simple beginners guide on some very easy changes that will not only be more environmentally friendly; it will also make your life easier and healthier. I’ll be putting that series together about simple to complex changes you can make and you choose what works for you and your family. Just remember every little bit counts! Are any of you interested in going zero waste?