Is it possible to function without producing waste? Proponents of the zero waste movement are convinced that it is and suggest how to take the first steps towards living without waste. We explain what recycling is, the 5R principle and which zero waste products are worth choosing.
What is zero waste and why is it worth reducing waste production?
The term zero waste means that the idea of reducing human waste production has become increasingly popular in recent years. It refers primarily to waste that is not recyclable or biodegradable. Activists promoting life in the spirit of zero waste emphasize the harmful effects of consumerism and unwise management of resources. Pictures of animals choking on plastic objects and huge piles of garbage and clothes flooding Third World countries are circulating around the world.
Can we change the dramatic situation the Earth is in? Yes! Proven zero waste solutions can help, and they are worth incorporating into our lives. By changing our habits, we can not only help the planet, but also save a lot of money. How to start being zero waste? We have prepared a short guide for people who want to take a step towards conscious consumption.
Zero waste in five steps – what is the 5Rs principle?
To understand the essence of the zero waste trend, it is worth taking a look at the “5R rule”. Five slogans summarise its most important principles:
Avoid compulsive purchases, poor quality items, consider whether you really need another pair of shoes and a new phone.
Try to reuse items considered disposable and look for creative uses for packaging (e.g. turn yogurt cups into small flower pots and jam jars into trinket jars).
Create a household recycling system and put recyclable materials in the appropriate garbage cans. For example, PET bottles can be recycled into new plastic packaging or new fabric. Recycling also includes things like glass, paper and metal.
This principle is related to the extraction of energy from waste, which can be done in a professional setting.
Instead of throwing away damaged items, try to repair them – give shoes to a shoemaker, repaint an old chair and dye washed clothes to make them last longer.
Some people add another “R” to the list, namely “Refuse” (don’t give in to the consumer lifestyle, shape the market with your choices), “Rethink” (think again if you really need a given thing and what else you can do in the spirit of zero waste) and “Rot”. (compost biological waste in a garden composter).
How to buy zero waste products, i.e. without unnecessary packaging?
Vegetables and fruits are typical zero waste products – some can be eaten whole, others leave only a small amount of bio waste. Remember that a plastic bag lasts for 20-30 minutes on average, after which it is thrown in the garbage can. An alternative is reusable bags for vegetables, fruits, legumes and groats, which avoid unnecessary consumption of raw materials. They can be made of cotton or thin tulle – a curtain transformed into a bag will work perfectly.
You can buy groats, grains or legumes at the market or at a stand selling products by weight, asking to pour them into a jar you bring with you. When shopping for zero waste products, take a plastic container that the sales clerk will put the cheese or sausage in. If you must buy packaged products, choose those in cardboard, cans or glass, and recycle or reuse the packaging. Pack your purchases in a cotton bag or backpack.
Zero waste for beginners – how to start?
Zero waste and less waste is not difficult at all. Simple steps to start your adventure with ecology are:
- limiting your shopping and planning sensibly – it’s worth making lists so you know what you already have in the house,
- buying slightly uglier fruit and vegetables – a crooked carrot tastes the same as a straight one, yet is more likely to go to waste in the store,
- choosing local, seasonal produce that hasn’t had to travel thousands of miles to be on our table,
- giving up plastic bags,
- drinking tap water (to reduce the use of PET bottles),
- taking with you a bottle, your own coffee mug, a set of cutlery and a cotton napkin – eating in zero waste style will also be possible in the open air and in the city,
- using leftover food creatively – try out new zero waste recipes
- buying smaller quantities of food to avoid spoilage,
- buying products without packaging,
- not using printed tickets – this is an example of zero waste while you travel,
- refusing when someone wants to give us something unnecessary (e.g. an advertising gadget),
- using fewer cosmetics, choosing bar shampoo and a wooden toothbrush,
- cleaning with baking soda and vinegar instead of chemicals in plastic containers,
- installing energy-efficient LED bulbs to save electricity,
- choosing eco-friendly and energy-efficient heat sources for your home (heat pump, recuperation) – zero waste design is increasingly available and cost-effective.
Zero waste is not only a fashionable trend, but above all activism and a conscious approach to the burning problems of the modern world. It is worth considering how to live zero waste and take concrete steps towards reducing consumption.