An Introduction to the Zero Waste Lifestyle

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An Introduction to the Zero Waste Lifestyle

In an ideal future, we would like to coexist with all kinds of life forms on our planet Earth. In such a future, we would want to have bountiful sunlight, clear air, nutritious food, clean surroundings, greenery and natural environments available to everyone easily. 

Coming back to the present, our civilization is very far from realizing such a future. For decades now, environmentalists have been raising alarms about our society’s unsustainable way of consuming resources. For most of our history, people have been consuming Nature’s resources responsibly i.e., well within our planet’s capacity to replenish resources regularly. But because of the accelerated growth of our civilization roughly from the 1950’s and 1960’s, our global society has been consuming resources acceleratingly. 

The annual Earth Overshoot Day illustrates the particular date when our society’s consumption begins to outweigh our planet’s capacity to regenerate resources each year. In 2021, it’s July 29th. According to Global Footprint Network, a respected non-profit organization advocating for sustainability in our society, our civilization’s demands for resources have grown to greater than 1.7 planet Earths each year! This is a painful reality check for everyone, not only a few or some. 

Choosing to Create a Healthier Future

Statistics relating to pollution and our society’s largely unsustainable way of living can easily shock us. There are dozens of such statistics easily available today. But they aren’t always enough to spur or to inspire us towards creating change. We also need guidance, support and opportunities, to nudge us in the best direction. 

From a societal point-of-view, availing the help of renewable resources of energy for our daily needs is perhaps the best answer we could hope for. But as we consider individual members of our society, we need to invite a paradigm shift. Fundamentally, all of us can only control our own choices and actions. We cannot control our surroundings directly. So, only our conscious choices and actions can really create a culture of sustainability. 

In addition to the common ways everyday people contribute to sustainability in our society like bicycling, carpooling and public transport, we can look towards the ‘zero waste’ lifestyle. In contrast to large scale efforts to bring in sustainability in our society, the zero waste lifestyle is meant for individuals. Excluding external elements outside of an individual’s control, this lifestyle encourages him or her to make choices to help the environment, primarily by limiting his or her material wastes. 

To illustrate, most of us purchase many processed consumer goods either from local stores or online retailers. Just consider the resources and materials spent to manufacture millions and millions of such everyday products! Most of us buy goods from local stores or online retailers, often packaged with plastics, cardboard or forms of paper. The premise of zero waste lifestyle is to reduce the usage of such products because they contribute to pollution significantly. As an alternative, we can purchase environmentally friendly products i.e., goods available with biodegradable ingredients as well as packaging materials. 

The first step is to develop awareness of our own condition today. Let’s first consider the physical wastes we are throwing away regularly. We should spend some time to study our own waste baskets at home to identify the various kinds of waste materials we are throwing away. With time, we need to reduce the quantity of non-biodegradable wastes like plastics and synthetic materials we are throwing away from our waste baskets. This is the essential guideline of the zero waste lifestyle. 

With lots of time, the distant vision is to completely stop throwing away harmful wastes from each of our homes i.e., producing ‘zero waste’.  

the Hope of a Circular Economy

In addition to helping the environment, the zero waste lifestyle can help us in many other ways. It can guide us towards better health, independence, self-sufficiency and peace of mind, just to mention a few. 

Kathryn Kellogg, an environmentalist advocating for the zero waste lifestyle, has written a book called ’101 Ways to Go Zero Waste’. In her book, she explains the great importance of the zero waste lifestyle. Among many insightful ideas, she suggests our society to aspire to become a circular economy. Today, our society practices a linear economy where we consume resources and discard wastes in a linear direction i.e., we are only consuming resources and discarding wastes, continually. But instead, we can try to create a circular economy where we consume resources and our wastes could in turn be cultivated to produce some more resources. 

The ideal future of a perfect world, with virtually no wastes and a sustainable way of living, is nearly impossible to realize immediately. It’s only possible through slow and steady change. It requires conscious effort from individuals, groups, businesses as well as governments. So far, we have touched gently upon the vast topic of the ‘zero waste’ lifestyle. But hopefully, we now have a clearer understanding of the various choices present before us. So, let’s try to do our part to help create a better future.  

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