5 Easy Steps to Zero Waste Living

Waste has become one of the most substantial dangers to our environment and a lot of times, we don’t even realize how much we are contributing to it. America alone produces over one third of the world’s trash. Excessive plastic packaging waste is a clear consequence of our developed industrial system and lifestyle, in which we use resources for our own convenience.

As long as companies are not held to higher standards concerning the amount of plastic they waste for their products, we as consumers must take a stand.

Here are the five steps you can take to decrease waste in your own home:

REFUSE what you do not need

The first step is to stop bringing in new waste materials by simply refusing whenever you encounter them.

Instead of using plastic bags for your shopping, bring your own reusable bag! To be consistent even during spontaneous shopping sprees, keep a few bags in your car or one in your backpack, so you always have them in reach. Many stores nowadays charge for their plastic bags anyway, so you will save money, too!

When shopping for groceries, consider going to a farmer’s market instead of a big supermarket. Supermarket products come with a lot of unnecessary plastic packaging, especially produce. Avoid this by bringing your own produce bags to the market and supporting your local farmers. And if you have a garden, the next step would be to grow your own fruit and vegetables.

Another step you can take is to refuse junk mail. 6,500,000 tons of paper are used for sending junk mail in the US every year. By signing up with catalogchoice, dmachoice, or using the paperkarma app, you will be unsubscribed from several companies’ junk mail.

REDUCE what you do need

Evaluate your belongings, find the things you never use, and give them a second life.

Start with your closet and pick out the clothes you have actually worn within the last 12 months. Donate the remaining clothing or sell them on Depop or Ebay. Then go through the rest of your house and find the things you do not use, whether they were gifts or impulse buys, and try selling or donating those.

REUSE what you consume

Invest in products you can reuse.

You can avoid unnecessary plastic waste by buying a reusable water bottle and bringing your own water from home, whether you are going to work or to the gym. And in case you have been buying soda, this step will be good for your health, too! Similarly, you can pack your own lunches in reusable food containers instead of buying fast food on the go.

Other examples for reusable products are brushes instead of kitchen sponges, soap bars instead of bottles, and paperclips instead of staples. These are all small changes that won’t affect your daily routine, but they can be significant steps towards saving the environment.

RECYCLE what you cannot Refuse, Reduce or Reuse

Dispose of remaining waste responsibly.

If you have followed the above-mentioned steps, there should not be much left to recycle. Nevertheless, remember to separate your trash and dispose of your waste responsibly. There might be guidelines to what you can and cannot recycle in your local area, so make sure that you are aware of those.

ROT/Compost the rest

Instead of throwing out your food waste, compost it in your garden or make your own worm compost system. This way, you reduce the waste at the landfill and you can use the compost to fertilize the soil in your garden, in which you might already be growing your own vegetables at this point.

The so-called 5 R’s (Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rot) are a set of guidelines proposed by Bea Johnson in her book ‘Zero Waste Home’. She is one of the founders of the Zero Waste lifestyle movement, which has gained a large global following over the last few years.

I, myself, have recently adopted the Zero Waste lifestyle and find it gratifying to actively work against environmental pollution. I would encourage every reader to keep the 5 R’s in mind and to pause the next time they are in the store and pick up yet another excessively packaged product.

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