Living waste-free is a dream for any conservationist or people who have decided to actively do something to combat climate change. It may seem overwhelming and impossible to imagine a home without waste, but it is doable.
Although waste prevention is a priority in Europe, waste legislation doesn’t contain provisions incentivising states to reduce waste. Most discussions in the economy are around recycling, waste energy, and landfilling, making waste reduction an incidental habit that individuals have to uptake in their own homes. However, with a little bit of investment and planning, it is possible to live waste-free, even if it is only within your home.
It all starts with purchasing decisions, proper planning, and setting up a system for what materials enter the home and how.
A few years ago, former BuzzFeed journalist Auri Jackson attempted to go cold turkey, living waste-free for a month. She said her feelings toward climate change were overwhelming and she felt helpless. However, she tried anyway and now lives an almost entirely waste-free life. She even makes her own makeup, as shown here. Many others have taken up the zero waste life with varying levels of efficacy, but it’s not a competition. It requires changing habits that have become second nature and being mindful about forming new habits. So, here are some tips to help you on your way to living waste-free.
1. Understand why you are doing this
If you don’t have the motivation and understanding as to why you are changing lifelong habits – even bad ones – the new behaviour won’t stick. Perhaps you’re a student in sustainability or a surfer tired of seeing plastic in the ocean. Regardless of your reasoning, having one makes forming a new lifestyle much easier.
2. Dig through your trash
No, seriously. Observe your waste habits. Or instead of dumpster diving, go a week in which you carry on consumption as usual and separate your trash. Seeing just how much waste is accumulated might actually help with Tip #1. One person in Europe wastes on average 500g of fresh food a week, generates 30 kg of plastic waste per year, and accumulates approximately six tonnes of waste a year. Most of this is redirected to recycling or waste energy plants, but some of it ends up in landfills and it’s good to visualise how much you are contributing.
3. Prioritise your consumption
Decide what you would like to continue using or not using, as well as quantities. This helps a lot in cutting down what you have in your home. Understanding why you have something is key because you are then able to skip certain things on your next shopping trip. It also saves a lot of money when you take stock of the things you need and what you don’t need.
4. Make the switch gradually
While it might seem really daunting, it’s not hard to switch from plastic bags to reusable ones. Some people say they have a hard time remembering to take them with them. What to do? Don’t shop. That will train your brain and get you into the habit of remembering them. Phase out your old habits by replacing them with new ones rather than getting rid of them entirely. If you like using a straw at your favourite restaurant, take a reusable one. Ask the waiter not to bring you paper napkins. Take containers with you for your leftovers. The small things can lead to larger changed behaviours.
5. Make the initial investment
Mason jars. Reusable bags. Glass packaging. Metal straws. Compost bins. All of these cost a bit of money. But they’re once-off investments that not only save money in the long run but drastically cut down your waste. There are even groups that can help you start your zero waste journey and give you tips on to how to begin and maintain being waste-free. And if you can’t afford the switch, do it gradually where and when you can.
Basically, it’s about changing a lifestyle with the environment in mind. With that as your motivator, you can successfully live almost entirely waste-free. Even if you’re not doing what vloggers or internet celebrities are doing, the fact that you are reading this far means you are making a commitment to help our environment and that is amazing.