Recently, I have been watching a lot of TED Talks and researching a lot about how to reduce my carbon footprint. I think it is our responsibility to learn how to live sustainably and efficiently, in order to limit how much waste we leave behind as individuals. This is a pretty new concept for me, but it is becoming increasingly important on my list of values. I am calling this my journey to becoming zero waste.
Most of us already know to “go paperless” as much as possible to reduce the amount of trees that are cut down each year. Approximately 5.5 billion trees are cut down every year. This deforestation creates a loss of biodiversity, increased climate change and of course, less fresh air.
What has become even more toxic to our environment, especially in the last 50 years, is plastic.
Plastic contains polyethylene which takes 700-1000 years to biodegrade. When it does eventually breakdown into tiny pieces, these small bits are still toxic and poisonous to the environment. You may ask:
Isn’t Plastic Recyclable?
Yes, but unfortunately, only 1-3% of plastic is actually recycled. Not only that, but it is only recyclable a hand-full of times, which means it ultimately still ends up as trash.
Did you know that plastic bags were only introduced to supermarkets in 1977? Since then, 5 TRILLION plastic bags are created yearly. Even the production of the bags is toxic to the environment.
At first, when reading up on this topic, I thought to myself, well, I usually use re-usable grocery bags, so I am not part of the problem. Then, I started realizing how much other plastic I use on a daily basis.
What Else is Packaged in Plastic?
- Cleaning products
- Beauty products
- Hygiene products
- A lot of food/drinks
- Most water bottles
- Storage containers/Food wrap
- And much more!
When looking at this list, I realized I have some changes to make in my life. Of course, when becoming zero waste, we must remember that it is impossible to completely eliminate waste from our lives. However, I would love to become more conscious of how much paper and plastic I am using, and reduce it as much as possible.
Becoming Zero Waste: Where to Start?
There are an infinite number of ways to reduce your carbon footprint and begin your journey to becoming zero waste. After researching different sustainable solutions, I have come up with a list of easy changes you can make in your life to reduce your carbon footprint. Some of these items are linked to Amazon in case you wish to purchase them. As an affiliate, I may make a small commission if you do make a purchase.
One after the other, I hope to slowly start checking off this list and becoming much more environmentally friendly as an individual.
Ways of Becoming Zero Waste:
- Purchasing whole foods like produce that is not packaged at all is healthier for you and the environment
- Using a bar of soap rather than a bottle of body wash, or even shampoo bars that are not packaged in plastic
- Refill your own glass containers at bulk stores instead of using their plastic packaging. The cost of their packaging is embedded in the price, thus saving your money as well. Try to buy as much of your dry goods in bulk as possible
- Instead of purchasing more ziplock bags, use the storage containers you already have and continue reusing them to store your food
- Use biodegradable bamboo toothbrushes rather than plastic ones
- Do not leave the water running when brushing your teeth or shaving
- Compost as much as possible
- Use biodegradable waste-bags for your pets
- Use public transit, walk or bike rather than using a car. If you must drive, try to car-pool
- Make your own cleaning products (and some beauty/hygiene products), instead of purchasing plastic bottled products several times per year. This will also save you money!
- Bring reusable grocery bags when shopping for food, clothes, or anything.
- Use a re-usable thermos or Keep-Cup when you go to the coffee shop and ask them to put your beverage in that instead of a paper cup
- Purchase second hand clothes and technology to avoid the packaging, and the toxic production of these items
- Eat less meat, because the energy-waste, water and grain waste in order to produce meat is enormous.
- Do not buy one-time-use paper towels. Instead, use rags.
- Purchase a menstrual cup rather than using plastic wrapped feminine products
- Refuse straws when ordering drinks
It is not to say we must adapt every single way on this list to our own lives. What we can do, is find which ones may work for us and slowly trying to incorporate them into our routine.
Can One Person Make a Difference?
Of course! First of all, every change in the world begins with one, or a few people taking a stand for what they believe in. Imagine all the packaging you throw out on a weekly basis. What if you cut this in half or less? Over the course of your life, this will make a huge difference!
Plus, if people stop purchasing items packaged in plastic or made of plastic, it is decreasing the demand for these products. This will send a signal to the companies to begin making plastic-free products. This is called practicing your consumer power.
In addition, your journey to becoming zero waste will most likely inspire others to do the same, or at least be slightly more conscious of their own waste. It will benefit the environment, and even your pocketbook when buying in bulk, making your own products and re-using containers.
How Can I Find Out More About Becoming Zero Waste?
Shop: Bea Johnson’s Book – Zero Waste Home
What do you have to lose? Nothing. The environment, however, has a lot to lose.
Have you started your journey to becoming zero waste? What are some other ideas you have implemented into your daily routine? I would love to hear about them in the comments below!