Americans generate a lot of trash — and I mean a lot.
The average American creates 4.4 pounds a day, or 1,606 pounds of trash in just one year.
This amount of waste threatens aquatic life, harms human and animal habitats, and transports chemical pollutants.
So what do we do about it?
The zero-waste movement may have the answer.
What does it mean to be zero-waste?
Imagine throwing nothing away for a day, a month, or even a year. No food scraps, no paper waste, no old electronics, no plastic. You reuse all your containers, compost the food you don’t eat, and recycle everything possible. Simply put, zero waste means throwing nothing away.
Although living a completely zero-waste life is something wonderful to aspire to, for many of us it is not fully achievable. Living a zero-waste life means you have to invest in buying reusable bags and containers, plus having access to food you can buy in bulk. Similarly, many don’t have the means to compost in their own homes.
But don’t let that discourage you! Here are three big ways you can incorporate zero-waste concepts into your life that will benefit you and the environment.
1. Waste less at the grocery store:
The simplest way to generate less waste at the grocery store? Bringing your own bags!
You can reuse old plastic ones that you have hidden under your sink or keep a stash in the trunk of your car. If you can, use canvas bags whenever possible. Beeswax wrap can also come in handy if you want to avoid using plastic wrap for your produce.
If you do have large, well-sealing containers already, and your grocery store has a bulk section, stock up on what you use all of the time, like flour, rice, and other dried or long-lasting goods.
Don’t have any reusable containers? Just try to buy the biggest version of non-perishable items that you can, which will save you money and limit future trips to the grocery store. Also, pay attention to the packaging your food comes in. If there are two similarly priced options, and one is in a recyclable container and the other isn’t, pick the one you can recycle.
2. Eliminate food waste at home:
When we throw out food in non-compostable bags, it will take 10-20 years for that bag to decompose and for that food to go back into the earth. Yikes! That’s why it’s important to use up those leftovers in your fridge. Whether it’s using leftover rice to make a stir fry or throwing chicken scraps into your soup, you’d be surprised at how easily you can use what you already have — saving you money and time.
For those items that may be hiding out in your fridge for too long, composting is a great way to make your own fertilizer. If you don’t have easy access to a compost bin, you have the option of freezing your compostable materials before dropping them off. This will keep them off your counter and contained until you’re able to make the trip.
3. Shop with zero-waste in mind:
If you need a piece of furniture, clothing, dishware, or decorations, second-hand shops and antique stores can have great (and affordable) options. You can often find high-quality pieces that have been gently used or never even been worn!
Looking for shoes? Before running off to get a new pair, see if your favorite heels or boots can be fixed before tossing them. This will save you money, and the process of having to break in new shoes.
But sometimes, you just need to buy something brand new. And if that's the case, try to find clothing made from eco-friendly fabrics, like organic cotton, wool, bamboo, and hemp. Go for quality over quantity and try to stick with pieces you know you’ll want to wear for years to come.
Incorporating zero-waste doesn’t mean you have to completely change your life — it just means becoming more mindful of how you impact the world around you. If you want to learn more about this movement, check out: www.ZeroWasteHome.com