10 Interesting Ideas You Probably Didn’t Know About The Zero–Waste Lifestyle

You've probably seen videos of people who managed to fit a whole year's of trash into a small mason jar. Ever wondered how? It's because they practice what's known as a Zero–Waste lifestyle.

With minimalism on the rise, it's no surprise that many are adopting a zero waste lifestyle.

The concept is quite simple: Produce less trash, ideally none.

As such, people are coming up with creative ways to incorporate this into their daily routines. For beginners, here are a few things you should know about the Zero–Waste lifestyle.

1. Zero–Waste is very popular in Kamikatsu, Japan

Image Credit: Rob Gihooly

In a small town of Japan, locals of Kamikatsu often burned rubbish in open fire or threw them into landfills. This practice continued until the late 1990s until the national government pressured residents to use an incinerator. 

Even then, the incinerator caused heavy pollution and health concerns for Kamikatsu. Eventually Kamikatsu came up with a solution that focuses mainly on recycling.

At first the locals began with 9 categories of waste separation that eventually increased to 34 in 2002. Most importantly waste was separated within households before taking it to the town’s collection centre. Ultimately, this waste was either sold for profit or it was converted into other resources.

Today, many people practice a zero-waste lifestyle by minimising trash, reusing items and practicing recycling. This philosophy ultimately benefits both the environment and promotes a sustainable lifestyle.

2. Zero–Waste aims to minimise waste sent to landfills

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Around 251 million tonnes of solid waste is generated in America each year. More than half of that waste goes into landfills at a shocking 55%. That's only one country, imagine how much more waste the rest of the world produces.

Landfills are bad as they produce Methane (a greenhouse gas) that's far more toxic than carbon dioxide. As such, Zero–Waste practitioners refrain from buying prepackaged goods or disposables as an effort to minimise waste sent to landfills.

By saying no to plastics and other disposables you can help reduce land and air pollution. Instead of leaving behind mountains of rubbish for our next generation, we should cultivate a greener and more environmentally-friendly lifestyle like Zero–Waste.

3. Zero–Waste is the fastest way to reduce climate impact

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As if landfills aren’t bad enough, the greenhouse gas emissions really damages  the global climate. The Greenhouse Effect traps the harmful rays of the sun and dangerously warms up the Earth’s surface. It's known as Global Warming and it endangers many species.

If more people were to practice Zero–Waste, there would be lesser landfills. Obviously, this would effectively reduce its impact on the climate by minimising greenhouse gas emissions.

Therefore, zero waste practitioners often have lifestyles that aim to reduce global warming and its impact on climate change.

4. Zero–Waste re-evaluates our consumeristic nature

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Overconsumption is a huge problem that has negative effects on the environment. Unknowingly, we create waste through plastic cups, takeaway packaging, plastic bags and styrofoam boxes. These items take years to decompose because of their chemical structure. 

Factories overproduce because of our increasing demand. This takes up resources and energy that further pollutes the environment just to fuel consumerism. According to FOA, shockingly one third of the food produced globally for human consumption annually — approximately 1.3 billion tonnes — gets lost or wasted.

Zero–Waste takes a step back to reevaluate just how much we consume. It poses the question, "Is this packaging really necessary?"

Once we realise it's simply for convenience, it changes the way we consume goods and services.

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5. Zero–Waste focuses on everyday household waste management

Image Credit: Zero Waste Malaysia

The first step is to prioritise recycling in households. Primarily, the 3R's of recycle, reduce, reuse.

As beginners, it can be hard to immediately stop using plastic. Instead, separate trash within the household to be recycled before disposal. Paper can be sold to newspaper trucks, while plastic and aluminium can be brought to recycling centres. 

Food scraps can be composted through various ways. One of it is through vermicomposting also known as a worm farm. You simply need a box with air holes, drainage, a lid and composting worms. Though it sounds gross, the worms eat food waste and turn it into rich soil for gardening.

6. Zero–Waste avoids using chemical based products

Image Credit: Zero Waste Malaysia

Another concern is using chemical based products that could pollute the environment. This includes household cleaning, makeup and toiletries. Zero waste practitioners often DIY their own natural cleaning products. 

These include compostable toothbrushes and using baking soda to make toothpaste. Or using dishwashing liquid made from recyclable cooking oil. Soaps are made with cocoa butter, and there's even reusable sanitary pads. All natural ingredients are not only good for the environment but also good for your body.

7. Zero–Waste helps you eat healthier

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The most prominent feature of Zero–Waste is eating all-natural food. It could also entail shopping at package-free grocery stores that require you to bring your own containers as they sell products in bulk and charge by the weight.

The Hive in Bangsar for example sells vegan and organic produce by weight. These include whole foods like seeds, nuts, grains, cereals, legumes, dried fruits, seasoning, spices and more. They also sell soaps and stainless steel straws. You can also shop for meat and vegetables at wet markets.

By being on a better diet you would definitely feel healthier and more energetic. You could also shed off that extra weight as you're no longer eating processed foods. How great is that?

8. Zero–Waste promotes sustainable fashion

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Fast fashion creates tonnes of discarded clothing everyday. How about buying clothes from thrift shops instead? Zero waste is all about reusing and "up-cycling" old clothes. Thrifted clothes are also cheaper and unique. You don't need brand names to look stylish. 

If you have clothes that you don't wear anymore, donate them! Instead of letting your clothes live in a landfill, why not clothe someone in need?

Never let clothes go to waste as even materials like wool end up taking up to 5 years to decompose.

9. Try to bring your own containers

Image Credit: Trash Is For Tossers

Zero–Waste tries to avoid packaging at all times. Since Selangor's "no plastic bag" ruling, many have switched to using recyclable bags for groceries. Imagine how many plastic bags you save when you only have to use one recyclable bag.

Furthermore, you should bring your own containers for takeaways. Polystyrene doesn't decompose under natural circumstances.  Therefore, try packing your lunches to abstain from eateries that create waste.

To save even more money, use reusable water bottles instead of buying mineral plastic bottles everyday.

These small lifestyle changes may be a hassle at first. But once you get used to it, you not only play a role in saving the environment but you could also save a couple dollars.

10. A zero waste lifestyle doesn’t happen overnight

Image Credit: Zero Waste Malaysia

A lifestyle change is never easy, especially going Zero–Waste. It might be tempting to use disposables because it's easier but always remember why you're going Zero–Waste.

Whether your goal is a healthier lifestyle or to care for the environment, a Zero–Waste lifestyle has many benefits.

It's more about the journey than a hard end goal. By being more mindful of our waste, Zero–Waste cultivates a more wholesome way of living. Last year, Zero Waste Malaysia had its first Zero–Waste fest.

It featured 15 vendors with over 100 reusable Zero–Waste products like bamboo straws, silk dental floss and silicone menstrual cups. The unique green market focused on educating the public about zero waste. Find out more about them here. 

Consistency is key when it comes to adopting a new lifestyle. You have to slowly work it into your daily routine, even if it's as small as bringing your own containers.

In the end, it's the effort that counts for a greater good so don't get discouraged.

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*Feature Image Credit: Zero Waste Malaysia FB Page

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