What is Zero Waste?

The Zero Waste mindset is an art form. It is a life style.

When living as a Zero Waster you live by the following 5 steps; refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle and rot. These are the 5 R’s and I promise that they are not as scary as they may sound! Zero Waste isn’t about living as they did in the good ol’ days and not to enjoy all the good things that humanity has accomplished. Zero Waste is simply about being aware of the impact you have on this earth and trying to reduce your environmental footprint as much as possible without compromising your own living standard. Everyone has different needs and everyone values the things they have in their lives differently. What someone can easily either refuse or reduce may be a necessity to another. In my opinion you can be a Zero Waster to any agree that you find compatible with your own lifestyle

Zero Waste is not about living with less but actually about living with more through less. I will explain more about that down below.

Now let me give you a closer look at the 5 steps that every Zero Waster knows by heart; refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle and rot.

Refuse

First up is refuse.

Do you really need all those flyers being past to you on the street? What about that free pen or key chain? Don’t you already have a drawer full of those things? What about those seemingly ‘free’ shampoos and body soap you find at various hotels? Do you ever truly use them again? Don’t you prefer to bring your own shampoo, the one you know does wonders for your hair and skin?

This first step is about refusing all those small items that may seem free, but actually leaves behind a huge impact on our earth. All the energy and ressources used to make that little trinket for you could have been spent much better elsewhere and on something more useful.

By taking those things you are actually creating a demand for them and more will be produced. Instead of taking them and throwing them in the garbage as soon as you get home or in that mystical drawer in your house, you can simply refuse them. Stop the cycle of demand and produce.

Reduse

How many pairs of jeans does one girl truly need? Those pants doesn’t even fit you anymore. You would do both you and others a huge favor by cleaning up your closet and donating them to some charity. You will be able to find the clothes you actually like in the closet again and the thrift stores will raise money for a good case. It is a win-win situation.

Try and take a look around your room/apartment/house or wherever you live and ask yourself; do I really need this? Have I used this in the last week? Month? Year? If not throw that shit on the street. It has no business cluttering up your space.

I remember the decluttering process I had to go through and let me tell you; it was scary. It’s incredible how much we get attached to our things, but once those things were gone and out of my reach I suddenly felt a huge weight lifting from my shoulders. It sounds like a cliche, but it is the damn truth. We really don’t need the huge amount of stuff that we surround ourselves with. Just because you can buy something doesn’t mean that you should. And besides, having more stuff means having more stuff to clean. I don’t know about you, but cleaning isn’t exactly a favorite hobby of mine and I would much rather spend my time on something else.

Reducing also means not buying a whole bunch of stuff to replace the stuff you already threw out. When you are out and about and come across something you think would look great on your shelf or on your body, stop and ask yourself; do I really need this? Or do I just want this?

Reuse

Why do you need cups, cutlery, napkins or much of anything that can only be used once and then have to be thrown away? Honestly the only thing that should have such a short lifespan is your toilet paper.

There is no reason to buy one-time plastic cups. Sure, they can be useful when throwing a party and glasses may be dropped on the floor. Plus they are really easy to throw away the next day, when it feels like you are carrying an alien baby inside of your stomach.  But other than it being really expansive in the long run, it is such a waste of not only material but also energy. Again; all the energy put into that simple plastic cup or plastic knife could have been used on creating something with a longer life span or simply on something more important.

Instead, use things that can be reused. Bring a water bottle when you are going out, bring your own bag while grocery shopping and if you are willing, you can even buy reusable straws. 

Another side to the 3rd step ‘reuse’ is repairing. Our grandparents did it, why shouldn’t you? In this day and age it is often cheaper and simply easier to go out and buy another replica of the same product, when something is broken. Repairing a computer or cell phone for instance is often rather expensive. And that new Iphone has just hit the street a couple of weeks ago and it was about time to buy a new cellphone any way, so why not go ahead and buy it? What harm can it be? Well a lot actually, but I am not going to go into how your new Ipad or Samsung cellphone is creating harm to the environment. That is for another post.

A lot of the things surrounding us in our everyday life we do not know how to repair when broken. Cellphones, computers and overall electronic devices will be a hard nut to crack, but old jeans, T-shirts and socks can easily be repaired with a needle and string. Even the dumbest person can learn how to sew and if the things just can’t be repaired or you have grown tired of it, you can easily turn your old clothe into rags and use them as napkins, washing cloths or whatever you need.

Recycle

You may think that recycling is one of the greenest ways to live, but the Zero waste lifestyle actually say differently. Recycling things means that even more energy has to go into now breaking down the material and making it into something else. That is yet again useful energy that could have been used on something else, however recycling remains a good thing and we should all do it much more. So once you have refused, reduced and reused and still find yourself with a lot of waste, you should definitely recycle it. In any case it beats sending it to a land field, where a few hundred or thousand of years will pass, before it eventually breaks down on it’s own.

In Aarhus in Denmark, where I live, this has been made rather easy for us living in the central city, since there is various trash containers in the street for just this purpose.

On this picture for example you will see three different containers; two for regular unsorted trash and one for paper. Other places you will find containers for your glass, metal and even batteries. The trash goes into a huge box in the earth and a garbage truck comes to pick up the trash at various intervals. I am very proud of my city for doing this and it makes recycling so much easier.

For recycling in the best way possible you should figure out the options in your community. Try searching around on the internet for how they do things in your neighbourhood, since this tends to wary depending on your country, state and city.

Rot

The final step is rot or composting and here we often talk about things like leftover scraps from when you make food like egg shells, the leftover bits of the vegetables you just cut and even hair.

I remember my grandparents having a compost outside, when I was younger, but I always shook it off as being weird and old fashioned. Now, I think that they were on to something. By composting your leftover food you actually create a lot of great soil that can be used when growing your own plants and flowers.

Now, my grandparents live in a house and I live in an apartment in the big city, so my situation is a bit different from theirs. However, I have heard that it is possible to have your own personal compost in your apartment and even though I have yet to barge onto this incredible mission myself, I am going to direct you towards a great post about this very subject. If you are interested in this topic, I suggest you read that and other posts as well. Google is your friend, when there is something you know next to nothing about.

So those were the five R’s to the Zero Waste lifestyle! Scared, yet? You shouldn’t be. No one is telling you to do it all at once and God knows that I haven’t. There is a lot of things that I have yet to learn and I have a long way to go. But I am excited about this new path in my life and I hope to use this blog as a way of keeping me on that path.

Zero Waste is’t about being different. It’s about leaving behind an impact on the world that you and your children can be proud of.

I suggest:

Top 10 to get started

Zero Waste Home by Bea Johnson

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