Making the Switch to a Zero Waste Lifestyle
Our landfills are overflowing with plastic, thanks to an annual production of more than 45 million tonnes of polyethylene around the world. It’s time to take some steps to reduce the amount of plastic we’re using – and many people have embraced a more environmentally friendly zero waste lifestyle.
“The term zero waste seems incredibly daunting and pretty much improbable, but it’s easily attainable,” said Audrey Holmes, a San Diego blogger who is on a personal journey toward zero waste. “Being sustainable and more importantly, zero waste is all about the bigger picture and understanding your personal impact on the volume at the landfills.”
Holmes started her journey by increasing her awareness about the purchases she was making, and what she already had in her home – taking a physical and mental inventory of everything that could potentially wind up in a landfill. The next step was thinking about meals, and how to create everything from scratch instead of relying on packaged foods.
“The first part of my grocery mission was to stay on the outside of the store,” Holmes said. “Almost all the processed and packaged food is on the shelves on the inside of the store, and the fresh produce, deli, and bakery are along the rim of the store.”
To bring her groceries home, Holmes brings her own bags to the store, including containers for the meats and cheeses from the deli. She even carries a mason jar with her at all times, just in case she swings by a Starbucks on the way home.
Planning ahead is key, noted zero waste blogger Lauren Singer – who makes all of her everyday products, from toothpaste to cleaning products.
“I started planning for potentially wasteful situations,” Singer said. “I began saying ‘no’ to things like straws in my cocktails at a bar, to paper or plastic bags at stores, and to receipts. Of course, this transition didn’t happen overnight.”
For Singer, the process of going zero waste took more than a year and required “a lot of effort” – even for an environmental studies major. However, the important thing to remember for anyone trying to reduce their impact on landfills is that you can easily make a difference by slowing changing your habits.
“To this day, I still replace one single use item in my house with a reusable item each month,” Holmes said. “If every week you switch something about your life to be sustainable, you’ll be living zero waste in no time.”
The lifestyle isn’t just good for the environment, either. According to Singer, her life has improved in three valuable ways since her zero waste journey began almost five years ago – she saves money, eats better, and feels happier.
“I never anticipated that actively choosing not to produce waste would turn into my having a higher quality of life,” she said. “I didn’t start living this lifestyle to make a statement – I began living this way because living a zero-waste life is, to me, the absolute best way I know how to live a life that aligns with everything I believe in.”