In the hustle and bustle of today’s generation, many items and products come in instant packaging. We want to avoid wasting time and that’s why we have resorted to quick methods that add convenience to our lives. However, we might not realize that we could be harming the environment with all the single-use waste that we throw away into the landfill.
So, how do you live a zero-waste lifestyle? Is it even possible to live such a life? Can we completely survive without having to ditch anything into the dumpsite (or at least lessen our trash)?
The answer is yes – with a little effort and knowledge. It’s not too late to undo the damaging effects of consumerism that some companies have placed upon our heads and affected our daily habits.
Going zero waste doesn’t have to mean that we need to ditch all of the luxuries that we have in life. By going zero waste, we are only becoming smarter and more practical with our consumption of anything – from food to any kind of usage and way of living.
With that said, here’s how you can live a zero-waste lifestyle:
Ditch Plastic and Use Eco Bags
Eco bags are widely available around the world – from the smallest grocery store up to the biggest malls. You will see them even in developing countries such as those in Asia and Africa (even in poorer communities) because they are starting to become more educated and concerned about the environment as well.
The use of these eco-bags, which are made from canvas, cloth, or any kind of recyclable and/or eco-friendly material, will help reduce single-use plastic manufacturing. Therefore, humanity will no longer have to worry about their landfills taking up way too much space in their homeland.
Unlike before, eco-bags are now becoming a norm. You can easily buy one for as low as $1 and you can use it for shopping anything over and over again. Here’s what you’re doing to the environment if you support the usage of eco-bags when shopping for just about anything:
1. They’re more durable for carrying heavy objects
Imagine going to the grocery store and having to buy apples, oranges, chicken meat, pork, and whatnot – and the only option that you have is a brown bag. Realistically, brown bags are only meant for dry goods and objects that are not too heavy, such as cotton buds and tissue. For the wet market, however, you’ll need a stronger bag.
Using single-use plastics won’t always do the trick for the wet market, especially if you need to carry an entire watermelon with just one hand. Oftentimes, these single-use plastics cause disaster when they get detached due to the heaviness of your load.
That’s where the more durable eco bag will come in handy – most of them are made from strong cloth materials that will withstand a lot of force. This means that they’re ideal not only for shopping for watermelons but also even for carrying a coffee maker or a flat-screen TV home.
2. You throw less plastic waste into the landfills
When you think about it, using a reusable bag instead of buying single-use plastics all the time will save the landfill from being overfilled. This means that our land can be used for other actual important purposes, such as planting crops.
3. You save wildlife from plastic poisoning
We’ve heard it time and time again – plastic gets ingested by marine animals, which end up killing them on the shore. That’s why we’ll want to reduce our plastic pollution by sticking to eco-friendly bags that do not get thrown out into the sea for a couple of years, as compared to single-use plastics.
Moreover, if you go with canvas bags, they are eco-friendly since they are made from organic material that’s generally biodegradable.
4. We can reduce fossil fuel usage
Most plastic bags that are meant for single-use are made with petroleum, which comes from fossil fuels. If we reduce the demand for plastic bags, we also save our future natural resources for the next generations ahead.
Aside from that, if the demand for plastic becomes lower, companies won’t have to spend a lot of energy just manufacturing them. This, in turn, lessens the dependence on fossil fuels as the source of energy (for most factories).
5. Since they’re reusable, they are cost-efficient
When you already have an eco-bag at hand, there’s no need to pay extra cents to buy additional plastic bags, which will end up in the landfill. Generally, buying just one big bag will be enough for you to contain a ton of items that you bought from the grocery store – and such big bags usually don’t cost as much when you think about it in the long run.
6. You save communities from flood problems
Among the most common reasons why flooding worsens in some communities is the lack of properly cleaned drainage systems. That’s because waste from single-use plastics is non-biodegradable and thus, results in the blockage of the drainage systems.
If you go for an eco bag instead of single-use plastics, you will help prevent these blockages from happening. Floods spread a lot of problems to a community, including diseases, which is why you can help both the environment and the community by buying an eco bag.
Use Glass or Stainless Steel Containers
Now that you have your eco bag, how will you buy wet market foods such as fish and meat? To thoroughly ditch the plastic packaging, you can bring your container and have it weighed at the supermarket. Most containers nowadays come in either glass or stainless steel, which are durable and reusable.
If you can’t afford to use glass due to its fragile design, you can try stainless steel containers, especially if you want to keep food fresh for a long time. There are also BPA-free reusable food containers if you can’t use glass or stainless steel but make sure that they are eco-friendly.
Lessen Disposable Paper Products
Toilet papers and napkins are among the most common waste that’s thrown into the landfill, causing plenty of problems for the environment (and the landfill site). To help reduce our environmental impact, we can use reusable cloth versions of the products.
Many companies nowadays make reusable paper towels, tissues, napkins, and the like. We can just wash them after they take our spilled juice or milk, which will not only save our landfills but also our trees.
Aside from that, since many disposable paper products use bleaching as part of their process, by not buying them, you will lessen bleach dumping into the water streams and soils, causing less harmful impact to the environment.
Be Mindful of Food Leftovers
Don’t throw your food away just because it’s already been served earlier at lunch – you can repurpose them into various recipes. You can also reduce waste by planning your meals carefully so as not to throw away excess food.
By lessening our food waste, we’re also lessening the amount of garbage that we throw into our landfills. Although most of our food waste is organic, it’s still a shame because such food could’ve gone to good use, either feeding people or animals.
One way to live a zero-waste lifestyle is to do some backyard composting. You can set up your compost bin at home and check out municipal or local guidelines for effective composting.
Common compostable items that you can dump into your bin include:
- fruit peels
- vegetable parts
- coffee grounds
- pruned shrubs
- dead leaves
- unbleached paper
Keep in mind that not all products that are compostable can be composted home – look for the manufacturer’s specifications if the product can go into your backyard compost bin or if it has to be taken to the local composting site. That’s because certain compostable items need a certain temperature and condition to thoroughly degrade.
Buy Items in Bulk
While this isn’t exactly a poor man’s option, buying items in bulk will reduce the need for additional packaging. Instead of buying sachets of toothpaste or shampoo, buying a big bottle will help the environment become free of excessive packets of plastic.
Oftentimes, items that are in bulk will also contain significantly more content (and more concentrated, at that), giving you a better investment for your money. If you have a large household, buying items in bulk also saves trips to the grocery store, reducing our fuel consumption and our carbon footprint, so it’s hitting two birds with one stone.
Although this is a cliché, recycling items still qualify as a way to live a zero-waste lifestyle. If, for some reason, you cannot ditch plastic containers in your living conditions, at the very least repurpose them into various projects, such as for your garden or art.
Examples of recyclable items include:
- Plastic containers
- Used paper
- Glass (not broken in shards)
- Old clothes
- Aluminum cans
- Tin cans
Name: Rebecca Tarvin
Discipline: Integrative biology
Degrees: B.A., Biology, Boston University, 2010; Ph.D., Biological Sciences, University of Texas at Austin,2017
Rebecca Tarvin is broadly interested in integrating studies of natural history with molecular genomics and phylogenetics. Specifically, she aims to elucidate causal genetic mechanisms underlying novel traits, characterize phenotypic diversification at macro and micro-evolutionary scales, and identify factors that promote and constrain biodiversity.
She also likes to write about eco-friendly lifestyle and other material alternatives that are eco-friendly, aside from other ways to save Mother Earth