7 Steps You Can Take to Live a Zero-Waste Lifestyle

What is a zero-waste lifestyle?

According to the Zero Waste International Alliance (ZWNA), zero waste is "the conservation of all resources by means of responsible production, consumption, reuse, and recovery of products, packaging, and materials without burning and with no discharges to land, water, or air that threaten the environment or human health."

The goal is to create as little waste as possible—but it's not reasonable to assume that everyone has the ability and resources to live zero-waste. We can, and certainly should, strive to reduce our waste drastically. The idea is not all or nothing. You can take steps today to reduce your waste production and live more sustainably. Here are seven simple ways you can adopt principles from the zero-waste movement.

1.Limit Plastic Use

Plastic Oceans reports that 10 million tons of plastic are thrown into our ocean annually, and 50% of all plastic produced is created for single-use purposes. We have a significant plastic problem in our country, and we must curb our plastic consumption. When possible, support brands that do not use plastic packaging and opt for sustainable practices like materials made out of recycled products or minimal packaging. The idea is to avoid buying plastic if there's another sustainable option.

Shutterstock: glass jar, reusable water bottle,eco bag with fruits on yellow background

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2. Prioritize Reusable Items

A great way to limit our plastic use is by using reusable items instead of single-use items. Products like reusable straws, cloth grocery bags, reusable water bottles and coffee cups, glass mason jars and reusable cotton pads for skincare are great ways to reduce your waste consumption. Don't be afraid to bring your reusable items out with you as well. Some places like grocery stores and coffee shops will give you a discount for bringing your reusable product.

Shutterstock: woman drinking spinach smoothie in a glass jar with metal reusable straw

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3. Curb Fast Fashion

Fast fashion is a significant pollution contributor. Earth Org reports that fast fashion accounts for 10% of total global carbon emissions, and most clothes end up in landfills. Of course, you don't have to swear off fast fashion forever. Its accessibility and price make it the best option for some people, but if you have the resources, it doesn't hurt to check out the thrift shop or sustainable brands before putting in that new Princess Polly order. Buying fast fashion does not make you a bad person, but now that you are more aware, you can check out other options and reduce how often you buy from them.


4. Watch Your Food Waste

Did you know that the United States throws out more food than any other country? According to the Recycle Track System (RTS), nearly 40 million tons of food waste is thrown out each year, and 80% of Americans discard good food. We must become aware of how we buy and discard food. Try to eat the food in your home before buying more, learn about accurate expiration dates, order in less, buy in-season and local when possible, and find ways to recycle leftover foods.

Shutterstock: woman picking apples in farmers market

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5. Support Local Businesses

Sustainable Connections report that buying local requires less transportation, so it uses 26% fewer automobile miles. Small businesses also produce way less pollution and waste than large corporations. There's no better feeling than supporting a local business and directly helping people within your community, but now you can feel good that it is helping people globally as well. The app Buzz is a great way to find local businesses to support in your area.

fashion designer standing at table in design studio

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6. Recycle and Upcycle

We all know that recycling breaks down and processes old materials to create new products, but upcycling is a relatively new term. Upcycling is the process of reusing discarded materials and turning them into new products. The main difference between the two is that while recycling is processed in a facility, we can all upcycle. Upcycling takes a little more creativity, but it's also more fun. An example of upcycling would be reusing a mason jar to hold your makeup brushes. Next time you're about to throw something out, ask yourself if there might be another purpose for it.


7. Purchase Mindfully

The most important mindset to adopt from a zero-waste lifestyle is to be more intentional with our purchases. We often impulse buy items without thinking about whether we need that item or not. There's nothing wrong with retail therapy every once in a while, but continuously buying products and discarding them is not great for the environment. Mindful purchasing allows us to feel more confident about our purchases instead of feeling like, "Wait, did I need 10 new candles?" When you're intentional about your choices because you keep other people in mind, it makes our actions more significant. By reducing how much we throw out, we are increasing our positive impact on the world.

Shutterstock: woman working with laptop and credit card at home

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Want to reduce your plastic use? Check out THIS fantastic natural deodorant from the plastic-free brand Peach.