Why is zero waste important?
The Zero Waste Lifestyle brings together concepts like circular economy and looking at things like people’s shopping habits, changing views towards consumption and living in a more sustainable way. “Going zero waste” is a journey and a change in mindset that should alter our approach to resources. In its deepest meaning, it is not about recycling and diversion from landfills but about rethinking production and distribution systems to prevent waste from being manufactured in the first place.
Getting deeper into the zero waste lifestyle is about picking the right fights and this will vary for each person. It is important to seek out the changes which are most feasible and best fit in with our individual lifestyles. Some advice for anybody is to start small and look for the easy changes that can have the biggest impact. It’s impossible to jump in and be zero waste from straight away because it is a lifestyle change. A good analogy is training to run a marathon. You wouldn't go out on the first day of training and run 26 miles. You start at a comfortable distance and built it up from there. If you start out with too much it will become overwhelming and it’s likely that you won’t make meaningful changes that stick long term.
A way to comprehend what our consumption of resources and waste output actually means is by looking at what is called Earth Overshoot day. This is the date each year that a country has already consumed the resources which can naturally be renewed in a year. So ideally we want every country to have a date which is 31st December, or even better later than that meaning we would be using fewer resources than can be renewed.
These figures per capita which gives a clear picture of much any country is consuming as a small country with a lower population could actually be consuming more per person.
Looking at some commonly thought of polluters out there. The US’s overshoot day in 2018 was on March 15th, China was June 15th and the UK fell between these on May 8th. At this rate, if the whole world lived as the UK does, then we would need almost 3 planets worth of resources.
Calculate your own overshoot day with this free online carbon calculator.
One of the most useful tools for getting into the zero waste mindset and move towards living a waste-free life is the 5 Rs of zero waste, popularised by Bea Johnson in her book Zero Waste Home. These actions should be followed in order from top to bottom to help prevent unnecessary waste.
The 5 Rs of zero waste
Source: Zero Waste Home, Bea Johnson
There are so many parts to living a low impact or zero waste lifestyle that it can be hard to know what to look to first. Below are some of the most important issues that we look to tackle at The Bare Alternative with more information to help explain why this is a problem and what we can do to find solutions.