We are on the verge of a global social and environmental crisis. It's now, more than ever, crucial to adopt a Zero Waste lifestyle. All kinds of waste are piling up in landfills at an alarming rate.
Single-use plastics have a disastrous impact on ecosystems and human health, but they aren't the only issue. Luckily, Zero Waste switches are fantastic for the planet and your budget.
With just a few of these Zero Waste, minimalist, ethical, and sustainable favorites, you can start a low impact lifestyle to protect the environment and save money at the same time.
Here are simple Zero Waste swaps to limit how much rubbish you put out and make a difference on a global scale.
1. Buy less
One of the best ways to waste less is to buy less. Adopt a more mindful approach to shopping and move away from excessive consumption.
You can follow a minimalist lifestyle to increase your budget as well as do good to the planet.
Donate what you don't need, only keep what you use regularly, and shop what you miss only when necessary.
2. Refuse straws at restaurants
Single-use plastics are some of the most wasteful products for a lot of consumers.
Recycling can be a solution, but it's often expensive and resource-intensive.
Luckily, many alternatives to plastic exist. And simply refusing single-use plastics such as straws at restaurants helps tremendously.
You can even bring your eco-friendly straw with you, such as a bamboo straw.
3. Avoid perfume and shampoo samples
Perfume and shampoo samples usually come in plastic packaging that contributes to pollution and the destruction of ecosystems.
Just don't take samples at all and prefer products in larger containers.
4. Bring your shopping bag
Bring a reusable shopping bag when buying groceries. It's another helpful and simple Zero Waste swap for sustainable living.
Reusable shopping bags are a great way to reduce waste as most plastic bags end up in landfills. Littered plastic bags are everywhere today.
Many of them end up in the wild and threaten wildlife. Plastics are deceptive for birds and other wildlife, who mistake it for food and die from starvation.
Only a tiny portion of all Polyethylene plastic is ever recycled.
Overall, plastic waste has a disastrous impact on the environment, people, and animals. It releases plastic microfibers that pollute the air, water, and entire food chains.
Half a million tons of plastic microfibers are dumped into the ocean every year, the equivalent of 50 billion plastic bottles.
5. No litter or trash
Take a few minutes to pick up your trash everywhere you go and before leaving a lake, park, camping site, or beach.
Don't leave plastic waste behind as well as any other types of waste, including textiles, glass, oils, food waste, liquid waste, or paper.
6. Forget tissues, paper towels, napkins
Don't use any napkins, tissues, or paper towels that are single-use.
Instead, choose durable and sustainable cotton towels. You can wash and reuse them many times over.
7. Recycle your waste
If you produce any waste, make sure to recycle. It's a fabulous way to minimize your impact on the environment.
Recycling adds value to waste materials and can save a large number of resources.
It reduces the ecological footprint of the products you use and also supports the local industry involved in collection, sorting, and shipping.
You can recycle organic material like food scraps and yard debris to make compost. You can also shred old textiles into materials for insulation, carpet padding, yarn, and other uses.
8. Get a reusable water bottle
Avoid plastic bottles to protect the planet. It's often not enough to recycle plastic waste. It's much better to avoid any plastic in the first place.
Plastic takes years to decompose and a lot of energy to recycle. Buy a reusable water bottle and use a filter for tap water. It limits how much rubbish goes out into the world.
9. Choose sustainable fashion
Fashion addictions are damaging to the environment. The apparel industry is one of the largest polluters in the world.
Overproduction and overconsumption of clothing are responsible for pollution, deforestation, carbon dioxide emissions, and waste.
It's imperative to make more environmentally conscious choices and preserve the Earth.
Change your shopping habits, boycott unethical fashion brands, and switch to sustainably made clothing.
You can help transform the current wasteful fashion system and decrease textile waste, water, air, and soil pollution, hazardous chemicals, and greenhouse gas emissions.
Buy fashion from sustainable fashion brands. Choose brands that make a conscious effort to preserve nature as well as the well-being of all workers along the value chain.
10. Shop at your local thrift store
Head to your local thrift store or resale shop to buy clothes, and don't forget to bring your reusable shopping bag with you.
Thrifting helps sustainable fashion tremendously. It reduces the amounts of waste you produce and the exploitation of natural resources.
Buying used clothes, home decor, appliances, and furniture not only saves money but also create a more circular and regenerative economy.
11. Eat plant-based meals
More and more people are eating plant-based meals for health, ethical, and environmental reasons.
Even if only a small minority of people are vegan, a lot of consumers are actively trying to eat more plant-based foods.
Try to limit your consumption of animal products, such as milk, cheese, cream, and other dairy products, honey, most alcohols, fish, eggs, and meat.
A healthy, Zero Waste, plant-based meal consists of minimally-processed plant foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes.
Protecting the environment, improving your health, and saving animal lives are some of the many good reasons to start a plant-based diet.
Intensive farming and killing of animals create massive quantities of methane as a by-product of farm animals' digestion, which accelerates global warming.
Methane is one of the most potent greenhouse gas because of its ability to absorb heat in the atmosphere.
One kilogram of methane warms the planet as much as 80 times more than one kilogram of carbon dioxide, as estimated by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Animal agriculture, livestock, and animal feed is a significant driver of deforestation and is also responsible for approximately 60% of direct global greenhouse gas emissions.
Eating less dairy and meat not only reduces your risk of heart diseases, diabetes, and certain cancers but also cut down emissions, waste, and pollution from agricultural farming drastically.
12. Buy local organic products
As much as possible, try to buy food, clothes, and beauty products made locally and organically.
Visit the farmers market and stock up on delicious, organic, and locally-grown food.
You can reduce waste, water, and carbon footprints by choosing local, organic items over conventional products.
13. Make your meals at home
Learn to cook delicious meals at home. It will limit the amount of waste you create as you won't need to buy food on the go.
After hitting up the farmers market, why not prepare seasonal products at home? To eat lighter and healthier, cook your meals in your kitchen.
You can easily add berries to oatmeal bowls for breakfast, make salads or lettuce wraps for lunch, and cook a vegetable stew for dinner.
Cooking at home using seasonal and local products is a fun Zero Waste activity all-year-round.
14. Don't trash excess food
Don't put excess food in the trash. Instead, Freeze it in a stock bag to cook later. And put food waste in a compost bin.
The best tip to avoid food waste is to plan your meals. Make a list in advance of the ingredients you need and in which quantities.
And keep track of what you have leftover. This way, you can avoid buying new products when you don't need to.
15. Take the train, not the plane
Unregulated carbon pollution from aviation is the fastest-growing source of greenhouse gas emissions, as reported by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
As demand for air travel rises, the entire aviation sector could triple its emissions by 2050 if we don't take immediate action. It's driving global climate change massively.
The aviation industry carried 2.4 billion passengers in 2010. That number is estimated to reach 16 billion by 2050 if the trend continues.
By taking a train instead of a plane whenever possible, you can reduce your carbon footprint and waste drastically.
Take the train as often as possible, even if the train trip is much longer than a trip by plane.
16. Shop for eco-friendly products
Buy products made from reusable and recycled materials.
Recycled plastics use post-industrial wastes, such as fabric scraps, carpet flooring, fishing nets, and industrial plastics.
Products with recycled content reduce waste, greenhouse gas emissions, water, and energy consumption.
17. Reuse old items
Learn the many ways you can reuse, repurpose, and upcycle old items. For example, you can turn old clothes into tote bags or cleaning rags.
Upcycling is one opportunity for the Zero Waste movement to reduce the amount of waste going out into the world.
Upcycling allows consumers to repurpose old items into new products that are more beneficial and worthwhile, without breaking them down completely.
And it's much more environmentally friendly than recycling. It's less expensive, use fewer resources, water, and energy.
18. Reuse plastic containers
Reuse any plastic containers you already have. You can get specific food containers to limit the amount of plastic you use.
And buy food without packaging. You can shop locally and go to the farmer's market.
At the supermarket, make an effort to look for vegetables and fruits, cereals, grains, nuts and seeds, beans, and legumes without packaging.
Many fruits and vegetables can make the trip back home without an extra bag.
19. Get a reusable coffee cup
Instead of a paper cup at your local coffee shop, bring a travel mug, cup, or thermos with you.
Reusable coffee cups are eco-friendly to use at your coffee shop and available in a wide range of colors, materials, and sizes.
20. Use stainless steel cutlery sets
To prepare, serve, and eat food, use stainless steel cutlery sets.
Get packs of knives, forks, and spoons to make it easy for you to go Zero Waste and add style to the table.
21. Get a bamboo toothbrush
A bamboo toothbrush is a Zero Waste alternative to any plastic toothbrush that isn't recyclable.
Bamboo brushes are recyclable and compostable. It's an entirely plant-based toothbrush, compromising between eco-friendliness and the need for effective dental care.
A beautifully designed and sustainable bamboo toothbrush can clean teeth, clean oceans, and bright smiles.
22. Save water and energy
Beyond reducing material waste, Zero Waste also means responsible consumption and conservation of all resources.
Practice consuming less water and energy as much as possible. Here are a few simple things you can do:
- Use LED bulbs indoors as they require less energy and release less heat.
- Use a pressure cooker for the same reasons.
- Turn off lights and other electronics.
- Avoid elevators.
- Wash your clothes only when you need to and with cold water.
- Air dry your laundry.
- Fill the dishwasher all the way.
- Take shorter and colder showers.
- Capture rainwater to water your plants.
About the Author: Alex Assoune
Alex Assoune (MS) is a global health and environmental advocate. He founded Panaprium to inspire others with conscious living, ethical, and sustainable fashion. Alex has worked in many countries to address social and environmental issues. He speaks three languages and holds two Master of Science degrees in Engineering from SIGMA and IFPEN schools.