What is Zero Waste?

Trash is one of those things that we’ve become far too accustomed to in our daily lives. Everything we purchase comes wrapped tightly in plastic, cardboard, Styrofoam, and don’t even get me started on the twist ties!

Just think of all the garbage you throw away each day without a second thought: sandwich baggies, paper towels, plastic shopping bags, labels, clothing tags, toy packaging, receipts, fast food trash galore and your morning coffee cup…the list goes on, and on, and on.

And where does it go? You guessed it. Landfills.

Out of sight, out of mind. Right?

Now I know most of us know this subconsciously, so we make an effort! We recycle our cardboard Amazon boxes, rinse out a milk bottle or two and try to buy compostables. But what is that really doing? Is it enough? Is the energy expended to recycle the leftovers of our terrible consumption habits worth it? What about the toxins and pollutants we’re spreading by doing so?

It’s been drilled into us that recycling is the answer to all of our consumption problems; no harm done. Many experts would argue that’s not the case – that the answer lies in setting boundaries with what we buy and what we do with it when we’re done.

Here are some stats for ya:

  • The average American throws away 4.4 pounds of trash every single day (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency).
  • That trash totals roughly 728,000 tons of garbage going to landfills daily. That amount could fill 63,000 garbage trucks.
  • Since 1960, the amount of waste generated by Americans has almost tripled. 65% of this trash comes from individuals/households.

Why have our garbage contributions skyrocketed like this? Well, it’s a mixture of factors. Major increases in population, combined with the growth of the processed foods industry, disposables and consumption in general, make it pretty easy to see how we got to this place.

Take diapers. for example. The product didn’t even exist until 1948! Since then, diaper consumption has reached the billions. The Real Diaper Association estimates that 27.4 billion disposable diapers are consumed every year in the U.S.

92% of these end up in a landfill.

Now, diapers are just an example – sort of an easy reference that demonstrates just how crazy all of this is. But what about everything else?

What’s the big deal with trash?

  1. Trash lingers. It goes to hide in a landfill, but most products made of, say, plastic or styrofoam, can take hundreds of years to disappear.
  2. Trash pollutes. Even the stuff that gets recycled ends up spreading itself around in the air we breath and in our water, as microscopic chemical components. These untested chemicals burden our bodies, disrupting endocrine processes and causing disease.
  3. Trash kills. This isn’t here for the shock factor. This is reality. Plastics cause incredible physical damage to marine and land animals, often killing them.
  4. Trash is a legacy. Garbage is one of those things that gets handed down from generation to generation. I don’t want my children dealing with the mess I’ve made; do you?
  5. Trash doesn’t save time. Think about it. Does the time it takes to manufacture, purchase, store, throw away and dispose of paper plates even compare to the act of using and washing a porcelain one?

Put simply, we consume too much; and we do so recklessly. The more we consume, the more we waste and it’s just not getting better on its own.

Why Zero Waste?

At its core, the Zero Waste mentality is about shrinking our waste footprint. It’s about training ourselves to stop consuming willy nilly and start looking at the bigger picture. In the end, by creating less waste we create less damage.

Now many will argue that there’s no such thing as Zero Waste – not really. And I would say that is true. Until every single product is designed with “cradle to grave” in mind, without unnecessary packaging and in a way that’s ethical, ecological and doesn’t treat things like water as a freebie, we won’t reach total Zero Waste.

But we can do our best. And this is an excellent start.

People often assume Zero Waste is one of the following: crazy time-consuming, crazy expensive or just plain nuts all-together. It doesn’t have to be! In fact, I can very confidently tell you that going Zero Waste has made my life simpler, happier and much less expensive.

Going Zero Waste will simplify your world in amazing ways!

Before going Zero Waste, our home was a monstrosity of consumption. I had beauty products, hair products and kitchen utensils galore! I probably owned at least fifteen different shades of lipstick, maybe seven lotions at a time, and every “just in case” household item imaginable.

Did I really need all that? Not even close.

Think of Zero Waste as a detox. A way to rid your life of all of the consumable clutter that keeps us pouring our hard earned money into useless things, running around in circles constantly tidying up, and competing for things like love and respect that should never, ever come from something you pulled off the shelf at Target.