What is a low waste lifestyle?
It’s just that: lowering the amount of waste you are producing. You may have heard of the Zero Waste movement, however, practicing zero waste can be overwhelming to think we’re not supposed to create ANY trash at all. As a matter of fact, the Zero Waste International Alliance defines Zero Waste under their Business Certification as attaining 90% diversion from landfills and incinerators since it’s not possible to achieve absolute zero waste.
So while our goal is zero waste, we like to promote low waste: where anything you do to lower or reduce your trash and your use of single-use items can make a difference. Everyone is capable of lowering the waste they are producing as an everyday practice even with just a few small changes in their everyday lifestyle.
Why should I do it?
According to the EPA, in 2018, the US produced 292.4 million tons of waste. That’s ~4.9 pounds per person, per day. That’s 10% higher than the global average. Waste is a big issue, but it’s something we can start tackling today.
Single-use plastics are also a big problem because recycling is ending up the trash. And when we recycle, only 9% of the world’s plastic has ever been recycled, making it much of the time just a longer trip to the landfill or the incinerator.
It’s important to educate ourselves and begin to make better choices for a healthier lifestyle and to preserve and protect the Earth.
In the US, we waste 40% of our food. And beyond that, a huge portion of our trash is food + plant based waste. There’s an easy solution for this: composting! There are a bunch of different ways you can compost, and we’ve got a quick guide to getting started with composting you can check out. And beyond composting, check out our guide on other ways you can reduce your food waste!
The more single-use items you can avoid, the better! Use reusables wherever possible and avoid purchasing anything in packaging that you can find elsewhere without it (like produce wrapped in packaging instead are available loose, like lettuce or squash). There are also tons of ways to avoid single-use items like water bottles, paper towels, food wrap and storage bags, cotton pads, toothbrushes, and more. Instead, check out our Guide to Swaps for a list of easy swaps to get you started in your low waste lifestyle.
And let’s not forget about reducing: you don’t need to replace with all new eco-friendly products. A lot of the time, the most eco-friendly thing to do is not buy anything at all. For example – you could buy a reusable straw, but do you really need one? Just opt for not using one at all! When you think you need something new, ask yourself, “do I already have something that does this? Do I really need this item?” Learn more about reducing single use here.
It can feel really great to fix something that’s broken or transform something into a beautiful piece or useful item. Keep in mind that you can also repair electronics and mechanical items too when they break instead of throwing them out. You would be surprised at how simple it is to repair some things. Learn more about repairing here.
Upcycling and DIYs can be rewarding and a really fun way to spend your time. With upcycling, you’re repurposing and giving a new life to something that probably would have been thrown away. And DIYs provide a sense of pride in your work and allow you to customize it anyway you like. Plus, it’s a great family activity to get everyone’s creative juices flowing! Learn more about upcycling here.
The more you buy second-hand or use hand-me-downs, the more you’re helping to contribute to a circular economy. And again, you’ll save so much money along the way. And let’s make regifting cool again! Giving gently used items you may not want or need anymore as a gift can even be more meaningful and useful for someone than buying something new. Learn more about thrifting and regifting here.
We live in a disposable world, and everywhere you go you’ll be faced with accumulating trash. It’s great to get in the habit of refusing what you don’t need. For example, giving back a straw at a restaurant, or telling the cashier you don’t need a bag if you didn’t bring a reusable one. When you order takeout, let them know you won’t need any cutlery or condiments. If a store is giving free samples, refuse them!
Water is a crucial and finite resource, so it’s super important to think about ways you can reduce your water usage. Taking shorter showers, turning off the faucet while you’re brushing your teeth, and reusing your pasta water during your meal prep are all great easy ways!
One fifth of US emissions are caused directly by cars and trucks – but thankfully something we can easily make an impact on. Some easy ways are to walk or ride a bike as much as possible (especially on short trips!), rideshare (in a post-covid world) and get a more fuel efficient, hybrid, or electric car.
If you do need to buy something new, it can make a big difference to purchase from a local small business. You’ll be reducing your carbon footprint for many reasons, like reducing your travel and purchasing locally made products, plus support the vitality of the downtown by supporting local business owners.
And shop local for your food, too: the more you can purchase from local farmers and makers, the better. You can easily find these producers at farmer’s markets and join food co-ops at local farms. Not to mention that farmer’s markets are a great weekend outing!
A low waste lifestyle isn’t built in a day
Just remember, don’t put too much pressure on yourself to change your entire life overnight. This is going to take time. Do what you can and take the time to do your research, learn, and educate yourself, and friends and family along the way.