What is Zero Waste

The Term Zero Waste

You might have heard of the term, “zero waste” before. It’s been in our vernacular since the 1970s environmental movement when people began to realize the environmental impact of the waste produced by a consumerist society. The movement aims to create a closed-loop system in which all resources are reused or recycled, with no waste sent to landfills or incinerators.
A Zero Waste philosophy has been embraced by individuals, businesses, and communities around the world as a way to reduce their environmental impact that focuses on reducing waste by reusing, recycling, and composting. The zero waste movement has also been adopted by many cities and governments around the world. In 2003, San Francisco became the first city in the United States to adopt a zero-waste goal, and many other cities have since followed suit. The goal of zero waste is to create as little waste as possible, ideally none at all. It’s a concept that’s gaining popularity, especially as more people become aware of the negative impact that waste has on our environment.
The good news is that becoming zero waste doesn’t mean you have to completely change your lifestyle overnight. Small changes in your daily routine can make a big difference in reducing waste and creating a more sustainable future.

Here are some tips to get you started:



1. Bring your own reusable bags and containers when shopping.
One of the easiest ways to reduce waste is to bring your own reusable bags and containers when shopping. This includes reusable shopping bags, produce bags, and containers for bulk items. By bringing your own bags and containers, you can reduce the amount of plastic and paper waste that you generate.
2. Say no to single-use plastics.
Single-use plastics, such as straws, plastic cutlery, and plastic water bottles, are a major contributor to waste. To reduce waste, say no to these items and opt for reusable alternatives instead. For example, bring your own reusable water bottle and coffee mug when you’re on the go. Single-use plastic is starting to get major bans in large cities like Los Angeles County, which just announced a new measure to battle plastic pollution.
3. Start composting.

Composting is a great way to reduce waste and create nutrient-rich soil for your garden. You can compost food scraps, yard waste, and even paper products like newspapers and cardboard. If you don’t have a backyard, consider using a composting service or finding a community garden that accepts compost.

4. Buy in bulk.
Buying in bulk can help reduce packaging waste. Look for stores that offer bulk items like grains, nuts, and dried fruit. Bring your own reusable containers to fill up and eliminate the need for packaging altogether. You might be thinking that a bulk store like Costco might not be worth the hassle of going to, but you could actually save almost $100 in one trip to Costco based on the pricing you would find at the regular grocery store.
image.png(image from BalanceWorks)
5. Repair and reuse items.
Instead of throwing away broken items, consider repairing them. This not only saves money but also reduces waste. You can also reuse items for different purposes. For example, old t-shirts can be turned into rags for cleaning. Those old Birkenstock shoes you have are one of the most repairable shoes on the market! Take a look at this TikTok from @Shanebarrshoerepairs who’s been repairing Birkenstocks for over 25 years.

The Five R's

(image from RoadRunner)
The 5 Rs of zero waste are a set of guiding principles designed to help individuals reduce their waste and consumption. The 5 Rs are:
  1. Refuse: The first step is to refuse things you don’t need. Say no to single-use plastics like straws, bags, and cutlery. Refuse to buy things you don’t need or that have excess packaging.
  2. Reduce: The second step is to reduce what you do need. Buy only what you need and choose products that are durable, repairable, and long-lasting. Buy in bulk to reduce packaging waste and choose products made from sustainable materials.
  3. Reuse: The third step is to reuse what you can. Use refillable water bottles, coffee cups, and food containers. Buy second-hand clothing and household items, and donate or sell items you no longer need.
  4. Recycle: The fourth step is to recycle what you can’t refuse, reduce, or reuse. Check with your local recycling program to see what materials they accept and how they should be sorted.
  5. Repurpose: The fifth step is to give our things a second life by finding new and creative ways to use or transform an item that has already served its original purpose, rather than simply disposing of it. Whether that’s repurposing t-shirts into rags, turning glass jars into storage containers, or transforming old furniture into something new again.

You Make an Impact

Zero waste is a lifestyle that prioritizes waste reduction, reuse, and recycling in order to minimize the environmental impact of human activities. While it may seem daunting to completely eliminate waste from our lives, making small changes in our daily routines can have a significant impact on the environment.
By practicing the five R’s of zero waste (Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Repurpose, Recycle), we can create less waste and ultimately contribute to a more sustainable future. It’s important to remember that becoming zero waste is a journey and not a destination, and we should strive to continuously improve our habits and make conscious choices in our daily lives. Together, we can work towards a world with less waste and a healthier planet for future generations to come. Environmental Activism is cool and so is telling your friends about it, like Jason Momoa.
The Going Green and Going Smart Program is a Compass CBS Foundation initiative powered by APS. This program assists small businesses to grow sustainably and earn their ‘Going Green & Going Smart’ certificate. Online courses are available in both English and Spanish at GreenBizAZ.com.

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