When it comes to addressing climate change or crisis, it is necessary to make climate cautious decisions without losing focus on the institutional changes that are necessary to reach lofty climate targets. The average person in America produces 700,000 tonnes of trash. In Canada alone, 33.4 million tonnes of waste ends up in landfills yearly according to a 2012 statistic. In 2022, over 2 billion tonnes of waste was produced according to HWH Environment and it is expected to increase to 3.4 billion tonnes by 2050.
Reducing the amount of waste we produce can be challenging, especially when we consider exterior components that we can’t control like items that come in plastic packaging. Reducing waste may seem intimidating, but it doesn’t need to be. The most important thing is that zero-waste living is a process that gradually becomes easier over time. It does not need to be done perfectly at first but is an opportunity to make eco-friendly choices. From taking sustainable actions to purchasing eco-friendly gifts, there are countless ways, big and small, to reduce your waste in a way that fits with your lifestyle. We have compiled 3 categories with helpful tips that can make living a zero-waste lifestyle a smooth transition from regular habits you might have.
It can be easy to take a trip to a local grocery store and find pre-packaged items to cook a delicious home-cooked meal. However, bulk goods are one of the easiest wastes to lead a zero-waste lifestyle. Not only is it cheaper to buy in bulk but it is eco-friendly too as pre-packaged goods tend to come with a hefty price tag. Additionally, carrying mason jars, reusable containers or cloth bags is a great way to buy staple items in bulk and control the amount you buy since you’ll be able to get exactly what you need. This prevents food wastage, which is a critical problem in many countries like Canada where the average-sized family in Canadian household waste 140 kg of food a year, leading to a total cost of $1,300.
Try to avoid produce wrapped in plastic which can be challenging at times especially when many supermarkets tend to place shrink-wrap on vegetables and fruits. If you can purchase unpacked fruits or vegetables, invest in cloth produce bags instead of the plastic bags available at grocery centers. This can prevent more plastic from ending up in the ocean and the bodies of aquatic wildlife which already harms over 100 million species per year. Supporting your local farmers market is a bonus! Bring your straw basket and pick up your food first because it will be fresher, more sustainable, and way more nutritious. Besides, by supporting local farmers, you’ll cycle your dollars right back into your local economy.
Avoid using plastic water bottles and instead, consider buying a good-quality water filter instead! Approximately 40% of bottled water sold is actually tap water. Additionally, buy a reusable water bottle and thermos for your coffee or tea. For your daily afternoon tea, switch to loose-leaf tea instead. Most tea bags are loaded with microplastics that are bad for you and the environment. Use an in-mug strainer or a set of reusable cloth tea bags and you will have a delicious, sustainable brew. You can also try blending up your own teas which as a bonus, makes wonderful gifts.
Did you know that conventional cleaning products are full of harmful endocrine disruptors and other chemicals that leach into our sewage systems, waterways, and bodies? Fortunately, it is easy to make your own eco-friendly cleaning products. For example, the simple trick of combining baking soda with lemon juice and vinegar can clean your countertops, showers, toilets, and floors. Speaking of cleaning products, replacing soap bottles with soap bars is a simple yet very efficient way of saving the planet one soap bar at a time.
One of the most commonly used items in the kitchen is to store food in plastic wrap. Try using a sustainable alternative called bees wrap! Made with beeswax, cloth, oil, and pine resin, they’re like plastic wrap and come in many customizable sizes, colors, and designs.
When going to restaurants or cafes, try bringing your own set of reusable cutleries. Plastic cutlery, straws, plates, and cups clog our landfills and end up filling the bellies of sea turtles which can be prevented by taking the first step to avoiding using single-use plastics. Additionally, donate old or small clothes instead of throwing them away. Green up your closet by buying exclusively from sustainable clothing brands or your local thrift shop. Often, you’ll find unique, gently worn (or even brand-new) items at a fraction of the original price.
Two simple steps that will not cost you much time but will have an eco-impact on the planet, in the long run, are to switch to digital documents to save on paper and ink, ask for paperless bills, and always opt for digital receipts. Receipt paper is often coated with toxic BPA and BPS. Secondly, compost! According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 30% of the waste Americans produce is made up of yard waste and food scraps, which can be composted instead. By diverting that waste away from landfills, we can shrink the size of landfills and reduce methane production which is 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide.
While all these steps seem doable, there are times when you might forget to pack a lunch and need to grab something on the go. Whatever the reason may be, if you do end up with recyclables, try your best to recycle properly. Check in with your municipal waste treatment facility and follow their guidelines so that everything gets sorted correctly.
As the saying goes, Rome was not built in a day and so living a zero-waste lifestyle takes time. But with a little time and patience, you can absolutely reduce your impact. The guide below by One Tree Planted has simple tips you can make to live an eco-friendly lifestyle. You can view the full guide here.
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Written by Sarah Syed