The term “zero waste” has become popular for describing an eco-friendly lifestyle some people adopt, whereby they produce no waste during their daily routines.

A feature image for a blog post about what zero waste means.

And, while this sounds extreme and difficult, there are people who do manage to produce practically no trash in the course of a year, except for a very tiny amount. Should you expect that same result immediately?

Don’t Let Zero Waste Cause Stress

The truth is, no matter how good your intentions are, going completely to zero waste is a very lofty goal.

It’s a difficult thing to accomplish in the world we inhabit, and becoming focused on accomplishing a concept defined by one phrase can bring an unnecessary amount of stress to your life.

So it’s worthwhile, for you and the planet, to keep zero waste in perspective and work out a plan that suits your circumstances and keeps you moving forward, without adding anxiety.

Using “Zero Waste” as a Goal

One approach to embracing a zero waste lifestyle is to look at “zero waste” as a goal to work toward. So, instead of creating undue stress from the start, take steps to create an eco-friendly lifestyle and make zero waste where you want to end up. Or, as close to it as you can get.

Substitute “Low-Waste” for “Zero Waste”

Instead of calling your lifestyle “zero waste” and feeling guilty for every detail that doesn’t measure up, try saying you’re going to live as “low-waste” as possible.

Make zero waste a personal challenge that you can work toward as often as possible. But balance your life so you don’t feel excess, unhealthy stress.

Using Up Your Existing Plastics?

With a newfound interest in going zero waste, the temptation may be to get rid of all your “unsuitable” items and buy new reusable eco-friendly products.

However, that approach can be an unnecessary step. It doesn’t make sense to buy more things if you already have items you can use up first. But, if you really want to make a fresh zero waste start, you could donate them for others to make use of.

Changing Mindset Matters Most

But don’t stress about how you make your start. The main thing is that you’re changing your mindset toward doing what you can to be environmentally friendly in your daily habits.

Over time, you’ll become more accustomed to thinking about being less wasteful and your mindset will create new eco-friendly habits.

Determine Where You Create Waste

At the beginning of your zero waste journey, and to help change your mindset, it’s essential to understand where you create waste. The best way to gain this understanding is to monitor your daily habits.

Assess Your Trash Habits

Decide on a method and do a daily assessment of where you’re creating trash. And, try to do this without judging yourself. That isn’t helpful.

You might find it most constructive to actually keep a tally of where your habits are creating the most waste. Just a few jot notes should give you a good picture. Look at things like take-out, meals, food packaging, impulse buying, etc.

Take Constructive Steps

When you have a good idea of what your habits do in terms of creating waste, you’ll be able to take constructive steps to change them. You might want to start with the kitchen because it’s generally where we create the most waste.

Being eco-friendly isn’t about buying more things, but there are some reusable items that can help you in your efforts as you move forward.

Reusable Items for Going Zero Waste

There are some items you can purchase or find around your home that will help with producing less waste in the long term. They include:

  • Cloth and reusable shopping bags
  • A reusable water bottle
  • Rags and old clothes for cleaning instead of paper towels
  • A reusable coffee cup
  • Cloth produce bags
  • Reusable cutlery
  • Reusable containers for meals
  • Stainless steel straws
  • Beeswax wraps

Some of these items can be purchased, some can be made from things around the home, and some things, such as straws, can be avoided altogether if you choose.

Other eco-friendly habits you can develop to reduce waste include:

Striving to produce no waste is an ideal you can strive for in the long term. The aim is to come as close as possible without causing yourself undue stress or anxiety. It’s counterproductive to embrace a lifestyle that makes you feel bad about yourself.

Celebrate every step you take toward creating less trash and helping to protect the environment. Feel good about every change and achievement, no matter how small you think it is. It all adds up to big eco-friendly wins.

6 thoughts on “What Does Zero Waste Mean?”

  1. We get to a point of realization in which we open our eyes and see that so many products sold in stores are bottled in plastic. And this realization dictates our shift towards “zero waste”. It would be better to avoid plastic waste completely, but that’s super stressful. So let’s be easy on ourselves. The biggest step has already been taken that is opening our eyes to all this plastic.

    1. Yes, being completely zero waste has been done, but it’s extremely stressful for the average household to accomplish. However, as a goal and a reminder of what needs to be done as a society, it serves a good purpose. Working toward it within your own circumstances, one step at a time is a good path forward. And, it will add up to great benefits for the environment over time.

  2. Thank you so much for this great article. I try to live consciously in every situation, including food, clothing, shopping, and mobility for my cell phone. We circumnavigated the world in 10 years with our sailing vessel. While we sailed we only started the old diesel engine for getting in a harbor. We did not have a fridge on board but always had cool drinks. Now we are living on a farm in Hungary and grow our own organic vegetables. I only buy second-hand clothes. Only my shoes and underwear I buy new. I buy my groceries twice a month and living a great life. No stress, no pollution. We all can change this planet into a real paradise. So thank you so much for your work, the earth is in need of such great people!

    1. Sounds like you’re doing a great job with your eco-friendly lifestyle. Yes, there are so many things we can all do to protect the environment. And, we believe it’s important to keep reminding everyone about these issues. The more information out there, the more people will start to follow eco-friendly practices like striving for zero-waste living.

  3. Jason Mick Brody

    Love the zero waste article, thank you for sharing. I for one are giving zero waste a go. My goal at the moment is low waste and eventually I will have a goal of zero waste. We all need to give this a go with a positive and happy attitude to make our world a better place with no waste.

    1. Yes, exactly, make goals that will be realistic for your circumstances and go forward from there. Low waste is still super helpful and practical enough to make a difference to the health of our environment.

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