16 ways to live a zero-waste lifestyle
Last updated: 6th March 2019
Every day we see people trying to make a difference in the world with eco-friendly initiatives and zero-waste campaigns. But that doesn’t give us an excuse to sit back and assume they’ve got it all under control.
According to Living Smart Queensland, from the 18 millions tonnes of waste produced each year in Australia, approximately seven million tonnes of that rubbish is from the household sector. Each Australian family contributes enough waste annually to fill a three-bedroom house from floor to ceiling! Yikes.
To contribute positive change to our planet, it’s up to us as individuals to change our daily habits. Living without waste not only benefits the earth but supports our physical and mental health in many ways.
All it takes is the desire to make a change, along with actionable steps to do so. Check out our 16 suggestions to help you get started with the no-waste lifestyle – how quickly can you go zero?
What does it mean to be zero waste?
At its core, living a zero-waste lifestyle simply means to make better decisions around what we're consuming and the way we're consuming. It's about avoiding nasty materials where we can, such as plastic, and reusing as much as we can. But what about recycling? Is that considered zero waste?
Is recycling considered zero waste?
Although recycling is, of course, better than not recycling, it is still a form of waste. Many products (including all plastics) are not fully recycled anyway – they're downcycled. This means they become a product of lesser quality before being further downcycled until they eventually end up on a landfill. Try to reduce your recycling by reusing as much as possible.
How can I get zero waste at home?
1. It’s time to break up with your stuff
A survey by the Australian Institute for a Just, Sustainable and Peaceful Future has found 88 per cent of Australian homes have at least one cluttered room, and the average home has three or more cluttered rooms.
De-cluttering not only gives you more space, but it also clears your mind so you can focus on what really matters in your life. The easiest place to start? Your closet. A minimalist wardrobe will help make room for what’s important in your life.
2. Make your own cleaning products
It’s no secret that chemical cleaning products are linked to asthma, cancer, reproductive disorders, hormone disruption and neurotoxicity. Switching to natural, homemade cleaning products not only saves you money but your family’s health too. You’ll find most ingredients to make natural cleaning products are already in your cupboard. Check out Wellness Mama’s recipes to get you started.
3. Stick a ‘no advertising’ label on your letterbox
It’s called junk mail for a reason. Not only are advertising brochures adding to our rubbish pile, but they’re encouraging us to buy more ‘stuff’ we don’t need.
4. Fix broken things before throwing them out
You would be surprised at what you can find on YouTube when it comes to fixing things. So before jumping to conclusions and tossing something out, get your creativity buzzing and look up a DIY video on YouTube. You might just become your own handyman.
5. Exchange books with your friends or go digital
Start a book swap with your friends. It’s a great way to read much-loved books and expand your reading interests. Otherwise, purchase from a second-hand bookshop or download your books digitally. Not only will you save paper, but it’s half the price of a hardback copy and you can keep it on your digital device wherever you go.
How to live a zero-waste lifestyle at work
6. Have sustainable lunches
Stay healthy and save money by making your own lunch. Opt for a reusable container or natural piece of fabric to wrap your lunch in. We love the Nature Lunch Box range which also has plenty of ideas for sustainable lunches.
7. Limit printing
After typing something up, why not try fitting it onto one less page than it already is? Condense the font, increase your margins and don’t waste unnecessary paper. Recycle paper and use double-sided printing.
8. Replace your post-its with visual ones
Going online is an efficient way to file your life and work stuff with ease. Chrome extensions such as Sticky Note or applications like Evernote are easy to use. The best part? You can keep your to-do list with you wherever you go and sync it to all of your devices.
9. Bring your own coffee cup
Each year over 20 million trees are cut down to make paper cups. The sad thing is, how hard is it really to purchase a reusable cup or bring your own mug? It’s people like Kate Nelson who are speaking up and saying no to coffee cups. Quit your cup with Kate and get involved in her #toplessforthesea initiative. You’re guaranteed to feel like a better person for it.
How to be zero waste in the kitchen
10. Adopt a composter
Whether you’re living in a house or apartment, you can still use a compost bin. Forbes has a great DIY idea to make your own compost bin that is easy to upkeep even in the tiniest kitchen.
11. Say goodbye to plastic containers, cling wrap and aluminium foil
Plastic containers and cling wrap are not only adding to more landfill but are lined with chemicals that are harmful to the body. Purchase eco-friendly lunchboxes and glass containers instead. Green4u has a chart on the harmful effects of plastic products.
12. Bring your own bags
According to Living Smart Queensland, Australians use enough plastic bags each year that if these were tied together they would stretch around the world 24 times! That's a lot of plastic bags.
Grab yourself a sustainable canvas bag which you can alternatively use as a handbag or keep in your regular handbag for unexpected grocery shops.
How to be zero waste when going out
13. Refuse paper towels in restaurants
According to a recent study by Scientists at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, paper towels generate 70% more carbon emissions than the newest technology on the market. Opt for a fabric serviette and use the hand-dryer in the bathroom.
14. Bring a container with you and do your own doggie bag
If you’re the type to never say no to leftover meals in a restaurant, be sure to bring your own container and skip out on the plastic.
How to create a zero-waste bathroom
15. Make your own cosmetics and hygiene products
Be your own potion maker. Experiment with different recipes that leave your skin and hair feeling nourished and glowing. Invest in some essential oils and start making your own soaps, scrubs, cleansers and toothpaste. Beauty Chef Carla Oates has some luscious recipes you’ll even want to eat.
16. Switch for durable alternatives
Instead of using cotton pads to remove make-up, opt for a reusable cloth. Swap out your plastic toothbrush for one made out of bamboo. Store your homemade beauty products in reusable jars.
See – living without waste doesn’t have to be so difficult!
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Upcycling is a fantastic way to minimise the amount we send to landfill and create one-of-a-kind spaces. And best of all, you’ll be reducing the piles of clutter that you just don’t know what to do with! There’s no rush The thought of what could happen if we all carry on as we are is terrifying, but the truth is that the world isn’t going to implode tomorrow. Don’t try and implement all these changes at once, or you may end up feeling overwhelmed and wanting to give up. And that’s not doing the planet any good! Instead, approach sustainable living from a ‘one room at a time’ perspective. By working in bite-sized, manageable chunks, you’ll soon find that you’ve created an eco-home that really makes a difference. And right now, this could be time well-spent indeed. Sarah Pelham is the Beauty & Wellness Expert for Bookwell.com.au, an online platform for instant bookings for hair, nails, beauty & massage appointments. 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