At surface level, the term “Zero Waste” is a pretty simple concept
Reduce, reuse, recycle and compost, all with the goal of sending nothing to the landfill. If you followed the first, more straightforward approach to Zero Waste. That you might continue to purchase all of your goods as food, cleaners, cosmetics, clothes. As you usually with, but with a focus on looking for recyclable or compostable packaging.
So for example, you might continue to purchase bottled water or regularly get take out. It would take the time to properly recycle this packaging. You might continue to grocery shop as you usually would, but compost any food waste you produce.
This is actually a very feasible goal to achieve in the short-term.
The Zero Waste International Alliance states that Zero Waste is achieved (for a person, a business, a municipality). If 90% of the waste generated, avoid from landfills and incinerators. That means we could get very close to Zero Waste. Not even by changing how we buy and consume, but only by adequately recycling and composting our existing waste. But, the Zero Waste Movement is more complicated than merely recycling.
It’s about moving from a linear production mindset to a more circular one. That considers and minimizes wasted resources at every stage of production and use.
You would instead stop buying bottled water and opt for a reusable water bottle and filter tap water. You might minimize take out or could bring your containers to the restaurant. More meticulously planning your food needs before grocery shopping. You eliminate how much food waste you produce.
The simpler approach to Zero Waste is a great starting point
As you begin to become hyper aware of the amount of waste you are creating. Over time, most people who start there end up moving towards the broader Zero Waste approach. Becomes far more of a new way of living, a new mindset on how you approach every aspect of your life.
What Is the Impact of Zero Waste? Reducing what goes to landfills :
This is the most obvious and direct impact of achieving the ambitious Zero Waste goal of 90% landfill diversion. On average, Americans send 4.4 lbs of waste to the landfill each day. The worst part of this is that this material.
Unfortunately, 85% of which is technically compostable or recyclable, and which was produced using lots of raw materials and resources. It’s lost and unable forever, often after only being used once. Beyond this, landfills are terrible for our environment overall.
Addressing climate change
Most people think climate change is due to how we heat our homes and fuel our cars. While this is true! Over 40% of American’s climate impact comes from our belongings and our food. How it’s created, used, transported and disposed of. This metric is known as our consumption emissions.
Nation’s longer-term energy and transportation issues
We as individuals can start using Zero Waste strategies today. If everyone learned how to live a zero waste lifestyle tomorrow. We’d buy more time to solve the world’s more complex problems surrounding sustainable energy and transportation.
It’s possible that by 2030. Zero Waste strategies could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by over 400 million metric tons of CO2per year. That’s like turning off about 20 percent of the coal plants in the US. For reference. Meaning that Zero Waste can reduce greenhouse gas emissions more than expanding nuclear power. Improving vehicle efficiency or carbon capture projects.
Protection of wildlife and our oceans
A tragic amount of the waste produced worldwide ends up as land and ocean pollution. Over eight million metric tons of plastic trash are estimated to end up in the ocean each year.
Jenna Jambeck, a University of Georgia environmental engineer, likens it to lining up five grocery bags of trash on every foot of coastline around the globe. At current pollution rates, the ocean will contain 1 ton of plastic for every 3 tons of fish by 2025, and more plastics than fish (by weight) by 2050.
This is awful for ocean life, drinking water, and the countless species (including humans) that consume both. Zero Waste means we are creating less trash that has the potential to end up in the oceans. And more responsibly recycling our plastic waste to ensure it is used again.
Strengthening our natural resources
If we consume less (a core tenant of the zero waste lifestyle), we need to mine fewer non renewable resources and produce fewer renewable resources – which in turn, helps to protect our limited natural resources.