Zero Waste? More like Less Waste — A Beginner’s Experience

2022-09-15

 |  Food/Agriculture

Zero Waste is, as the name suggests, “the idea to reduce consumption as much as possible.” Being 100% zero waste can be challenging, especially given our world’s current infrastructures. I reframed my zero waste approach by focusing on a low waste lifestyle. A low waste lifestyle seemed less daunting and easier to achieve when my focus was to produce less waste than I did before.

Why did I Consider a Zero Waste Lifestyle?

My experience with zero waste began when I discovered Sorelle Amore’s video, “I TRIED LIVING PLASTIC FREE FOR 30 DAYS.” I felt intrigued and inspired by Sorelle’s fun approach to the plastic-free challenge to reduce her plastic consumption. 

Sorelle emphasized the lesson that there is always another way to consume and live that will benefit myself and the planet. I took small steps instead of overwhelming myself with everything I could do, such as switching from dryer sheets to wool balls. I started noticing that my focus was on higher quality products and smarter spending habits. 

My initial zero waste goal expanded towards living more intentionally regarding how I spend my time and money. I did not become a minimalist, but I did learn from the similarities between minimalist lifestyles and zero waste living.

The first shared aspect is making intentional decisions. For instance, I try to make all my protein smoothies at home instead of buying them. Not only am I saving a bit of money per cup, I’m also using less plastic because I drink from a reusable jar at home instead of fast-food smoothies served in plastic cups. 

Another aspect is the mental and physical clarity. I followed Marie Kondo’s approach to keeping items that bring me joy. For example, I took inventory of what I actually use in my closet and washroom, and reduced the clutter and excess in those spaces.

Photo Credit: the blowup (Unsplash)

What You Need to Start a Zero Waste Lifestyle

I initially thought that beginning a zero waste lifestyle required dramatic changes to every aspect of my life. After learning from other people’s experiences and analyzing how I overcame my obstacles, I realized the pivotal change in my journey was the shift in my mindset. The three ways my mindset and perspective changed were when I chose to be curious, creative, and forgiving throughout the process.

Zero Waste Tip #1: Be Curious

Learning something new can be overwhelming at times. Keeping an open mind about finding alternative ways to produce less waste encourages me to think outside of the box. Being curious also helps me strengthen my problem-solving skills and knowledge, which are useful for solving issues in a school or work setting.

Zero Waste Tip #2: Be Creative

Building from the previous tip, maximizing the items around you makes you more creative. When I look at a face cream container nowadays, I’m thinking about how I can reuse the item after using the product. I could save money on buying empty travel containers by reusing that container.

Zero Waste Tip #3: Be Forgiving

It’s challenging to get things right the first time and every time. Going zero waste is an ongoing, collective effort. It used to bother me when I forgot to bring my reusable jar to get bubble tea. Instead of holding a grudge against myself, practicing forgiveness and preparing for the next time I purchase a drink is more helpful for my well-being and the planet’s.

Photo Credit: Hello I’m Nik (Unsplash)

What are the Benefits of a Zero Waste Lifestyle?

I originally thought living a zero waste lifestyle only benefited the planet, but later realized I benefit, too. Here are a few improvements I noticed during my three years of low waste living.

More Resilience to Challenges

By focusing on a low waste lifestyle, I am more resilient to the fluctuating progress when trying something new. Like training for a marathon, the goal for a zero waste (or low waste) lifestyle is consistency in the long-run. Immediate results are not realistic nor sustainable, so take your time.

Better Relationship with Money

Making more intentional choices means I’m not buying items marked with a SALE tag that wear out after two washes. Instead, I save my money for quality items and experiences that last longer. It also means I save money for larger purchases in the future, like a first home.

Mental Clarity & Tidier Spaces

Spending money on what I need also means having less things. If you’re like me, having less of what I don’t use nor need gives me mental and physical clarity. I am less overwhelmed by the extra stuff I don’t need, and I also have less to clean.

Takeaway

Remember that trying your best is progress and enough to contribute to a greener future. You are not trying to change others, but attempting to share with them possibilities. What is something you do or plan to try to create a more sustainable future?

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