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By Tera Team

The Tera team is dedicated to providing you with content, tips, and actions to help guide you on your sustainable journey.

Zero-Waste Lifestyle Guide

Zero-Waste Lifestyle Guide

What Is The Zero Waste Lifestyle?

The zero waste lifestyle was popularized with people like Bea Johnson and her book, Zero Waste Home: The Ultimate Guide to Reducing Your Waste. Reducing the amount of waste we produce is a powerful way to live more sustainably as, according to the EPA, 40% of US greenhouse gas emissions in 2009 came from hauling, making, using, and throwing away the stuff and food we consume

Of course, it’s not easy to generate only one jar of trash a year like Bea Johnson, but we believe that everyone can participate in waste reduction. Tera’s Zero Waste Living Guide will help you reduce your waste, live more sustainably and contribute to a healthier Planet.

 

The Zero Waste Lifestyle Is Attainable 

The expression "zero waste" can be quite daunting and you should be aware that no one can completely eliminate waste. However, aiming for a zero waste lifestyle is a great way to simply reduce the amount of waste you produce and, consequently, to live more sustainably. The goal should be to live a “low waste” lifestyle.

Here are five principles that should rule your zero waste lifestyle, listed in order of importance:

1. Refuse - refuse to buy things with lots of plastic packaging, food, household and personal care products in particular

2. Reduce - don’t buy things you don’t really need

3. Reuse - use things longer, repurpose worn out items, shop for used goods, and purchase reusable products like steel water bottles

Protect Our Turtles Bottle

Reusable Water Bottle | SandCloud  ♥

4. Compost - food scraps and yard waste together currently make up more than 30 percent of what we throw away - there is a huge opportunity for composting at home

5. Recycle – It takes some discipline to recycle, but it’s better than sending all your waste to the landfill, even if not everything that you recycle will be recycled.

♥   Video: Ultimate Beginner’s Guide To Zero Waste

 

The Case for Zero Waste

How Much Waste Are We Producing? 

The United States produces about 12% of the planet’s waste while it represents only 4% of its population, making it the most wasteful nation on the planet. And a shocking part of products sold in the US are dumped into landfills or incinerated without even being used. This destructive system of wasteful consumption is polluting our air, depleting our natural resources, choking our oceans and contaminating our drinking water.  

♥  Video: What happens to the plastic you throw away ♥

Globally, waste is expected to grow by 70% by 2050 unless urgent measures are taken, while immense amounts of trash are continually deposited in our grounds and our oceans. 

 

Plastic Pollution

One of the main issues of waste management is plastic pollution. Single-use plastics - half of all plastic produced is designed to be used only once - and the lack of plastic recycling have generated incredible amounts of waste, especially in the oceans. 

Scientists even predict that, by 2050, the oceans will contain more plastic than fish by weight

How is this possible?

Experts like Jenna Jambeck have calculated that in the next ten years, about 22 to 58 million tons of waste will be discharged in our oceans annually. That’s similar to a football stadium filled with plastic being discarded into the ocean every day for an entire year!

♥   Video: Why we need to stop plastic pollution ♥ 

Moreover, plastic waste generates microplastics, pieces of plastic smaller than about 5mm, which can be found in our daily food or water, and even in the air that we breathe. These nanoparticles have a great impact on our marine sea life, often killing the animals which swallow them. 

To preserve our environment and our planet’s resources, we should all take action and drastically reduce the waste we produce every day.

If you want to learn more about this issue, read our plastic pollution guide.

 

Recycling is broken

Sometimes, learning how to live more sustainably also means shattering grand illusions. Recycling is one of those.

The United States’ largest oil and gas companies have expansively marketed recycling as an excuse for encouraging plastic mass consumption. The argument is simple: no need to lower your waste if all of your thrown-out items are given a new life afterwards! However, only 9% of plastic waste is recycled and reducing your trash will be way more helpful for our planet than recycling.

The table below shows in detail the amount of recycling for the most wasteful materials in 2018. On average only 30% of our waste is being recycled.

Material

Percentage (%)

Paper and paperboard

68%

Glass

25%

Plastics

9%

Lead-acid batteries

99%

Aluminium 

36%

Iron and steel

30%


Of course, this does not mean you should stop recycling! 

Learn how to sort your trash and look into your local rules before getting rid of anything. The main elements of good recycling can be found in the recycling guide at the end of this guide. As you get used to recycling, the process will become more and more easier!

 

How To Get Started with Zero Waste Living

Assess Your Waste

First, assess your trash and prioritize your areas of improvement.

What are the items that you find the most in your trash? This primary step will allow you to focus on specific areas and help you reduce trash methodically.

Identify every single-use item you can find in your trash and count units. You will find below an example of a trash audit, highlighting the opportunities to reduce waste in particular areas.

Kitchen Trash

Zero Waste Alternatives

Plastic utensils = 23

Bamboo utensils

Paper plates = 15

Palm leaf plates

Straws = 13

Reusable straws

Coffee capsules = 12

Reusable coffee capsules

Coffee cups = 7

Reusable coffee mug

Plastic shopping bags = 5

Tote bags/Reusable bags

Fresh fruit juice plastic bottles = 3

Recycled bottles or home juicer

Lots of paper towels

Cloth napkins

 

Bathroom Trash

Zero Waste Alternatives

Disposable plastic razors = 3

Reusable bamboo razors

Shampoo plastic bottle = 1

Shampoo bars

Conditioner plastic bottle = 1

Conditioner bars

Toothpaste tube = 1

Solid floss

Lots of paper tissues

Fabric tissues

Lots of dental floss

Bamboo fiber dental floss


Repeat this audit for 4 weeks in a row - your trash is changing every week - you will find new opportunities to reduce trash next week!

Video: Say no to plastics

 

Make Easy Swaps

Find here Tera’s selection of some of the easiest zero waste product swaps.

 

Next Steps To Zero Waste Living

Consume less - Minimalism

Waste and CO2 emissions are driven by consumption and wealth - the higher the income, the higher the amount of consumption, waste and CO2 emissions. Waste can be reduced not only by consuming differently, but also by consuming less. That is where zero waste and minimalism lifestyles intersect.

The most efficient way to live sustainably is to curb one’s consumption and live more simply with less “stuff”. Being a minimalist does not mean you’re not allowed to have a car or a house or that you mustn’t own more than 100 items. It simply means you shouldn’t get emotionally attached to your material possessions. Freeing yourself from them will be great for the environment but also for yourself, allowing more deliberate and conscious choices not guided by consumerism. It is a way of life aspiring to experience real freedom, create more, live in the moment and get rid of excess and overconsumption in order to find lasting happiness.

If you feel a minimalist lifestyle would suit you, read our blog article on minimalism in order to get rid of excess in your daily life.

 

Food & Dining: Grocery Shopping, Kitchen & Eating Out

The two main issues to tackle in the kitchen are food packaging and food waste, which creates more greenhouse gases than the airline industry.

Grocery Shopping

Your zero waste journey starts during your grocery shopping.

Bring your own glass jars (or other zero waste container) and fill them up whenever bulk options are available. Use them at the deli as well in lieu of the plastic containers the stores usually use.

Avoid buying produce wrapped in plastic. Shop farmer’s markets - the produce sold there are not wrapped in plastic.

And don’t forget to bring your reusable shopping and produce bags!

Reusable Mesh Bag/Beach Bag/String Produce Bag/Grocery Bag-5

Reusable Grocery Bag | BeZero ♥ 

Food storage for bulk items

Zero waste containers like mason jars will be extremely useful for storing bulk food. Your kitchen will also be more minimalist as you won’t have multiple unfinished bags of rice lying around on your shelves.

Eating out

In order to prepare to-go meals, we particularly recommend stainless steel containers as a zero waste alternative to plastic Tupperwares. Don’t forget to bring your bamboo cutlery and reusable water bottle along with your meal!

Coffee and Tea Prep

You can easily switch to a zero waste coffee and tea daily routine.

First, buy in bulk. Coffee is one of the easiest products to find in bulk and tea can be found in tea stores selling tea in volume. Make sure to avoid tea bags as they produce waste and sometimes contain microplastics.

Invest in a reusable mug and prepare your coffee/tea at home or take your mug with you when buying from a coffee shop. At home, use reusable coffee filters or capsules as well as reusable tea balls for loose tea leaves.

Finally, make sure to compost leftover coffee grounds and tea leaves.

Evergreen Reusable Capsule for Nespresso

Reusable Capsule For Nespresso | Evergreen ♥ 

Colombia | 100% Arabica-  Compostable Nespresso Pods

100% Arabica - Compostable Nespresso Pods | Molecule Coffee Colombia ♥ 

Reduce Food Waste

Almost any food scraps can be given a second life as long as you know how to sort them.

For example, if you have a garden, put all the scrap ends of onions or other bulbs in order to regrow them.

Use this indoor farm in order to grow your vegetables inside your kitchen and only harvest what you will be using to cook a meal.

Farm Plus

Aero Garden | Farm Plus ♥ 

You can also use vegetable scraps to make a vegetable stock, or any other dish with these delicious recipes made with the most commonly thrown out foods.

Compost

A great part of leftovers that cannot be reused can go to your compost! Just make sure to avoid any animal foods (meat, bones, butter, milk, fish skins) as well as non organic banana peels, peach peels, and orange rinds which may contain pesticide residues.

Many indoor and kitchen composters exist but we particularly like this one, which will fit easily in your kitchen and can hold up to 4 gallons of kitchen scraps.

Urban Composter™, 4 Gallon

Urban Composter | Gardener's Supply ♥ 

Follow our composting guide in order to make the perfect compost at home!

Bathroom & Body Care

Even if the bathroom isn’t the biggest room in your house, it still accounts for a major part of your daily waste. Some women use more than 10 different personal care and beauty products every day, but switching to zero waste habits is easy!

First, get rid of all unnecessary disposable items surrounding your bathroom: plastic disposable razors, plastic toothbrushes, cotton swabs or our numerous daily lotions.

Another essential swap will be toilet paper, the bathroom's most wasteful item. Soft toilet paper, made from virgin wood pulp, causes massive deforestation in North America, Latin America and even in Canada’s rare old-growth forests. Let’s stop flushing our forests down the toilets and start using sustainable rolls:

100% Recycled 3 Ply Double Length Toilet Paper - 48 Rolls

Recycled Toilet Paper | How We Roll ♥ 

You can also adopt this Japanese custom and install a bidet on your toilet bowl to wash your tushy with water while wasting zero toilet paper.

Tushy Classic

Tushy Classic | Tushy ♥ 

We’ve already talked about zero waste shampoo and conditioner at the beginning of this guide but there are other basic and eco-friendly swaps like zero waste oral care products, razors or moisturizers. Try this bamboo razor and you’ll never want to buy disposable razors anymore.

Bamboo Safety Razor

Bamboo Safety Razor | BeZero ♥ 

As for your beauty routine, going zero waste does not mean you should take less care of yourself or stop using beauty products! Just like in other areas, carefully choose the products you’re using and be attentive not to accumulate items you do not really need. Here are some products in order to fulfill a zero waste skincare and beauty routine.

Nourishing Cleanser

White And Green Tea Nourishing Cleanser | True Botanicals ♥ 

Bliss Bar

Face Bliss Bar | Ethique ♥ 

Concealer

Organic Concealer | Kjaer Weis ♥ 

 

Cleaning, Laundry, Dishwashing

Cleaning products represent a great opportunity for sustainable product switches. Unnecessary plastic packaging and containers as well as toxic chemicals poured down our drains make them essential product switches to minimize our environmental footprints.

Dishwashing

Conventional soaps contain toxic chemicals, harmful for our health and the environment. Get used to sustainable dishwashing products such as biodegradable soap. If you need to wash some dishes by hand, try and use compostable sponges or wood brushes and be careful not to let the water run during the whole process!

Laundry

According to the EPA, approximately one billion plastic bottles of detergent, stain remover, and fabric softener end up in landfills each year. Most of them are full of toxic chemicals. Make easy swaps with solid bars of stain remover, zero waste laundry detergents and vinegar instead of fabric softener.

Moreover, get used to washing a great load instead of small ones and use cold water when you can. In order to save energy, always prefer air drying to machine drying. By completely switching to air drying, you can cut your carbon footprint by a half when it comes to laundry.

Cleaning

Cleaning products and supplies represent quite easy swaps for a zero waste home. And, they will often be a lot more efficient and elegant than plastic equipment. Keep using your old cleaning supplies, even if they are not plastic-free, but replace them with bamboo or steel alternatives once they have broken down. Examples of supplies are cotton bar towels for absorbing liquids and picking out dust, metal dustpans and wooden brooms.

 

Wardrobe (clothes, shoes, accessories)

Minimizing your wardrobe will help you become a real zero waster.

To start with, refuse ‘fast fashion’, which is the rapid and inexpensive production of clothing by mass-market retailers in response to the latest trends. Fostering an overwhelming consumption, this process has harmful effects on the environment, garment workers and ultimately consumers’ wallets. Some of the large fast fashion brands are Zara, Forever21, H&M, Victoria Secret, UNIQLO, Urban Outfitters, Adidas, Gap and TopShop.

For more on this topic, read our blog article on the impact of fast fashion.

First, go through your clothes and assess which type of items you really like or feel comfortable with. Once you will know your size and better apprehend your style, just ask yourself a few questions before buying an item (brand new or second-hand): is it a design I can wear for many years? Does it seem lasting and high quality? Will it match well with my other outfits? If you’re hesitating on any of these questions, then don’t buy it! Be also careful not to be tempted by bargains or good deals. 

Fix up your clothes, donate items instead of putting them to waste and buy second-hand. You will reduce the use of new resources as well as the amount of clothes transported to landfills. If you need to purchase something new, then buy from ethical and sustainable brands.

Find more about zero waste on our blog: https://hellotera.com/learn/category/zero-waste.html

 

DIY Zero Waste Product Recipes

Find here some of our ideas of zero waste DIY recipes!

 

Switch to Zero Waste Products by shopping on Tera

All the products Tera curates are zero waste. They are available in our Shop section https://hellotera.com/shop-green.html

 

Take Action

Support an NPO

https://hellotera.com/learn/category/plastic-pollution-npo.html

Join Our Zero Waste Community

Joining a zero waste community is a great way to meet new people who are ready to achieve the same goals as you are. You will also witness a direct and local impact of reducing your waste, which is far more encouraging!

Examples of commitment are supporting your local bulk food stores, creating dialogue with elected officials, organizing sensibilization events or simply getting your neighbors and family involved.

Test Your Knowledge On Zero Waste

Take A Pledge

You can truly make a difference and reduce plastic pollution by changing your daily habits and committing to real transitions. 

If, at the end of this zero waste living guide, you feel ready to reduce your waste, then commit with us and take a pledge!

Challenge your friends and family with this zero waste pledge!

References:

Recycling guide: https://www.wm.com/content/dam/wm/documents/RecyclingResources/Posters-Guides-Tools/Recycling-Myths.pdf 

Recipes with most commonly thrown-out foods: https://www.sustainability.vic.gov.au/recycling-and-reducing-waste/at-home/avoid-waste/love-food-hate-waste-campaign/meal-plan-and-shopping-list-apps/recipes 

Ethical & sustainable brands: https://www.thegoodtrade.com/features/fair-trade-clothing
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