How To Live The Zero Waste Lifestyle

5 Ways You Can Easily Join The 'Zero Waste Lifestyle' To Make The World A Better Place

It really makes you wonder how much waste you create in a single day.

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Though environmentalism & sustainability have always been of relevance, I feel as though there has been a sudden wave of attention towards saving the planet over the past decade or two. Suddenly, people have begun to take notice of the irreversible damage we, as human beings, have inflicted on our forever home. Mother Earth is angry and she's not afraid to let us know (hence the California forest fires, melting of polar ice caps, extreme heats to extreme colds, floods in Nebraska, air pollution in urban areas, etc).

People have finally opened their eyes to the world around them, and are now taking responsibility for their actions & contributions to climate change. As a result, many movements such as reusable grocery bags, energy efficient lightbulbs, no-straw beverages, and eco-friendly toilets have started popping up around the U.S as small, easy changes the majority of Americans can get on board with.

However, some environmentalists/activists are taking it to the next level with a zero waste lifestyle. The term "zero waste lifestyle" essentially explains itself, but for those who are completely lost, the Center for EcoTechnology defines it as "a movement to reduce the amount one consumes and consequently throws away." Those who decide to adopt this practice work hard to follow it's five simple rules:

1. Refuse what you do not need 

When offered a plastic straw at a restaurant, politely decline. If asked for paper or plastic at the grocery, remind them that you brought your own reusable bags.

2. Reduce what you use, especially if you are not using it

Unplug your phone charger when your phone is not connected to it, turn off all the lights in a room after you exit, and limit your water usage when in the shower, washing dishes, or brushing your teeth!

3. Reusing and using what you have until it no longer works, not when it is no longer in fashion

How many times have you thrown out your old iPhone just to replace it with a brand new updated version? What about those jeans you wore twice that are just "so last season?" Maybe it's time to rethink the way you consume.

5. Recycling only when all previous options have been explored

All "zero wasters" have small trash jars in which they store all of their created trash over the past month/year/or lifetime. These containers typically contain waste that could not have been avoided like concert wristbands, fruit stickers, clothing tags, hair ties, etc. When full, and only then, can these items be disposed of in recycling bins.

Now, these 5 expectations may seem extremely daunting. It's gonna take some serious life adjustments to be able to fit all of your trash in a tiny mason jar, and at the rate we're going, planet Earth will never be 100% waste-free.

That being said, we should still all strive for a cleaner, healthier environment. You are not required to live without electricity, wear only thrifted clothing, place all of your paper receipts and plastic tags in a jar, or wear the same pair of sneakers for 10 years, but you are required to do your part for the world you live in. Educate yourself on environmental issues, reflect on your own consumer habits, change your perspective, and remind yourself that no change is too small.

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Mother Nature Needs Us, Grow A Pair And Help Her

In only 11 years our carbon pollution needs to be cut in half... and we aren't doing our part.

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The Earth is dying.

Did that catch your attention? I would sincerely hope it would, but I'm afraid it's a message that too many of us have become desensitized to. How many times have you scrolled through your Twitter or Facebook feed only to barely skim your eyes over the post after post of messages similar to this one? Exactly.

It's pretty easy to like a few motivational pictures on Instagram about saving the ocean, to retweet a thread showing you images of wildlife we've harmed with our careless waste, or to share that video of Bill Nye setting a globe on fire and yelling at us to get a clue. What's meaningful and useful, however, is actually putting forth the effort to make a change. Actions speak louder than words; so far it seems that we're just all talk and no walk.

You might believe that you can't make a difference, that you making any contribution at all will not help in the grand scheme of things. That's such a sad and pessimistic way to think. Every contribution, no matter how big or small, is a step in the right direction. It's not even just your actions that will help, but you will also be setting an example for others. Your decision to make smarter, more environmentally friendly choices can and will inspire others to follow your lead.

There are a number of small and incredibly simple ways you can become more sustainable and help the planet. Here are a few examples, just so you can get the idea: stop using plastic straws and utensils, use reusable containers/water bottles/travel cups, stop drinking cow milk, try to eat at least one vegan meal a day, recycle, use bamboo toothbrushes, and try using bar soap or bar shampoo in the shower. These may all seem like silly or even pointless changes to some people, but they really do add up. Especially when these small changes turn into a lifestyle.

Want to know something bigger we can do than just recycling and avoiding using single-use plastics? Here are a few examples of policy ideas that governments can start enacting to make a difference: putting restrictions on air conditioners with high global warming potential or requiring a limit/reduction of HFCs, transition to electric only transportation, creating more walkable communities so it is easier to live without cars, create policies that restrict food waste (such as bans on throwing it in landfills or fees if you do), and establish a carbon tax.

There is a multitude of choices that we have to pick from. Big or small, we can make a change to help our planet before it's too late. Start making changes in your own lives, encourage others to do the same, and start getting on legislators to make and push policies that matter.

Mother Nature needs us. We're all that she has and we've let her down for far too long.

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