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.
4. Repairing what you can
By repairing rather than replacing, you create jobs, save money, reduce production, and overall, limit waste.
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.