How to Start Living A (More) Sustainable Lifestyle

Zero-waste, long a buzzword for the environmentally conscious, is catching on.

Mindfully pursuing zero-waste living is all about changing how we consume products in everyday life —using methods that lessen one’s own environmental impact and promote sustainability of our planet’s resources.

Being zero-waste means aiming to reduce our landfill-bound trash to a minimum — a worthy goal considering that a plastic bag may take up to a thousand years to decompose.

The Reason

Each one has his or her own reason to begin this lifestyle.

Are you tired of seeing the earth despoiled by trash? Do you want to reverse the effects of climate change, to preserve our planet for your kids?

As zero-waste living necessitates a shift in our thinking in order to change our behavior, we need to keep in mind our “why” in order to stay the course.

The Basic Rs

Start your journey at home. Observe and assess the waste your household produces, in order to prioritize what steps you want to take first. Break your analysis down per area – such as kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, and so on, one at a time.

The basic three Rs are ReduceReuse, and Recycle, but there are other Rs to consider, too:

Bea Johnson, author of the book Zero Waste Home: The Ultimate Guide to Simplifying Your Life by Reducing Your Waste, lives by a practical 5R concept of “refuse” what you do not need, “reduce,” “reuse” or “recycle” what you can’t refuse, and “rot” or compost organic products.

The lifestyle has allowed Johnson and family to focus on the real essentials. “The zero-waste lifestyle… translates into a simple life that is based on experiences instead of things,” she says in a Time interview.

Composting

Much of the kitchen trash we produce comes in the form of food scraps. Composting organic materials eliminates landfill-bound trash, while simultaneously yielding rich garden fertilizer.

You can compost fruit and vegetable parts, eggshells, coffee grounds, unbleached paper, tea bags, disease-free houseplants, and even hair and fur—and much more.

Keep a kitchen compost bin, then transfer compost to your garden compost heap or to a municipal composting program, if it’s available.

Buying Local

Part of the zero-waste campaign is choosing sustainable products over disposables. By buying locally made products, we can support local businesses and agriculture, and lessen our carbon footprint.

Start purchasing zero-waste alternatives once your disposable or non-zero waste stock runs out. Here are some zero-waste alternatives:

Dining. Ditch plastic or styrofoam packaging when eating out. Opt for glass or stainless-steel containers that can be cleaned and reused. Use straws, food containers, and cutlery sets that are made of stainless steel or bamboo.

Use beeswax food wrap instead of clingwrap for your breads and sandwiches. Use resealable glass mason jars for food with sauce or liquid.

Use refillable water bottles, coffee mugs, or tumblers for drinks. Instead of disposable wipes, use cloth towels you can wash and reuse.

Cleaning. Choose organic cleaner brands that are effective but not harmful to our bodies or the environment. If you prefer, you can even make your own homemade household cleaners with simple ingredients.

Search online for recipes for multipurpose cleaner, dish soap, air freshener, and detergent.

Personal Hygiene. There is an increasing number of options out there that complement the zero-waste lifestyle such as bamboo toothbrushes, soap and shampoo bars, menstrual cups, as well as cloth napkin and diapers.

There are also beauty products such as face cleanser, lip balm, moisturizer, face mask, makeup, and sunscreen that are made with organic and natural ingredients.

Shopping

One of the easiest things to start doing is to use big shopping bags made from mesh, cloth, or recycled/recyclable material to carry your purchases.

Also, buying in bulk can help to lessen packaging and can save you money as well.

The goal is to buy good-quality products that will last and that you can reuse over and over, and do away with single-serve, one-time-use, and disposable ones.

Look for products without or with recyclable packaging and with sustainable life cycles.

Buying for quality may cost more initially but because they last longer you are able to get your money’s worth over time. And they significantly reduce the trash you and your family will otherwise contribute, as well.

In the Philippines, zero-waste practitioners can shop for the following brands:

Focusing on Experience

The zero-waste journey is about veering away from the pull of material items in order to be able to focus on things that are less tangible – experiences and relationships.

As those who live the lifestyle tell us, zero-waste does not happen overnight; it’s a process that may take months and even years. Everyone’s zero-waste journey is different so never compare yourself to other people. Be inspired and motivated by them instead.

Join groups like Buhay Zero Waste and learn from likeminded individuals who practice these concepts, as they will be able to share how to do things better or address your questions or concerns.

After all, it’s not about living a perfect life, but about making better choices. Letting go of our attachment to things will enable us to live simpler, less cluttered, and less toxic lifestyles.

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