A philosophy that endeavours to redesign the traditional linear economy and shape it into a circular one, leading a zero waste life aims to send no rubbish to landfills. The idea is to adapt current lifestyles and practices in order to model sustainable natural cycles, ultimately writing waste out of existence.
According to a 2018 report by Circle Economy, an estimated 90% of global raw materials do not make it back into the economy. While the incentive to reduce, reuse, and recycle form the driving force behind zero waste, it probes questions to do with responsibility: just how easy is it?
There are many ways to help begin one’s journey of living waste-free. 31-year-old Katie Finch, from Hove, UK, has created a #ZenfulZeroWaste course to help transition people towards a cleaner lifestyle. “I have done so much research that I can share this with people so they don’t have to feel the overwhelm and stress like I did at the start. I want to show people how it doesn’t cost more, or take more time to live zero waste” she says.
Katie is the Financial Director of All To Love, a pioneering movement dedicated towards the establishment of a sustainable and just economy. The course will be launched in September, and aims to educate about the reduction of consumption in general. "The underlying theme will be about changing your mentality and approach to waste, and altering your purchasing habits to be more mindful" she explains.
“The big push on banning plastic is great, but we are really just moving the problem. Do people know the impact of producing alternatives like glass, tetra pak, and cans? Is it better or worse than plastic? Are we accounting for the impact of creating and recycling these materials, or just the time scale for decomposing?”
Katie continues: “We are potentially just blindly following what we are told by the media without that much information about the root intention, which is to reduce our impact on the environment. For me, that means changing our attitude in general, not just swapping one single-use item for another.”
“In truth I believe the only way to make a difference is to focus on you and your own impact. We have much more power as individuals than we realise. The beauty of focusing on yourself is you will accidentally influence others. Even as little as re-using a water bottle or saying no to a straw; people ask why, and when you explain it gets them thinking. It's the ripple effect.”
The problem with shopping - whether individually or for a family - proves challenging for zero waste living. Second-hand stores are undoubtedly a prime point of call, yet groceries seem more difficult to come by. In Brighton and Hove, stores like Infinity Foods have one of the largest selection of organic and natural produce in the South East. Nevertheless, plastic packaging remains an issue. Independent alternatives have thereby sprung, including the UK’s first packaging-free shop on wheels, Charlotte’s Cupboard.
Having gained insight into the reality of living waste-free, it seems the eco-friendly lifestyle is becoming easier to manage. Upfront costs such as purchasing a Bokashi composter may initially demand extra time and effort, but the long-term benefits correct doubts that zero waste is expensive to maintain. The rhetoric of recycling food waste to rot as compost; reducing your carbon footprint by reusing what you can; and refusing plastic produce will essentially save you money in a two-fold initiative to protect the planet.
These simple yet effective methods are timelessly praised, irrespective of one’s level of commitment to the cause. A common misconception of zero waste is the impossibility of achievement; that the principle to uphold a strict zero waste scheme is somewhat unfathomable. For this reason, the concept seems to be quickly dismissed as unworthy of pursuit.
However, as told from the viewpoint of zero-wasters, ‘impossible’ is a term that doesn’t belong in their collective vocabulary. Every act, whether trivial or significant, has the potential to incite further action. The zero waste philosophy should rather inspire than intimidate, owing to the shared experience of indirectly raising awareness. Education is valuable to the passing of knowledge; thus, what better way to learn than by listening to didactic narratives on zero waste living.