Living a low waste lifestyle is becoming increasingly popular as people become more aware of the environmental impact of their consumption habits. While the concept of zero waste may seem daunting, the low waste approach acknowledges that it is not always possible to completely eliminate waste. Instead, it focuses on making small, sustainable changes that can have a significant impact over time.
By embracing a low waste lifestyle, individuals can reduce their carbon footprint, contribute to efforts to combat climate change, and promote a healthier planet. This approach involves a variety of practices, including reducing consumption, recycling, composting, and choosing environmentally-friendly products. With the help of online communities, such as Facebook groups, and the support of legislation and regulation, the low waste movement is gaining momentum and inspiring individuals to make positive changes for the environment.
THE HIERARCHY OF LESS WASTE
To produce less waste, individuals can adopt the five Rs of zero waste: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Rot. Another R can be added to this list, which is repair. Repairing products can help reduce the amount of waste generated and prolong the life of items. The recent implementation of Europe’s “right to repair” laws means that manufacturers of electronic goods will have to ensure that their products are repairable for seven to ten years, making the culture of repair more accessible in the future.
Individuals can focus on the other five Rs to reduce waste production. Refusing single-use items like plastic bags and packaging is a great way to start. Reducing waste can be achieved by buying only what is needed and avoiding excess packaging. Reusing items like containers and bags can also help reduce waste. Recycling is important, but it should be considered as a last resort after all other options have been exhausted. Rotting organic waste can be composted and used as fertilizer.
By adopting low waste living hacks, individuals can further reduce their waste production. For instance, using reusable packaging instead of single-use packaging can help reduce waste. Upcycling and repairing items can also help reduce waste. Soft plastics, like plastic wrap and plastic bags, can be recycled at select locations. By following the hierarchy of less waste, individuals can significantly reduce their waste production and contribute to better waste management practices.
LOW WASTE LIVING
1. ADOPT A MINIMALIST MINDSET
To reduce waste, adopting a minimalist mindset is crucial. This means only buying what is necessary and avoiding impulse purchases. Waiting a week, month, or year before making a purchase can help determine if the item is truly needed. By consuming less, an individual can have a richer life with fewer possessions.
2. RECYCLE PROPERLY IN YOUR AREA
Proper recycling is essential in reducing waste. Wishcycling, or aspirational recycling, should be avoided. Proper recycling reduces the amount of resources required to transport non-recyclables to landfills. Becoming familiar with the seven types of plastic is a good place to start becoming a pro-recycler. Recycling contamination is a big problem, and the EPA has outlined plans to improve education and support for recycling in the US.
3. LEARN HOW TO COMPOST
Composting is a great way to reduce the amount of food waste that gets sent to landfills. This can reduce the load on ever-expanding landfills and minimize emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Learning about what can and can’t be composted is essential. Equipping the kitchen with an indoor compost bin can help reduce food waste and create a valuable resource for the garden.
4. MAKE SUPER SIMPLE LOW WASTE SWAPS
Low waste swaps don’t have to be complex or costly. Reusable and eco-friendly water bottles, shopping bags, and coffee cups are easy zero waste swaps. Other items in a zero waste kit might include a bamboo toothbrush, reusable utensils, and upcycled glass food jars.
5. MAKE LOW WASTE CHANGES IN THE KITCHEN
A low waste kitchen needs to be low waste in terms of both food and packaging. Planning ahead and mindful shopping can ensure that everything bought is prepared and eaten without ending up in the trash. Bulk cooking a recipe and freezing portions for later, as well as eating leftovers for lunch the next day, are effective ways of reducing waste. Targeting packaging can start with upcycled glass jars and progress to using a range of plastic-free food storage containers. It’s also important to reduce reliance on single servings and individually-wrapped snacks.
6. SHOP AT LOW WASTE AND BULK STORES FOR GROCERIES
Low waste grocery shopping has become much easier in recent years. More low waste and bulk stores offer a range of beauty and body care products, food, kitchen, and cleaning essentials. Zero waste online shops and online bulk stores can help individuals get the products they love without all the packaging. Buying as large a package as possible or opting for easily recyclable/reusable packaging, like glass, can also reduce waste.
7. USE LOW WASTE BEAUTY PRODUCTS
When looking for low waste beauty products, it’s important to choose options with packaging that can ideally be returned, composted, or at the very least recycled (plastic #1 and #2). Bars are better than bottles, and many zero waste makeup and sustainable beauty brands use compostable or refillable packaging instead, making it easy to find low waste skincare, toothpaste, shampoo, and deodorant.
8. OPT FOR LOW WASTE CLEANING PRODUCTS
Zero waste cleaning is much easier than one might think. Most kitchen and bathroom dirt and grime can be tackled with a few simple ingredients: white vinegar, baking soda, and citrus peels for scent. Old T-shirts make for excellent scrubbers. Eco-friendly cleaning products make use of compostable packaging and refilling the norm, providing options for things like low waste dish soap and laundry detergent.
9. BECOME A LOW WASTE FASHIONISTA
Low waste fashion means taking a slow fashion approach to what’s in a person’s wardrobe. It means shifting away from the industry’s urge to consume and instead making what is currently worn last longer. Sourcing as much as possible secondhand, prioritizing durability, and using appropriate laundry practices and repairs to keep clothes in circulation for longer are essential. Supporting zero waste fashion brands that employ low waste practices can also help.
10. LOOK FOR LOW WASTE TECH & ELECTRONICS
The technology and electronics industry is notoriously wasteful, but individuals can reduce waste by using electronic devices for their full lifespan and choosing secondhand or refurbished options when they really need replacing. A small but growing number of ethical electronics brands have started using better quality materials that last longer. It’s important to know how to dispose of electronics correctly, and many communities have e-waste collection sites. Thrift stores will also accept electronics to be resold or recycled.
WHAT IS LOW WASTE LIVING?
Low waste living is a lifestyle choice that focuses on reducing waste production, but without the pressure of achieving zero waste. It involves making changes to one’s daily life that are sustainable and achievable for the individual. The goal is to minimize the amount of waste generated without sacrificing convenience or quality of life.
This approach to waste reduction is flexible and adaptable to different lifestyles and circumstances. It can involve composting, reducing single-use plastic, buying in bulk, repairing items instead of replacing them, and using reusable items.
Low waste living is not about perfectionism, but rather about making small changes that can have a significant impact on the environment. It is a sustainable lifestyle choice that is accessible to everyone, regardless of their living situation. Even those living in apartments can participate in low waste living by implementing apartment composting or using reusable bags and containers.
Ultimately, the goal of low waste living is to create a more sustainable future by reducing the amount of waste that ends up in landfills and harming the environment.
LOW WASTE VS ZERO WASTE
Low waste living is an alternative to the zero waste lifestyle that is more approachable and corrects for some of its failures. While zero waste is a noble goal, it can be difficult to achieve due to its significant barrier to entry. It requires shops and services that are typically only accessible in more affluent, urban areas, and participants must devote a lot of time and often money to making ultra-sustainable swaps. Additionally, zero waste products often lead to more consumption, as selling zero waste goods has become a big business. People might be persuaded to buy a zero waste item when it wasn’t something they actually needed, making it not zero waste.
Low waste is more attainable and less exclusionary, making it a more inclusive option for everyone who wants to participate, to whatever degree they can or want. With low waste, any and all steps in the right direction are critical to the health of our planet.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON LOW WASTE LIVING
The low waste movement shows us that sustainability doesn’t need to be an all or nothing affair. Any steps in the right direction are critical to the health of our planet. If the zero waste movement seems overwhelming, low waste is a great alternative. It is more approachable and less exclusionary, making it a more inclusive option for everyone who wants to participate. If low waste living resonates with you, consider sharing it with a friend or family member for a planet-friendly pick-me-up.