A lot of us would like to live in a zero waste home; so many, in fact, that it has since become an entire lifestyle. If you want to produce no or very little trash, you must first and foremost avoid plastic, the most common type of waste and the most problematic. This is because plastic, unlike organic matter, does not decompose, and instead remains in the environment for centuries or even millennia.
Yet plastic is everywhere, so it's a major challenge to do without it. The wrapper from the candy you just ate is plastic waste. The book you bought last week is shrink-wrapped in plastic. The tea bag you brewed this morning has plastic in it. We humans produce garbage countless times a day, more than we realize. It is a part of our daily routine.
To make your home zero waste, the first thing you should do is take inventory of how much trash you produce per day, week or month. You will be surprised at how much it is.
Now go through your trash and write down the items of your daily life you can do without or substitute with eco-friendly materials. Every little bit helps. For example, I haven't eaten gum in years because not only the wrapper, but the gum itself is plastic.
Some things you will be able to give up easily, others will be a little more difficult. It's worth it, though, because a zero waste home is not only more eco-friendly, but also healthier for you and your loved ones (who wants to chew on plastic?).
First of course, for environmental reasons. We humans produce 37.83 million tons of plastic waste every year in the US alone. Only 9% of it is recycled, the rest is incinerated or ends up in landfills and oceans. The US, like other developed countries, has made a habit of exporting most of its waste to Asia, thus to offload their problem on another country.
Plastic is also a toxic compound. Every time you are in your home, you breathe in the chemical fumes from plastic furniture, wallpaper and carpet. Your plastic water bottle gives off toxic chemicals like BPA and phthalates that you first breathe in and then drink. Every single food item is wrapped in plastic these days. There's microplastic in your shower gel, shampoo, and facial cleanser that gets into the ocean with every wash. Plastic also gets back into our bodies from the ocean because fish mistake the tiny plastic particles for food and eat them. Since microplastic acts like a sponge, it attracts and binds all the toxins from the ocean. So when we eat the fish, we are also eating lots of toxins and heavy metals, packed in plastic (a recent study found microplastic in the human body).
Did you know that some zero waste people produce no more than one jar of waste in an entire year? That's incredibly disciplined and not easy to accomplish. Especially if you're new to the zero waste lifestyle, it's easy to feel overwhelmed. But if you change a few things you can already make a big difference - for the environment and for your own body and health. In the following, I will give you tips on how you can zero waste your home with simple means - room by room, step by step.
If there is any place in your home where you should start with your plastic-free, zero waste journey, it's the kitchen. Why? Because plastic is particularly harmful to our health when it comes into contact with food (especially hot food). So, it's important for a healthy lifestyle that you make your kitchen as plastic-free as possible.
Bathrooms are usually overflowing with plastic bottles, so cleaning up here can really pay off. But a plastic-free bathroom has many more benefits than just being eco-conscious and zero waste. Solid shampoos, soaps and body lotions save a lot of space, are cheaper and often much healthier than conventional products.
The next garden party is sure to come. I've collected some ideas on how you can turn a plastic-polluting party into an eco-friendly, zero waste one.