What is the zero waste movement, and how can you get involved?

10 September 2020

We’re all well aware of the three R’s of waste management: reduce, reuse, recycle. However, since the dawn of the new millennium, it seems like one number is taking their place: zero.

Thanks to the tireless efforts of enterprising environmentalists, the zero waste movement has gone from abstract concept to real world practice in a matter of years.

What’s behind this initiative, what does it mean and how can you take part?

All rubbish has to go somewhere. The zero waste movement aims to disrupt this pattern at all levels.

Waste management: A big problem that’s getting bigger

There’s no shortage of stuff in the world. Think of all the items most of us toss in the bin on a daily basis. We may dispose of tissues, paper scraps, packaging and food waste, and that’s just the beginning. Many of these items are not recyclable, nor are they particularly suitable for reuse.

In fact, according to the most recent numbers from the Department of Industry, Science and Resources, Australians were responsible for approximately 67 million tonnes of waste between 2016 and 2017. Not only that, but the government noted that this figure is on the rise.

The reality is that all of this waste has to go somewhere. We live in a world with limited space, and too often our leftovers and leavings wind up contaminating the air, land and water around us. Plastic pollution caused by several items represents a particularly bothersome nuisance.

The reasoning behind the zero waste movement

Given such a massive problem, many advocates sought to create a change in mindset. For so long, we’ve focussed on addressing the issue of waste management through the lens of lessening a problem that seemed inevitable.

The zero waste movement rejects the idea that we have to live in a world with waste. It gives us an achievable target on which to base our decisions. Before, we might have asked, “How can we respond to this problem?”. Zero waste changes the whole game by asking a totally different question: “How can we eliminate this problem?”. This question applies to all kinds of organisations and institutions, from global businesses to environmentally friendly households.

The zero waste movement and its global impact

Today, the zero waste movement has caught on, and it’s inspiring eco-conscious activities across the globe. Examples of innovative practices and celebrations from around the world are easy to find, from a recent CNN article about a scientist who’s seeking to use the zero waste philosophy for sustainable farming in Benin, to a CTV News report about a popular zero waste festival in Montreal.

Perhaps one of the biggest zero waste announcements took place recently when Microsoft president Brad Smith stated in a blog post that the company would work towards accomplishing several zero waste goals by 2030.

Meanwhile, individual zero waste lifestyle adherents continue to learn about the movement every day in an effort to live more sustainably.

Strategies like stem-to-root cooking keep table scraps from winding up as waste.

How can you get started with the zero waste movement?

While the zero waste movement represents a significant change in outlook for many people, there are concrete steps you can take to start your journey towards a rubbish-free future. It probably won’t happen overnight, so move slowly and deliberately, and make sure you focus on making decisions that are sustainable not only for the planet, but for you, too. Don’t forget that reducing waste can also save you money and boost your savings.

Start by paying closer attention to habits that you might not have realised were wasteful. Writing down what you toss out during each trip to the bin, especially when you’re away from home, can help you get a handle on how much waste you tend to generate and, most importantly, what you’re tossing away.

For instance, if you discover that disposable cutlery is a source of concern for you, you can focus first on living with less plastic. Make gradual changes and commit to them.

Key strategies for zero waste movement followers

While each person will have to take a slightly different path to reach zero waste, many tips will apply to a wide range of practitioners. Here are a few tricks that may have broad appeal for members of the zero waste community:

  • Buy in bulk: Influential zero waste lifestyle blogger and advocate Bea Johnson offers a useful tool for finding stores around you that sell food in bulk. Many outlets will allow you to purchase reusable containers or bring your own.
  • Use zero waste services like Loop: Recently, Woolworths announced that they’ll begin offering TerraCycle’s reusable Loop program in Australia, starting in 2021. Shoppers can purchase items from their favourite brands in reusable containers, which are then returned to the retailer to be cleaned and reused.
  • Cook using stem-to-root techniques: Instead of tossing food scraps in the bin, there’s a growing number of recipes that incorporate all edible parts of their basic ingredients into delectable dishes.
  • Compost and garden at home: Limit your reliance on outside food suppliers by growing your own produce and disposing of any leftovers right in your home composting bin. Shared community plots may be available in your area, too.

Extend your sustainable mindset to your savings

In addition to implementing zero waste practices during your next shopping trip and at home, make sure that your financial impact produces environmentally-friendly results, too. Do you know what your super fund invests in? There’s a good chance your super is being invested in companies and industries that don’t align with your values. Learn more about how we approach responsible investing at LGS today.

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