Your condensed guide to a zero-waste lifestyle

The zero waste lifestyle has gone a long way.

It started timidly in the late 90’s, but it’s only in 2009-10 that the movement started to reach households.

First seen as another “hippie” trend, it took it a few more years to get mainstream acceptance.

And nowadays, it’s pretty safe to assume the lifestyle is here to grow and stay!

Have you jumped in the zero-waste wagon yet?

If not, here is a starter guide to incorporate it into your own lifestyle.

What is zero-waste, and what it isn’t

There are a few wrong ideas around the concept that we need to get rid of once and for all.

Those are also the main reasons behind people’s reluctance to adopt the zero-waste lifestyle.

Take its name, “zero-waste”. It sounds like the concept prohibits the generation of waste.

And that idea is enough to discourage most people…

But in fact, zero-waste is a philosophy, and like with most philosophies, the focus is on the journey, the intention.

So remember this: Going zero-waste is all about doing your best, within your means, to reduce the waste you produce.

See it as a step-by-step process, take your time, act where you can and be ready to face hurdles.

The zero-waste lifestyle is a bumpy road, but it’s such a joy ride!

The pillars of zero waste: The 5 R’s

We just said you should act where you can. And the 5 R’s are here to help!

Going zero-Waste relies on 5 steps that anyone can follow at his own pace.

Which makes zero-waste accessible to everyone!

Repeat after us: Refuse-Reduce-Reuse-Recycle-Rot. Now let’s dive into it.

Step 1: Refuse

That’s the most important step, and to be honest, this isn’t difficult.

What’s the best way not to produce trash? Not buying it in the first place!

Refuse to buy (or receive) anything that you don’t need and that could harm the environment (such as freebies or plastic straws and coffee cups)

Step 2: Reduce

Not to be confused with the first step, “reduce” is about buying less quantity of the things you DO need.

That’s maybe the most difficult step. We live in a consumer society and buying things brings us (temporary) joy.

Take your wardrobe. Do you really need 5 black t-shirts? Don’t you always end up switching between your two favourite ones only?

Step 3: Reuse

It’s time to say goodbye to disposables and replace them with reusables.

It may be more expensive in the very short-term, but the initial extra cost will not take long to be covered.

Reusable water bottles are a good example.

Reuse also means fixing what’s broken and giving a second life to items you might not need anymore, through thrift shops for example.

Step 4: Recycle

Yep, this only comes fourth. Too many people still believe recycling is the key to an eco-friendly world.

But we would not need to recycle if waste wasn’t produced in the first place right?

Plus recycling has its limits as it requires energy and considering plastic can only be recycled up to 9 times…

Step 5: Rot

That’s the equivalent of the reuse step, but for your food waste!

Create your own compost system and let worms turn your food waste into high quality garden soil.

You don’t have a garden? Check out if your municipality has a composting program.

Let’s put that zero-waste theory into practice

By reading this, your journey has just started. Congratulations!

Write down those 5 pillars, and stick them to your fridge.

Done? It’s now time to introduce them into your lifestyle.

Don’t know where you start?

Don’t overthink it, just start with your house. Heck, start with the room you're standing in at the moment.

Then move to the next room, and then the next one…

See each of your rooms as a zero-waste mission. Kitchen, bedroom, bathroom… we bet you they all have room for improvement.

Look at the items around you and ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I need this?
  • Is there a zero-waste alternative to that?
  • Can this be repaired or recycled?
  • Can I buy this in bulk?
  • Would someone benefit from this more than I do?
  • ...

Then apply that mindset out of your house!

Prepare a zero-waste kit for the office (food containers, reusable water bottle, reusable cutlery,...)

When grocery shopping, prepare a shopping list, bring a tote bag and don’t forget food containers for buying in bulk (and stick to your shopping list).

Zero-waste holidays? That will be a challenge but again, you can always improve the way you travel.

And let’s not forget that this lifestyle is a journey.

You will have moments of “weakness”. Nobody is perfect and nobody asks you to be.

Don’t be too harsh on yourself and your family. You don’t want to associate “zero-waste” with “burden”.

Now, you’re good to go, have fun!

This is a condensed version of the original zero-waste guide from beeco. Check it out for more tips and insights on this lifestyle.

Photo by Laura Mitulla