The 9-Rs of Zero-Waste Living

Author: Zero Waste Volunteers

Waste – free lifestyle or Zero Waste lifestyle is one of the most sustainable ways of living. The word ZERO means null or void. And the word waste generally means anything that we throw away. In the zero-waste community, the word WASTE is more defined by something that we cannot reuse or recycle.

So Zero - Waste does not mean that we have nothing to throw away; it just means the unsustainable waste we create should minimal, repurposed or as a last resort at least land in the recycle bin. It means setting a new goal for how we live in the world – one that aims to reduce what we trash in landfills and incinerators to zero and to rebuild our local economies in support of community health, sustainability, and justice.

The best way to start trying to live a Zero Waste Lifestyle is to rethink or reassess what we’re currently doing, where we are making mistakes or going wrong, and formulate a plan on how and where to make changes. The goal is to think carefully before every purchase. For example, re-thinking the need for yet another T-shirt whilst already having a full closet. To stop mindless consumerism and put thought and deliberation into every thing we consume.

Once we are able to think before we go on to consume new products, weight come into scenarios wherein a purchase isn't needed. Now the step comes when we need to refuse something we do not need, especially something that is not reusable. It might be physical clutter, mental clutter, wrong habits, fears or grudges. Try not accepting pamphlets, wrappers, etc., that you know would probably go into the trash. For example, we buy packets of chips just because. They don't posses any nutritional value and continue to rot the environment. The work here is to refuse such elements which have no value. It is a conscious effort to not use anything that will pile up into environmental garbage.

As human beings we have several needs for which we need to purchase every day living items. However, many a times we end up buying far more than what we need to sustain ourselves. To make an effort for being zero-waste, we need to realise just how much of something we need and in the process, reduce our consumption of unnecessary items. The goal is to reduce consumption and discards. More importantly the focus is to reduce the purchasing of unsustainably packaged products or plastics that degrade the environment. As consumers we need to focus on environment friendly alternatives to plastic elements. For example, buying something that is paper or cardboard packed instead of plastic.

The next step is to reuse. With the growth of our capitalised economies, we have taken a very disposable approach to products. Most products we use and throw in a single use can be reused or repurposed to something else for making the most of its life cycle and reducing our carbon impact. Try reusing discards, or use and reuse products that you already have, until they get exhausted. Reuse glass and plastic jars that have already been used in the household/ kitchen in some different fashion.

Re – gift
Re – gifting is not a common practice, but it can certainly help us to sort out our place and generate waste far less. It is always better to pass along the gift to someone, if it’s something you’re not going to use. This method can be of great aid to anyone who is starting a zero-waste journey. Don't merely throw out all the plastic items you own into the trash. Instead, look for what can be re-gifted to someone who might need it more than you do.

Damaged goods or things that we already have should be repaired instead of throwing away directly. I cannot emphasise enough on our consumerist approach towards life and everything we use. We are so used to being able to out and buy something new every time the old item breaks. However, in the process we just end up piling on tons of unsustainable garbage. The solution however, is so simple. Before rushing off to the shops when something breaks or gets worn out, we can repair it ourselves or ask a professional to help us out. Repairing something that's half working can be a great solution to not piling on new products on our planet.

Instead of buying things that we’ll probably need only once, we can go for renting things. We can borrow from rental shops, or we can hire from our neighbors. This not only saves us from spending a huge amount of money, but also reduces the number of products that we need to store at our home. Renting is a great way to reduce our carbon footprint and repurpose items to their full extent. Moreover, we ourselves can become renters and give out what we own for a profit, a great entrepreneurial effort whilst saving the earth!

Surprised to see recycling so low on the list? Recycling has long been deemed as an ultimate solution to all our waste problems. It is shone as a beacon of light to save the environment. We feel okay about purchasing unsustainable items because we believe that recycling will take care of it. However, the reality is far from it. In all the years since the plastics industry mounted this recycling push, it’s estimated that no more than 10 percent of plastic produced has ever actually been recycled. However, recycling is still one of the best things we can do for sustainably getting rid of materials that have already been disposed of. To an extent we can recycle things like glass, plastic, tins, paper, cardboard and garden waste to ensure their optimal disposal.

For anything that can’t be reused, re – gifted, repaired or recycled, we can allow it to rot. Composting is one of the best ways to get rid of biodegradable waste that we produce in our households. We can always start our own composting system at home with kitchen wastes and with anything compostable of our choice, that suits our lifestyle. The compost we create can further be used to enrich our soil for household gardens.

Thus, this is a complete guide into a broad spectrum of categories within which fall individual zero-waste concepts and alternatives.