Tuesday, June 6, 2023

Sustainability 101 – Going Zero-waste | QNET Knowledge Series

Have you ever seriously considered reducing your carbon footprint in the world? If you have, you must know that it is not just about using fancy mason jars for storing food, buying local fresh produce and making products from scratch. It involves much more – it is about dedicating your entire lifestyle to establishing meaningful experiences and putting environmental sustainability at the top of your priorities. If you have really considered it, you need to be aware of the basics and a few guidelines because leaving behind your plastic-dependent lifestyle can seem pretty overwhelming. It includes bidding goodbye to the usual ways of shopping, eating and cleaning as well. Before you kick-start your zero waste journey, it is imperative that you know what that lifestyle entails and take tips from people who are actually living it daily.

So, what is really zero waste?

While you may have heard the term, it’s possible you may not what it completely embodies. A zero waste lifestyle isn’t only about clean eating or purging your plastic belongings – it is about adopting a way of living that is both thoughtful and minimalistic. According to Bea Johnson, blogger and bestselling author of Zero Waste Home, zero waste begins with simple things – like eliminating the maximum trash possible from the household. Doing this helps you transform your everyday life into a richer, more memorable and simple experience, where the focus is not on things but enriching fulfillment.

According to a 2017 study, a staggering 91% of the plastic in the world are left unattended, un-recycled with around 79% making its way to landfills and the environment. If the consumption and recycling continue at this rate, it is estimated there will be around 12,000 metric tons of plastic waste in the landfills by 2050.

Getting started

When we actually sit down to look at the daily harmful waste production, it can seem daunting. The key is to stay patient, start small and gradually move towards larger sustainability goals. As most zero waste veterans would stress – no one can go zero waste overnight. However, there are steps that you can start to follow to slowly ease into the lifestyle.

For anyone starting out with the zero waste life, the 5Rs or 5 rules can help a lot. They are – Refuse what is not needed, reduce what is needed, reuse what is consumed, recycle what cannot be refused, reduced or reused and rot(compost) the rest. You can also take a look at this list that can help you reduce household waste.

1. Be mindful of the 5Rs

5 rules of zero waste

For anyone starting out with the zero waste life, the 5Rs or 5 rules can help a lot. They are – Refuse what is not needed, reduce what is needed, reuse what is consumed, recycle what cannot be refused, reduced or reused and rot(compost) the rest. You can also take a look at this list that can help you reduce household waste.

2. Begin saying no to little things

It can be anything – maybe a business card that you were offered at a meeting, a plastic bag at your grocery store or a disposable pen from a conference – they all add up. It is imperative that you recognize these objects for what they are and deny to accept them. This is crucial. Every time you get asked to take them, ask yourself the question – Do I really need it?

3. Start your journey with real food

This helps not just with zero waste but your health too. It is advised that you start eating real foods like vegetables, fruits and anything that is not packaged in any way. It’s best if you bid goodbye to processed food and indulge in zero waste cooking instead. Cutting out packaged food is the best thing you can do for yourself and the planet.

4. Reduce consumption

Most zero waste veterans swear by this rule – you can follow this mantra with everything that you use, from laundry detergent to toothpaste. Consumer products are primarily advertised in a way that encourages more-than-necessary usage but once you are aware, it is easy to see through these things and consume exactly how much is necessary and not more.

Essential products for a zero waste life

A good way to start is to get reusable products in your arsenal. Swap your disposable items with products that will last long. Here’s a list –

 Reusable water bottle

 Reusable water bottle

One of the first things you should get rid of should be your plastic bottles. According to a 2017 report, about one million plastic bottles get purchased globally every minute. If consumers do not stop using plastic bottles at that rate, that number is likely to increase another 20% by 2021. Bring home a reusable bottle with a wide mouth, for ease of filling. Some also come insulated, which makes it perfect for both hot and cold beverages.

Glass jars

Glass jars

When it comes to storing food, drinks or other forms of supplies, ditch the plastic boxes or ziplock bags and get glass jars instead. You can also reuse glass containers like sauce bottles or mayonnaise jars.

 Cloth bags and totes

Cloth bags

Cloth bags are extremely necessary to store, transport and buy food in bulk. This also enables you to do away with plastic bags while shopping. You can even make your own cloth bags by sewing old shirts or sheets together.

Reusable utensils and straws

Reusable utensils and straws

Stopping use of single-use plastics is primary when you are leading a zero waste life. If you drink a lot of shakes and smoothies, get into the habit of using reusable straws made from bamboo, glass, silicone or stainless steel. Repeat the same with utensils.

 Cloth handkerchiefs

Cloth handkerchiefs

It’s okay to go a little old school with this one. Handkerchiefs are easy to make, and are very handy to have. Use them for wiping your nose and mouth, thus eliminating the need for tissues and napkins.

Common misconceptions about zero waste

Considering how imbibing a zero waste lifestyle can save the planet, one would expect that most people would be motivated to try it. However, due to the prevalence of some damaging misconceptions about the lifestyle, many get easily discouraged to even start. Let’s take a look at some of the common ones –

Money and time

One of the misconceptions that is at the forefront is that a zero waste life is more expensive than normal living, which frankly is quite far from the truth. For most veterans, zero waste lifestyle does the exact opposite – helps them save. It lets you consume much less than before as with zero waste, things are bought only to replenish. While this lifestyle is different for everyone, most followers report that it helped them improve their financial condition since bulk food buying, second-hand shopping and bag and container reuse all save money.

Many people also misunderstand and think zero waste entails making everything from scratch, which is not the case at all.


Another common concern is that with a zero waste lifestyle you need to constantly reject the pleasures of your favourite foods. For most veterans however, that is not the case. If you happen to be craving something that you cannot have because of packaging reasons, chances are there is a recipe available for it.

You have to produce zero waste, literally

Please remember that this term is used as an idealistic motivator and its goal is to simply reduce the amount of waste that gets produced. Zero waste lifestyle is a journey and you should not feel anxious or guilty if you produce some waste, because you will. You can start with one small thing – like composting at home, or taking your reusable cup to your favourite coffee place.

If you care about the planet, and wish to start your zero waste life, you can start small and grow from there. Remember, accumulated efforts of hundreds of people like you can have a significant impact.

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