It seems as if “going green” is on every organization’s radar nowadays. Many restaurants and coffee shops are replacing their takeaway plastic straws with paper ones. Grocery stores encourage the use of reusable shopping bags and even charge customers who walk without them. Beauty companies are embracing the bulk and allow products to be refilled in the same containers they were bought in. As the realities of environmental degradation become more evident, corporations are trying to cut back on waste and enter into the eco-friendly movement.
For a while, these efforts may have sufficed on their own, but with such rapidly progressing technology and the resulting harm these advancements are having on our environment, sustainable living has become more of an individual responsibility. One way that individuals are choosing to act on this responsibility is by going zero-waste.
If you have never heard of the term zero-waste or have no idea what the zero-waste lifestyle is, I promise that it is relatively simple. In fact, one of the main goals of zero-waste living is simplicity and harkening back to a time where people more heavily relied on natural elements instead of man-altered or man-made products.
As the name suggests, the zero-waste lifestyle is one that eradicates personal trash. Rather than purchasing things that come in packages (which when you think about it is just about every damn thing), zero-wasters make their own products, buy in bulk, and re-use everything they own.
Many people associate the zero-waste lifestyle with hippie culture, but today some of the most notable leaders of the movement are social media influencers, lifestyle bloggers, and Youtube stars. These eco-pioneers, often young women, encourage their audiences to incorporate zero-waste practices into their daily lives, providing tips that are both practical and accessible.
I know, I know. You’re likely still skeptical about a lifestyle that constantly requires you to make your own deodorant and never rip off a piece of paper towel again. Can these small steps really impact our planet on a meaningful level? The answer is a resounding “YES!,” especially if this movement is embraced in droves.
Now, of course, zero-waste is not realistic for everyone. There is an infinite number of social, political, financial, and even religious barriers that could veer people away from the lifestyle. Additionally, a big fear that most people have about going zero-waste is the loss of convenience.
If you’re running errands and start to feel a bit hungry, you can’t just grab takeout at the first fast food place you see. You have to make sure that you have a reusable container and utensils on hand and then send up a large prayer that the eating establishment you arrive at allows you to package their food in your container. Similarly, if you’re out with your girlfriends and see a new makeup product that you want to try, you can’t just buy it there and then. If anything, you have to take a mental picture and then hope you can recreate it at home with natural products. Of course in both of these scenarios NOT eating the fast food and NOT buying the potentially toxic makeup product is better for your health, but if we’re being honest they’re also NOT totally realistic.
Fortunately, every single person on planet Earth does not have to quit waste cold turkey. There are tons of ways to implement low-waste or zero-waste habits into your lifestyle, without chugging around mason jars everywhere you go.
Admittedly I am no expert when it comes to this movement, but I have done my research. In doing so, I have become more conscious of just how much waste my family and I produce on a regular basis. We live in a New York suburb where trash is collected from the front of peoples’ homes twice a week; oftentimes this still is not enough. There is more trash than we even know what to do with. Multiply this by the hundreds of similar-sized households around town and we’ve got a waste problem that seems too lofty to even begin tackling.
For a while, I thought that recycling was the most important household act of environmental conservatism there was, but in fact, only 9 percent of plastic waste on Earth has actually been recycled. That remaining 91 percent is still lingering in our oceans, rivers, dams, streets, and landfills. Simply typing in the words “plastic waste” into any search engine on your computer unlocks a really terrifying look into how extreme our plastic problem really is.
Truly everything is encased in plastic. The lunch I order at work, the clothes I wear, the bags I buy, tags on new products, EVERYTHING. Although it can be hard to see the damaging effects of wasteful behavior in the present moment, there is no denying that the choices we make now are going to rock the planet for generations to come. If a zero-waste lifestyle can have even the most minuscule impact on preserving and prolonging our home, I think it is on all of us to try.
So how do we actually do this? Who should we turn to? What does it take to start? If you want to be a zero-waster at home, school, your favorite restaurants, and shops, but do not know where to begin, here are some of the best zero-waste lifestyle bloggers and where to find them:
Auri Jackson, Buzzfeed
I Tried to Make Zero Trash for 30 Days
Most people know Auri Jackson from her viral videos centered around all things low-trash, zero-waste, and environmental conservation. She is a writer, director, and video producer at Buzzfeed, one of the most popular digital platforms in the world. A self-described “zero-waste enthusiast,” she also hosts pop-up classes around Los Angeles teaching attendees simple ways to reduce their waste.
Although she is extremely knowledgeable about the environment and everything going on within it, one of my favorite things about watching Auri is the fact that she is not an expert. She often tries things for the very first time (zero-waste clubbing, zero-waste skincare, zero-waste backpacking) and in the process, she fails a bit but never stops trying.
Lauren Singer, Trash is for Tossers
How I Fit 5 Years of My Trash in This Jar
Lauren Singer is another popular name whose blog “Trash is for Tossers” is bound to end up in any zero-waster’s arsenal. She has created an incredible eco-focused platform for herself and even snagged a much-deserved spot in this summer’s Instyle Badass Women of 2019 list.
Lauren is based in New York City where she opened up her own zero-waste store called Package Free Shop. Her journey to this lifestyle dates back to 2012 and since then, she has amassed hundreds of thousands of intrigued and inspired followers. She has become a bit of a public persona by way of countless features and interviews, most of which center around the fact that she can fit all the trash that she makes into one mason jar...yeah, seriously.
Bea Johnson, Zero Waste Home
Two Adults, Two Kids, Zero Waste
Bea Johnson is often referred to as the mama of the zero-waste movement for good reason. Since 2008, her family of four has remained committed to axing their trash and helping “hundreds of thousands of others in enjoying a richer life based on experiences instead of stuff.” Weaning off all this “stuff” is another important factor that taps into the philanthropic goals of zero-waste living. Less waste will only come by way of fewer purchases, so zero-wasters tend to renounce materialism.
One of the reasons why Bea is such a beloved lifestyle blogger is because she incorporates family life into everything she does. As previously mentioned, I live with my family. As much as I want to make drastic changes in the way I consume products, it isn’t always easy to convince my family members to do the same. Bea’s site is completely family-oriented which is very helpful to the zero-waste aspirers like myself who share a bathroom, kitchen, and living space with loved ones who need a little more incentivizing before taking a leap into low-waste living.
Kathryn Kellogg, Going Zero Waste
My Top Ten Favorite Zero-Waste Swaps
Kathryn Kellogg’s zero-waste story began as a potentially tragic one. When she was younger, Kathryn isolated painful bumps in her breast which were eventually revealed to be tumors. Fortunately, they were benign but it did get her thinking about what she puts on/into her body, especially an organ as large and porous as skin. She started opting for more natural and homemade products free of harsh, hormone-warping chemicals which then led to a more holistic lifestyle overall. Zero-waste was just the next step.
“Going Zero Waste” is incredibly easy to navigate and chocked full of handy zero-waste swaps. All of her work is that much more inspiring knowing that it comes from such a personal place. By choosing to better herself, she is simultaneously bettering the environment and it is a joyous thing to witness.
Erin Rhoads, The Rogue Ginger
Living A Zero-Waste Life
Best blog name ever? Very possible.Erin Rhoads is an avid Australian lifestyle blogger/mother who has been chronicling her zero-waste journey since 2013. In addition to environmental benefits, she credits better food choices and resistance to harmful chemicals as her reasons to continue leading a conscious life.
When she is not spreading the good green word on her blog or in her 2018 debut novel “Waste Not: Make a Big Difference by Throwing Away Less,” Erin is also a public speaker and eco-action group collaborator. I can’t help but sift through her blog posts which are always packed with research, insightful information, and even photographic breakdowns of where plastic is hiding in unexpected places. It is obvious that for Erin, zero-waste living feels more like a mission than a trend and she is calling all of us to action.
There’s a chance that after all of this, you are still feeling overwhelmed with the idea of going zero-waste. Perhaps you’re interested and you agree that there is value in any sort of preservation-fueled movement, but it’s just not practical. My advice? Try anyway.
Not many people can adapt to this life easily; it requires patience, trial and error, and a hell of a lot of reusable cloths. Regardless, I have full faith that eventually you will learn how to integrate waste-reduction into your specific lifestyle. Until then, I hope you join me in reading these blogs; they are a great place to start!