Zero Waste movement
13 minutes readJuly 24, 2020

First steps to a Zero Waste lifestyle and how to reduce waste

Environment | Sustainability

Zero Waste movement is more than a lifestyle. See how to generate less waste by applying the 5R's: refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle & rot!

Also available in: Català | English | Español

We live in a world of disposable items, with stressful routines and no time to relax or think about anything.

As the great Victor Küppers says, "we live in constant complaint, we have to stop and change because we go like chickens without heads". And so it is, but "what if we all had 10 minutes every day just to stop, to think, to reflect, to sort out ideas…?"

Well, that's what we'd like you to do today, here and now. Take these 10 minutes to reflect, but this time about your garbage. What do you mean, about the garbage?! Yes, as you read it.

Generating waste is common in our daily lives, but have we ever considered how we can try to generate less and less? Ask yourself what you throw away most, what materials it's made of, if it's really essential to your life or if there are more sustainable alternatives... That's what the Zero Waste movement is all about!

What is the Zero Waste movement?

It is a lifestyle that brings benefits to the environment, health, economy and well-being itself and promotes sustainable tips to generate less waste.

Bea Johnson and her family, the forerunners of this movement, started in 2008 to adopt a sustainable life without generating waste, following the 5Rs rule: refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle & rot.

Refuse (what we do not need), reduce (what we do need), reuse (what we consume), recycle (what we cannot refuse, reduce or reuse) and compost the rest. And the key is to do it in this order, leaving recycling and composting as the last options.

According to Bea "it's a simple life that allows you to dedicate more time to what you consider important", because "when you are living with less, you have more time to do what is important for you, and this lifestyle translates into a routine based on being rather than having”.

His book "Zero Waste Home" has been translated into more than 20 languages and people all over the world are following his advice and recommendations to take care of our only home: our planet. "Gandhi said that happiness is when what you think, say and do is in harmony, and I believe this is what living without waste brings", says Bea Johnson.

First steps to start a Zero Waste lifestyle

Big changes start with small actions, so don't be overwhelmed by the thought of applying all these tips at once. The important thing is to make a small effort and analyze what is more within your reach to do your bit and generate less waste.

Once you start (and we speak from our own experience), you will not be able to stop! It will no longer be you who has to set yourself new challenges, since it will be your own body and your own mind that will be crying out to you to do so and to adopt a zero waste lifestyle. Promised!

Say a definitive goodbye to plastic

Did you know that about 100 million tons of plastic are produced every year and that since 1950 more than 9 BILLION tons of plastic have been produced? This is equivalent, according to Greenpeace, to the weight of one billion elephants. We could go on with numbers and examples endlessly, but we prefer to focus on what’s really important.

Get into situation: you enter to the supermarket and you start buying. You fill the basket and realize that practically 100% of it contains plastic or is wrapped in it. You lift your head and see that all shelves are full of this material. Plastic, plastic, plastic and more plastic. So stop!

And you think, how are we supposed to reduce it if everything is packed in plastic? Let's go! The keys to generate less waste:

1. Shopping kit

  • Buy shopping baskets or cloth bags

And say goodbye to disposable plastic bags. And here we include a cloth bag for bread, just like the old-style way.

  • Don't buy packaged fruit, meat or fish

Go to the greengrocer's and place your fruits and vegetables in net bags, which are ecological and reusable.

Go to the butcher's and ask them not to pack your meat in plastic, but in paper.

Another option would be, for example, to bring your own tuppers and have them place the meat in them, and the same goes for the fish! You will also be boosting the local trade :)

  • Pasta, olives, cereals, rice, legumes, nuts, cookies...?

Brands such as Barilla have opted for 100% recyclable packaging made of virgin fibre cardboard, obtained from sustainably managed forests.

And more and more ecological shops are opening up on our streets and offering products in bulk. This will also promote the km0.

Important! Anything you can't buy in bulk, buy it in the largest possible package.

2. Food preservation

  • The usual plastic freezer bags... Out!

Buy reusable silicone bags. They are much more resistant, you can use them as many times as you want and most of them have the advantage that can be washed in the dishwasher :)

  • Replaces plastic film and aluminium foil

Beeswax wrappers are today's sustainable and toxic-free alternative for wrapping our food.

  • Use glass jars

For pasta, rice and legumes, for example, and for other types of food you can use tuppers. And if they are glass ones, so much better, not only for the environment but also to prevent plastic from soaking into the food.

  • Go back to reusable snack holders

I'm sure when you were a child your parents used to prepare your snack in a small bag for yard time.

Let's go back to vintage! The Boc'n'Roll brand offers a wide range of (very cool) models of reusable sandwich holders, but if you're a handyman you can also make your own or choose the reusable silicone ones. There are options for all tastes and colors :)

3. Health, cosmetics and hygiene

  • Opt for natural cosmetic products

More and more powerful brands are appearing on the market that are betting on sustainability and that also offer 100% natural products (free of petrol derivatives, silicones, parabens, etc.) and free of plastic derivatives.

And if they are also packaged in aluminium, glass or cardboard, we have succeeded!

  • Bet on solid cosmetics!

It is a step that is often difficult and somewhat dizzying, but the truth is that it is worthwhile to switch to solid soaps and shampoos.

They are even more beneficial for our body than conventional ones (and some of them smell wonderful), they last a lot and they usually go without any kind of wrapping ( at most cardboard). What else can you ask for? If you're not familiar with Lush Fresh Handmade Cosmetics, we invite you to check it out…

  • Alternatives for band-aids, ear-sticks, toothbrushes...

Yes, there are eco and natural bamboo alternatives. Just as effective, but careful for you and the environment!

  • And what about the toothpaste?

It is a totally essential element in our daily lives to take care of our oral health. We have already solved the problem of plastic toothbrushes, but what about the toothpaste?

It is also wrapped in plastic, but brands such as Georganics have decided to launch a wide range of natural and ecological products for oral care and they are also determined not to use any plastic in its packages.

  • Spray deodorant? After a while, crocodile!

Dare to use the alum stone stick, roll-on deodorants in glass format or the natural ones in bars, they are incredible! And some even protect much more from sweat (and naturally) than those sold in supermarkets. Does Ben&Anna sound familiar to you? For us it was a great breakthrough!

  • Say goodbye to bottled water!

Today there are countless options; from installing a filter directly on the tap, to buying water jugs that filter the water, osmosis systems...

Not only will you help reduce waste generation, but you will also avoid ingesting 9,000 microplastic particles into your body each year. And when you travel, always bring a glass bottle or a thermos with your own filtered water :)

  • Intimate hygiene

Have you thought about the amount of pads, panty liners and tampons you use to take care of your intimate hygiene? It is estimated that a woman generates more than 6kg of garbage per year!

Those who have tried the menstrual cup say that it is a wonder, but there are also reusable cloth pads and even menstrual panties!

The Cocoro brand, for example, sells different types of absorbent panties for both vaginal flow and menstruation.

4. Home and cleaning

  • Replace the kitchen roll with cloth towels

It is important to switch mindset and reject anything that is disposable, including kitchen paper, even if it does not contain plastic.

  • Paper napkins? No! Made of cloth, please

We only accept paper ones if you have guests at home and you have to spend hours in the kitchen. But if they are made of recycled paper, which can even be found in supermarkets, even better!

  • Go digital

Until now you probably printed your invoices, got your paycheck on paper, etc., but in the world we live in it is absurd to continue using paper instead of taking advantage of the great benefits of digitalization.

  • Say goodbye to conventional scourers, sponges and cleaning cloths

There are 100% biodegradable and sustainable alternatives! Scourers and sponges made of luffa or natural esparto grass, wood or coconut fibre brushes, compostable cloths made of cotton and cellulose…

  • Say goodbye to the old plastic garbage bags

Try the compostable or biodegradable ones. Online you will find a lot of brands.

And don't forget to buy biodegradable bags for your pet's poo. Be careful with the ones that have EPI additive, because they are sold as ecological and biodegradable and do not stop containing plastic. Opt for the ones made of corn starch :)

  • Cleaning products: fabric softener, detergent, grease remover...

There are already its ecological alternatives! If you live in a city, there's probably a store you don't know about that offers these kinds of products, and even in bulk!

Did you know that white vinegar and baking soda are very effective for household cleaning?

  • In case you are a lover of organization

Choose to buy baskets of clothes or cloth instead of plastic boxes. They will help you to organize your home in the same way and they will also be useful to give it a decorative look. And if you need new hangers, buy them made of wood.

  • Toys

For our son/daughter, to give to a friend or to play board games at home? Great, but no plastic! Wooden ones are sustainable and not harmful to children's health.

  • For Zero Waste professionals

Don't forget to use rechargeable batteries instead of disposable ones.

And hey, if you have a lunch with your friends and you want to save yourself the trouble of cleaning the plates, glasses and cutlery... don't forget to opt for the cardboard ones! And since some mojito or Gintonic will surely come along, don't forget to buy paper or bamboo straws, which are 100% sustainable :) And what about the cutlery? Bamboo or stainless steel.

In short, does the following phrase sound familiar to you? "It's not the cleanest who cleans the most, but the one who dirties the least”. Well, it sums up Zero Waste movement perfectly!

To go further and adopt a 100% Zero Waste lifestyle

Yeah, you caught us. It's practically impossible to eradicate 100% of the waste generation. But Zero Waste movement is trying to adopt a new way of living that tries to avoid excessive consumerism altogether and thus start generating less waste. So, if you really want to try to implement a true Zero Waste lifestyle, you will have to put the 5Rs into practice.

1. Refuse

It is a complicated mental process since it involves saying no to everything we do not need, and precisely in the society in which we live prevails consumerism and the creation of products to generate needs instead of satisfying them.

But it is a first big step to stop being part of this wheel called capitalism.

2. Reduce

Another basic premise of this lifestyle philosophy is to reduce everything we have around us. It is not a matter of literally getting rid of everything we have, but to ask ourselves if the use we make of the objects we have is worthwhile.

An example: at home we need ice, either to soothe a possible injury or to have a refreshing drink, but instead of buying recurrent icepacks at the supermarket, maybe we could buy a mold to make our own ice. Zero waste!

3. Reuse

With the above-mentioned tips we would be applying this rule more than well. And if we want to go further, why not buying second-hand clothes? Or if we have clothes that have become old and we no longer want them, why not selling them or giving them to Caritas?

Why not giving furniture a second life by decorating it with vinyl instead of buying new ones? And if we want to read a particular book, why buying it instead of getting it from the library if we are only going to read it once? It sounds silly, but everything counts!

4. Recycle

This is one of the last rules we should try to apply, but if there is no other way, let us not forget that recycling is of vital importance. And don't give me any of your bullshit about not having space, huh? A tiny trash container in the bathroom, no matter how small it is, it fits!

And now there's no excuse, because there are all kinds of rubbish bins with different compartments to recycle, and there are even some that look like cobblers!

5. Rot

Avoiding food waste is not that difficult: shopping on a weekly basis instead of monthly will help you plan your meals and shop more realistically and responsibly for what you really need. And whatever is about to expire and you don't have time to cook it, go to the freezer! In silicone bags, yeah ;)

And what you can't really use, try composting. For this you will need a composting machine, which requires space and time, but all you have to do is propose it!

Generating less waste is within the reach of each and every one of us, and it's not nearly as complicated as it may seem a priori, but it requires a change of mentality. Would you like to join a zero waste lifestyle?

💙And how can Place to Plug help reduce waste generation?

Encouraging you, despite the adversities, to opt for electric vehicle and, for this reason, we offer an end to end solution for the entire EV charging industry, whether you are an EV driver, a business, institution or operator. Together we’ll achieve the change the planet needs!

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