‘Zero waste’ philosophy in everyday life
In response to the countless discussions and books that address the present condition of our natural environment, all kinds of measures and solutions that address the problem are proposed, some of which do not even require much effort and can be implemented by just about anyone. We have already outlined the rudiments of the ‘zero waste’ concept in our previous article, which you can find here. Today we would like to elaborate in more detail on the guiding principles followed by the advocates of that approach and offer you a few easy steps which everyone can take to limit the amount of waste produced.
Zero-waste life is the practice of applying the ‘5 Rs’, a set of the following five rules:
1. REFUSE, i.e. make informed choices and refuse to accept redundant items, which are bound soon to become useless rubbish. How does that translate into practice? This rule is all about minimising the use of disposable objects, such as advertising flyers or disposable kitchen utensils, such as cups, straws, plastic cutlery or disposable bags. Instead, we should use glass cups and mugs, drink beverages directly from the glass and eat in instead of taking meals out, and always go shopping with the same reusable cotton bag.
2. REDUCE, i.e. be minimalistic, which has become a praiseworthy trend in the recent couple of years and can contribute to limiting waste worldwide. Let’s try to limit the number of items around us, get rid of useless gadgets and doubtful bibelots that eventually go out of fashion and end up in the bin anyway. This is quite a challenge in our era of consumerism, omnipresent commercials and the upcoming holiday season's fever. One should yet be aware that buying fewer unnecessary items is not only going to improve our financial standing but is also beneficial to our environment in the long run.
3. REUSE, i.e. revisit your roots. Our grandparents and parents, while often being unable to find or afford new products, would typically reuse the same packaging accessories. Buying jams or pickles in jars, they would often use the same jars later on to store loose food products or to preserve their own fruit and vegetables for the winter season. You can be extremely creative devising methods of reuse for packaging materials, even for those you might at first think could be fit for nothing except disposal, for example making home decorations out of them.
4. RECYCLE, i.e. be aware that you can re-process and reuse a great majority of products, including plastics, as raw material for new products. This principle is extremely important, particularly for the cosmetics industry, where most packaging products are made of plastics. As consumers we can make a huge difference by sorting our waste properly. By disposing of recyclables separately from non-recyclable waste, we can both greatly reduce the amount of the latter and give the former a ‘second life’.
5. ROT, i.e. make use of the parts of vegetables and fruit that you would normally bin as household waste. Vegetable peels can be simmered into thick vegetable broth, or used in the garden or fed to home plants as natural fertilizer.
The five ‘R’ principles mentioned above can be supplemented with one more ‘R’, which we find equally precious, which is REPAIR. In the times when nearly every product is at hand and can be selected out of a multitude of varieties, with its properties and features improved version to version every couple of months, it's difficult to choose repairing over buying. We must remember though that every new piece of equipment, gadget or toy is a new future piece of waste. For the benefit of our planet, our children and the future generations we should therefore try and limit the number of new products we buy and always first try to repair those we already have. Living by the principles of the ‘zero waste’ philosophy may seem hard, particularly in the present times of omnipresent consumerism. However, sooner or later, the popular way of living will inevitably have to change. As human beings, citizens and consumers we have to understand how much depends on the choices we make every day. After decades of exploiting the natural resources of the Earth and polluting it recklessly, it is high time we take responsibility for our actions and do all we can, not as much to reverse the changes to the environment, as to enable the human species to survive in it in the first place.
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