Is Recycling Enough? Why the Zero Waste Lifestyle is the Real Goal
Just a few weeks ago, CBC published an article (available here) about how recycling is not all it is chalked up to be. The system is overwhelmed with materials that are difficult and expensive to recycle and reuse, such as plastics, metals lined with plastics or other materials, or dirty yogurt containers.
It confirmed my musings and reminded me why it is so important to go zero waste rather than just fall back on sorting the garbage that we do collect over the week.
While for years municipalities and green organizations have been pushing the "3 R's" of REDUCE, REUSE, & RECYCLE", it seems that people only really got into the last one since it is seemingly the easiest option. But the other two R's is really where we need to focus our efforts. The more we reduce, the less there is to reuse and recycle.
But what exactly are we reducing?
Sometimes it's easier to think backwards.
Picture your curb on garbage day. What's there? A black bag or two of landfill trash, a blue bin with plastics and a blue bin with papers, and finally a half-filled green bin? This will vary according to your sorting practises, but take a moment to account for the sheer volume of waste that your household produced that week.
Personally, I'm not comfortable with the amount that I have sitting there, but that's just motivation.
Then it's time to think about what you had to do or consume for that waste to find itself in your home. From plastic wrapping on the produce you bought, to the diapers you threw out, to the oil jugs you're recycling and the shampoo bottle you finished off this week, it has all made its way to your curb. From food, to clothing, toys, home goods, candles, decor, and more, these come in packaging that is taxing our system and polluting our earth.
Also, let's just think about buying less.Yes, things get used and need to be replaced. However, the less we consume in general, the less waste is produced in the process. The industry now is geared towards selling many items of low quality that need to be replaced over and over again. Remember that quality might be expensive, but it's also better for the planet as fewer items need to be produced and later disposed of. That's why thrifting and buying used items can also be a great way to get a deal while minimizing our impact on our planet.
So ask yourself a few questions before buying items:
- Do I need this?
- Will I consume this? Ex. like soap, shampoo, food
- Do I see myself using this for a long time? Ex. Toys, clothes, home goods, kitchen staples
- Can I responsibly dispose of this (and all the packaging) after its lifetime? Ex. Donate, repurpose, resell, etc.
Reusing is also a great way to bring things into our homes but keeping them there instead of putting them out as waste.
From glass jars, certain clothing items, furniture, and boxes, these items can all find a new use in your home. Creativity is key here, and thankfully the internet has really been an amazing resource for inspiration on how to make things new again, or at least usable in a different capacity.
Ok, so what now?
The zero waste world is a big one, and after some reflection, the enormity of the shift that we need to make can be daunting.
But no one said that you had to do it all at once! A progressive shift towards a zero-waste lifestyle is easy to do, especially if you have the resources and the community (even if it's online) to support you in your journey.
We often suggest to start with just one aspect of your daily life, be it your personal care routine, kitchen essentials, or even just your lunch preparations. Once you get comfortable with that, you can tackle the next thing. Another idea is following along with our #zerowastelifestylechallenge that we post every week on Facebook. On Saturday mornings we announce the theme for the week, and we encourage our followers to integrate the following theme into their lifestyle. We invite you to follow along!
As for more ideas on how to go zero-waste, we are planning our next blog posts, full of tips and tricks that we have picked up over the last few years of this green living journey.