With the constant presence of flashy advertisements and recommendations for the newest and trendiest products, it is easy to become lost in today’s consumer culture.
Furthermore, many of these purchases are not the most environmentally-friendly options available. Most items that you buy in a store or order online tend to come packaged in an abundant amount of plastic, much of which is not even recyclable due to complex recycling standards and contamination.
Once you pause and take a step back, it becomes easier to recognize the amount of waste you generate on a daily basis. Nobody (I hope!) wants to damage the environment we all live in and depend upon, but what can you do to reduce your environmental footprint?
Starting the conversation: what is zero-waste anyways?
A zero-waste lifestyle is typically defined as reducing the amount of unnecessary and unsustainable purchases in your life, all while moving toward the goal of throwing away as little as possible.
When thinking about sustainability, your mind might jump to recycling. That’s good for the environment, right? It is, but the problem is that it is not always the best option. For example, contaminated batches of recycled products end up in the trash, and not all materials are equally suitable for recycling. Glass for instance may be recycled indefinitely, but the quality of plastic degrades after continuous recycling over time.
If you are somewhat familiar with this concept already, you may have heard about zero-waste gurus who have been able to slash their waste production by so much that they can stash all their trash for an entire year in one small jar. This extreme level of the zero-waste lifestyle is by no means easy to accomplish and can be intimidating to those who are just getting started on their own journey.
You don’t need to completely overhaul your current lifestyle to start living plastic-free overnight. You can, however, start to be more environmentally conscious and take small, concrete steps toward reducing the amount of waste you generate.
First, you might find it helpful to take a look at the personal products you use most often or on a daily basis. Are they packaged in plastic or even Styrofoam? If so, reconsidering your toiletry or beauty purchases could be a perfect place for you to begin your journey toward a zero waste lifestyle.
Items to be on the lookout for include soaps, bodywash, shampoo, conditioner, and lotions. These are things that tend to come in plastic packaging, and although the bottles may say that they are recyclable, you should proceed with caution. The product itself, like lotion, for example, tends to get stuck on the inside of the packaging, which would contaminate the rest of the materials that the container is recycled with. This makes it difficult to recycle some household items, even if the packaging is labeled as recyclable.
Other things to consider when trying to reduce the amount of waste you produce include the types of food and beverage containers you utilize in the kitchen, whether you frequently purchase items such as paper towels or plastic wrap, and food waste.
Transitioning to more sustainable options
Once you have identified the products and habits that maybe aren’t the most eco-friendly choices, you can start to make a real change in your lifestyle.
Environmentally-conscious brands are becoming more readily available in stores everywhere and online. These companies seek to develop products that not only meet and exceed your expectations for the product itself but also have packaging that is safe for the environment. Instead of using plastic, they may use reusable aluminum or glass containers, or containers made out of compostable material.
Easy changes to consider
Do you often find yourself reaching for paper towels throughout the day? Investing in a few quality cloth towels instead of their paper counterparts is not only an environmentally friendly option but can also save you money down the road.
Shampoo and Conditioner Bars
Traditional bottles of shampoo and conditioner are usually packaged in plastic, and their design often encourages you to use more product than is actually necessary. Once you run out of your current shampoo and/or conditioner, replacing them with bars is a great option. You save the excess plastic packaging, and they often last for just as long or even longer than their bottled counterparts! SOLIDU offers several options for both of these products, allowing you to choose the best one for your hair.
Glass Food Containers
Plastic food containers are without a doubt one of the most popular ways to preserve leftovers and store food for later use. They are lightweight and don’t break easily, making them an appealing choice. However, they contribute more plastic to landfills, and some may even contain harmful chemicals that leach into your food, such as bisphenol-A (BPA) and phthalates.
Glass containers provide a safer and more eco-friendly alternative. They don’t contribute to plastic waste, last longer, and will not lead to the chemical contamination of food.
Cosmetics in Reusable Containers
Usually, cosmetics such as eyeshadow, mascara, and lip balm come in single-use plastic packaging. But many beauty companies are starting to make zero-waste alternatives more readily available. If you are someone who frequently buys these types of products, try reaching for something in a reusable tin or glass the next time you run out or get the itch to try something new.
Reusable Grocery Bags
Many places, including the popular grocery store chains Wegmans and Trader Joe’s, have stopped offering plastic bags to their customers altogether and exclusively use paper bags at checkout. While this is certainly a step in the right direction, you as a customer can make an even better choice- bringing your own reusable bags. These are often available at the checkout area of most chain stores, and having a few of these bags available can help you prevent waste that would otherwise come from extra paper and plastic bags.
It’s easy to become overwhelmed by the amount of information surrounding zero-waste living and all of the different potential actions you can take. But breaking it down day by day and setting small goals for the steps that you personally feel the most confident about taking can transform this lifestyle from a passing thought into your reality.