Human beings are throwing away more stuff than ever before. According to the World Bank's report 'What a Waste: A Global Review of Solid Waste Management', people generate an average of 1.2kg of municipal solid waste per day. This amount is estimated to rise to 1.42kg by 2025, with annual global urban waste set to increase from 1.3 to 2.2 billion tonnes per year in the same time frame. With more household and commercial rubbish being generated all the time, some people have made the brave and highly responsible decision to live a waste-free lifestyle.
The zero-waste movement has been growing in recent years, thanks in part to influential blogs like 'Zero Waste Home' and 'Trash is for Tossers'. Far from being just another hipster movement, living a waste-free lifestyle involves deep commitment and lots of hard work. From the moment you enter the supermarket through to the moment you reach for the rubbish bin, making the decision to avoid waste means paying attention to every aspect of household consumption and waste management.
According to the Zero Waste International Alliance, the globally recognised definition of zero-waste is: "Zero Waste is a goal that is ethical, economical, efficient and visionary, to guide people in changing their lifestyles and practices to emulate sustainable natural cycles, where all discarded materials are designed to become resources for others to use." While recycling is important, the aim of the waste-free movement is to emphasise waste prevention rather than waste management.
There are lots of practical steps you can take to help the cause, from avoiding plastic and unnecessary packaging through to giving - rather than throwing - away your possessions. The first step is to be mindful of everything you buy. It's amazing how much waste you can avoid by simply saying no to plastic bags and unnecessary packaging. Buy individual apples at the supermarket instead of bulk-packs, choose reusable containers for your lunch, and buy a glass water bottle that you can use time and time again.
By shopping at farmers markets and butchers and buying food products in bulk, you can eliminate almost all food packaging from your life. Some types of processed foods can even be purchased in paper bags, which you can recycle on your own with a basic paper-making kit. If you're really keen to make a difference, you can start making your own cleaning and beauty products, using reusable office equipment and razors, and educating your friends on the wonders of a zero-waste lifestyle.
To live truly waste-free, it's also important to be mindful of your disposal habits. Instead of throwing things away automatically, always ask yourself if they can be used again. By donating your old clothes to charity or passing old books on to friends, you can make things live for longer before they hit the rubbish heap. It's also a great idea to start a compost bin and put your food scraps back into the garden to help the process of life start over. In fact, by starting a garden and learning how to cook from scratch, you can avoid the shops altogether and produce less waste than ever before.
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