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How to Achieve a Zero Waste Lifestyle – Q&A With the Experts

By Cassandra Rosas,

Starting to have a more sustainable lifestyle is of great importance nowadays, especially considering all the environmental problems that we are facing due to the lack of consciousness regarding the impact that our habits have on our planet’s health.

There is an imperative need to change the way that we live, even the smallest actions have a great impact on the carbon footprint that we leave behind, but some of us have no idea where to start or how to switch to a more sustainable way of living, so we asked the experts their best tips and advice on how to start transitioning into a zero-waste lifestyle, keep reading to know what they said.

Q: What is the zero-waste movement and why is it important for more people to adopt this lifestyle?

A: Zero waste is about eliminating waste and overconsumption. It is about stopping the production and consumption of single-use products that end up as waste. With Climate Change being our biggest issue, adopting a zero-waste lifestyle is probably one of the most important steps we can all make to minimize our impact on the environment. Most of the damage to the planet happens in the extraction and production phase so using the waste hierarchy is critical. The top-level of that is prevention: don’t create waste in the first place. If we are going to move towards a zero-waste, we need to start today. To achieve zero waste, we need a clear target. We need local and central governments to work together to set a date and a target goal of zero. Our motto in the movement is: If we cannot reuse it, if we cannot recycle it, if we cannot compost it, we simply shouldn’t be making it, a quote from Dr. Paul Connett.”

By Marty Hoffart, Chair at Zero Waste Network Aotearoa

Q: Which tips can you give us to start going zero waste at home?

A: I actually don’t love the term “zero-waste” because it implies the need for perfection, getting your waste down to zero, which can be so intimidating that it stops some people from taking any action. At Plaine Products we prefer “progress, not perfection” as a mantra. To reduce waste in your life we suggest starting with small manageable changes and expanding from there. And be opportunistic, it doesn’t help the waste problem to throw everything plastic away and start fresh. As you replace, take the time to make more sustainable choices and move your household in a zero-waste direction.

A few suggestions for the kitchen:

  • The next time you run out of saran wrap try wax wraps which can be rinsed and reused over and over again. You can purchase them or make them on your own.

  • As you purchase new cooking utensils, switch away from plastic to bamboo or stainless steel.

  • Cooking at home is a great way to avoid single-use plastic. No takeout containers or plastic utensils. Eating at home means you can avoid to-go food packaging, plastic doggy bags, straws, and more. Challenge yourself to cook a version of your favorite takeout!

In the bathroom:

  • Replace your worn-out plastic toothbrush with a bamboo one! Bamboo is a more sustainable material and toothbrushes can be composted when you’re done using them. In the realm of tooth hygiene, you can also check out dental lace, a non-plastic version of dental floss, and toothpaste bites or tooth powder instead of traditional tube toothpaste. More and more options are becoming available.

  • Try out shampoo and conditioner bars or refillable personal care options like Plaine Products.

  • According to the EPA, nearly 2 billion plastic disposable razors are thrown away each year! Safety razors are made of stainless steel and the blades are fully recyclable. They are a bit more of an investment up front but will save you money in the long run.

When shopping:

  • Carry reusable shopping bags, including smaller bags for produce, or you can skip the produce bags altogether since you’ll be washing your fruit and vegetables before using them anyway.

  • Now many foods from tea to rice, flours to nuts, and chocolate chips to olive oil are available in bulk. Shopping in bulk can reduce packaging waste and may even save you some money. It can also reduce food waste because you can get just the amount you need. Gather up your mason jars, cloth bags, and reusable containers and choose to shop in bulk.

  • Consider the packaging when you make a purchase. Metal is a material that is infinitely recyclable, it never needs to be thrown away. Glass and paper are the materials that are next on the list as far as ease and the number of times they can be recycled. Plastic is more challenging to recycle because there are so many types and much of the products are made from mixed plastic. However, even the plastic that is the easiest to recycle can only be reused once or twice before it becomes unusable and ends up in a landfill.

By Lindsey McCoy, CEO at Plaine Products

Q: What are the first steps we can take to start being more eco-conscious and lower our household waste as much as possible?

A: Get informed. Read, watch documentaries and search for information about the environmental impacts of your diet, water usage, energy consumption, and energy sources. Remember, each country and region has different challenges regarding these aspects – the energy mix and water problems depend on the country you live in.