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Lifestyle,  Waste

What are the personal and environmental benefits of a zero waste lifestyle?

What are the benefits of a zero waste lifestyle?

Read on to find out what personal benefits you might be missing out on and the positive environmental changes you could be making!

You have probably heard of the zero waste movement by now and are wondering what the benefits of a zero-waste lifestyle might be. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, don’t stress! You can read my complete guide to zero waste living and learn all about it.

A zero waste lifestyle can have enormous benefits to the environment as well as you personally! I choose a zero waste lifestyle for multiple reasons. They can be broken down into two categories:

  1. Environmental benefits of a zero waste lifestyle
  2. Personal benefits of a zero waste lifestyle

I wish that my reasoning was completely for the benefit of the environment but unfortunately I’m not that selfless! I needed something in it for me too.

Read on to find out what these reasons are.

A zero waste breakfast of museli at Yosemite National Park

Environmental benefits of a zero waste lifestyle

I studied environmental science and I work in sustainable agriculture so for me, this one is a no brainer. When I first began reducing my environmental impact I started by reducing the amount of meat I ate (read more about why I eat less meat). Once that became easy and automatic (a habit), I learnt about reducing my waste and continued on. This sounds like it all happened in a week but really it was more like five years!

Reduce waste sent to landfill

When I found out people could fit their trash into a jar, I was shocked. I had never thought about the waste I was producing before or thought that I had any control over it! I thought it was just a part of life and there was no way around it. Before beginning my journey towards a zero waste lifestyle, I also never thought about the environmental impact of the things I was using in my life – creating things, transporting things to me and disposing of things!

There is no such thing as ‘away’. When we throw anything away it must go somewhere.

Annie Leonard

I started to think about where things went when I threw them in my bin. I realised that ‘where they went’ was into a huge pile of rubbish where a hairbrush I used 20 years ago when I was a child would still be sitting. After doing some research, I learnt how long things take to break down and that every piece of plastic ever created still exists today (Greenpeace).

A black bar chart on a yellow background

Recycling isn’t the answer

I also realised that recycling wasn’t the answer! Talk about an uncomfortable piece of information. I thought I was doing so well! “My recycling bin is always full”!

In the words of one of my favourite zero waste bloggers…

Recycling is a great place to start but a terrible place to stop

Lindsay Miles from Treading My Own Path

Plastic is ‘downcycled’, not recycled

When we recycle plastic, it is actually ‘downcycled‘, meaning that every time it’s recycled, the quality is reduced. So after being recycled and turned into new products a few times, the plastic will eventually end up in landfill as it won’t be a good enough quality to recycle again!

Plastic is made up of multiple materials so recycling it is difficult and uses a lot of energy! In comparison, you have glass and aluminium which can be easily recycled. A 100% glass bottle can be turned straight into another 100% glass bottle without losing its quality. The same can be said for an aluminium can!

Unfortunately, this isn’t the same for the silver-lined cartons that long-life milk and juice come in. These, like plastic, are made from multiple materials and are difficult to recycle (or can’t be recycled at all).

A discarded McCafe coffee cup in the bush at the beach

A lot of trash doesn’t even get recycled!

An average of 4-16% of stuff people throw in the recycling bin isn’t actually recycled (ABC, 2019). We might put things in the bin which don’t really belong in there in the hope it’s going to be recycled but unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way (this is called ‘hopeful recycling’ and I was a big culprit). Alternatively, we might put dirty things into the bin which don’t get recycled. The item might be too small. Items may get lost on the way to the waste management facility.

91% of plastic isn’t really recycled

(Natioal Geographic, 2017)

Plastic is super light and when it breaks down into smaller pieces these could blow away and end up in our water ways. The UN estimates that if current trends continue, our oceans could contain more plastic than fish by 2050 (Dailymail UK, 2019).

So even though we recycle plastic, it still won’t last forever and more plastic will need to be created when you need to buy a new one. Unless… you replace that item with a reusable alternative! And lucky for you, there are plastic and package free alternatives to most things!

Plastic is petroleum, a non-renewable resource

Plastic is made from by products of fossil fuels including crude oil and natural gas. Petrol that goes in your car is an example of another fossil. So by buying plastic we are actually creating demand for non-renewable industries that are contributing to climate change! BOOM. Mind blown right?

Our fruit and vegetable scraps are contributing to climate change

Long story short, when we throw fruit and vegetable scraps in the bin they release methane which leads to climate change! Luckily you can avoid this by compositing (I LOVE COMPOSTING). Read more about how composting helps combat climate change.

We have the power to reduce our consumption

Developed countries are living well beyond their means. If everyone lived the way Australians do, we would need 5.2 planets just to sustain us (Renew Economy, 2017). We are privileged to live where we do. The least we can do is reduce our consumption. If we reduce our demand for “things”, less stuff will be created!

So how do we reduce our consumption?

You guessed it, low waste living baby.

Personal benefits of a zero waste lifestyle

Okay so here is the kicker. As much as I’d love my reason for zero waste living to be 100% about the environment it’s not. It’s the reason I started but the reason I kept going is the personal benefits I’ve realised along the way!

Here they are:

  1. Saving money
  2. Learning new skills
  3. Improving my health
  4. Slowing down and finding more time for things that matter

There are a bunch of things people can do to reduce their environmental impact and luckily for us, many of these activities lead to personal benefits as well as environmental ones.

The image below shows the benefits that zero waste activities can lead to. Notice that most of these activities result in a person saving money! A lot of people ask me if it is expensive to reduce your environmental impact and it absolutely does not have to be! If anything, I have saved more money living this lifestyle than ever before.

A black diagram on a yellow mind map showing the benefits of low impact living

Are you ready to make a change?

Now you know about some of the benefits living a zero-waste lifestyle can have! These are just a few of the benefits I’ve experienced personally and I guarantee you will come to love living this way for many reasons of your own!

So, are you ready to make a change?

I’d love to hear if you think there are any other personal or environmental benefits of zero waste living that I haven’t mentioned above! Comment below!

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A Caucasian female drinking from a reusable cup in a street

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