You might have seen those viral videos of individuals or even families who can fit an entire year’s worth of trash into a tiny jar. By trying to ensure that everything purchased is recycled or reused, followers of the zero-waste movements are striving to avoid creating any garbage that will end up in landfills. But reduced waste isn’t the only result of being mindful about your consumption — it creates a cleaner world and life.
Ever wonder why someone would put so much effort into cutting down on waste? And if someone is interested doing so, how do they get started?
Find a deeper meaning
Beyond the obvious motivation of looming climate change devastation, for many, the journey towards zero-waste living is the result of wanting a simpler life, focused on experiences and people rather than possessions.
For others, the zero-waste journey springs from environmental concerns and then leads to a more joyful life, richer in emotional fulfillment.
For others yet, it’s a way to be more connected to their faith, by honoring and protecting the natural world.
Spark joy in your life
We are overwhelmed by possessions. Countless homes have become storage areas rather than living spaces. It’s no wonder there are so many spin-offs from TV shows like Storage Wars and Hoarders. We are drowning in stuff and don’t know how to let go.
Do we need organizing experts like Marie Kondo to teach us how to declutter and organize all the unnecessary stuff we own? Decluttering and keeping only possessions that spark joy isn’t going to work, if we keep buying and buying.
The secret to a less anxious and more eco-friendly life is surprisingly simple and difficult at the same time.
Buy less, live more
The main tenet of a zero-waste lifestyle is creating as little trash as possible. And how do we generate trash? Through our purchases.
Whether it’s a cute top or the newest iPhone, we’re constantly bombarded by messages to buy, buy, buy. Omnipresent aggressive marketing has led to a destructive cycle of consumerism where every problem can be solved with a fresh pair of kicks or the newest gadget.
Every time you feel the impulse to buy something, just wait. Chances are if you wait and don’t give into your fear of missing out, you’ll realize you don’t actually need or even want whatever you were about to buy.
Fewer purchases means more money in the bank, which means more financial security, and the opportunity to go on that long-coveted vacation or taking that class you’ve been dreaming about.
Twenty years from now, you won’t remember a random pair of sneakers or why you needed a newer smartwatch, but you will remember a family road trip, the artist that taught you how to paint, and the friends you made in that creative writing class.
Build a community
Zero-wasters are constantly on the lookout for new tips and tricks to minimize their impact on the environment. They are also eager to share their knowledge and welcome newbies on to the journey towards a more conscious way of living.
Being a “zero-waster” is like being part of a secret club, except there are hundred of thousands of members around the world. You only have to look around to find a community of mentors and friends.
With more than 95,000 members, Journey to Zero-Waste is currently the largest global zero-waste community, with members ranging from homeschooling moms in the Midwest and West Hollywood yoga instructors to German engineers and teachers living off-grid in the Australian outback.
Whatever your passion, there are like-minded people pursuing the same thing, but in a more environmentally conscious way.
Expand your knowledge
Knowledge is the catalyst of change — and the global zero-waste movement is brimming with it, eager to share. Whether it’s fixing a broken zipper, making organic soap at home, or installing your own solar panels, there are countless skills you can learn from fellow zero-wasters. Soon enough you’ll be reducing your carbon footprin and nodding along in good old-fashioned stoicism to the mantra of “make do and mend.”
After all, if you can fix something why throw it out and replace it with a new one that will break just as easy?
A zero-waste lifestyle can also increase independence and awareness. It’s far more difficult to impulsively buy a t-shirt from a fast fashion chain when you know that they’re manufactured in unsafe factories, where workers’ wages keep them below the poverty line. At the same time, buying something ethically made and handcrafted connects you to person who made it, since it’s a product born of passion and carefully honed skill.
Eliminate emotional waste
The careful consideration and more mindful choices that accompany living a zero-waste lifestyle are incredibly useful tools to apply in your emotional and interpersonal life as well.
Putting experiences and people before possessions will shift your focus from ownership to relationships. Being more careful with the items you own so that you can use them for longer also teaches you how to be more mindful of others and their needs.
Decluttering your home shows you how to focus on things that enrich your life, rather than drain it. And there’s no bigger emotional drain than toxic people. Just like the five identical jeans that take up space in your closet, so do people take up emotional energy and time in your life. Eliminating those relationships allows you to deepen the enriching ones.
At then end of the day, living a zero-waste life is about carefully considered choices and focusing on the truly meaningful aspects of your life.