You’re already an eco-hero otherwise you wouldn’t be here! But how can you take it to the next level? Living a zero-waste lifestyle can provide a wide range of benefits, not just to you, but those around you too. If you create less waste, you’re demanding fewer resources, helping to reduce pollution and greenhouse gas production. This lifestyle benefits more than just the environment though, it also helps our economy and our communities, too.
Here are our top zero-waste lifestyle suggestions.
Shop locally for food
Use local markets for your food shopping. If you buy produce locally from the farmers market, you’re probably getting some of the best organic produce around at some of the best prices available. Produce at local markets doesn’t have to be transported as far as most of the produce you’ll find in a traditional supermarket, so that cost is cut out of the product. One study showed that organic produce is around 40% cheaper at local markets than at supermarkets. Not only that but the reduction of carbon generated in the produce’s transportation will be huge and most produce at the market is packaging-free.
Composting is key
Composting is a zero-waste essential. Not only will composting provide a handy way to get rid of all your fruit and veg peelings, it also reduces greenhouse gas emissions and helps to improve soil health. There are lots of ways to get started and space isn’t an issue at all. For large gardens, think about creating a dedicated composting heap or compost bin. Check out the RSPB’s guide to getting started composting here.
For smaller spaces, why not think about getting a wormery? Wormeries are suitable for composting small amounts of kitchen waste and are quite compact - perfect for smaller spaces. They also work very quickly, with the average wormery producing usable compost in two months, rather than six months from a compost heap. Worm also help to produce an incredibly rich, concentrated liquid fertiliser which plants just love! Read more about setting up wormeries in the RHS’s guide here.
Repurpose food waste
Around one-third of all food produced is wasted. If you’re already meal planning, freezing leftovers and composting, you’re doing a great job at reducing your food waste. But what can you do with things you can’t reduce?
Coffee grounds are a natural fertiliser, full of nitrogen, potassium and phosphate. Add cooled grounds to acid-loving plants like rhododendrons, hydrangeas and blueberries. (Important note: not all plants will tolerate the acidity so make sure you check your plant’s preferences before adding.)
If you’ve got items sitting in your cupboards such as dried and tinned foods, cereals and juices, please think about donating them to a food bank. The number of families relying on food banks has doubled in the past year and isn’t set to decrease anytime soon. Look for food banks near you using a website like The Trussell Trust UK to find your closest donation point.
Create a zero-waste kit for life on the go
Modern life is often busy, so creating a handy zero-waste kit is a great way to prevent creating waste when you’re out and about. Think about the items you usually need when you’re travelling or having lunch. Items like a reusable water bottle, reusable cutlery, soya wax sandwich wrap and natural, reusable shopping bags are great things to include.
Buying second-hand is a big aspect of a zero-waste lifestyle, not only because it lessens your environmental impact, but also because it’s so cheap. Buying second-hand products means you aren’t demanding any new products to be made, so you’re saving resources and emissions. You can also usually buy second-hand clothing for a fraction of it’s ‘new’ price. By buying used you also aren’t supporting the fast fashion industry- one of the most wasteful, unethical, and polluting industries in the world. Buying second-hand will save you money, save the earth, and it’s a fun way to find some unique clothes.
Buy less – but if you have to buy, vote with your money
Obviously the biggest zero-waste option is to buy less. Buying less means you’re demanding fewer products to be made, meaning fewer resources and energy is demanded to make products. You'll also be reducing emissions related to product production and transport, as well as resource extraction. So, when you buy less, you’re helping the earth and spending less money at the same time.
However, this isn’t always possible and if you have to buy something, remember that every time you buy something, you’re sending a message about what kind of businesses you support. By only supporting companies that are committed to being ethical and sustainable you’re sending a message about the type of future, community and sustainability you want to create.