Zero Waste Living
– Ruth Susan Joseph
In 2020, Samsung rolled out a plan for eco-friendly packaging for a set of its TVs. This is interesting because it isn’t just packaging that breaks down quickly, nor is it that the packaging is free of plastic. This packaging encourages the buyers to tap into their creativity and build something. Samsung provides a QR code that takes the buyer to a set of instructions on how to make their box into something that can be used around the house. It could be a shelf, a little side table, or even a cat house. The possibilities may not be endless, but it does pave the way for a version of zero waste that sparks creativity whilst being better for the environment.
Firstly, what even is zero waste? Zero waste is a method of living wherein people try to produce as little waste as possible. While you may have heard of individuals trying to partake in this life, it is not just limited to one person’s efforts. Zero waste is an all-encompassing way of living, meant to restructure the life cycle of a product. It means that companies and manufactures should strive to produce and ship products while generating minimal waste, as well as dispose of products in a manner that doesn’t contaminate the environment. Samsung, for example, are not only thinking about the fact that the products should be safely disposable, they are also increasing the lifetime of a box by showing people how to turn it into a usable item.
Right now, zero waste is more of a goal or an ideal, it isn’t a hard target. It is next to impossible to generate exactly zero waste now, that is why it’s better to focus on as little waste as possible. Small steps in the right direction are better than not moving at all. What we need to do is to think through everything that we use in a day and see if there are more sustainable alternatives. For example, the plastic toothbrush that we use every day can be substituted for a bamboo toothbrush that is more environmentally friendly. The sanitary napkins or tampons that are used every month can be completely eliminated through the use of a menstrual cup or disc. These small changes can make a big difference, and do not even cause an inconvenience in our daily lives.
However, this can be stepped up drastically. Carrying reusable bags to the supermarket, keeping a water bottle on you instead of buying packaged bottled water, carrying jars or containers to pack up leftover food from a meal outside, all of these are small steps in the direction of zero waste. It reduces the use of plastic bags and bottles and decreases food waste.
Zero waste also applies to kitchen food waste. Many people combat this waste by composting it and thus reusing it. A good tip in the kitchen is to save the bits of veg that you would usually throw away, like tops and bottoms of carrots or celery, onion skins, etc. and keep them in a bag in the freezer until you have enough to make into a vegetable stock. The parts that you would usually throw away are now used to create something entirely new. The point is, rethink what you would normally do, and see if there’s a way to create and sustain, rather than dispose.
This is no impossible feat, it’s just one that requires practice and commitment. As with everything, there is a bit of a learning curve. It takes time to unlearn what we are used to doing and to build new habits. Sure, it sounds like a pain, but the movement toward being environmentally conscious is one that becomes more and more important every day.
For a while, it was trending too. If you look on YouTube, you’ll find several videos of people challenging themselves to go “Zero waste for 24 Hours’ or “Zero waste for a Week”. These help in spreading the word and spreading information, while also providing entertainment. You’ll also find a lot of videos explaining how to start your zero-waste journey, and what substitutes are available for you. The community is large and are always looking to educate. The zero-waste lifestyle identifies wasteful behaviors to avoid and almost always provides a way to fix it. It requires that we maximize our efforts to reuse, while both creating and applying methods that get rid of destructive actions like incineration.
And remember, while you may not be able to commit to exactly zero waste production in your life, it’s always possible to find one aspect to change, and slowly move on to others. All of this requires individual action to support a mass movement and bring about overarching change.
Take a beat to Rethink, Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle.