The short and simple answer, zero-waste is a lifestyle where we aim to send nothing to a landfill.
The longer answer, zero-waste is to change our current linear economy system to that of a circular economy. The term zero-waste was first used in an industrial context in the 1970’s by an American chemist, Paul Palmer. In 1973 Palmer started Zero Waste Systems Inc. in California to reduce the amount of chemical waste in laboratories. His company was taking chemicals from companies that no longer required them and sold it to other companies that required these chemicals. Making sure the chemicals did not end up in a landfill or water streams.
In 2000’s the zero-waste lifestyle movement started by Bea Johnson (who we interviewed on the podcast) took this industrial term and used it to describe a lifestyle, but there is so much more to this lifestyle than just skipping the landfill. It is about breaking the habits of the linear economy lifestyle that we are living in. In a linear economy, scarce resources are used to create products and when they are no longer required, or seen as waste, they are thrown “away”. Such throw “away” items then end up in landfill, where they remain for decades or even centuries. As our industrial manufactured products typically do not decompose landfills keep growing, and ever more space on the planet gets dedicated to “storing” the item that have been thrown “away”.
Zero-waste is about changing our habits from a linear economy to that of a circular economy. A circular economy is where scarce resources are used to create products, and then used over and over and over again without throwing the items “away”, or sending them to a landfill. The items will remain in circulation. A zero-waste lifestyle is about using things over and over again.
How can I start my zero waste journey?
I did my best to make it as easy as possible for you to start your journey with my free e-book, Beginner’s Guide To Waste-Free Living. This will provide you with some tips to get you started. If you are new to this lifestyle, go easy on yourself and remember you don’t have to make all of the changes overnight. Take it one day at a time, and one habit at a time, and do what you can with what you’ve got and with what you have access to.