The Basics of Zero Waste

The zero waste movement is making more and more waves and acquiring more and more followers!  This movement questions our consumption and living habits. 
The main idea is to raise awareness of our overall  consumption, better manage our resources, and reduce waste.
The zero waste movement follows the 5 R’s: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Rot.
Following the 5 R’s is a good way to learn about this practice and to get started smoothly.
We first have to learn to say no to what we don’t need.  For exemple, it is easy to refuse superfluous papers (business cards, promotional flyers, etc.) 
and disposable items (straws, water bottles, cosmetic pads, paper towels, plastic bags, etc.).  
Refusal applies to all products that create unnecessary waste and are not truly useful.
After saying no to what we don’t really need, the next step is to reduce what we do need.   
Identifying what we truly need is a difficult and ongoing process.
Here are some tips to get started:
  • If I truly need a product, do I have to have that many from the same category?
  • Is there a way I can reduce food packaging by buying in bulk?
  • Would it be possible for me to reduce the amount of products I use or to make some of them myself.
  • Do I need to have a fridge and pantry filled with so many products? Would it be possible , for example, to buy one variety of legumes one week and change the following week?
Reuse applies to what we consume.  The key to this third step entails DIY projects, bartering, trading, and second-hand items.
The options are endless. You just need to be a little creative.  Here are some tips to get started:
  • Can I reuse the products that I can neither refuse nor reduce?
  • Can I borrow tools from a family member or a neighbour rather than buying them?
  • Can I buy items or clothing made from recycled materials?
  • To reduce waste, is it possible to reuse leftover food to make a different dish?
  • Can I find an eseential item in classified adds or on donation and trading websites?
Recycling applies to everything we can’t refuse, reduce or reuse (or even repair). The recycling bin is not a new phenomenon.
All you have to do is follow your city’s  guidelines  The harder part is following the first three “R’s”. 
Doing so will reduce the number of items that go to recycling.
Last but not least is Rot: compost what’s left. Composting applies to what we can’t refuse, reduce, reuse or recycle.
Kitchen leftovers and garden waste can be composted in your home or municipal composter.
When adjusting to the five R's, make changes at your own pace in a way that's realistic and sustainable for your lifestyle.

The zero waste movement makes for a very broad and fascinating topic. To cover all its aspects in such a short article would be impossible.
But the basics are here:  Refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle and rot.  But remember that each person, family and story is quite different. 
The journey toward a zero waste lifestyle must be taken at your own pace and according to your individual standard of living.  
Instead of having zero waste as your ultimate goal, look at it as an adventure filled with wonderful encounters and discoveries. 
In the process, respect yourself and others, and most of all, have fun!
For more information…
By Caroline Brisset

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