“Living Zero waste means that I don’t make any trash. That means I‘m not sending anything to landfill, not sending anything to the garbage can and not spitting gum on the ground and walking away“. These are the words of Lauren Singer, Founder & CEO of Trash is for Tossers, who has been living a zero-waste lifestyle and produced trash the size of a mason jar in the last five years.
While Lauren was studying Environmental studies at the NYU she took a decision to quit using plastic as it ultimately goes to landfill. There is probably 10 percent of the newly produced plastic that can be recycled. Oh, I’m really sorry, plastic doesn’t get recycled. Recycling means that we can use the same thing in the same form and consistency but plastic is only downcycled. It means the recycled plastic is of degraded quality and utility than the original one.
I can bet that a minimum of 3 things that you are in direct contact with right now are made of plastic! It can be your earphones, your phone case, your pen, your glasses, your slippers, your water bottle. It’s all plastic.
A credible research shows that an average Indian ends up producing 0.62 kilograms of waste every day. On an annual level, that’s like sending 1740 i phones to the Trash, individually. I hope you feel an impasse.
Plastic cannot be decomposed. (Yes it takes 500 years at the least for plastics to decompose). They have been known to cause health hazards, toxicity, cancer, obesity, type-2 diabetes and even autism. Moreover, the leftover plastics releases methane, which is a major constituent of greenhouse gases. Generations will have to face the consequences of the business we leave unfinished.
Even if someone is providing us with that one bag of plastic, why do we have to accept? Why do we have to settle for something whose perils are infamously famous?
Though the government has taken initiatives, like Swacch Bharat Abhiyan, that doesn’t mean our role is limited to not throwing waste on the roads or simply segregating the wet and the dry waste. The only reason we aren’t threatened by it as much is that waste hasn’t directly challenged the way we earn our daily bread, the way AI did.
STOP ACCEPTING AND START LIVING
When I heard about Lauren Singer and Bea Johnson (whose family of four) who have been living a zero waste lifestyle, making their own zero waste products, and having compiled all of their trash in the past five years in one small Mason jar. I WAS DUMBSTRUCK.
I wondered if they quit plastic, which meant no packaged food, no junk food which was wrapped in plastic, no tetra-packs, no chocolates, no snacks, no Maggi, no cosmetics, and no to all those stuff wrapped in plastic.
And here I was, head over heels for coffee. Rewind 6 months of my life, I was preparing for a few exams, and I craved coffee. At least one takeaway cup a day. Where did that trash take me? I wondered.
WHAT CAN BE DONE NOW?
Zero waste lifestyle doesn’t mean recycling more, but recycling less. Every time we accept the unworthy, we create more demons. Refuse, Reduce, Reuse and Recycle are tenacious concepts that have been renovated. Here are a few things we can consciously do:
Minimalism is the route to living a life that’s important to you not your status and neither to your locality. Being a minimalist means valuing those things that are important to you and getting rid of all those unnecessary things that are actually there for the what if scenarios. What if I go to a date on Saturday? What if I have a business meeting? What if the summers are early this time? What if orange becomes the new black?
Here’s a link to one of my favourite Youtuber, Sadia Badiei, the link given below will help you get started on ways to live like a minimalist.
BUY PACKAGE FREE
Carry a cloth bag or even smaller cloth bags, glass jars if you plan to go zero waste grocery shopping. Buy products that are packaged in bulk, glass bottles or look for aluminium cans, metal packaging which is always eco-friendly.
YES, THERE ARE BETTER ALTERNATIVES
Most of the waste that we produce are courtesy of the products and food that we consume. Aluminium should be your pick when shopping for liquids, food and beverages. These tins and cans can be 100% recycled, although extraction of raw bauxite is quite detrimental to the planet. But the good thing about aluminium and metals, they aren’t downcycled. Use things packaged in glass. Glass can be recycled infinitely and it’s even cost-efficient. Both of these materials reduce your carbon footprint.
SHOP SECOND-HAND AND SAY NO TO SINGLE USE PRODUCTS
I’m not sure whether I’ve seen any popular stores in India that sell second hand. But hey, entrepreneurs… here’s a new idea. If we are going to start caring about the environment why not buy second-hand? Clothes will be much cheaper then. Toothbrush, toothpaste, caps and sealing of most of the packaging, carry bags, water bottles, coffee cups, straws, there are a plethora of things that are of single use. Please say no to them.
EAT FRESH AND BECOME HEALTHIER
Living a zero waste lifestyle, comes with super saving and it’s indeed healthier. Your basic diet will involve less of foods containing preservatives and more of green veggies, fruits and nuts. After talking with my Mom for some moral support and whether I really needed to do this? I decided to start small on living a zero waste lifestyle by not indulging in any snacks that came in plastic packaging. It’s been a month since then, and instead of grabbing chocolates, or chips, or biscuits or ice-cream. I switched to fresh fruits and carried a water bottle with me all the time. Reluctance is the key.
MAKE YOUR OWN PRODUCTS
If you have time and if you aren’t lazy enough, you can save up money and make your own products by living completely zero waste. Pack the stuff in those mason jars, the packaging would look good. Change the ingredients, consistency, or smell if you have a problem with any of it.
Here’s a link from Lauren Singer’s blog, where she makes her own products, these are simple ingredients available at home. Well, at least we don’t need a celebrity here to endorse you the perks of this lotion.
For those of you who don’t have time, here’s an Indian Start-up, Bare Necessities, the products are completely zero-waste by Sahar Mansoor, who is also living a zero waste lifestyle. You can also order some of your utilities here, I’m planning on buying some whenever I run out of my supplies.
TALK. COMMUNICATE. GET INVOLVED.
When it boils down to consumption or any business, the consumer is the king. Until and unless we don’t make a demand how can we expect businesses to give a supply? Write to your local government, FMCG giants, small businesses, what it means to you to have eco-friendly products. Get involved, pitch in ideas if you’re an employee or an employer for better packaging of the products as well as products that are environment-friendly. Profit is not the only objective of business.
Zero waste practices were by default in our culture a generation or two back. Our parents and grandparents had limited earnings, there was no mall culture or shopping frenzies, everything was homemade or ayurvedic. Hence, they ended up being minimalists. Recycling is not the solution to our waste problem, it should be the last resort or if you see it through my eyes, a lost resort.
Nowadays, India is more exuberant about smart cities. Technology, posh lifestyle, earning and spending. But can you visualize, how beautiful it would be to create a zero waste city, instead of a smart city? How beautiful would it be to have community gatherings, weekly or maybe monthly once on educating ourselves and our children on living a zero waste lifestyle? Aspire to live and inspire those who want to live a zero waste lifestyle.
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