Step 6: Beyond the Method: Principles for Future Purchases
If you’ve followed this 5 step method so far, you’ve radically reduced your waste. You’ve likely eliminated most of the common items that utilize single-use packaging. Well done!
If you weren’t able to do everything but still made some changes towards zero waste, well done, too! Zero waste isn’t about being perfect. It’s about doing lots of little things as consistently as you can. Every change to reduce waste is a positive one.
Now it’s time to tackle any remaining waste. What this looks like will radically differ for individuals, but it all comes down to incorporating zero waste thinking into your everyday consumption choices.
Beyond the basics, here are my rules for incorporating zero waste thinking into my everyday life.
1. Eliminate what you don’t need
Before looking to any “zero waste replacements” to items you have, have a think about if you really need that item in the first place. Let’s be honest, most of us have too much stuff anyway! Nowadays my beauty routine is very simplified with just a few products, and I just use one all-purpose household cleaner. I spend much less time and money running errands and shopping since I reduced what I consume to the items that I really love and need.
2. Always choose a plastic-free alternative.
The natural extension of living zero waste has been to reduce the amount of plastic I buy altogether. I’ve realized that basically every item available to buy - whether it’s an ice cube tray or plant pot or a backpack - can be purchased without plastic if I look for it. It may be more expensive upfront but items made with natural materials are almost always better quality and usuallylast longer than the plastic counterpart. Plus, they can be composted or recycled at the end of their long life.
It just takes getting into the habit of thinking twice before making that next purchase, and determining if a desirable plastic alternative exists. Most likely it does.
3. Buy to last.
When you do need to buy new, opt for buying high quality items over cheaper alternatives. Cheaply made goods are likely not to last, and you will spend more money over time replacing them. I still use my grandmothers cast iron cooking pans that must be 25 years old; cheaper versions would surely be discarded in a landfill by now. It’s a bit of a weird idea-keeping things for decades-in a world that promotes consumption and disposal, as well as keeping up with new trends. But buying to last is necessary if we want to reduce our waste.
If you want to continue on the zero waste journey even further, here are some ideas to become a zero waste advocate.