I think to some extent the Zero Waste principles are similar to Leave No Trace, a set of ethics promoting outdoor conservation often adopted by hikers and campers in order to make sure that our wild areas and public places stays wild, pristine, and beautiful. Leave No Trace is all about living lightly on the land and minimizing the impact that human beings have on the local ecosystem. It also works to educate people about how their choices and lifestyles impact nature. It is my personal opinion that Leave No Trace can be (and should be) applied on a wider level.
Just like there are seven principles to Leave No Trace, the following are what I use as my seven principles of zero-waste:
- Plan ahead and be prepared in order to avoid waste creation
Taking steps in order to avoid participating in creating trash is key to being successful. It may be as simple as remembering to ask for your drink without a straw at a restaurant or as involved as picking up food from shops in your own reusable containers.
2. Invest in long-lasting, multi-functional, durable products
Single waste products are designed to be thrown out after one use only a practice that is both wasteful and unsustainable. Buy products that you need so that they last for a long time and invest in high quality products that are not going to break easy or only serve for one use.
3. Think of the end life of products and choose organic alternatives.
When you buy a product know that it will end up as waste; a day from now, a week, a month, a year, ten years, a lifetime. Someday it will break and no longer be serviceable so choose wisely to ensure that when that day comes it can go back to the earth instead of a Resource Graveyard.
4. Dispose of ALL materials properly
For the items that you can’t buy biodegradable alternatives for, make sure you dispose of them properly. Improperly disposed of items can cause a lot of damage. Even properly disposed of items can cause damage! Get to know your local recycling centers (especially for hard to dispose of items) and other areas for waste disposal and carefully follow their guidelines.
5.Reuse and up-cycle what you have before buying second-hand
Reinventing what your items are used for can go a long way to making the most out of the materials that you already have and preventing excess waste creation.
6.Minimize your needs and waste to minimize your overall impact
Living minimally goes a long way towards living lightly on the earth and creating as little of an impact as possible. I consider the move towards Minimalism a great extension of and compliment to the Zero Waste Movement. Although their goals are fundamentally different, working in tandem they aim to create more conscientious consumers. Minimalism, like Zero Waste, will look differently for every person.
7.Respect the earth and all sentient beings by being considerate and conscientious of your waste and your impact on others
Fundamentally, I believe that the Zero Waste Movement is a movement towards honoring our earth and fellow beings through respectful, conscientious consumption. Being aware of where you live lightly and where you don’t and taking steps to create a real change goes a long way towards accomplishing this.
Overall Zero Waste living includes: 1) taking step to prevent more unsustainable waste creation, 2) reducing the number of things that are needed to live, 3) reusing items as much as possible, 4) recycling when needed, and 5) composting everything else.