Could You Live a Zero-Waste Lifestyle?

Recently, a blog written by Bea Johnson, called Zero Waste Home, came to my attention. I was fascinated with the lifestyle of a family of four whose trash amounts to about a quart-jar’s worth a week. And I thought my family of three was doing well with our small garbage bag of trash a week, and a slightly larger amount of recycling.

Clearly, we have a long way to go.

Many of us are doing what we can to live more sustainable lives when it comes to our finances and to the environment. We want to be conscious of the environment, and teach our children to respect the ecosystem as well. But how many of us could live the zero waste lifestyle Bea Johnson does with her family?

Working Toward Zero Waste

In order to get her family to the point of zero waste, Bea Johnson takes these 5 steps — in the following order:

  1. Refuse
  2. Reduce
  3. Reuse
  4. Recycle
  5. Rot

The item I found most interesting was the first: Refuse. Too often, we take what we don’t need, especially if it’s a freebie. But I also liked the first item because it really resonated with efforts we are making in my family.

A couple of years ago, it occurred to me that I really prefer experiences to things, and that I wasn’t happy with all the clutter in the house. I stopped buying things that I didn’t want or need. I got rid of a lot of the stuff I didn’t care about. Even my husband has started coming around, deciding that he doesn’t want to buy action figures any more, and proclaiming that, before we buy something, it needs to have a place/use in our home.

We’ve bought much less as a result. And this has translated into a less cluttered home, as well as a fatter bank account. We have more money to spend on the things that really matter to us, and we don’t have to worry as much about whether we can “afford” the things that are most important to us.

Zero Waste Requires Planning

As you might imagine, the zero waste lifestyle requires planning. In order to reduce the amount of waste you have in your life, you need to take active steps to get reusable containers, buy in bulk, avoid pre-packaged items, buy second-hand, and do any number of other things.

The fact that recycle is so far down on the list of things you do with a zero waste lifestyle is telling. It’s not enough to recycle containers and packaging, especially since in a lot of cases the recycling process, though better than the landfill, comes with its own resource problems (like the amount of water used).

In order to get into a zero waste lifestyle, you need to think ahead, and change your mindset about what you need, and what’s “normal” for you. As a society, we have become used to disposables and consumables. It’s a matter of course to buy things new and packaged. This state affairs usually means higher costs for items, as well as great consumption of resources.

Even if you don’t go completely zero waste with your lifestyle choices, there is still a lot you can learn from this lifestyle, and some good ideas to be had.

Do you think you could go zero waste?

11 comments to Could You Live a Zero-Waste Lifestyle?

  • I agree that we need to change normal practices. We just got used to things like extra packaging and driving all over the place. Sometimes it makes sense to refuse stuff we can totally afford.

  • Most people can and should live a zero waste lifestyle but just like living debt free or loosing weight it requires dedication and planning. The amount of effort involved means most won’t make the time or effort to implement it successfully.

  • I would love to go zero waste. We do what we can with our lifestyle at the moment to reduce waste, but there is definitely so much more that we could do to decrease our waste output. The big thing on our list this spring is to start composting, that will do a lot to decrease our overall waste.

  • Tahnya Kristina

    I think that all people should live a zero waste lifestyle unfortunately it’s usually easier said than done. However making conscious decisions and trying not to waste our food, our clothes and our every day products is a good start.

    I know that I waste my every day products because I overuse them, but I am trying to work on it.

    This is a great post, I am going to share it next Friday on our Dinks Finance roundup.

  • Sarah Park

    Having a zero waste lifestyle is really a challenge especially when the whole family is involved. But I believe that nothing is impossible either.

  • Marko

    very interesting, but nobody can live a zero waste lifestyle special if you live in the city. it would be nice to cut as much was as possible tho.

  • Rose Woods

    we should always recycle, to keep this world clean and safe. We need to protect the environment. We need this world for our kids to live in it. We all want to live for a long time and need this world to live in it. So, why not take care of it always recycle and keep it clean, do the right thing it’s what smart people do.

  • I’ve never heard the list of R’s start with refuse before and I think that it’s a great addition. We allow so much to enter our home that I know will go to waste. It’s definitely something we should work on.

  • Marta Wilson

    I am so inspired by this article! I started my way to the zero waste life about two month ago. I use only fabric shopping bags when I go to the grocery’s and I make my own body lotion and I buy only organic soap. I know that I am just in the very beginning of this waste free road but I am so glad with myself now. Thank you for the nice article!

  • […] at Sustainable Personal Finance wrote an analysis of what it takes to move towards a true Zero Waste Home (A wonderful blog about a family actually […]

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