Individual action towards a more sustainable and environmentally conscious lifestyle can start with an approach to a zero-waste lifestyle.
We create more waste than ever. The production of waste has become so natural to us since we can get rid of waste so easily that we don’t feel responsible to what happens to our waste afterwards. Out of sight, out of mind.
Most of our waste ends up being burned, buried underground or exported to usually poorer countries. Less than a third is actually recycled. The average German household throws away 450 kg of trash in a year, which is more than 1kg a day.
What actions can we do as individuals in our daily lives to reduce our waste? Here are some examples.
Stop the use of single-use plastics. Bring your own bags, containers, water bottles, cutlery, handkerchiefs and cups.
It is so easy and yet, if everyone did it, how much less waste we would produce! A trip to the bakery, to the supermarket, a fast-food chain and we have already accumulated several packaging material, plastic boxes, coffee cups and lids, plastic forks, tissue paper which has been used from seconds to a few minutes and ends up in waste bins. If more people carried with them their own bags and utensils, a significant amount of trash would be reduced. Shops and businesses could also offer discounts as an incentive.
Buy local and seasonal fruits and vegetables, ideally from local farmers without a middleman or distributor.
How much energy is being used to ship bananas, avocado and cashew nuts to Europe? Transport and energy (for refrigeration and storage) requires a lot of energy, plus the mostly inhumane exploitation of land and human being in the crop production). Support your local farmers at the markets, preferably organic (certified or not).
Avoid buying stuff that is packaged.
If you can, buy it without plastic, or more preferably, in glass which is easier recyclable. There are more shops and initiatives on the rise where you can do your shopping without any plastic packaging. Open stall markets usually offer their fruit and vegetables without packaging as well.
Make your own cosmetics and soap and detergent.
Once you know the basics, you will notice very soon how easy and few ingredients are actually needed to make your skin and hair clean or moisturised. The same goes for cleaning products: Use vinegar, baking soda, lemon – household ingredients that your grandparents probably used before the explosion of chemical products in disposable plastic containers.
Buy second-hand, or don’t buy anything. Swap and share. Fix and repair.
We already have everything we need, in fact, most of us living in the industralised world have too much of it. A walk through a shopping mall presents clothes, clothes and more clothes, mostly produced under exploited and underpaid human labour. With the rise of 1-family-apartments and 1-bedroom-flats, individuals feel the need to own everything – every household has a vacuum cleaner, sewing machine, power drill. (I don’t mention the washing machine, fridge, freezer and television/screen since that has almost become standard/a prerequisite for a ‘decent’ living). Less is shared, so more is bought and then only used once every half a year. Share and exchange skills and tools with neighbours and surrounding community or start a collective. Start repairing things rather than throwing away and buying new.
Switch your energy provider to an ethical and renewable one.
It is a great way to reduce your CO2 emissions and easy to do so. There are many websites for comparisons.
Stop flying. Try using public transport like trains, shared buses or shared cars rather than occupying a car with only one driver.
Cars and airplanes are one of the biggest culprits in CO2 emissions. Share your car, pick up hitchhikers or hitchhike yourself if you feel confident to do so.