The year is 2021, and we are in trouble. Our growing population and unsustainable lifestyles have led to an acceleration of climate change, and its consequences felt more greatly in recent years.
To put it simply, we are consuming too much. Our landfills are struggling with the amount of trash we are generating while the temperatures around the world continue to climb.
Now more than ever, individuals and companies seek to reduce their carbon footprint and make more responsible consumer choices.
The zero-waste movement has been gaining traction in recent years, with the primary purpose of minimizing consumption and reducing our collective carbon footprint.
All around the house, there are single-use products like tissues and plastic bags that often can be replaced with a reusable, more environmentally friendly choice.
Here are a few quick swaps you can do to take a few steps towards becoming zero-waste!
1. Skip The Tissues
The average American uses 141 rolls of tissue annually, weighing 12.7 kilograms. In New Zealand, each individual uses about 10.5 kilograms a year.
LastTissue combines the easy access of pocket tissues with several environmentally-friendly reusable napkins made of GOTS-certified organic cotton.
The Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) is the world’s leading textile certification that ensures certified products are produced in an environmentally and socially responsible way from start to finish.
Each LastTissue box comes with six reusable handkerchiefs made with rolled hems for maximum durability.
They can be washed over 500 times at 60°C, saving more than 3,100 single-use tissues in addition to saving on individual plastic packaging they typically come in.
A box of LastTissue is priced at NZ$35, and you can order them shipped nationwide across New Zealand here.
2. Keep Your Water Bottle Handy
Disposable plastic bottles are one of the leading causes of ocean pollution. Having a water bottle handy at all times can help avoid you buying bottled water.
Only 23% of plastic bottles go to recycling facilities, while millions are thrown away each day.
There are many BPA-free water bottles available. BPA or bisphenol A is a potentially harmful material found in resin and epoxy products.
Prolonged exposure has been linked to high blood pressure, type-2 diabetes, and cardiovascular complications.
Make your favourite water bottle part of your daily life and as essential as your phone, keys, and wallet. Don’t leave home without your trusty bottle!
3. Top-Up Not Buy New
You can buy liquid, or tablets, and refillable bottles for household cleaning products and personal care supplies instead of buying more unnecessary single-use bottles.
Whenever possible, top-up laundry detergents, shampoos, shower gels, and dishwashing liquid up with refillable options.
Not only will it save a bunch of unnecessary plastic, but your wallet will also thank you for it!
4. Use Rechargeable Batteries
Batteries may leak harmful, heavy metals like lithium, nickel, and cadmium. If improperly disposed of as they frequently are, they can leak and contaminate water supplies and agricultural soil.
If incinerated, batteries will leak these metals into the surrounding environment.
Rechargeables cost way less than regular batteries in the long run. A single rechargeable has an equal lifespan of approximately 1,000 standard batteries.
5. Use Glass
When buying groceries or medication, opt for glass wherever possible instead of plastic or aluminium.
Glass can be recycled an infinite number of times with no degradation in quality. Glass jars can be repurposed as storage for anything around the house and keeping things organized.
6. Avoid Palm Oil
Avoiding the consumption of palm oil is a tricky one. Palm oil seems to be everywhere, and it is in everything!
Food, cosmetics, pet food, packaging, and cleaning products often contain palm oil, an edible oil that comes from the palm fruit.
The palm oil industry has long been demonized for being a significant contributor to deforestation, animal cruelty, and climate change.
In a single hour, 300 football fields worth of forests, many of them old-growth, are cleared to make way for palm tree plantations.
Deforestation from the plantations is pushing endangered species like tigers and orang-utans closer to extinction.
Palm oil production is the leading cause of deforestation in Indonesia, destroying animal habitats and contributing to climate change.
Palm oil refineries generate millions of tons of wastewater, releasing methane, the second-largest greenhouse gas after carbon dioxide.
Avoiding or reducing the consumption of palm oil can be challenging. Not all products list a complete list of ingredients or chemicals used.
Check labels whenever possible to rule out the presence of palm oil, or contact the manufacturers of your everyday products if you want to be sure.
7. Switch Out Dishwashing Brushes or Scrubs
Synthetic dish scrubs tend to fall apart after a couple of uses. Reusable silicone scrubs are available for extended use, or you can use compostable materials like bamboo instead.
Toothbrushes, hairbrushes, makeup applicators, and other products are all available in bamboo.
Bamboo is an extremely fast-growing, hardy crop that can grow with little to no chemicals like pesticides or insecticides.
Responsibly harvested bamboo has one of the lowest carbon footprints and can grow in rocky, shallow soil unsuitable for agriculture.
The bamboo plant emits 35% more oxygen, absorbing 12 tons of carbon dioxide per hectare annually.
In addition, their unique root system is beneficial to the soil in which they grow.
With a tensile strength of 28,000 pounds per square inch, bamboo is pound-for-pound stronger than steel.
Bamboo products are, fortunately, readily available in the market. We can significantly cut back on our waste by switching plastic or other non-biodegradable products with bamboo or other biodegradable alternatives.
8. Make Your Own Cleaning Solution
Most commercial cleaners contain harmful chemicals and petroleum. Often laden with VOCs or Volatile Organic Compounds, these chemicals get sent into drains and oceans, polluting the surrounding environment.
VOCs are compounds that continue to off-gas after use, degrading air quality and contributing to poorer health.
VOCs have been linked to causing numerous health problems such as headaches, nausea, eye, nose, and throat irritation, and liver and kidney damage.
By making your own DIY solutions, not only will you be saving money on products, your home will be safer with an improvement in air quality.
You can make natural cleaning solutions from baking soda, lemon juice, and vinegar.
9. Stop Junk Mail
Millions of tons of greenhouse gases and countless trees go into producing mail that rarely even gets read.
With some patience, you can contact the companies sending you spam mail and ask them nicely to take you off the mailing lists.
You can register for a “do not mail” list if you have that available or use an app like PaperKarma.
PaperKarma is an award-winning mobile app that automatically unsubscribes you from junk mail and catalogs.
On your mailbox, you can have a sign that says, “no junk mail please”. The fix is temporary, but hopefully, it would be enough to deter your mailman from bombing your mailbox with spam.
10. Stop Cling Wrap
Instead of using plastic wrapping on leftovers, you can use reusable silicone covers or simply another plate to cover food for refrigeration.
Eco-anxiety is very real. Don’t be frustrated if your journey towards a neutral carbon footprint is not going as planned.
Change takes time, but making a few minor tweaks can drastically reduce your environmental impact. Thank you for trying, and we wish you the best of luck in your journey towards zero waste!