Many people and businesses have cottoned onto the zero waste movement in the last couple of years, but if you truly want to become part of it, you have to start thinking like one of us...
Someone on a zero waste journey will not easily be sold to, one of our first mantras is to refuse. We say 'no' to freebies, buying cheap and buying new (unless absolutely necessary). We say no to receiving gifts and to our kids getting party bags, we are not afraid to be embarrassed for our cause and will happily put our foot down or simply go without.
Zero waste living takes time to become a truly sustainable lifestyle choice, especially when a family is embarking on it together. Many sacrifices have to be made, some habits are harder to break than others, however the good news for newbies is that it begins with stages and you can take those stages as far as you feel personally comfortable, challenging yourself a little bit more each time a milestone feels achievable.
For businesses, this process should be initiated internally, looking at current processes and auditing your operations from top to bottom, including a thorough look at your entire supply chain and their sustainability practices before creating your own strategic plan. Taking it step by step is key in becoming truly sustainable as a business, and making sure that you can happily operate with each imposed change before moving onto your next challenge will be essential.
For me, Plastic Free July marked the beginning of my family's journey four years ago and we kept building on that momentum until gradually every part of our lifestyle was in tune with zero waste living. Total self sufficiency is still the end goal, so even our journey is not complete yet, but I am grateful for the experiences and hiccups we've had along the way so that I can now consult others on their own zero waste journeys.
Zero Waste definition, Wikipedia
"Zero Waste is a set of principles focused on waste prevention that encourages the redesign of resource life cycles so that all products are reused. The goal is for no trash to be sent to landfills, incinerators, or the ocean".
Earthkind's eight R's come from our personal journey into zero waste - there are many versions of this hierarchy, however ours starts with Respect. In my opinion this is the most important of all, without it we cannot evolve, starting with respect for our planet, for nature and all living beings, for our teachers and elders for passing down knowledge that we can use to become better versions or ourselves and for each other and differing opinions, because even when they are opposite to our own, they still help us to grow and question ourselves.
Refusing is relevant to all unnecessary things whether they are trips, materialistic items, consumables, disposables (even some reusables). Reducing is to minimalise our need for all the items above and to think smaller in terms of our carbon footprint, we can reduce heating bills by simply wearing a jumper for example or reduce the amount of carbon intensive foods we eat.
Reusing can also be repurposing, this doesn't always come naturally for some but thank goodness for great upcycle books and platforms like Pinterest for all the ideas that are available at our fingertips! For a zero waster we reuse items until they are completely unusable, we try not to throw anything away unless absolutely unrepairable and only then do we recycle. Recycling is not just from the doorstep provided by your council, a zero waster will find every available recycling stream to avoid sending anything to landfill, including finding local Terracycle bins, company take back schemes like Crayola and Apple as well as sending packaging back to original manufacturers if all else fails.
Rethink is positioned close to the bottom of our hierarchy because there is always more that can be done, even as a seasoned zero waster, so to appraise and review our personal reasons for the journey, our values and our future goals, it helps to motivate further and inspire others along the way. Replanting is also essential, for every resource we pull out of the ground for our own consumption, we must replenish. This can be done personally through replanting schemes or through offsetting with charities like the New Forest Project or simply using Ecosia, Ocean Hero or Karma as your preferred search engine.
Finally - Rot, when purchasing any item, from food to clothing, it's essential that the item and it's packaging can rot - that means no plastic based materials like plastic, polythene, polyester or Nylon or multi layered materials like Tetrapacks.
No matter where your family or business is on their zero waste journey, the one thing important above all else is support, at Earthkind Consulting we offer help and advice to keep you focused and motivated throughout your own journey, for more information, contact Fiona at firstname.lastname@example.org.