We all want to do our bit to help protect the environment. According to CB Environmental, the average household in the UK produces more than a tonne of waste every year, a figure that simply has to change.
Zero-waste is the latest environmental trend that’s garnering support from celebrities and influencers, and it’s designed to obliterate waste from your home and lifestyle by recycling, reusing, reducing, refusing, and letting waste rot naturally.
Corporations like Nestlé are getting behind zero-waste, too. The food giant confirmed in 2015 that all of its factories in the United States were now zero waste, whilst Ikea has said it aims to become a zero-waste brand by 2020.
That’s an impressive manifesto for the world’s biggest furniture firm, responsible for producing thousands of tonnes of cardboard and plastic waste a year, oft-criticised for selling cheap, disposable furniture and homeware.
If you’re interested in living a zero-waste lifestyle, it’s important to ease yourself into it and not assume that you’re going to change all of your shopping and lifestyle habits overnight. Below, we offer some guidance on how to make the first steps towards living waste-free…
Decide why you’re doing it
Perhaps one of the most important things you should do when starting your zero-waste journey is to ask why you’re doing it. It’s all well and good wanting to protect the planet, but having a personal motivator can keep you on the right track and serve as a ‘north star’ you can return to when you’re feeling like giving up. With an inner motive, things become easier!
You might decide that you’ve had enough of seeing plastic bottles on your daily dog walks, and choose to cut single-use plastics out of your life to play a part. Or you might be spending too much on coffee at Starbucks and want to both kick the habit and stop unnecessarily sending coffee cups and lids to landfill every year (99.75% of coffee cups aren’t recycled in the UK, despite the fact there are recycle-friendly cups on the market that cost just pennies).
Write down your manifesto on a piece of paper, in the Notes app on your phone or even on social media or your blog, and you can come back to it whilst on your zero-waste journey.
Assess your current waste levels
The next step can be pretty painful - especially if you thought that you were an eco-warrior, doing your bit for the planet. Rather than digging through your bin bags and recycling bin, we recommend reviewing your current waste levels and recycling habits for two weeks - make a note of how many products you buy packaged in single-use plastics that can’t be recycled, how many times you purchase food and drinks on the go, and how much waste you produce at the end of a two-week period.
This can be a pretty sobering exercise, and open your eyes to just how much waste we as humans produce. Once you understand what you’re working with, and spot areas where you can make immediate changes, zero-waste becomes easier.
Focus on what’s important
The truth is that you’re not going to be able to hit zero-waste overnight, no matter how hard you try. Instead, break down the process and focus on one area of your life at a time, making small improvements to the products you buy and the way you buy them. If you usually pick up pre-prepared salad bags from your local supermarket, for example, head to your grocery store and buy ingredients for a salad independently, taking them home in brown paper bags.
Rather than heading to PRET or your local convenience store in your lunch break, prepare a meal the night before and take it with you in a stainless steel or bamboo lunch box that will last for years. Small tweaks like these may seem obvious, but they quickly add up and allow you to significantly reduce the amount of plastic waste in your home, and save money, too!
Don’t waste - replace
When committing to a zero-waste lifestyle, it’s natural to want to throw away every piece of plastic and waste from your home and ‘start from scratch’ - but that’s actually the opposite of what zero-waste is about. You don’t need to buy every alternative material or packaging at once - replacing products when they’re worn out or broken is the mindset you need to adopt.
For example, if you’ve got a makeup drawer full of moisturisers and lipsticks in plastic tubes, don’t throw them away. Use everything up and once it’s gone, switch to an alternative, such as an eco-friendly brand that packages cosmetics in cardboard, metal, or even sells products ‘naked’ so you can take them home and package them in your own tubs and containers.
Recycle and donate as you go
Remember that the goal of zero-waste is to produce zero waste, so don’t go throwing things away, even if they’re not sustainable or environmentally-friendly. Clothing is a great example: rather than throwing things away that have faded or scuffed, recycle and only then consider purchasing eco-friendly t-shirts to fill up your wardrobe. If you can’t find a use for your old stuff, donate it, take it to a charity shop, or get creative and make something from those raw materials - repurposing is a great way to give something a second life; it’s great for gifts, too.
Accept that zero-waste is a process
If you only take away one piece of advice from this article, let it be this: going zero-waste is going to take time, and you’re not going to change the world on your own. You might start the process of cutting back on packaging today, and in six months time take it to the next level and consider your food waste.
Starting somewhere and being mindful of the amount of waste you’re producing is a great start - and means you’re doing your bit for the planet.
Everyone’s journey to zero-waste will be different. Some might decide zero-waste is simply too much of a commitment for their busy lives.
However, make the effort and see what works for you, and (where comfortable) make those small compromises that add up to something bigger over time. Eventually, you’ll hit your zero-waste goal, and live a happier, greener life.
At Ultra Tee, we’re passionate about the environment. We create eco-conscious apparel with prints and embroideries inspired by nature.
Our entire collection is made with love and care, using sustainable fabrics and eco-friendly printing and embroidery techniques. To find out more about what we’re doing, click here, and check back soon for more from the blog.