What is a Zero Waste Lifestyle?

What is a Zero Waste Lifestyle?

"Modern society will find no solution to the ecological problem unless it takes a serious look at its lifestyle."

One of the things that we talk about a lot here and in the FIRE community is the concept of living an alternative lifestyle that focuses less on consumption. An average American will spend their day working and then consuming what they just earned without thinking about the consequences. Today, I want to bring up the Zero Waste Lifestyle.

Zero Waste is "a philosophy 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 or incinerators. The process recommended is one similar to the way that resources are reused in nature." (Wikipedia)

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The Zero Waste Lifestyle follows a hierarchy of consumption. If we look at the way many of us live, we live in a disposable society, from the income that we earn to the things that we buy, it comes in and we dispose of it pretty quickly. The Zero Waste Lifestyle asks that each time we consume, we consider it's impact on the environment. This has a lot of implications. Namely by following its tenets, we end up buying less therefore allowing us to save money and reduce waste. 


The hierarchy first begins at the Avoid or Refuse stage. This is akin to refusing to buy in to mass marketed items. Just because some new version comes out, it doesn't mean we need to get it. 

The second stage is to Reduce. The average American household is drowning in debt and stuff. Reduce is the opportunity to cull down possessions to what's really important. By doing so, we can see what we already have thus negating needing to buy something new. 

The third stage is to Reuse. We need to start buying quality stuff that lasts longer so that it can be reused over and over again. 

The next stage is to properly Recycle what we have. By doing so, we can recover the resources it took to create that product.

Lastly, we dispose of the item. 


Zero Waste In Action

What does a zero waste lifestyle look like for someone striving for financial independence? For starters, it's a whole new take on consumption. Instead of consuming for the sake of consuming, we now take into account how our consumption impacts the environment. Because of this, someone living a zero waste lifestyle may not buy as often, may use things up as much as they can, they may borrow instead of buy, they may delay purchases to see if it's absolutely necessary, they may buy used instead of new. They may choose to avoid lots of packaging so will opt to shop locally. They may take on a new approach to grocery shopping to reduce food packaging waste and actual food waste. They may opt to take public transportation or bike instead of purchasing a car. They may make and bring lunch to work everyday instead of getting takeout. By curbing consumption, one also curbs spending and therefore has greater opportunity to save and invest.

One of the things you may notice first when you start learning more about Zero Waste is that people are able to fit their trash in a jar. Note that today, we do not live in a circular economy that supports 100% Zero Waste, so trash will happen. Please do not get discouraged. Never let perfect be the enemy of the good. Try what you can to reduce consumption and reduce waste. 

Do you live a Zero Waste Lifestyle? How has that helped you on your journey to Financial Independence? Share your story

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