Zero waste as an industrial term that promotes a circular economy is necessary for the future of our planet, but when we speak about zero waste on an individual level things get a little fuzzier. We all live different lives; we have different priorities, have access to different things, and have different incomes, so it is impossible for there to be one universal standard for 'zero waste', and I think this is crucial in ones assessment of how they can lower their waste.
There is no one version of what a zero waste lifestyle looks like.
First off, zero waste has a high barrier of entry. Yes, it is true that zero waste as a lifestyle is (most of the time) cheaper in the long run. You simplify your life, value quality over quantity, buy less, focus on repair and reuse over replace, and more often than not live a more minimalist lifestyle. In most places bulk is also cheaper, which is true for Hong Kong, and buying fruits and veggies in the market can also be cheap, especially in Asia. But getting to this place can be expensive, and not everyone can afford it.
I think it's hard to deny Zero Waste's high barrier of entry, and luckily we were able to afford it, but the environment doesn't discriminate and ultimately we all need to make changes to our lives to ensure a positive future for our society. So, if environmentalism is something you are passionate about but being conventionally "zero waste" is not accessible to you for whatever reason, then here are a few ways you can lower your waste without breaking the bank.
1. Ditch single use as much as you can
- Refuse cutlery by bringing your own
- Refuse straws
- Refuse take away single use items (either by simply using your hands/a cloth or by using a container)
- Bring around a cup/water bottle and REFUSE THEM BOTTLES (this one I think is the biggest change you can make). If you drink bottled water in your home, assess whether it's safe enough for you to drink tap water. We have filtered water, but then we also boil it, which is common practice in Asia. If boiling water is safe for you then this would lower your household waste by a mile.
2. Bring around a cutlery kit
And no, I don't mean buy a cutlery kit, just make one yourself! All you need is a small pouch/cloth and cutlery, all of which you probably already have at home, and then you've got a zero waste essential for free!
3. Favour glass, metal, and paper over plastic (In that order)
This is most important with food, search your supermarkets to see what they have to offer, but this also should be applied to basically everything. If you can, glass is the best option because it can be reused and recycled infinitely.
4. Simplify your home
Reduce the amount of things you own (and therefore need to replace). Simplifying your life is cost effective and helps the environment. Examples being cleaning products (we don't need 25), makeup, clothes, kitchen utensils, bathroom products (use a multipurpose soap that can work on hair and body) etc.
5. Value reusing and extend the life of items you own
This is a change in lifestyle that is associated with zero waste and has nothing to do with money, in fact it saves loads of it. Fix, mend, and reuse as much as you can. For example old shirts can be made into rags to replace tissue paper.
6. Buy “bad” produce/food (i.e. stuff that is about to be thrown away)
We still use plastic sometimes, actively, and this is the one situation in which we do. In our opinion, the food and trash at least gets used, rather than aimlessly thrown away. Most of the time the food is perfectly fine, you are not only helping food waste but also general waste, especially if you can dispose of the plastic properly (recycling). This is also cheaper (a LOT cheaper), and allows you to get creative with food. Though you can do this in any supermarket, I know there are certain discount shops and farms that promote only “imperfect” or "passed its expiration date” food.
7. Join groups/communities that share second hand items, even better if it’s specifically eco related
This way you can cheaply get things for your home, possibly eco items that would otherwise we expensive.
8. Find out ways to extend the shelf life of cleaning products and other products in the home
Best example is dishwashing liquid, if you dilute it (and I mean really dilute it) and then put it in a spray bottle you can extend the life of one dishwashing liquid product for up to 5 years. That saves a ton of money AND plastic. (If you want a post on this contact us!)