The Zero Waste Lifestyle – What is it?

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The average American sends about 4.4 lbs of garbage to the landfill every day.[1] Our society has normalized the use of single-use products and we continue to increase the amount of trash sent to landfills. However, not all trash reaches the landfills;[2] garbage is often littered onto the sides of roads and urban areas or water sources such as rivers that lead to oceans. This further impacts the environment, marine life and even our health. As depicted, many marine species are affected by the sheer amount of garbage polluting their habitats.

Pic One

So, what is the solution?

Eliminating waste in society altogether sounds wonderful, however it is evidently impossible to remove all of the garbage in one day. It isn’t practical to stop producing waste altogether.

As an individual, our job is to ensure that we are doing all that we can to make sustainable decisions. That’s how the zero waste lifestyle was born.

What exactly is the zero waste lifestyle?

Simply put, “We aim to send nothing to a landfill. We reduce what we need, reuse as much as we can, send little to be recycled, and compost what we cannot.[3]

The phrase, “reduce, reuse, recycle” has been ingrained into our brains ever since we were children. However, contrary to popular belief, we cannot be dependent on recycling to conserve the environment. The majority of recycled items are contaminated and therefore cannot be properly recycled.[4] The zero waste philosophy depends on reducing and reusing products. For example, reducing the number of products you may regularly purchase. It’s not necessary to purchase 10 pairs of the same wash of jeans; instead opt for fewer pairs and rotate through them throughout the week. Instead of using napkins or tissues, try bringing hankies or cloths around with you. Simple actions such as these have led a large number to join the zero waste lifestyle. Although it may seem like one person can’t make much of a difference, it is important to take small steps. One person making the change to become zero waste can lead to communities and a greater number of people joining the movement to reduce their ecological footprint.

Through living zero waste, not only will you be contributing to a sustainable future, you will improve your quality of life; you will eat better, therefore feel better and save a lot of money!

It is evidently quite difficult to completely shift to this lifestyle, that’s why it’s crucial that you take small steps and make little changes here and there in your everyday life. It will be difficult to continue to live zero waste if you dive head-first into this lifestyle.

Here are some tips to get you started:

  1. Stop using plastic bags! Opt for cloth bags that you can fold or roll up and carry around with you for groceries, books, and anything else! Many grocery stores sell cloth bags for anywhere from $1.00 to $5.00!
  2. Instead of using bottles of soap or body wash, swap the plastic out for a bar of soap. Lush sells some great varieties of soap for approximately $10.00!
  3. Next time you’re at Starbucks to pick up a cup of coffee or a latte, try bringing your own reusable mug or travel mug. Many coffee shops offer discounts[5] if you use your own travel mug.
  4. Instead of tossing that banana peel into the trash, try adding a compost bin to your home. You can compost any of your food scraps.
  5. Carry a reusable water bottle (preferably a metal one but you can also use a plastic one with no BPA) instead of using the single-use plastic ones. It’s great because you can continue to refill it throughout the day!
  6. Straws! My tip is just to not use straws! They are often unnecessary but if you feel that you really need one, try investing in a nice metal or glass straw. You can wash it between uses and carry it around with you. Just remember to ask for “no straw” whenever you are out.


Pic Two

If you are interested in continuing your zero waste journey, try this 31 day challenge by

Together we can make a difference! Good luck on your zero waste challenge!







Martina Min
Hi, my name is Martina Min and I’m from Calgary, Alberta! I love volunteering. I am a member of my local YVC Steering Committee and the Calgary Mayor’s Youth Council. I am passionate about mental health awareness and I’m part of a mental health initiative called the Speak Your Mind Project! Besides volunteering, I love swimming, hiking, reading and listening to music!