What is Zero Waste? Part 1

What is Zero Waste? Part 1

Haven’t you heard? Trash jars are trending. Plastic-free is popping. Even composting is downright cosmopolitan.  Seriously… rotting food is all the rage!

Much like the sustainable and ethical trends, zero waste living is getting a lot of press. But what is zero waste? What does it aim to do?

The simple answer is this: send NOTHING to the landfill.  Zip. Zilch. Zero.

Of course, the real answer is far more complex than that because it involves a redefinition of how we see our resources flow into waste and back again.

Like any Kant or Hegel, the philosophy of zero waste is a lot less simple than plastic = bad. That is why we’re here to shine some light on the subject, and help you understand how zero waste goes beyond you opting to shop in bulk.

So, let’s talk trash, and how zero waste seeks to eliminate it at the very source.


Despite its recent trending status, it is not a new concept.

But we are here to talk about the future of zero waste, not the Past.

Looking to the future, we must understand there are two sides to zero waste: the practical side (which deals more with our actions as individuals / consumers) and the conceptual side (which deals with systematic design and function).

Much of the zero-waste stuff we see in the press today deals with the practical side. The future of the planet, however, depends on the conceptual. Let us look more at how they differ.


What is Zero Waste?

The city of San Jose, California best sums up zero waste in consumer practice: “Zero waste entails shifting consumption patterns, more carefully managing purchases, and maximizing the reuse of materials at the end of their useful life.”

Which is an eloquent way of referring to the 5 R’s…

The 5 R’s of Zero Waste

The 5 Rs are essentially the order in which to reduce waste. Think of them as plans A, B, C, D, and E.  If you cannot do step one, move on to the next, and so forth:

Refuse what you do not need (single-use plastic, plastic grocery bags, plastic razors, coffee cups etc.)

Reduce what you do need (stop buying new clothes, cut back on how often you do laundry, do not always upgrade for the latest smartphone)

Reuse by either buying second-hand or repurposing things.

Recycle only that which can’t be eliminated by the former three.

Rot what is left.

There are so many easy zero waste changes you can make to help tick off each of these Rs.

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