The five-step guide to becoming the least wasteful version of yourself.
A woman rides her bike to the farmers’ market to buy locally grown fresh fruit and vegetables. After carefully selecting some apples, oranges, avocados, potatoes, and kale, all grown on small farms without the use of synthetic pesticides, she places them in her homemade cloth-produce bags. Before she hops back on her bike, she has a drink of water from a fountain (her city still provides these). When the woman returns to her 900-square-foot home, she eats a bowl of leftover homemade soup for lunch, after which she brews a cup of loose-leaf tea and gets to work prepping some of her vegetables for roasting. She cooks the beans that she had begun to soak early that morning and feeds her sourdough starter that she’ll use to make bread dough that evening.
This woman is called extreme.
In the ever-evolving world of supermarkets and food malls, India is one of the countries that are not yet in the up-and-coming normal of seal-packed veggies and pre-sprouted sprouts. We still live in a country in which the major sale of everyday vegetables is still dominated by street-side vendors and markets (Sabji Mandis) set up at specific places.
(Also Read: Think It Before You BlinkIt)
In developed countries, tons of plastic wrapping is used to wrap up individual vegetables, which are then sold at big supermarkets at exorbitant rates. This not only hurts the environment, due to excess plastic waste but has many other downfalls. Over 300 million tons of plastic are produced every year for use in a wide variety of applications. At least 8 million tons of plastic end up in our oceans every year and make up 80% of all marine debris from surface waters to deep-sea sediments. A 2019 study shows that 84% of the fruits and veggies wrapped in plastic are done so by supermarkets rather than suppliers, just so that they can increase the shelf life of the product, thereby increasing their profits.
Currently, less than 14% of the packaging plastic is recycled. Single-use food and beverage packaging are one of the largest sources of the 269,000 tons of plastic pollution in the oceans. A survey conducted in 2020 revealed that more than 2/3 of people globally do not recycle plastic waste. Those surveyed also expressed low confidence in the recycling systems in their countries, with over 2/3 reporting believing only 50% or less of what they put into their recycling bins is actually recycled.
(Also Read: Rethink Your Plastic Packaging )
The zero-waste movement, in which practitioners strive to send close to nothing to the landfill, is having a moment. There are 3.9 million posts on Instagram bearing that hashtag, and in September, the Package Free Store in Brooklyn, founded by an influencer who claims to have produced only one jar of trash since 2014, received $4.5 million in seed funding.
Anne-Marie Bonneau, the woman from the story had no idea that she would get a newspaper article about her. In 2011, she and her daughter vowed to never buy anything made of plastic after they read about the garbage choking the oceans. They decided to become a zero-waste family, and that was by far one of the best decisions they ever made. Today, she’s a zero-waste master. She’s got endless glass jars and cloth tote bags. She goes to the farmer’s market, not the grocery store. She makes her own deodorant, and she has shrunk her waste down to one small shopping bag a year.
(Also Read: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Zero Waste Movement )
Now the main question remains — How can you achieve Zero Waste?
Just to be clear, here zero waste really only really means low waste as it is virtually impossible to get your waste down to zero. The discussions about waste should be framed around reduction, not some fundamentally unattainable “zero.” This sets everyone up for failure, making the movement fertile grounds for some of the same damaging psychology present in movements like “clean eating.” But the amount can be significantly reduced and has been done so by many reducing their waste from a garbage bag a day to a mason jar for an entire year of waste. This was done by a number of small changes—
1. Invest for the long term.
Disposable plastics are cheap, but if you will need to invest more if you want stuff that will last longer. Over time, you will realise that you are actually saving money in the process, by not spending time and again on things that fall apart.
2. Don’t buy new products.
New products like electronics and toys never come with packaging that is recyclable. So, if you think that you can happily live without it, then you don’t need it. If you do need it, buy the same item second-hand. This will not only save money but will usually also come in disposable packaging.
3. Make time for DIYing!
To get some of your favourite things package-free, you’ll just have to make them yourself from scratch, including toothpaste, personal care products, meals, snacks, and desserts. If you have more money than time, there are some eco-friendly companies making alternatives in recyclable and reusable packaging, but they definitely tend to be on the pricey side. If you have neither time nor money? Well…
4. Be prepared.
To cut down on disposables, you will have to be prepared with things like a reusable water bottle, a reusable coffee mug, a metal tiffin etc.
I know this only is the most obvious one. But unfortunately, this is also the least practised one. Every year, 1.3 billion tons of food is wasted. Although it is catching on, not many people have compost pits, which can be built in houses as well as communities to make manure from food waste, which can then be given to the plants.
These are of course only tips. There are many more ways in which low waste can be achieved. At the end of the day, it is up to your imagination as well.
There is currently a healthy culture in India of buying fresh vegetables from markets and using the same containers for many years, which helps to reduce environmental pollution. Thereby helping make this world a safe place for not only us but for many many future generations yet to come.
There is also an ardent need for more people and more communities around the world to incorporate this culture, solving the waste problem that is hurting the environment in ways that can hardly be imagined. This is one of the situations in which the contribution of everyone matters. One person following the zero-waste culture doesn’t seem like much, but at the end of the day, that one person is taking one step in the formation of a culture that is necessary for sustainable development for years to come.
Chef, T. (2019, January 03). I'm not extreme, consumerism is. Retrieved April 15, 2021, from https://zerowastechef.com/2018/11/22/im-not-extreme-consumerism-is/
Conway, T. (2019, May 28). I'm upset: The "zero Waste" people must be stopped. Retrieved April 15, 2021, from https://theoutline.com/post/7500/i-m-upset-the-zero-waste-people-must-be-stopped
A global survey reveals two-thirds of adults not recycling all plastic. (n.d.). Retrieved April 15, 2021, from https://www.reutersevents.com/sustainability/global-survey-reveals-two-thirds-adults-not-recycling-all-plastic-waste
Is zero Waste worth it? (n.d.). Retrieved April 15, 2021, from https://blog.arcadia.com/is-zero-waste-worth-it
Marine plastics. (2018, December 05). Retrieved April 15, 2021, from https://www.iucn.org/resources/issues-briefs/marine-plastics#:~:text=Over%20300%20million%20tons%20of,waters%20to%20deep%2Dsea%20sediments
Person. (2018, July 22). Way beyond RECYCLING: How some Bay area families are trying to get to zero waste. Retrieved April 15, 2021, from https://www.mercurynews.com/2018/07/20/way-beyond-recycling-how-some-bay-area-families-are-trying-to-get-to-zero-waste/
Why removing pointless plastic packaging from vegetables & fruits is the need of the hour. (2019, October 13). Retrieved April 15, 2021, from https://www.indiatimes.com/news/india/why-removing-pointless-plastic-packaging-from-vegetables-fruits-is-need-of-the-hour-377723.html