Zero waste is an ethic that aims to achieve, well, zero waste. This is commonly conceived as being an individual lifestyle choice, but it has a long history in being relevant to business and industrial production models.
Nature has no concept of waste as we understand it– everything is useful to another organism. In terms of industry, this is the goal. Not just to find a use for waste product (this is how we got so many different kinds of plastics), but to rethink the production process from raw material to finished + waste product altogether to create a closed, sustainable loop.
For the individual, zero waste is a close relative to a minimalist, anti-consumer lifestyle. There’s an emphasis on keeping things simple, from your cosmetics routine to your gifting. It’s unlearning the impulse to consume and to maintain extraneous possessions. It’s also about being aware and mindful about the things we take for granted; the things that invariably end up in the landfill.
Personally, I believe that mindfulness is just the beginning. Question everything from your own personal wants and desires, to the consumer culture we’re submerged in, to the businesses that provide us these products, to the ways in which industrial methods of production damages certain regions and demographics more than others.
To me, zero waste is incomplete without activism. Communicate your concerns to legislators, to businesses, and to friends and family who are willing to listen. Patronize businesses who sympathize with these goals, but know that voting with dollars only accomplishes so much.
Curious about going zero waste yourself? Stick around and join the discussion!