Zero waste - a new philosophy of life?
Each year consumers waste million tons of food. Ubiquitous consumerism and the wide availability of products have accustomed us to having everything at our fingertips. We buy more than we used to, and we save less. At the same time, our debts are growing. We need to change our approach to spending and a zero waste philosophy can help us.
Wasting precious resources
Many of us admit to wasting food. Some of this is caused by impulse purchasing – we buy without planning ahead – and we also prepare bigger portions than we are able to eat. The media and advertising encourage us to buy more food and products than we need. Unfortunately, this behaviour is not only bad for the environment but bad for our wallets. Our money literally ends up in the bin.
Fortunately, awareness is growing and we are slowly adopting better habits. The zero waste philosophy is a lifestyle in which we try to create as little waste as possible and avoid polluting the environment, which can be achieved primarily through reasonable consumption.
In practice, zero waste comes down to five rules, the so-called 5R - refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle and rot:
- Refuse: refusing to accept items that we don’t need, such as plastic bags when shopping or products in disposable packaging.
- Reduce: cut down the number of items that we use every day. Let's limit the amount of clothes we buy, and exchange unneeded ones with friends or give them to charity. Why not operate a ‘capsule wardrobe’, freeing space in the wardrobe, while ensuring we have clothes for every occasion.
- Reuse: reuse items that you would normally get rid of and buy second-hand items (such as clothes or books). Second-hand shops have been experiencing a renaissance and you can find real gems in them. Let's also see the potential in leftover food - for example making soup with leftover vegetables and meat.
- Recycle: reusing items, rather than throwing them away. For example using jam jars to make our own preserves or to store things, or repurposing old plastic as garbage bags.
- Rot: segregate rubbish. Organic waste should be allowed to ‘go back to nature’ by a natural process of decay.
There is another principle of zero waste: repair. Consider fixing broken items instead of quickly writing them off and throwing them away. Manufacturers of electronic equipment usually have a two-year obligation to repair or replace a defective product. Thanks to this, we can save on buying a new TV or computer, and we do not contribute to increasing the huge amount of electro-waste. Another tip is to buy good quality products, which, even if they are more expensive, usually last longer than those made of cheap and poor materials.
What else can we do to save money?
Instead of going to the store every day, shop once a week in the supermarket and with a pre-prepared list, replenishing only fresh products on a regular basis. Resist impulse buying and being taken in by promotions that encourage us to buy more than we need.
Take reusable bags for shopping, and take coffee in your own thermo mug. Use public transport, bicycle or go on foot whenever possible - a monthly ticket is likely to be cheaper than buying fuel and also helps the environment. Let's move away from bottled water in favour of tap water - in many cities such water is as pure as bottled, and even contains more minerals.
Small daily habits not only help us save the environment, but also prevent debt. If we learn to wisely manage the things around us, we will help our finances and the planet. And if the zero waste philosophy seems new to us, let's remember that our grandmothers used to act in a similar way. They, often forced by circumstances, lived by these guidelines. Let's use their experience, and experience a positive effect on our finances.
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