Table of Contents for 21 Zero Waste Lifestyle Facts & Myths
- Zero waste is expensive
- You must have a trash jar to be zero waste
- It’s only for hippies
- It’s ultra-time consuming
- You can’t be fashionable
- You have to have everything on you at all times
- You can’t wear makeup
- You can never get takeout
- Zero waste is regressive instead of progressive
- Wooden Toothbrushes are both safe and hygienic
- One person can’t make a difference
- You’ll be healthier
- You’ll value your possessions more
- You’ll get creative
- It’ll save you money
- You’ll feel more connected
- You’ll meet like-minded people
- You can inspire loved ones
- You’ll expand your knowledge
- You’ll realize this isn’t anything new
- You don’t have to be perfect
This post is authored by Ariana Palmieri
I’ve been living the zero waste lifestyle for a while now, so I’ve heard some farfetched stuff about the movement.
There are literally people out there who believe zero wasters wear nothing but burlap sacks and rummage through people’s garbage on the streets. Truthfully, there’s no right or wrong way to do zero waste, but I’m here to put the outlandish rumors to rest.
Here are 21 zero waste lifestyle facts & myths you might come across on your journey.
1. Myth: Zero waste is expensive
A lot of people believe the zero waste movement is expensive because of all the reusables you’ll have to purchase. But the truth is, you don’t need to buy a bunch of new items to go zero waste – unless you absolutely want to. There are ways to stay within your budget and still acquire zero waste supplies. For example, you can reuse an empty glass bottle as a reusable water bottle, or cut up an old soft shirt for cloth napkins. It just takes being a little crafty.
2. Myth: You must have a trash jar to be zero waste
A lot of people believe that to be zero waste all their trash has to fit inside a mason jar, aka a trash jar, but that’s not true – or realistic. There’s a lot of upstream waste we don’t even see – like the plastic bags used to ship the goods bulk food stores supply.
There’s no way that’s fitting into a trash jar. And, since we live in a linear economy instead of a circular one, sometimes waste is bound to happen whether you like it or not. So, suffice it to say, trash jars aren’t all they’re cracked up to be and you don’t need one to be zero waste.
All you need to do is try your best. It’s about reducing your trash, not being pressured into unattainable expectations. What I will recommend, is taking a trash audit to see where your trash is coming from though, which can be very helpful.
3. Myth: It’s only for hippies
Nope – it’s more of a survival thing. Caring about the earth and doing all we can to protect it, including reducing our trash, is something we should all be striving for. The average American alone makes 4.4 lbs of trash per day – put that together with the fact only 9% of plastic actually gets recycled and you’ve got a disaster on your hands.
Truth is, 8 million tons of plastic enter our oceans every year and it’s estimated by 2050 there will be more plastic in the sea than fish. So, unless saving our oceans is strictly regulated to hippies, I think zero waste can be practiced by pretty much anyone.
4. Myth: It’s ultra-time consuming
Zero waste doesn’t have to be super time consuming. It’s all about using the time you do have wisely. A lot of people believe they’ll have to DIY everything and go out of their way a lot for abandoning the convenience of single-use items. Truth is, there are so many brands and companies that create amazing zero waste products for people who don’t like DIYs (think David’s Toothpaste, Meow Meow Tweet, etc). And it takes five seconds to remember to bring your reusable coffee cup on a run with you. After a while of being zero waste, these things become ingrained in you, so it’ll feel second nature.
5. Myth: You’ll never find a partner willing to put up with the lifestyle
Not true – it depends on the person you date. Everyone is different, and we, of course, should respect boundaries and never force lifestyles onto our partners. But, that being said, you never know what your partner will be open to if you don’t try talking to them about it. Leading by example, making it fun, and starting conversations about it will open your partner up to the idea of zero waste in a positive light. When I first started going zero waste, my partner wasn’t super into it, but now totally respects the lifestyle and does his part to honor it himself. So, give people time and just see what happens. They might surprise you.
6. Myth: You can’t be fashionable
Fast fashion is pretty bad for the planet, but that doesn’t mean we zero wasters walk around in burlap sacks and no shoes. There are so many amazing sustainable fashion brands out there (like Pact, Amour Vert, etc.), the options are only growing. And, there’s always thrift shopping! You can find so many cute, stylish and timeless pieces in thrift, vintage or antique stores – both online and in person. So yes, you can save the planet and look cute doing it.
7. Myth: You have to have everything on you at all times
Zero wasters seem to always come prepared with a handy dandy plastic-free kit. But the honest truth is, you don’t always need to have everything on you at all times. Stashing some stuff in your bag and car is great (a few extra reusable utensils never hurt), but you don’t have to drive yourself crazy over it. Just take what you need when you think you’ll need it. There have been plenty of times I’ve been caught without my plastic-free essentials because I wound up somewhere I didn’t expect to be – just roll with it and refuse the single-use plastic where you can.
8. Myth: You can’t wear makeup
Makeup is often heavily packaged and full of questionable ingredients – but that doesn’t mean you can’t wear it and be zero waste. There are tons of eco-friendly, low waste makeup options out there. You can DIY your own makeup, or buy from sustainable brands. Some luxury makeup brands even offer refills (like Kjaer Weis or Elate Cosmetics)! So no, you don’t have to give it all up – just swap it out over time with better products.
9. Myth: You can never get takeout
I’m pretty sure I’ve broken this rule over a dozen times now, so yeah it’s definitely a myth. You certainly can get takeout and still be zero waste. See, a lot of people don’t know this, but zero wasters aren’t perfect and sometimes, we just really crave a meal we didn’t have to cook ourselves. Also, you can reuse the takeout containers for numerous things: DIY food scrap collection, jewelry storage, paint holders, crafts, etc. There is a way to get zero waste takeout too – it just involves calling a place in advance and asking if they’re okay with you bringing your own container to take the food home in. As long as you’re okay with picking up the food yourself, and not having it delivered, this is a great low waste option!
10. Myth: Zero waste is regressive instead of progressive
A lot of zero waste practices are nothing new, they’re actually pretty old – think your great grandparents level old. But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, nor is it regressive. It’s important we learn from the past and continue to do things that worked. Passing on traditions is how we keep cultures and memories alive – the same goes for zero waste practices. And, with an added bonus, it’s helping the planet. Who knew great grandma was a climate warrior for using cloth diapers?
11. Myth: One person can’t make a difference
Oh yes they can. One person can use their voice to inspire hundreds, if not thousands of people, to do something. So why not something as good as going zero waste? When we do our part and reduce our waste, we’re also voting with our money. By avoiding places that aren’t plastic-free, or refusing to purchase wasteful items, you’re sending a pretty big message. And the more you use your voice to advocate for a plastic-free future, the more people will start doing the same. And that sends an even bigger message.
12. Fact: You’ll be healthier
The beauty of going zero waste is that it automatically eliminates packaged snacks from the equation. You’ll find yourself reaching for more whole foods like fruits and veggies. Better yet, you might start hitting up the farmers market and bulk food store for your groceries because it’s easier to get stuff plastic-free there. This unexpected shift in diet will do wonders for your overall health and relationship with food. You’ll be surprised to learn there truly is a connection between wellness of self and wellness of planet.
13. Fact: You’ll value your possessions more
Before going zero waste, acquiring more items and tossing the ones that you didn’t like anymore was probably a no brainer. But afterwards, you can’t help thinking about every single one of your purchases. It’s always important to ask yourself “do I really need this item? Will I actually use it? What purpose does it serve? How will it enrich my life? What will I do with it at its end of life?” Asking these questions will naturally make you value your possessions more and be much less likely to simply trash items that still have life in them. Instead, if something really isn’t working for you, you’re way more likely to find it a new home for it first.
14. Fact: You’ll get creative
Going zero waste will truly force you to get those creative juices flowing. That can mean several different things – maybe it’s in the form of creative DIYs you come up with to reduce waste, or finding solutions to waste-related problems at work or school. I’ve seen so much creativity in this space it’s truly inspiring: From people who start composting stations at their workspace, to those who make soap holders from old bamboo toothbrush ends – the possibilities are endless.
15. Fact: It’ll save you money
Once you’ve transitioned to a zero waste lifestyle and have everything you pretty much need to get by (think your reusable water bottle, travel mug, utensils, etc.) – you’ll find you spend less money, which saves you money. Certain zero waste swaps are incredibly money saving – like having a paperless kitchen. When you invest in a bunch of reusable cloth napkins and dish towels, you can comfortably retire paper items and save hundreds of dollars in the long run. The same goes for those who menstruate – investing in reusable period products like menstrual cups and period underwear will only save you money in the long run.
16. Fact: You’ll feel more connected
When you go zero waste, you’ll begin realizing how connected everything is to one another, how cyclical. You’ll probably feel a stronger connection to not just the earth, but people too. You’ll value genuine relationships over material items; Time over money; A home cooked meal over fancy gifts. And, of course, you’ll feel a connection to the land in a way you probably haven’t before – you’ll realize all the items you own came from the earth in some form or another. You’ll realize the earth itself is the world’s best recycler – everything is made to break down and join the earth yet again. And, you’ll come to the conclusion it’s our job to take care of the planet as much as it takes care of us.
17. Fact: You’ll meet like-minded people
Be it online or in person, going zero waste has a way of bringing people together. That’s because it’s important to have a support group of people you can talk to about zero waste topics. If you have a question or a challenge, it’s nice to have people in your corner. I’ve met so many amazing people online in the sustainability sphere and it’s helped me make some amazing connections. Being around like-minded people is good for our mental health and helps us become the best versions of ourselves. You may even find people in your own community who share your views as well, which is even better.
18. Fact: You can inspire loved ones
Don’t fret if your loved ones don’t immediately come around – over time, your zero waste lifestyle may grow on them. You have the potential to inspire them, just by being you and showing how fun zero waste can be. When I first started my journey, I began saving up my food scraps in a takeout container in the fridge. I was the only one adding to it at first – and before I knew it, my mom and my dad were adding to it too. Sometimes, all you need to do is lead by example. The rest will happen naturally! Now, every Saturday I go to the farmers market and community garden to compost and get plastic-free produce. She loves it! Make it an interactive bonding experience and you’ll be amazed at how your loved ones respond.
19. Fact: You’ll expand your knowledge
You’ll find having a zero waste lifestyle opens you up to other issues plaguing our earth, be it deforestation, ocean acidification, environmental racism, etc. You’ll suddenly find yourself expanding and learning so much more. And, because zero wasters tend to be pretty creative, you’ll be equipped with the tools to fall in love with the solutions, rather than getting overwhelmed by the problem. You’ll find yourself researching things online, reading different books, and just be more generally knowledge seeking about climate matters overall. This will only help you discuss things whenever you get into conversations with people about environmental topics.
20. Fact: You’ll realize this isn’t anything new
Zero waste isn’t new. In fact, our great grandparents practiced it many years ago – but there was no label for it back then. Many indigenous cultures also believe in living alongside the land and creating little to no waste where everything is cyclical. So, honoring the earth by having a lighter, more conscious footprint, isn’t a trend – it’s a way of survival and working with nature rather than against it. If you have any great grandparents left, or even just grandparents, you can try chatting to them about the way they used to do things. Practices like the milkman, victory gardens, and sewing ripped clothing are perfect examples of how we can learn from history and continue doing the stuff that worked.
21. Fact: You don’t have to be perfect
No one in the zero waste movement is perfect and let no one tell you otherwise. So, seriously, you don’t have to be perfect either. If you make some trash, don’t beat yourself up. And likewise, don’t judge others either. We’re all just doing the best we can, and truthfully, the system is what needs to change. Individual action is very important, but collective action is also necessary to ending the linear economy. If we want zero waste to become the mainstream convenient way to live, we have to make sure we hold our government and businesses accountable. Which of these zero waste lifestyle myths and facts have you heard before?
About the Author:
Ariana Palmieri is the founder of Greenify–Me, a blog dedicated to zero waste living and sustainability. Her work has been featured on Going Zero Waste, Mother Earth Living, Green Matters and several other publications. Get her free e-book “10 Ways to Reduce Trash” by signing up to her newsletter and learn how to reduce your waste today.