“We don’t need a handful of people doing zero-waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly.” – Anne Marie Bonneau
Recently, I’ve seen guidance from individuals, brands, and organizations on living a “zero-waste lifestyle.” While I believe this mindset is fantastic and a phenomenal aspiration, it may be challenging for the average individual to achieve this goal entirely. Now, that’s not to say that you shouldn’t live a zero-waste lifestyle if you’re able, but more to say that you shouldn’t feel discouraged if you’re unable to live zero-waste completely.
Like my belief in “don’t let great get in the way of good,” I think it’s critical to focus on wasting a lot less but not feeling bad if you’re not perfect—none of us are. What’s essential is that we make a conscious effort to be mindful of our waste, which includes limiting wasteful habits and finding supplemental options that are more sustainable.
In the spirit of wasting a lot less, I’d like to share some habits I follow to reduce waste and my ecological footprint.
Follow the Three R’s
The method and ideology behind the “three r’s”—reduce, reuse, recycle—is nothing new. This habit has been promoted for nearly 50 years. I love this practice because it’s easy to remember, and the order of each action is what’s best for the environment. This means our first action should be to reduce our consumption. But if certain things are hard to reduce, the next focus is reusing items we already have as an alternative. Finally, recycling is our last effort to be environmentally friendly when the other two options are not viable.
Limit My Usage
In the theme of reducing, I find it critical to be aware of my usage (water, electricity, etc.) and never take those resources for granted. While I am fortunate enough to have clean, running water and access to energy any time I want, that doesn’t mean I should act like those resources are infinite and serve me solely.
Being conscious of your usage and striving never to waste can have a sizable impact, especially the more we do it. Imagine if everyone in the United States cut back on their water and power usage by 30% per household. While it may seem small individually, the combined amount would have a significant impact.
What’s critical to remember here is that small changes matter, even if they seem microscopic in comparison.
I believe we forget there are alternatives to our favorite things—sometimes being better than what we’ve used in the past. An example is how many single-use water bottles are thrown away yearly—nearly 38 million are disposed of every year in the United States alone. Something as simple as buying a reusable water bottle—I love a HydroFlask—could help save tens of millions of bottles from entering landfills every year.
Reef-safe sunscreens are also a great alternative to the traditional sunscreen that most of us are used to. I recommend reading our recent blog on reef-safe sunscreens to learn about the various safe brands for your skin and the reefs.
Other excellent alternatives include reusable bottles from the Grove Collaborative to replace buying plastic containers; brands like Pela offer biodegradable cases for your electronic devices, and you can do your laundry with a brand like Dropps.
The point to be made here is that alternatives exist—if you need something, why not try and buy the item that gets the job done and is better for the environment?
Focus on Conscious Consumerism
Similar to finding alternatives, the idea of conscious consumerism has gained notoriety recently. Part of this movement is the influx of younger generations pursuing companies with social and environmental conscientiousness embedded in their DNA. I believe this is a good thing. Consumers no longer want to be rewarded solely for their purchases—they want those purchases to benefit others as much as it benefits them.
Share My Habits with Others
I am an environmentalist at heart, and I firmly believe that knowledge is power. A simple and impactful way to help the planet is to share what you know with others. Whether that’s sharing sustainable brands to buy from, organizations to donate to, industry leaders to support, or anything else, information is influential and makes a difference.
I hope this message inspires us all to waste a lot less. None of us are perfect. There will always be waste (some of which we can unlock the value of), but we need to get as close to zero waste as possible.
Here’s to being zero-waste(ish). I encourage you to join me, friends—there isn’t a day to waste.