Living Zero Waste: tips for a waste-free life

Recycling one's own waste is certainly a big step towards protecting the environment. However, independent sources show that recycling alone is not enough to give energy-intensive materials a second life. In this article, we will give you some tips on how to reduce waste production through 5 simple daily actions, thereby also saving money.

© Serena Gallanti

“Don’t forget to take out the rubbish!”. This phrase, so steeped in everyday life, deserves further reflection. How many of us are struck by feelings of desolation when we open the communal rubbish bin and notice that our dear neighbour still makes extensive use of plastic cups without separating them or, worse still, does not separate glass, paper or plastic for – I quote – lack of time? Leaving aside the unpleasant sight of certain types of rubbish in apartment blocks, the problem of waste is real and deserves to be resolved as soon as possible. Sometimes recycling is not enough: Zero Waste Europe says so, its figures clearly show that despite all our good intentions, only a small proportion of waste is actually recycled.

How can waste production be reduced as much as possible in everyday life?

1 – Refuse what you do not need: This rule is taught to us directly by Bea Johnson, pioneer of the Zero Waste lifestyle and minimalist mother of a family. “Refuse” applies to everything you don’t really need, but take anyway because it’s free, from the plastic bag to that gadget from the mushroom festival. Speaking of the plastic bag, nice Tote Bags are now available all over the place and taking them with you will prevent you from ending up with drawers overflowing with bags of various sizes and materials. 

2 – Buy something using your own container. It is also important to bear in mind that there are in most countries laws regulating this, such as the two Italian decree-laws 111 of 14th October 2019 and 141 of 12th December 2019, Article 7 authorize consumers to use their own containers upon request to the shopkeeper. This is an easy action whose effect can be seen immediately! There are several levels. Basic level: buy bread or fruit in your own bag. Intermediate level: buy sausage and cheese, meat and fish using your own container. Intermediate/advanced level: look for a specific shop for loose items.

3 – Make a shopping list and a weekly meal plan. Obviously this rule is flexible depending on one’s lifestyle, but if you decide to apply it, the results will be almost immediate. Obviously this alternative can be very gradual and can be modulated by using the freezer. I recommend cooking large quantities of pulses and freezing them in jars to cope with last-minute hummous cravings or just a quick lunch at the office.

4 – Bring a container for leftovers to the restaurant: this seems like a very shrewd alternative, but it is a super effective action against waste!

5 – Be indulgent if you just haven’t made it for a week and the rubbish has filled up quickly. I borrow a phrase from Zero Waste Paris, an association very effective in actions to reduce waste production: It is not necessary for a few to follow the Zero Waste lifestyle perfectly, but it is much more important for many to do it imperfectly!

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