Could you fit all the trash you generate each year into a single mason jar? Although it might sound impossible, it’s a feat attained by regular people across the country who are joining the zero waste movement
Zero waste practitioners seek to get their net trash output to zero. Some even take to social media to tout fitting all their trash for an entire year into a small mason jar. While most people won’t be able or willing to reduce their total household trash to such a tiny amount, adopting a few zero waste principles can have a big impact on both your ecological footprint and your household budget.
What Is Zero Waste?
“Zero waste” describes a lifestyle whose proponents aim to send absolutely no waste to a landfill, incinerator, or the ocean. Instead, they focus on finding ways to recycle, reuse, or refuse items. The concept is often considered part of the larger cradle-to-cradle manufacturing movement. A cradle-to-cradle material or product is recycled into a new product at the end of its life so that there is no waste. In contrast, most traditional manufacturing is considered cradle-to-grave, a linear model wherein a raw material is extracted from the earth, manufactured into a product that’s sold to consumers, and then disposed of in a landfill when it breaks, is used up, or once the consumer no longer wants or needs the product.
However, with global temperatures on the rise, extreme weather events, the ever-increasing size of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, and an alarming report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, many people aren’t waiting on manufacturing practices to change. Instead, they’re taking things into their own hands, seeking to reduce their resource consumption, purchase items secondhand, reuse products, and get their net trash output to zero — or as close to zero as they can.
The Zero Waste Movement
The zero waste movement has been rapidly gaining popularity over the past decade, and most zero waste bloggers and lifestyle experts point to Bea Johnson as the mother of the movement. Johnson, who started the blog Zero Waste Home in 2008 chronicling her family’s zero waste journey, is one of the movement’s most famous spokespeople. When she launched her quest, most people had never heard the term “zero waste” as it was mainly used in government documents and by manufacturing companies.
Due to a combination of factors, from the 2008 financial crisis to the increase of extreme weather events like Hurricane Sandy, people were poised to take matters into their own hands and reduce their household waste and expenditures. Today, zero waste is no longer a quirky habit practiced only by hippies with compost piles in their backyards; it’s a movement that doesn’t show any sign of slowing down.