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Sustainable Home 101 – What is the Zero Waste Movement?

Updated: Jul 30, 2021

You most likely do it at least once a week, either by yourself or by one of our personal home assistant. Throwing the trash out is one of those activities that we do not really think about often or at all. Rubbish are tossed in the small bin to disappear, we put the bag in the bigger container and bye bye forever…or so we think, or so we choose to believe.

The Myth of Effective Recycling

who generates the most plastic waste M&J Mary and Jarvis

What’s going on after, is everything that we put in the recycled yellow bin actually get recycled ?

Well, for starters, recycling is not going so well, and since the last decade in Germany for example, while the population proud of their colourful bins, their system has actually produced more plastic packaging trash than before.

Perhaps germans unfortunately indulge themselves on overestimating how well the system works. Perhaps they also consume even more plastic, because as long as they collect it in their yellow bag and dispose it, the process takes care of itself. We already talk about this bias to be aware of called : « Behavior Licencing »: person feels that his/her initial good action grant him/her the right for a unsustainable "free pass" or excess of use. But whatever the reason, plastic seems here to stay.

Nearly half of plastic ever manufactured has been made since 2000

Indeed, even more and more plastic packaging and so waste is today generated and unfortunately even Europe the champion of recycling can't keep up and recycles less than 1/3rd this plastic wastes. with Germany an estimated 38%.

As the EU parlement states, "The main issues complicating plastic recycling are the quality and price of the recycled product, compared with their unrecycled counterpart. Plastic processors require large quantities of recycled plastic, manufactured to strictly controlled specifications and at a competitive price.

However, since plastics are easily customised to the needs (functional or aesthetic) of each manufacturer, the diversity of the raw material complicates the recycling process, making it costly and affecting the quality of the end product. In consequence, the demand for recycled plastics accounts for only 6% of plastics demand in Europe."

40 percent of plastic produced is packaging used just once and then discarded

Plus, we all know that when not recycled, our waste is shipped in developing countries far out of sight into some toxic landfills degrading the environment value of our planet.

Yes, this same green and blue planet we are so thrilled to discover during our vacation.

At some point, instagram filters may not be enough to get through the grim picture triggered by climate change and photoshop won’t be able to get rid of all the plastic bags glimmering at your feet on your romantic snap before the beach shore at sunset.

Humans, in our era dominated by the success of sciences, are convinced to think that solving big issues requires a technological prowess. The bigger and more complex the problem, the bigger and more complex the solution must be, a kind of complexity bias and "voilà", human progress? Instead we should perhaps focus on making a very less costly move but nevertheless as hard, the psychological process to switch our mind.

Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated. — Confucius

Indeed, the easier solution is to fight the root of the issue by reducing our carbon footprint instead of trying to conquer the symptoms by optimising our recycling system. Less items are consumed, less natural resource mined and used, less garbage are damped, less landfill… and so this belief of simplicity led to the birth of the of Zero Waste movement.

Zero Waste Definition

The conservation of all resources by means of responsible production, consumption, reuse and recovery of all products, packaging, and materials, without burning them, and without discharges to land, water or air that threaten the environment or human health.

What is a Zero Waste Lifestyle

A Zero waste lifestyle is the idea for an individual to consume as less especially plastic as possible, so zero waste send to landfills, starting from refusing single-use plastic to composting the only thing used that should be left, organic matter.

The movement was brought to mainstream by Bea Johnson through the release of her book Zero Waste Home published in 2013.

What is The Zero Waste Mindset

Living a Zero Waste life is about reducing our carbon footprint by being less wasteful in all aspects of our lives. It mostly mean to be more knowledgeable and conscious as a consumer in order to be able to alter the habit of our never satisfying consumption craze.

It raises the question of what our current normality is, making the choice to take back control over accumulated possessions and set a different look at what one owns and the reasons behind it. More stuff means more space and place to put them in and on and under and over. A larger living space costs surely more money but foremost, more time and work to maintain. And to be able to control those belongings, the only choice is usually to work more. And so it may feel that the belongings slowly become the master. So simply enough, accumulating less things would bring us closer to the essential.

People would say it is very difficult to maintain and costly, but what you gain is to quite the consumer life and become a creator "find out of the box solutions for better ways of doing things. Once you figure it out, the maintenance becomes less and less of an effort." (shawn Williamson, Business consultant). Also choosing to consume less will naturally unlock the budget to focus on quality over quantity. All of a sudden, you may just have the budget for those organic food and beverage you thought were out of reach.

People on their Zero Waste Movement claim that they save money, time and the only thing filling up is your appreciation of life .

The Zero Waste Method

Grandma was wise all along, "many of the solutions to cutting waste use practices that were commonplace before the era of plastics and disposable products. Think cloth napkins and handkerchiefs, vinegar and water for cleaning, glass or stainless-steel containers for left-overs, cloth grocery bags. These, and similar old-school solutions, produce no waste and are cheaper in the long run." (National Geographic).

Many such solutions to waste are insanely simple. - Kathryn Kellogg

The structured way to achieve zero waste as an individual is to start qith a Trash Audit to identify what your consumption patterns are and follow the 5R's derived from the EPA's Hierarchy of Material Management the 3R's: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.

As coined by Bea Johnson, the catchy 5Rs are in order to follow to reduce waste are:

Zero Waste Pyramid 5 R Mary and Jarvis M&J

REFUSE: Avoid single use plastics and paper products by saying no thank you, opting for reusables.

REDUCE: Downsize what you purchase, opting to be more mindful of what you really need


REUSE: Always find a way to keep an item out of the landfill by keeping it in great condition, repairing or upcycling it when it breaks.

RECYCLE: Properly recycle any plastic, paper, glass or metal that comes into your life you cannot refuse, reduce, or reuse by researching your state’s recycling laws.

ROT: Set up a compost system for your food scraps, or find a food scrap drop off center (like a farmers market, or community garden) near your house.

Even though debates emerged that if sorted by importance, Recycle should be the last of the R's as consumption should be mindful enough that nothing purchased could even be recycled. Which bring us to the fact that this inverted pyramid could start with Reframe or Rethink one's mind in order to set do the necessary intellectual and informative work to foresee unneeded waste.

The Absolut Symbol - the Glass Jar

glass jar zero waste M&J Mary and Jarvis

At the end of the year, the ultimate reward for someone following a Zero Waste lifestyle would be to be able to only fit your yearly leftover into a small glass jar.

Influencers and blogs to follow


Shia Su - Germany - Wasteland Rebel

Kathryn Kellogg - USA - Going Zero Waste

Bea Johnson - France/US - Zero Waste Home

Anne-Marie Bonneau - France - Zero Waste Chef




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