Debunking Zero-waste

Is it really possible to live a zero-waste lifestyle? Let’s explore the answer to this question in this blog post.

Essentially, zero-waste is way of living where you reduce the amount you consume and any throw aways after the consumption. And it mostly boils down to the consumption of goods, commodities and/or resources we end up utilising in everyday life and how well we are able to consume it fully without leaving any wastage behind that end up in the landfill or any other systems such as waterways or soil.

In order to understand zero-waste better it also important to understand the lifecycle of any resource we consume, in any shape or form. Resources which are natural are circular in nature. A very common and well understood example is the water cycle. Resources created by humans through technical systems are linear in nature – resources are pooled in to create a commodity, the commodity is consumed and the end life is the landfills or waterways.

As city dwellers, if we observe closely, we interact with hundreds of ‘stuff’ in any given day. And if we think about the lifecycle of each of the ‘stuff’ we use, most of them are linear creating wastage in some form or the other. So, the question is, can we introduce circular habits of consumption or commodities which are circular in nature? Either they can be consumed fully leaving no traces of waste behind, or they can be reused, recycled or changed into other forms for a second form of use… a cool example is cloth bags and how they have become a symbol of re-usability.

Besides wastage which is obvious to the eyes, there are also elements such as carbon footprint and the energy consumed by the product itself to be ready before it can be used. While we can be mindful of those, to eliminate these completely is impossible as consumption and conversion of energy is inherent in every creation–natural or man made.

Last evening after dinner, I had this urge to have the delicious Natural’s ice-cream. I had two options–order through a food delivery app or go buy it myself. Keeping in mind the amount of packaging they would use and also the charges they would levy for the packaging and delivery, I chose the latter. However, while leaving, I also picked up my own box to get the ice-cream in. By doing so, I was able to save one plastic tub they would have given me the ice-cream in and also because I chose a small container, I could go for a quantity I preferred. What happened in the end is a totally different story. While I was mid-way, a close friend called and asked me if I could join them for dinner. I remembered them asking me to collect the extra ice-cream from them a couple of days ago. I decided to go to their place and avoid any purchasing altogether and settle for a bowl full of my favourite dessert at their place:). So while I was able to avoid creating plastic and food waste, I could not avoid the carbon footprint from my vehicle.

Zero-waste living is often seen as an ‘impossibility’. The key to leading the life is to not get stuck with the impossibility and boil the ocean. But it is to closely and consciously observe how we interact with things around us and then make choices that eliminate the unnecessary, one step and one act at a time.

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