Haven’t you heard? Trash jars are trending. Plastic-free is popping. Even composting is downright cosmopolitan. Seriously… rotting food is all the rage!Much like the sustainable and ethical trends, zero waste living is getting a lot of press. But what is zero waste? What does it aim to do?
The simple answer is this: send NOTHING to the landfill. Zip. Zilch. Zero.Of course, the real answer is far more complex than that because it involves a redefinition of how we see our resources flow into waste and back again.
Like any Kant or Hegel, the philosophy of zero waste is a lot less simple than plastic = bad. That’s why we’re here to shine some light on the subject, and help you understand how zero waste goes beyond you opting to shop in bulk.
So let’s talk trash, and how zero waste seeks to eliminate it at the very source.
We care about our planet, and so we do this this and this
Despite its recent trending status, it’s actually not a new concept. The phrase was (very likely) coined by a California based company, “Zero Waste Systems Inc.” and was founded (also very likely) by chemist Dr Paul Palmer back in the 1970s.
But we’re here to talk about the future of zero waste, not the Past.
Looking to the future, we must understand there are two sides to zero waste: the practical side (which deals more with our actions as individuals / consumers) and the conceptual side (which deals with systematic design and function).
Much of the zero waste stuff we see in the press today deals with the practical side. The future of the planet, however, depends on the conceptual. Let’s look more at how they differ.
The city of San Jose, California best sums up zero waste in consumer practice: “Zero waste entails shifting consumption patterns, more carefully managing purchases, and maximizing the reuse of materials at the end of their useful life.”
Which is an eloquent way of referring to the 5 R’s…
The 5 R’s of Zero Waste
Based on the EPA’s Hierarchy of Material Management, the 5 R’s are not a new concept, though Bea Johnson of Zero Waste Home (pretty much the OG zero waster of the 21st century) is often attributed as bringing it to the public with her succinct (and catchy) summary.
The 5 Rs are essentially the order in which to reduce waste. Think of them as plans A, B, C, D, and E. If you can’t do step one, move on to the next, and so forth: