How to reduce your household’s waste?
The zero waste movement was born as a result of people’s growing concern for their personal environmental impact. This movement seeks to reduce the amount of waste we produce daily, decresing unnecessary consumption, composting and reusing as much as possible.
The ‘Zero Waste’ Movement
The inspiration of this movement comes from the observation of the natural cycles of the earth, where energy and resources are transformed through the food chains. In nature nothing is wasted and the objective of the zero waste movement is to completely abolish the production of garbage, moving from a linear to a circular economy.
We have become accustomed to a system in which we take natural resources, use them for a while and then send them to the landfill and forget about the problem. Unfortunately, sanitary landfills are far from being a sustainable alternative for waste, as they contaminate water, soil and produce methane emissions.
In Bogotá, we send the garbage to the Doña Juana landfill, which is one of the worst rated in the country by the Public Services Superintendence. This landfill has a history of poor management, impacts on nearby communities and water pollution. Doña Juana receives around 6500 tons of waste per day and although it is already reaching its maximum capacity, there are no clear alternatives of what to do next in terms of waste disposal in the city.
What about recycling?
Although recycling is important, it is not the solution either. In Colombia, only about 17% of waste is recycled. Paper, cardboard, glass and metals are the preffered ones. Plastic, on the other hand, is more complicated. In the country, PET containers are recycled, for example, bottles of water and soft drinks that have the number 1 in the base and also HDPE containers with the number 2, but Styrofoam (expanded polyethylene) and other plastics go directly to the landfill.
For this reason, the zero waste movement focuses its efforts not only on recycling, but on reducing and reusing. Reduce is based on moderate consumption, for example, avoiding to buy a specific cleaner for each part of the house, when you can clean almost everything with soap and water. Reuse is focused on finding products that have a longer lifespan, for example, an aluminum bottle for water that you can refill, instead of buying a disposable one.
First steps towards a zero waste home
The process of converting your home to zero waste is challenging. The market is full of things thought for our convenience and it is difficult to resist sometimes. Reducing the waste we produce requires commitment and some planning, although over time it will become easier and easier.
- Reduce the trash you bring home with your groceries. Avoid foods that come in Styrofoam trays and unnecessary packaging. Instead of using the plastic bags they offer in the vegetable section, carry some re-usable produce bags with you to the supermarket.
- Store your food in glass containers instead of plastic containers. You can reuse the glass containers of stre bought preserves to store the food. Also, when storing food in plastic there is a risk that chemical substances in the container are passed on to the food, contaminating it. Glass is an inert material and therefore better for your health.
- Instead of buying a plastic water bottle, carry a reusable bottle with you. If you buy coffee to go, you can use your own thermal mug and ask to be served there. It will last hot longer and you can transport it without using a disposable plastic lid.
- Change personal care products for ecofriendly versions. Much of the waste we produce comes from old bottles of soap and shampoo, toothpaste packaging, worn toothbrushes or disposable razors. You can start by replacing your toothbrush with a bamboo brush, your shaver with a re-usable shaver, and your bottles of shower gel and shampoo with a soap and shampoo bars.
- Use soap, baking soda, hydrogen peroxide and vinegar to clean. Many of the cleaning products that exist in the market are mixtures of these three ingredients, they come in plastic containers and cost much more. Most household surfaces can be cleaned and disinfected with soap, baking soda and vinegar. Hydrogen peroxide is ideal for disinfecting in depth, for example, the kitchen’s cleaning rags.
- Identify the single use plastic products in your home and change them for biodegradable or reusable versions. For example, change to compostable bags to collect your pet’s waste.
- Purchase consciously and avoid compulsive purchases. If you are going to buy clothes or shoes, look at the quality, the materials and the country of origin of the garments to avoid consuming fast-fashion products, as these generate very high environmental and social impacts. You can see our tips on sustainable fashion here.