Zero Waste Living

by Dinali Devasagayam

An important part of living more lightly on this earth is to reduce the use of resources and the amount of items going to landfill.

Nothing in the natural world is wasted. Instead the output from one system goes on to feed another system. For instance a trees that dies, slowly returns to the earth in a process that feeds numerous micro-organisms and provides nutrients for other plants to grow. Sadly humans have created a production system where commodities are designed to be thrown away when we no longer need them. This has resulted in the creation of large waste sites where festering mounds of discarded materials leach toxic chemicals into the surrounding environment and use valuable land space. To see a landfill site in all its ugly stinking mess provides a striking example of why we need to change our system of production and consumption.

Since most of us can go our whole lives without encountering a landfill site we simply discard used items in a bin and forget they ever existed. The prevailing attitude is that rubbish goes to an almost mythical place of “away” where it ceases to be relevant to our life. In the past with smaller human populations and more areas of land that were not being utilised for human activity it was easier to maintain this notion.

The reality is that we can no longer (if we ever could) afford this kind of wasteful thinking. The primitive linear model of production needs to be replaced with more wholistic forms of production. Ones that ensure all components of an item can be fed into the production of another item, or be safely returned to the earth through methods such as composting.

Innovators are already exploring non-linear manufacturing models such as the Cradle to Cradle certification and the Circular Economy concept. If there was a wider awareness and acceptance of the need for zero waste systems of production then, with all our ingenuity, a waste free economy could be achieved.

On a more individual level we can all do our bit by reusing, repairing and making do with less. There are numerous benefits to this way of living. It saves resources, reduces pollution and saves money. I was at the Marion Council’s Common Thread Sustainability Session where I was reminded of a the “Buyerarchy of Needs” diagram that is a neat way of reminding us how to approach life, starting with using what we have and only as a last resort buying goods.

A quick internet search brings up many creative ways in which to reduce waste and make do with what we already have. Any journey begins with one step and the quest to live more lightly on our earth is not different. So start small and see where it takes you. For instance you could try:

  • Sticking a no junk mail sign on your mailbox. You can call the Distribution Standards Board on 1800 676 136 to get a free ‘No Advertising Material’ sticker.

  • Stop using single use plastic items like cling wrap. Bees wax wraps make a great alternative or use containers with lids.

  • Stop using take away coffee cups. Keep Cups and other reusable travel coffee mugs are great if you want coffee on the go. Otherwise slow down and take the time to sit in the cafe and savour the coffee.

Often we can discover handy ways to reduce waste through our conversations. So what are some of your innovations for moving towards a zero waste lifestyle? Share them with us in the comments section below and further the evolving conversation on how to create a more sustainable society.

The Adelaide Sustainability Centre ran a series of demonstrations at WOMAD this year around this topic. Themed as “Zero Waste Life Hacks” they covered a number of facets of daily life from seed saving and composting, DIY home products, how to darn a sock and how to make bricks from bottles. A number of useful resources and links from these WOMAD workshops can be accessed by clicking here. The Adelaide Sustainability Centre regularly runs a number of workshops that are designed to help us learn skills to live more lightly on this planet. Sign up for the newsletter and keep up to date with the latest workshops .

Further resources:

Australian Zero-Waste blogs:

The Adelaide Sustainability Centre is a drop off point for:

  • Hard to recycle products including Oral Care products, Mailing Satchels and Beauty Products through a partnership with TerraCycle Australia.
  • Mobiles and phone accessories through a partnership with Mobile Muster.
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