Zero waste is a philosophy advocating for the indefinite cyclical reuse of materials and resources, often in a way that mimics how resources are reused in nature (e.g. composting). The idea of zero waste has been around for a while, since the 1970s, but has recently been adopted as an individual lifestyle, thanks in large part to Bea Johnson of Zero Waste Home. The goal of a zero waste lifestyle is to produce zero waste.
However, “waste” is rather ambiguous in this context. It can refer to garbage sent to the landfill, or garbage and recycling, or sometimes garbage and recycling and compost.
Additionally, I don’t like the phrase “zero waste”. It’s unreachable, depending on how waste is defined, and thus misleading. And it encourages perfectionism, which is exclusionary and off-putting. I prefer to talk about “waste reduction” or a “low waste” lifestyle, which everyone can adopt to some extent.
So the question becomes:
Why would anyone want to adopt a low-waste lifestyle?
It can seem really daunting to try to reduce the amount of waste you produce. The extremes are so extreme: hoarders at one end, and the (unreachable) goal of zero waste at the other. Instead of trying to be perfect right from the beginning, make small changes that will have a big impact in your life! You’ll likely find that a majority of your trash is generated from just a few activities; if you can reduce the waste associated with those activities, your overall trash production will go down a lot!
I recently finished Garbology by Edward Humes. Basically, it talks about some interesting stuff, but has problems staying on topic. The book jumps back and forth as if it forgot to add some important detail before. The different sections don’t connect well and don’t build on each other. The author never really reaches a conclusion (what are we supposed to do about this problem?).
Additionally, the author doesn’t use that many citations (certainly much fewer than I expected, considering how many claims he makes), and I saw one incorrect statistic which made me doubt the veracity of the others.
I recently finished Zero Waste Home by Bea Johnson, of zerowastehome.com. This is a book about reducing the amount of waste you produce. It was much more useful to me than Plastic Purge was. The author comes off as extreme, but in ways that are refreshing and helpful to people who are already very into sustainable living.
I recently finished Plastic Purge by Michael SanClements. The end goal of the book, as suggested by the title, is to help you reduce the amount of plastic in your life. But on the way, there is a bunch of other information: the history of plastics, plastic recycling, types of plastic, etc.