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Eco-Friendly Living and Loving it: The Zero waste Trend

Zero-waste packaging

Zero-waste way of living has taken the world by storm. Terms like biodegradable, plastic-free, plant-based, compostable and reusable seem to pop up from everywhere. Stores have already started selling products with no plastic wrapping. The number of people who opt for reusable plates, cups and cutlery is increasing every day.

Drew Barrymore and Jamie Oliver are just a few of many celebrities who have adopted green living. They are practicing and publicly supporting a sustainable lifestyle both in their own homes and around the world. Some of them have even extended this newly acquired passion and turned it into a business.  

People all around the world have decided to go plastic-free, whether it was because of financial, health or other reasons. So what is this fuss all about? Let’s find out why this trend is happening right now, and more importantly, is it here to stay?

Wait, is there really a difference between biodegradable and compostable?

Many stores sell their products by claiming their packaging is made out of environmentally-friendly, i.e. “biodegradable” and “compostable” materials. However, it’s essential to make a distinction between these two terms and their impact on the environment. It could come in handy before making a decision of buying a certain product.

  • Biodegradable: if a product or its packaging is biodegradable, it means that its materials must break down and completely decompose. After serving its purpose, the process of decomposing usually lasts less than a year. Its main goal is reducing the amount of waste build up, which would lead to life in a healthier environment. Be careful though, most plastics are not biodegradable which means that after disposal they will “accessorise” our planet for decades.
  • Compostable: the ability to return to the earth safely makes these materials very similar to biodegradable materials. However, there is something that puts these materials one step ahead. Their ability to break down and feed the soil with nutrients. A very important thing is the place and conditions under which these materials break down. Whereas biodegradable materials can decompose within landfills, compostable materials can only break down due to very special conditions. They are added to compost piles and decomposed under the influence of wind, sunlight and a few other factors

Is the situation really that critical?

A recent research found out that about 150,000 tonnes of plastic end up only into European waters yearly. If this continues, by 2050 there would be more plastic than fish in the oceans.

That is why the European Parliament has decided to vote for a complete ban regarding single-use plastics across the union. The European Union proposed a ban in May 2018, and here is a list of the the banned plastic items:

  • Cutlery and plates, especially those for single-use
  •  Cotton buds
  •  Straws and drink stirrers
  • Balloon sticks

summer cocktails with reusable straws
Source: Unsplash

MEPs also addressed the issue of using drink containers such as plastic cups and single-use plastic for food. They are optimistic the measure will go into effect by 2021.

Is there anything we can do?

There are many ways to contribute to a healthier, safer and cleaner environment. Many stores already offer eco-friendly alternatives which we can adopt in our everyday routines without noticing that something has changed. What is more, it will probably provide a feeling of having a fair share in protecting our planet.

Choose products made out of biodegradable or compostable packaging

Many stores offer a colourful spectre of options. Some of them are biodegradable plates and cutlery. Imagine a reusable coffee cup that breaks down in boiling hot water and is thrown away with compost. Or straws that you can use as long as you want without the fear of rotting or molding? Forget about purchasing polluting and toxic plastic cups and straws. You see,bamboo cups and straws are the new trend, and as it seems, they are here to stay.

Some coffee shops even encourage their customers to bring their own reusable coffee cup. You are probably wondering why bamboo? The answer is simple – bamboo can be cultivated without fertilisers and dangerous chemicals. Besides, once it is cut, the plant continues to grow. This helps to avoid deforestation in the areas where it is produced.

Bring your own bag to the store

Why not consider investing in your own reusable bag? Besides being more environmentally-friendly, think about how bringing your own bag to the store can save you money. What is more, these bags might serve multiple purposes, such as carrying your work supplies or even laundry. They are much stronger than ordinary grocery bags, and definitely more durable.

Switch to “naked” products

Various new and some already-existing famous brands offer packaging-free alternatives. The reason for this is reducing plastic waste in the industries. Today, you can find many beauty products that take the shape of a soap. These also include those which come as liquid, such as shampoos and shower gels. Have you ever imagined being able to buy a toothpaste in the shape of a small pill? Ladies and gentlemen, that day has arrived. Hair care, skin care, shower gels, you name it, are already available without packaging in stores.

Try refilling

Some stores offer their customers the option to refill some of their liquid products. There is an alternative to buying a new bottle of shampoo, shower gel or perfume once they are empty. You can simply go to certain stores and get a refill.

Should we blindly follow the zero-waste trend?

Switching to a more eco-friendly lifestyle can be pretty challenging, so some might wonder if it’s really worth it. Even though many people have opted for greener alternatives, there are still some downsides to following the zero-waste trend:

  • Products, such as cutlery, cups and plates made from biodegradable and compostable materials will most certainly not last as long as their recyclable equivalent made of hardened glass or stainless steel. However, if treated according to instructions, they can serve their purpose for years
eco friendly disposable cutlery
Source: JoJoGreens
  • Many compostable and biodegradable products we buy actually come wrapped in plastic.
  • Corn is the basis of some of the compostable cutlery. The thing is, sometimes corn isn’t organic and farmers usually grow it with pesticides. In the end, an enormous area of irreplaceable agricultural ends up used to create something that in no time will just get thrown away.
  • Reusable bags usually contain polyester, polypropylene and nylon in their fabrics. At the same time, these materials are the hardest to dispose of. Besides, it is much more difficult for them to find their way to the recycling facilities as opposed to plastic, glass, paper and aluminium. Luckily for us, they last longer, so if you decide to live a plastic-free life, you won’t have to worry about ditching them for a few years.
  • Pay attention to manufacturers’ instructions on the bottom of your biodegradable and compostable goods – not all of them are dishwasher safe.

It’s time to cross out plastic straws and cups from your party shopping list!

There are two golden rules to living an eco-friendly, zero waste lifestyle: unburdening yourself from unnecessary things and planning ahead. Even though being “green conscious” has mostly been promoted by celebrities, living sustainable lives isn’t just for them. There is something we can do, starting today. We can support their green initiatives and make sure we do our part for the environment. Most of all, we should do it for ourselves and our families. After all, realising that we are progressively changing and becoming more environmentally aware can be a truly rewarding experience.

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