A Tiny Zero Waste Primer

November 21, 2015
minimalist, home, clean, simple, chic, modern

You’ve probably heard of Zero Waste. It’s been on the international agenda since the 1970’s, but in the past decade it has become increasingly personal. What does Zero Waste mean, exactly, and where does it fit into your modern, urban lifestyle?

We are happy to say that despite the intimidating name, Zero Waste turns out to be one of the fastest, easiest, most cost-effective ways you can reduce your footprint.

It all starts with prevention.

zero waste, the 5 r's, recycle, reduce, reuse, rot, refuse

The Zero Waste model goes beyond recycling. We all learned about the three “R’s” in grade school, but do you know the five “R’s”? They stand for Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Rot. You should refuse items you don’t need, reduce what you already own, and reuse what you can. You should only recycle when you can’t refuse, reuse, or reduce. Lastly, you should let things rot in a composting system.

This cycle uses few new materials, and any waste returns to the earth as compost, or is otherwise reused or recycled.

You can probably tell that Zero Waste is more of a lifestyle than a concrete target. It asks us to rethink how we live and what we truly value. Making a difference in society is the new American global dream.

That’s all well and good, you’re thinking, but it seems a bit extreme. Can the five “R’s” be compatible with my chic lifestyle?


compost, bin, green, waste, rot, black gold, plant food, garden, zero waste

Not compatible with my chic, urban lifestyle.

Yes they can! Just start by asking yourself these questions:

  1. How much garbage am I currently producing and what kind? This will help you determine where to start reducing.
  2. What do I actually use on a daily basis? This will help you decide what to sell or donate.
  3. What products do I use that can be traded for more sustainable alternatives?

Once you’ve got an idea of what you really need to be happy, check out The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. Ms. Kondo is a charming professional organizer and a delight to read. Her book (available at the library and as an e-book) will help you with an important “R”: reduce.


Marie Kundo, clean, reduce, minimalist, simple, chic, tidy, clean

Even if a completely zero waste lifestyle isn’t in your near future, there are plenty of ways to lessen your impact.

One simple way is to start your own compost bin. Turning your green scraps into plant food is a great way to reuse unwanted food. If you think you don’t have enough space, or that composting is gross and smelly (I won’t blame you), check out the very chic, very green countertop composter we recommended in our Thanksgiving article. Très eco chic!

Make smart purchases from smart companies – MUD denim has an ongoing jeans philosophy that asks customers to “lease” their jeans and send them back later so the material can be reused.

jeans, denim, recycle, lease, green, chic, MUD. Levi's

For the latest news in ultra-chic sustainable fashion, check out Daniel Silverstein’s Zero Waste designs that make one outfit from one entire piece of fabric – with no unused scraps! Silverstein is huge at New York’s fashion week, and you should definitely keep your eye on him if you want to stay ahead of the fashion industry curve.

Get rid of plastic. Plastic is toxic. Donate the nicer things to your local charity shop, recycle the rest, and try not to buy it again. Replace those plastic products with sustainable alternatives like organic cotton and linen, stainless steel, wood, and glass. Just look at these reusable straws! I’ll bet that was the first time you looked at a straw and thought sexy. Well Zero Waste does that to your whole life.

Grocery stores know it; they are increasingly encouraging shoppers to bring their own reusable totes and refillable containers for bulk bins. Your items stay fresher longer, your kitchen looks nicer, and you’re saying no to plastic waste.

Unverpackt, Germany, bulk, grocery, market, bins, clean, reusable, zero waste

The most simple thing to do, with the largest impact, is to pick up one of these awesome reusable tumblers for your daily coffee fix. Just like that you’ve kept at least 300 paper cups a year (or more, let’s be real) out of the landfills. Go you.

Start with the tips in this article, and if you’re itching to learn more, check out Eco-Cycle, one of the largest non-profit, community-based recyclers in the country, and Bea Johnson’s Zero Waste Home blog for more ideas. Si vous parlez français, this blog is also full of sustainable goodness.

And of course, when it’s time for a celebration, contact us at The Eco Chic Event to learn how to make yours sophisticated and sustainable.

Happy greening!

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