In the last few years, there has been an explosion of interest in zero waste and minimalist living. Both movements encourage people to think about how their consumption habits can have a negligible or even positive impact on the environment.
With this increased awareness of the climate and environmental issues comes a heightened awareness of other related movements such as ethical fashion, or, avoiding “fast fashion”.
Zero waste is not really a trend so much as it is often just an extension of these ideas, which are becoming more popular than ever. We’ll discuss why zero waste is trending, and whether it’s popularity will last.
What is a Zero Waste Lifestyle?
A zero waste lifestyle is one of conscious consumption in which all materials are reused, repaired, composted and and at the end of its life recycled.
People who live a zero waste lifestyle try to minimise the amount of waste that they produce by choosing items that can be reused. For example, someone who is living a zero waste lifestyle might buy a reusable water bottle to carry around rather than buying a new bottle of water every day.
People who follow the zero waste movement also make an effort to reduce their carbon footprint by buying eco-friendly products and locally sourced food. The exact details of a zero waste lifestyle will depend on the individual, but the general idea is that people aim to reduce their environmental impact by living with less stuff.
Is Zero Waste the Same as Minimalist Living?
The concept of a zero waste lifestyle is similar to the minimalist movement, which encourages people to get rid of the things that they don’t need in order to have a more minimal and tidy lifestyle.
The main difference is that minimalism is focused on getting rid of things, whilst a zero waste lifestyle is focused on avoiding creating waste.
Why Are People Becoming More Interested in Zero Waste?
As the population grows, so does the amount of waste that humans produce. This is a major concern for environmentalists because landfills can release harmful chemicals into the atmosphere and oceans.
Figures are showing that concern for the environment is growing: a global survey found that 58% say their government is doing too little to address climate change.
A further 78% of UK adults have taken steps to reduce their use of single-use plastics showing that people are taking action themselves.
So surveys are showing a trend towards more sustainable beliefs, which in turn has led to more people engaging with the zero waste lifestyle.
Lots of the zero waste lifestyle methods are also very simple for people change to: for example switching to a reusable coffee cup or buying loose fruit and vegetables.
Climate change influencers and social media has also helped to increase the sentiment around sustainability for younger generations. A global study showed that younger generations are more likely to feel ashamed about living lifestyles that are not environmentally friendly, compared to older demographics.
Are There disadvantages to the Zero Waste Movement?
While the zero waste movement is overall a positive and important one, it is not without its drawbacks. Firstly, it’s probably impossible to live completely waste free, or at the least extremely challenging. So being ‘zero waste’ is more of a concept rather than a reality.
Many people who adopt a zero waste lifestyle may be overly extreme in their approach. This can be problematic because it can cause people to feel anxious about their effort to reduce waste. Not everybody is able to change their lifestyle as much as others can.
Drastically reducing your waste requires a lot of changes to your habits, including where you shop, what you eat and even how much money and time you spend on certain things. So being zero waste isn’t necessarily convenient.
We’ve written more about our thoughts about the disadvantages of a zero waste lifestyle, and why it shouldn’t put you off.
Will the Zero Waste Trend Fizzle Out?
Worldwide searches within the ‘zero waste’ topic on Google Trends since 2004 has risen rapidly in recent years.
It is unclear if the zero waste trend will fade. But, given the recent rise in popularity of environmentally friendly lifestyles, and the global challenges of waste it’s unlikely that the zero waste movement will lose traction.