The Advantages & Disadvantages of Zero-Waste Living

Olive oil soap, lime, and soda

You’ve likely already heard of zero-waste living. Zero-waste is supposed to be a sustainable practice that is part of a green living routine. The idea is that you are contributing no waste while purchasing and consuming items. That means you are going out of your way to purchase items that don’t have packaging, or are in packaging that can be reused over and over again. But with anything, there are pros and cons to zero-waste living. Here are just a few:

Pro: Zero-waste living will leave less impact on the environment

Of course, you likely already know this! Without packaging to dispose of, we will have so much less plastic and cardboard filling up our landfills and getting into our oceans, disturbing our wildlife. If everyone went nearly zero-waste today, imagine how many trips to the dump you would save, and how much less waste would live in town landfills.

Con: Zero-waste products can be hard to find

It’s true. Finding products that aren’t included in single use plastics or other disposable packing materials can be very difficult. Think about when you go to the produce aisle at the grocery store and pick up a few potatoes. Do you instinctually grab for a plastic bag? Produce is one of the few items you can find in a grocery store that usually comes with very little packaging at all, so foregoing the plastic bag for your two potatoes is a good way to toe-zip into zero-waste living.

Pro: Zero-waste exposes you to less chemicals than traditional methods

In a zero-waste lifestyle, people are often encouraged to bypass anything plastic, even if it can be reused. Zero-waste often promotes the use of glass, metals, ceramics, and biodegradable materials over plastics, since plastics can contain BPA compounds likely to harm you over time. 

Con: Zero-waste products can be more expensive (and cost you more in general)

Items without packaging often are more specialty and more expensive than the items that come in the package. Consider, for example, olive oil. Many of us have seen the olive oil dispensers at a grocery store, where you purchase a glass bottle once, then just pay for the refills any time you refill it. This specialty item can cost a dollar to two dollars more than just buying the plastic bottle of olive oil off of the shelf.

In addition to this, to really adhere to a zero-waste lifestyle, you may be making trips to multiple places to find zero-waste alternatives, which may increase fuel expenses and also take up more of your time.

Pro: Zero-waste promotes more thoughtful shopping habits

When shopping with zero-waste in mind, you may be wondering – do I really need this? Are there other options available, perhaps even second-hand? How long will this last, and how quickly will I need to replace it? When asking these questions of yourself while shopping, you may be able to save money and reduce impulse buying, as well as help leave no trace behind.

Con: Zero-waste can be hard, especially for a larger household

When living in a household with multiple people, it can be hard to follow a strict zero-waste lifestyle. Still, don’t beat yourself up over it. A partial zero-waste household is better than one that ignores the principles of zero-waste entirely. Even if you can’t always make the zero-waste choice every time, being mindful while shopping and making the zero-waste choice when it’s available is important.

The takeaway is that zero-waste living has far more beneficial pros than cons, but most of the cons center around the fact that we’ve grown so accustomed to single-use plastics and packaging for everything. Together, if we push towards zero-waste living as the new norm, prices will come down and availability will increase, which means leaving no trace and living a healthier lifestyle will be easier.

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