A zero-waste lifestyle is attractive and attainable
The world is starting to wage war on single-use plastic — and with good reason. Recycling has turned out to be problematic, with most of what we throw into the blue box ending up in landfills. Only 9 per cent of all plastic ever produced has been recycled thus far, according to the United Nations Environment Programme, and, by 2050, plastic is predicted to outweigh fish in our oceans unless we take drastic action.
Canadians in particular are some of the world’s worst offenders when it comes to solid waste, throwing away about 2.2 kilograms of garbage per capita per day, according to the latest figures by the World Bank Group. The European Union recently voted to ban single-use plastics, and Canadian jurisdictions are considering it.
But why wait for governments to take action? People in the zero-waste movement observe their own ban, striving for no trash to be sent to landfills, and they say they are richer — both in time and money — because of it.
Adopting this way of life is easier than it’s ever been, with bulk food shops and such grocery stores as Toronto’s Unboxed Market offering “refilling stations” where shoppers can bring their own containers for purchases.
A zero-waste lifestyle takes a bit of effort at first, but there are plenty of advantages, says Bea Johnson, a zero-waste advocate behind Zero Waste Home.
“It’s awesome: You get your time back and my husband calculated that we spend about 40 per cent less as a result.”
Blogger Kathryn Kellogg has been living an almost trash-free life for more than five years. She and her husband accumulate only enough trash every two years to fill a 16-ounce Mason jar. That single jar is filled with such oddities as fruit stickers and bits of tape. They compost virtually every
thing else, which they are able to do because they refuse to bring anything into their home that’s packaged in plastic. Kellogg writes about her lifestyle on her Going Zero Waste blog.
Her philosophy — and Johnson’s — have caught on for many reasons, but one of them is the clean, sparse look of their homes. Cupboards are neatly filled with glass jars. Closets are sparsely filled and rooms are sparkling clean and sun-filled. It’s a way of living that’s attractive and attainable.
Minimalists already have a decluttering mindset. The zero-waste movement takes it a step further by encouraging shopping only for necessities and not bringing anything into the home that doesn’t, in the words of decluttering guru Marie Kondo, “spark joy”.
The problem with Kondo’s approach, according to Johnson, is that she helps people get rid of things but doesn’t have as much advice on how to keep things out of your home in the first place. Enter the zero-waste manifesto, which can be summed up in five simple terms.
THE FIVE RULES OF ZERO WASTE
- Refuse: This is the most important step, because if you bring less into your home to start with, you have less to get rid of.
- Reduce: This involves an initial decluttering and then an incremental reduction in what you have.
- Reuse: This refers to refillable containers that you will reuse. It also refers to things such as clothes, shoes and furnishings that you buy secondhand.
- Recycle: This is step number four for a reason: You should recycle only what you cannot refuse, reduce or reuse first.
- Rot: This is food waste, which should be composted to avoid it going into landfill.
What this means for home decor is investing in furniture instead of replacing it every few years.
Manufacturing furniture is a very energy- and resource-intensive industry, so conscientious consumers buy high-quality pieces that will last a lifetime.
Pam Freedman of The Chesterfield Shop says she has customers who come in and tell her “my grandparents still have a sofa they bought from you.” That’s a testament to their quality, but equally important to Freedman is that her suppliers are fully invested in being sustainable.
“Our manufacturers are sourcing materials responsibly and getting rid of toxic materials so that no off-gassing occurs. They’re also using less packaging and creating less waste, and when we deliver furniture to our customers we take all the packaging away and ensure it’s recycled.”
Luke Greidanus, assistant sales manager at studio b, says that while built-in obsolescence is a big part of the furniture world, his company sources only from companies that manufacture pieces to be passed down from one generation to the next. He mentions such iconic pieces as Vladimir Kagan’s Freeform Sofa and the de Sede DS-600, which have been in production for decades, and are still bought and sold in their original form among collectors and designers.
“Many of the brands we represent are European where environmental standards are much higher. One example is Swedish mattress maker Hastens. They use flax, wool, ethically sourced horsehair and Nordic pine in their products, so they’re not only built from renewable resources, but they’re also fully biodegradable,” Greidanus says.
When you buy furniture as a long-term investment, you win on two fronts.
“If you consider a lifecycle-cost approach, purchasing a piece of furniture that is built to last generations is not only far more environmentally responsible, but more financially sound as well,” Greidanus says.
Advertising feature produced by Globe Content Studio. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved.