Guest article by Christina Manolaki ColibriBiz

What do old people in traditional villages and hipsters of big cities have in common?

They live according to the principle of Zero Waste and avoid garbage wherever possible. Back in the day they just called it differently: saving money and leading a humble life!

What does Zero Waste mean??

As a countermovement to consumerism and plastic mania, many people try to cut back their consumption. After seeing pictures of islands of floating rubbish in the ocean, people started thinking about how to reduce waste in everyday life – soon this turned into a lifestyle. The purpose of Zero Waste is to avoid waste and preserve natural resources.

Some people manage to do so almost completely. But for most of us a close-to-Zero-Waste-lifestyle would be much more realistic – I mean hey, trying to produce less (and less) waste is better than doing nothing.

How does Zero Waste work in daily life?

Bea Johnson has created a rough guideline, namely the 5R’s:

  1. Refuse (e.g. fruit in plastic wrap)
  2. Reduce
  3. Reuse
  4. Recycling
  5. Rot

The sequence is important because obviously it is better not to buy plastic wrapped groceries in the first place than to recycle them afterwards. Not buying a plastic packaging is great, but if you reuse it (instead of throwing it away and to buying a new one later on) you already did something! You get the idea.

Nowadays you can find Zero Waste blogs with good ideas, shops and cafes, which avoid waste as much as possible – but the core idea is actually not a new one.

Zero Waste in the past

There are regions where people in the past - and partly even today - have lived nature-loving and simple lives. You can learn a lot from them in order on how to avoid garbage in everyday life.

Veronika Egger from the company Laimer told me about the people of the Ultental Valley (South Tyrol):

“In the past, farmers practised austerity; therefore they (re)used everything and never threw away anything. From our grandparents we learnt how to reuse different things – for example paper which which was used to wrap something: you’d keep it and reuse it again. For us, it was normal that nothing went to waste and even today it is something self-evident”.

Wood, too, was used optimally for everyday objects according to Veronika. Therefore, Laimer watches are made exclusively from FSC certified wood residues from the furniture industry.

This thought can be deepened and many more things made of raw material can be reused which otherwise would have been destroyed. We don’t need a superabundance of disposable products but fewer, precious possessions which don’t pollute nature as best as possible.

Conclusion

The Zero Waste lifestyle has a lot of supporters because people don’t want to just consume mindlessly anymore. We want to keep an eye on nature and use our resources wisely. This idea is not a new one: in the past, people had to be frugal. A lot of things were not available, too expensive or you had to go to another village or town to get them.

We can apply some of these ideas even in our own lives. Find out how this works in