The term “zero” waste can be so intimidating when you’re embarking on a journey to try to consume better, and less. That’s why today I wanted to talk about the difference between a low-impact lifestyle and a zero waste lifestyle.
Both are, of course, based on a common principle: preserving the earth’s resources by generating less waste, to ensure that the generations ahead enjoy a good quality of life.
What differentiates these two ways of living is the intensity and scope of each movement.
The zero waste lifestyle aspires to generate NO waste at all. This means avoiding anything that is single-use, but also anything that is not compostable, recyclable or reusable. In the zero waste lifestyle, we substitute a lot of single-use products with reusable alternatives. And we aspire to create a circular economy. This lifestyle is governed by a strict set of rules, which includes refusing anything that is not completely zero waste.
The downside: in the society we live in, it is impossible to be 100% zero waste. And in my opinion, the strict lifestyle is not very compatible with family life. The movement can easily become exclusive rather than inclusive, which does not encourage our loved ones to follow in our footsteps… Which is a pity, because those around us can still have a beautiful sensitivity with regard to their way of consuming, without necessarily having gone so far in their eco-friendly journey!
The Low Impact Movement
With a low-impact lifestyle, we aspire to reduce our ecological footprint in a sustainable way. This happens through our life habits, but also our daily actions.
This lifestyle is less restrictive than the zero waste movement, since each action has an impact (positive or negative), but the low-impact lifestyle is not governed by a set of strict rules. It therefore allows you to do your best without feeling like a failure.
A more holistic approach
Personally, I am much more inspired by the low-impact movement, because for me, the key is to seek to consume less and better, while maintaining a life balance that can change according to the different phases of our lives and the needs that arise from them.
Instead of focusing on the total elimination of waste, the low-impact movement allows us to focus on our ecological footprint in a more global way.
Another advantage I see is that when we adopt a low-impact lifestyle, we accumulate victories: each action counts and is part of a global approach to reduce our ecological footprint according to our reality. And in my opinion, the most sustainable changes are those that make us want to celebrate, rather than those that can lead to a feeling of shame, because we could always do better, always do more.
Embracing the low-impact lifestyle
If low-impact living speaks to you, here are a few ways to introduce it in your life (I bet you’re already doing plenty of positive things in your own way!)
Whenever possible, consider buying from your neighbourhood, your region, your country. Products that are made close to home and foods that are grown locally have a lower ecological impact than those that arrive from elsewhere.
Pay Attention to Packaging
Simply by taking note of the type (or even presence) of packaging, we can consume less and better. Glass, for example, is infinitely recyclable. Plastic is not. If you want to know more about the different ways to consume better while grocery shopping, I wrote an article on the subject recently.
Consider the Second-hand Market
Instead of buying everything new, you can find a lot of things on the second-hand market. Furniture, clothes, toys… The list is long! These purchases give new life to items that would otherwise become waste, and limit the manufacture of new products. It is often said that “buying is voting”… Buying second-hand is a great way to show our enthusiasm for recycling!
Prefer reusable alternatives
Depending on your comfort level, you may want to consider trading in some everyday items for reusable alternatives such as handkerchiefs, grocery bags, paper towels, water bottles, makeup remover pads, napkins, feminine hygiene products, diaper wipes, coffee cups, reusable gift wrapping and so much more.
Eat less meat and processed foods
Without eliminating everything that makes us happy on a daily basis, we can consider reducing the amount of meat we eat and preferring fresh foods to processed foods (which are often over-packaged and contain all sorts of ingredients that are not necessarily very good for our health!) It’s a simple thing to do, but it can turn those moments of indulgence into a special occasion, and what’s more, this simple act will have an impact on your budget!
Live With Less
Living more simply makes you more conscious of what you consume or bring home. Getting rid of the excess therefore encourages us to consume better, and less.
Manage Waste Wisely
This is so simple, but can have a huge impact on our ecological footprint. Composting can significantly reduce the amount of waste we generate. We can also recycle many materials—a gesture that gives a second life to a wide range of waste that would otherwise end up in landfills.
Travel or Get Around Strategically
Travel is often a sensitive issue. The important thing is to do the best we can according to our reality.
This can include:
- Buying a used vehicle
- Choosing a fuel-efficient or electric vehicle
- Taking public transit
- Riding a bike
- Travelling locally (for example, to avoid hopping on an airplane)
And so much more.
What kind of lifestyle do you aspire to have?
What are your tips for reducing your ecological footprint in a holistic way? Share your tips with our community by commenting on this article!