What is zero waste?

 

You might be hearing this phrase a lot lately – zero waste.  

But what is zero waste?

I’m going to give you a quick and easy overview of zero waste.  So let’s go!

 

In simplest terms, zero waste is about not sending anything to the landfill or creating any trash.

On a deeper level, zero waste is the idea of keeping our resources in circulation and in use; reducing or eliminating the need for landfills, and is one result of a circular economy (an economy where products are designed to stay within a cycle of use and reuse).  In a circular economy, each phase of a product’s life is connected to another, and disposal in a landfill is avoided. So zero waste is actually a key piece of a new way of thinking about the resources that we use to sustain ourselves.

 

We all know that there are a limited number of resources to support us humans and other creatures and plants on Earth.  Zero waste and the circular economy are connected ideas of truly valuing those resources and planning for the use and reuse of those resources.  Zero waste is a concept that applies to all the things we interact with our lives, from our roads and buildings to our breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

 

In a perfect world, zero waste would look like this: any product that is created (and a product includes everything from the walls of your house to your breakfast cereal) starts with sustainable and renewable raw and/or recycled materials.  The manufacturing of that product results in no waste. The product is delivered without waste (e.g., transportation powered by renewable energy). The product is used and is either completely used up (e.g., breakfast cereal is completely eaten without any waste) or is used until it needs to be repaired, in which case it is repaired. Or, the product is used completely and can no longer be used again, in which case it’s collected and remanufactured back into that product, or into another valuable product, that enters this process and stays in the circular economy.  

 

Here’s a way to visualize a circular economy with zero waste.

Zero waste as part of a circular economy

Zero waste in practice doesn’t look like that, because we don’t have a circular economy.  So in practice, as a individual, zero waste is about making the best choices possible to minimize waste and support sustainable practices.  As an individual, zero waste looks like this:

Zero waste as an individual

As an individual, we can take steps to do our best to reduce waste and live more sustainably.  The first step is to refuse – say no to those things that you don’t truly need. For some zero wasters, this includes refusing all gifts and freebies.  In theory, refusing will result in much less waste and can be applied most broadly to all areas of your life.

 

The second step is to reduce what you consume.  This goes for all areas of your life – the size of your home, clothing, beauty products, etc.  It also applies to things like air and car travel – these also have huge impacts on the planet.  The less we consume in general, the less waste we create. Some zero wasters strive for a minimalist lifestyle.  Living closer to minimalism reduces the things you bring into your home and life and, as a result, the trash that you create.

 

The third step is to reuse.  How can you reuse things in your life?  Rather than tossing something, repurpose it.  For example, clothes that can’t be mended could be turned into rags.  A broken shelf is repurposed into something else functional. A jar that held your jam is reused to hold leftovers.  

 

The fourth step is to recycle.  This should apply to fewer things in your life because recycling is not a great solution to reducing waste.  In fact, much of what we send to our local recycling plants doesn’t actually get recycled. In a circular economy, recycling would be even more effective.  But as things stand today in 2018, recycling is a smaller piece of living sustainably, relative to refusing, reducing, and reusing.

 

The last step is to allow things to rot.  Anything that is compostable should be composted once it reaches the end of its life, but again this should happen only after refusing, reducing, reusing, and recycling.  Although compost is important for healthy soils, it’s more important to preserve our resources and keep them in use, rather than dispose of them as compost.

 

If you are new to composting, search around for tips and resources.  Anyone with a space for a small bin can start to compost, even without an outdoor space.  Local cities and communities might have compost pick-up available. And anything that is made of 100% natural materials and has not been heavily processed in a way to change its composition can be composted at home.  Things like bioplastics and bamboo rayon come from plants but have been heavily processed – they cannot be composted at home but there may be recycling options near you. Other things like cotton fabric, paper plates, food scraps, wood scraps, etc. can be composted at home.

 

To summarize, going for zero waste as an individual means: 

  1. Refuse

  2. Reduce

  3. Reuse

  4. Recycle

  5. Rot

 

So there you have it – an introduction to zero waste at both the large scale and individual level.  Where are you at on your zero waste journey? And what’s been hardest for you? Share in the comments below!

 

Thanks for reading,

Liz

My 4 favorite easy homemade zero waste snacks.

 

I LOVE to have snacks around the house for me, for my kiddos, and for their friends that come over to play.  Snacks are the best! H-anger, be gone!

 

But it can be hard to find snacks that aren’t packaged in plastic.  Like crackers. I miss buying crackers. Ya feel me?

 

So I’ve slowly built up a little repertoire of easy homemade zero waste snacks I can whip up when needed to feed me and any hungry pint-sizers.  And today I’m sharing my 5 favorites!

 

These are amazing because they are:

  1. KID FRIENDLY!
  2. EASY!
  3. VEGAN!
  4. GLUTEN FREE!

And

  1. DELICIOUS!

 

So let’s get started!  

Here are my 4 favorite easy homemade zero waste snacks.

 

  1.  Cashew cheese on ANYTHING! (carrots, sweet peppers, celery, cauliflower, bagels, bread, tortilla chips, etc etc.)

 

I got this recipe from Minimalist Baker and make it ALL.THE.TIME.  The awesome thing about it is that it only takes about 10 minutes to make it.  No nut soaking required. And you can make it on any blender or food processor – no fancy or powerful equipment required.  AND it works great even if you don’t have all the ingredients – just use what you have.

 

The way I make it, it comes out like a thick spread.  You can also add hot water to make it more saucy and dip-like.  But the spread is great for a quick snack with ANYTHING.

 

So here it is:  

 

Easy Vegan Cashew Cheese (adapted from Minimalist Bakers Easy Vegan Mexican Cashew Cheese):

 

Ingredients:

1 ½ cup raw cashews (I get these in bulk and keep them in my freezer)

3 T nutritional yeast (or less, if you realize last minute you’re almost out of it!)

½ tsp salt

¼ tsp garlic powder (or none – I never have this stuff on hand)

½ tsp cumin

1 pinch chili powder

1 chipolte in adobo or any salsa or hot sauce you have on hand

1 T olive oil or more for blending (if you don’t have a super powerful blender)

Optional: water to help blend (I ALWAYS have to add a little water to get it blended because we don’t have a super fancy blender)

 

Instructions:

Put it all in a blender and blend it up!  Ta-da! Done! And sooo good.

 

Like I said, this stuff is great with sooo many things.  And it keeps pretty well in the fridge too.

 

  1.  Nut butter energy balls
Yummy nut butter balls!

These are SO yummy and filling and satisfying.  Bonus: they also satisfy your sweet tooth! These are probably the most involved to make of all of these easy snacks, but you can definitely whip up a dozen of these in about 10 minutes.  You can also customize these to your liking and swap out or cut out some ingredients.

 

This is also based on a Minimalist Baker recipe.  What can I say, I love her food!

 

Ingredients:

About 1 cup dates (a mix of raisins and dried apricots work too if you don’t have dates!)

3 T nut butter (peanut, almond, or other)

¼ c chocolate chips or chopped chocolate

1 T chia seeds (or your favorite seeds)

⅔ c gluten free oats (or whatever oats you have)

Optional: shredded coconut, maple syrup or honey

 

Instructions:

Blend the dates or other dried fruit into small bits.

Add everything else and pulse it together.

Roll it into balls as big or small as you like.  

Optional: roll the balls in shredded coconut.

Optional: put them in the fridge to set, or just start eating them!

 

So good.  Totally worth the 15 minutes to make them.

 

  1. Roasted chickpeas
Delicious roasted chickpeas!

Okay, these are super fast to prep!  But do you need to have some chickpeas on hand.  We cook a big pot of chickpeas about every other week.  Sometimes we freeze some, but usually we eat them up pretty fast.  I love to make bean salads with them, and we also do a lot of chana masalas and soups.  Gotta love the chickpea – such a flexible little bean.  So, if you don’t already, this might be another staple to add to your fridge.

 

And here’s the recipe for easy, no fuss roasted chickpeas:

 

Ingredients:

Chickpeas (however many you want to make)

Olive oil

Salt

Pepper

Any other spices you want to add

 

Instructions:

Pre-heat oven to 400 or 425 F (depending on how hot your oven gets).

Put your chickpeas on a clean dish towel and roll them around to dry them out.

Spread them onto a baking sheet, making sure they aren’t too crowded.  

Drizzle them with olive oil, and add salt, pepper, and any other spices.

Toss them around a little on the sheet so the seasoning spreads around.

Bake them for 15-30 minutes, depending on how crunchy you like them.

*Note that you will want to stir them around a couple times while they bake.

 

These are SO good.  I’ll eat them on their own or add them to a salad.  Yum yum.

 

  1. POPCORN!

This is my all time favorite easy homemade zero waste snack.  Hands down. I probably eat popcorn about 3 times a week. Seriously.  I love it. Kids love it too.  Duh.

 

I make sure to have popcorn kernels on hand ALL of the time.  For me, the easiest way to pop it is with an air popper, which you can probably find at a thrift store.  I like to then drizzle olive oil, nutritional yeast, and salt on it. SO GOOD!

Popcorn is THE BEST!

You can also pop it on the stove in coconut oil – also delicious!  You have to keep a close eye on it, though, and constantly shake your pot as it pops.  It might also take you a few tries to figure out the best heat to pop it at – sometimes I have lots of leftover kernels when I pop this way, sometimes they burn.  I definitely haven’t mastered this technique, but it sure turns out tasty!

 

Another easy popping technique is with a paper bag in the microwave.  You can reuse the bag a few times. Add the seasoning after you pop it.  Yum and easy!

 

So there you have it – my 4 favorite easy homemade zero waste snacks.  Do you make some of these too? Or do you have some favorites of your own?  Let me know in the comments! I love hearing from you.

 

Thanks for reading!

Liz