Zero Waste Mistakes

Here are the top few green alternatives you need to personally assess, before you hop on the sustainable train

When you begin your zero waste journey, you will be bombarded with millions of tips on the "right" way to do it. This can get overwhelming. But if there's anything I've learnt from changing my habits for the better its this:

Even when you get it right, there will always be a new hard fact you may have to face and re-think your methods.


Keep in mind no part of what I'm saying in this post means to intend that I oppose any of the below sustainable alternatives. The science backs it up and they are all reasonably valid solutions to the current environmental problems. But if you are on a sudden frenzy to change several habits at once, which are commonly touted amongst sustainable lifestyle enthusiasts, you may want to sit down and think how many of these are suitable for you before you fall for the picture perfect image of living a sustainable lifestyle.

Plastic - Glass - Metal

Material Mistake 

Glass and metal itself come with carbon footprint, but they are better than plastic due to its infinitely recyclable nature. Plastic downgrades over time in recycling process and ultimately goes to landfill. Stainless steel products are a durable option with only one time investment required.

But don't be in a hurry to buy into the plastic free aesthetic simply because social media bloggers shows off a pantry full of glass jars.  Zero waste bloggers collect these jars over the years by saving them for reuse whenever they buy an item from a store. If you find yourself unable to maintain glass, opt for metallic alternatives or reuse existing plastic containers.

You don't need to go shopping for glass jars and metal containers just to make your house "look" zero waste. It is way more important to "practice" zero-waste.

In the first year of transitioning to zero waste lifestyle, I still own plenty of large plastic containers at home which I use for storage. I have the option to give them up for recycling and buy glass jars (especially since it is known plastic leaches into the food you store in them), but upon personal understanding of how badly I maintain glass jars, it was decided that for now I'd rather use the plastic containers I already own for as long as possible.

The best way to start your sustainable lifestyle is to USE WHAT YOU HAVE, which brings me to my next point..

Zero Waste Items

Plastic-free paranoia

Phase into your plastic free life organically. Are you using what you have? or have you mindlessly tried to give up on every plastic product in your house without testing the results of alternatives you chose? Quitting disposable plastic is one of the first steps in the zero waste journey, but feeling too paranoid and discarding durable plastic products that you already own is not sustainable. Aim to bring no more of plastic at home. Adjusting to one sustainable alternative at a time is wiser than going on a shopping spree and discovering you didn't actually like the some of the alternatives. There are always several options to chose from while making any plastic free swap, so test them for yourself.
The best thing you can do is REFUSE buying more plastic, Reduce your need for things that come in plastic and in the worst case scenario: clean your plastics and save it. You never know when a plastic collection drive might come in your area. You may even find brands that accept landfill waste for donation for them to convert into utility products.

Bio-plastics or compostable plastics

Many of us believe these bio-degradable plastic substitutes have saved the world just by the virtue of being biodegradable.
While these are derived from plant based materials, yet they behave like plastics, and are still capable of choking animals and organic waste if used.
Many of them do not decompose under natural conditions easily (depends on several climate factors of your region, humid tropical climates are better suited) and require industrial composting in simulated situations.  Also, bio-degradable (breaks down in smaller pieces),  is not the same as compo-stable (turns to humus). Read this article for details.
This major fact is conveniently left out by the manufacturers. It allows people to buy into the green-washing craze and continue their wasteful habits, without understanding this is only a temporary solution in our linear economy, that masks a much bigger problem. The best solution is to always stick to carrying your re-usable items and avoiding the  situation where you would need any kind of plastic at all. Bio-plastic is a great invention, but it is not the saviour in our take-make-dispose world. It still fails to address behaviour change. The lack of public education for terms such as "biodegradable" and "compo-stable" are misused by companies for their convenience. Make sure to give yourself that reality check while using these products.
Almond milk in bottle with nuts on wooden background

Nut milk

Milk substitute is not a "Zero waste" issue, but its important if you are looking to go dairy free to lower your impact on the planet.
This pointer is for those who require milk for everyday consumption. If you have decided to quit dairy products to finally go vegan, congratulation on cutting out a major contributing factor of carbon footprint you create! But pick your vegan milk substitute wisely as crops like almonds and rice are water intensive crops. Yes it may sound better than depending on animal products, but chose low impact vegan milk substitutes such as soy, coconut or oat milk whenever possible.
The best thing you can do would be to reduce your dependency on products requiring milk and make consumption of nut milk infrequent if you can. The protein and nutrients can easily be found in plants and legumes. If you are a tea or coffee addict, try going for black coffee or black tea versions, and stick to using nut milk for special days.

As you read and come across more and more information on the impacts of your habits, it is healthy to question them and chose for yourself "what makes sense".  Do not misunderstand a constructive feedback for a critical backlash.

Living sustainable, much like adulthood, is like giving yourself a software update. No one can do it for you. Being self righteous with limited information, will most likely prove to be detrimental to your growth in a sustainable lifestyle.

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