A way in which I or anyone can impact climate change is to change our everyday behaviors. I am talking about gradually adopting a zero-waste form of life. Zero-waste can be achieved with a circular economy in which things are designed not to produce waste as an end product. It is about being intentional about the things we buy and do. The “we” touches on various levels of organization: the individual, communities, governments, and businesses.
Our economy today may be called linear since products are generally produced, consumed, and then thrown out with an end product called waste. This linear economy has existed along with overconsumption since the 1950s and it is expanding. Changing this established economic structure requires a multi-directional approach as complex as our current consumption systems. It requires governments, manufacturers, businesses, and individuals to provide resources and take responsibility for proper materials management. Furthermore, creating more sustainable products and developing a zero-waste culture will require research and collaboration by behavioral scientists, designers, marketers, and other professionals.
On an individual level, popular zero-waste public personas such as Lauren Singer and Bea Johnson promote slowly incorporating zero-waste habits into your life. For example, instead of purchasing a new bottle of face wash when you run out, make it yourself. Embracing do it yourself (DIY) means an individual is producing their products as needed allowing for the reduction of consumption. Producing our own products also means that we are able to choose what goes into our products. There is a vast list of chemicals in hygiene, cleaning, and beauty products that may have adverse effects on our health and the environment. For example phthalates, a group of chemicals found in beauty and cleaning products, have been found to be endocrine-disrupting. Producing our own products would allow us to become more educated about what our products contain and, consequently, reduce consumption of toxics and environmental pollution.
Many more actions are required for an individual to completely switch to a zero-waste lifestyle. Yet, these actions need governmental and business level action. On the governmental level, funds must be allocated to provide the infrastructure for practices such as recycling and composting to occur. Furthermore, inequalities such as accessibility of food markets must be faced and addressed. Businesses and manufacturers need to take on the responsibility to design and produce products that can be easily recycled or reused. Zero-waste is a complex goal to achieve but it can begin with changes at the community or individual level.