Zero Waste 101

What is Zero Waste?

The concept of zero waste is straightforward: do not generate any waste. Wait! We hope we haven’t scared you away. Most advocates of zero waste acknowledge that generating absolutely no waste is unreasonable. That’s why most people have a more achievable goal in mind: to get as close to zero as possible. The objective is to do the best that you can with whatever resources you have.

Follow this link for a full definition of zero waste from I Love a Clean San Diego. 

Why Go Zero Waste?

Living a waste free life reduces resource consumption, reduces demand on landfills, reduces plastic pollution and exposure to plastic toxins, and allows you to live more simply.

Reducing Resource Consumption:  Plastic is made from fossil fuel, a finite resource.  Extraction of fossil fuel through mining and drilling can be harmful to the environment. When we reduce our consumption of plastic, we conserve natural resources, reduce environmental impacts, and generate less waste.

Landfill Capacity: Landfills can cause many environmental issues (methane emissions, water pollution, soil pollution, unpleasant smell, aesthetically displeasing, etc.). Eventually we will run out of space in existing landfills and we want to avoid the need to create more.

Plastic Pollution: Humans produce a large amount of plastic because it is inexpensive and durable, however, when it ends up in the environment, plastics require hundreds of years to degrade. When plastic accumulates in the environment, it adversely affects wildlife, habitat, and human health. By refusing to purchase products stored in single-use plastic, you’ll help address our planet’s escalating plastics problem. You’ll also eliminate many toxins from your life, as the chemicals in plastic are known to have adverse health effects.

Living Simply: By only buying or bringing into your home what you need, you’ll also simplify your life. You may find you have more time and money as a result—to do the things that matter.

Principles of Zero Waste – The New and Improved 3 R’s

  1. Refuse what you don’t need.
  2. Reduce what you do use.
  3. Reuse whatever you can.
  4. Recycle what you can’t refuse or reduce.
  5. Rot what remains (compost).

Where Do I Start?

The City of Encinitas provides residents with many resources to reduce waste. With the help of the Solana Center for Environmental Innovation, the city provides subsidized compost bins to all residents. The city hosts sustainability workshops with the Solana Center and I Love a Clean San Diego to educate residents on reducing waste. Lastly, the city frequently provides zero waste tips on social media and through its monthly sustainability newsletter. Click here to see the City’s Facebook and Instagram feeds. Click here to subscribe to the monthly sustainability newsletter.

Beyond what the city provides, there are many other local resources:

The Nada Shop located in Encinitas, offers many products to help you reduce waste. The shop is also a “refillery” where you can fill your own containers with things from shampoo and face-wash, to all-purpose cleaner.

These local grocery stores offer bulk shopping, where you can fill your own containers with food items: Smart and Final, Lazy Acres, and Sprouts (bulk shopping is currently suspended due to COVID). Local farmers’ markets are another great way to buy produce with little-to-no packaging.

Encinitas community member Marina Qutab, also known as “Eco Goddess”, is a well known zero waste life-style blogger. Explore her website or YouTube channel to learn about how she lives waste free.

The local non-profit ProduceGood strives for zero waste by recovering food that would otherwise be thrown away. Check out their website to learn more or sign up to volunteer.

Many Encinitas restaurants have received Surfrider’s Ocean Friendly Restaurant certification, demonstrating their efforts to reduce single-use plastics. See the list for North County San Diego restaurants with the certification here.

Easy Zero Waste Swaps

The key to starting a zero-waste lifestyle is taking small steps to change old habits. You can do it! Take the leap and begin reducing your waste footprint. 

Here are a few simple swaps to begin reducing waste in your life:

We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly.” Anne Marie Bonneau, Zero Waste Chef 

The following piece contains information from: National GeographicI Love a Clean San Diego, and Harvard Health