It’s no doubt that living a zero waste and generally low impact lifestyle greatly benefits the environment. If you create less waste, you’re demanding less resources, helping to curb plastic pollution, and are making an effort to avert the climate crisis. What most people don’t think of is how this lifestyle benefits more than just the environment- it benefits our economy and our communities, too.
Integrating zero waste principles into businesses and local economies means resources are recirculated throughout the economy rather than being used once and then disposed of. This recirculation component leads to the creation of green jobs- benefiting both local communities and economies. A case study in Ontario, Canada showed that the recycling, composting, and diversion programs that are integrated into a zero waste economy generate 10 times more jobs than a generic landfill system. This isn’t just the case for Canada- a study conducted in Europe said that 500,000 jobs could be created if countries upped their recycling rate to 70%, and a study in the U.S. showed similar results, saying that 1.1 million jobs could be created if the country upped their recycling rate to 75%. The jobs that recycling creates are also well-paying and have a low barrier to entry, making the work accessible to all.
Businesses could save a lot of money by integrating zero waste principles into their frameworks. Companies who reduce their waste decrease their need for resources and energy, which in turn saves them money, all while helping the environment. One hospital put this sentiment to the test, and ended up saving $5.6 million. When businesses save money on resource and energy consumption, they can put more money towards research and development, job creation, and charity- which ultimately goes to helping the greater good.
The greater good is also benefited when zero waste principles are used to reduce food waste. A large part of food waste reduction frameworks is getting restaurants, grocery stores, and community members to donate food (that they would otherwise throw away) to food banks. Not only is this extremely effective in reducing waste, but it also allows food banks to help more community members in need. In the U.S., nearly half of the food in the U.S. goes to waste, and millions go hungry everyday. One non-profit, Feeding America, utilized the zero waste principle of food rescue to help combat both of these issues- and it worked. They recovered 3.5 billion pounds of food, and it all went to directly to feed those in need.
Going zero waste also helps spur the economy of local communities. When you go zero waste, you’re going to increase your reliance on local artisans and farmers to supply you with sustainably made products and produce. By buying local, you’re spurring your local economy and supporting fellow community members rather than large, polluting corporations. This practice of supporting local has been shown to be more beneficial for the overall economy than supporting large corporations. Buying food locally has also been proven to increase community health and create a safer food supply chain, all while benefiting the environment.
Overall, the heart of the zero waste movement is in environmental protection and sustainability, but the benefits spill over into almost all facets of life. The economy, local communities, and those in need are all benefited when zero waste principles are utilized by businesses, governments, and individuals alike.
How has going zero waste benefited your life?
Is the blog manager for Zero Waste Club, combining her love for writing with her passion for all things environmental sustainability. She is currently a student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she is studying journalism, environmental studies, and food studies in hopes of building a career in environmental activism. You can find her on Instagram as @kaylaguilliams.