We live in a world filled with single-use convenience, from personal care products to food wrapped in plastic and fast fashion habits. In addition to the waste issue, pollution levels, as well as the damage done to the environment, have become a significant concern.
It is impacting all of us. Independently of where we live.
This article intends to shed light on how the Zero Waste and Vegan communities can work towards the same goal: make the world a safer, healthier, eco-friendlier place.
Can You Be Zero Waste And Not Vegan?
Let’s first clarify the differences between the two:
- Zero Waste primarily focuses on waste reduction: refuse and reduce what you do not need, reuse as long as possible, recycle whenever feasible. Composting is also part of the solution. And, avoiding single-use packaging (often plastic-made) is also crucial for any Zero-Waster.
- Vegans are driven by ethics to avoid all animal products, including derived products such as dairy, honey, and the like in their diet and bathroom products. The underlying reasons might vary, but typically they aim at protecting animals from any type of physical and mental suffering (including experimentation such as clinical trials). Moreover, they believe in the health benefits of veganism (e.g., no hormones as in conventional farming methods). Lastly, it also has a positive effect on the planet.
Additionally, several studies have shown that the environmental impact of animal agriculture is high, and is often labeled as a water-intensive process. Animal products need more resources and usually cause higher greenhouse gas emissions compared to plant-based products.
For example, you need 43 times more water to produce one kilogram of beef versus one kilogram of cereal grain.
Another striking example highlights the direct link between greenhouse gas emissions triggered by animal agriculture and climate change: it contributes to 65% of the world’s nitrous oxide emissions, around 35 to 40% of methane emissions, but also 9% of carbon dioxide emissions. And, these chemicals have been identified as the three principal greenhouse gasses involved in climate change!
Nevertheless, we believe this is where Zero Waste and Veganism meet:
- Both communities believe it is high time we all did our part for the planet, and therefore preserve the environment from further damage. This can be done through different actions and choices, such as banning plastic bags or eating beef, depending on your principles (more on these below).
- They have a different focus but are complimentary. Indeed, you can be a Vegetarian Zero Waster, which has a positive impact on creating a more sustainable lifestyle. In the same vein, you can be a Low Waste Vegan; you often manage to reduce Waste but not necessarily eradicate it.
So yes, you can be Zero Waste and not necessarily Vegan, and vice versa. Hence, you can be Zero Waste and eat meat or dairy from time to time.
All together, we can trigger a shift in the industry! Our choices matter, our behaviors matter.
Every time we do not eat or buy a product that is not sustainably sourced, we send a strong message.
Become part of something bigger, and let every single one of us contribute to a no plastic, animals friendly planet.
Let’s now have a look in more detail on how, as vegans, you can start a Zero Waste home.
Veganism and Zero Waste have different focus and areas of action. However, they are complementary in protecting the environment from further pollution.
How Can I Be Vegan And Zero Waste?
Great news: a vegan lifestyle is compatible with personal care products coming in sustainable packaging!
At Puratium, we reflected on each of the many alternatives for your bathroom.
These are environmentally friendly products and cruelty-free guaranteed.
We did a 360 review on each brand, analyzing their ethics, lists of ingredients, taking into account if organic or vegan. And check whether the price/quality ratio is satisfactory.
They all tick the boxes of a low waste approach: either with no packaging (the best of all options i.e., Zero Waste), or with containers that are either refillable or made from recycled materials.
Moreover, bear in mind that we mainly recommend organic, plant-based, and palm oil-free skin care.
Meal Planning is crucial to be able to apply Zero Waste Cooking principles in your day-to-day.
Buying in bulk, locally whenever feasible, is another essential reflex to adopt in your weekly organization of meals.
We have built a detailed guideline on the importance of planning here. However, many other vital habits will allow you to reduce waste significantly. To name a few:
- Packaging And Groceries: single-use plastic bags are to be avoided at all costs. If we do not modify our habits, there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050! Reusable bags and washable containers are the new stylish accessories to bring when doing groceries.
- Zero Waste Pantry: a minimalist pantry is more than a few mason jars—no need to buy them for the sole purpose of having similar pots that look nice and trendy. Instead, buy food in containers that may easily be reused (such as tomato sauce or yogurt in glass jars). Think about it: jars can be reused for cereals, pasta, or different types of liquids. You can even freeze mason jars!
- Healthy Vegan Snacks: food-wise, it requires limited effort to find Zero Waste recipes and snacks that do no use any meat or other animal products. As described in several articles on our blog, it has become increasingly popular to find ingredients in bulk that are in line with veganism: nuts, legumes and seeds, pasta and rice, unpacked fruits and vegetables, oils, or ciders (bring your bottle!), etc.
Here are a few of our best tips on how you can make smart choices for your wardrobe.
- Second-Hand Clothing: Try to be brave enough and keep around 25 to 30 pieces of clothes. Clothes that you adore and genuinely feel comfortable in! A minimalist wardrobe will make you happier in the long term; no more hesitation in the morning! And, clothes of higher quality will help you towards a sustainably designed bedroom. Whenever you (really) need a new piece of clothing, buy second-hand items. Websites like Thredup are an ideal start if you are unsure of how to kick off. More information on how to shop on this post here.
- Eco-friendly Fashion And Materials: As you probably know, fast fashion is a disaster for our planet. Search for brands that use sustainable or recycled materials. Avoid cotton, synthetics, and animal-derived materials, and go for human-made cellulose or bast fibers. Did you know that clothes made of 100% cotton are compostable? Think twice before purchase: avoid sending more (unnecessary) trash to landfills, and apply the Reuse and Recycle principles in your wardrobe. We did a thorough analysis of the topic here.
- DIY Laundry Detergent: Do you know what is in your laundry detergent liquid? Have you ever calculated the money you spend each year to wash and dry your clothes? At Puratium, we highly recommend making your detergent: five vegan-friendly ingredients, and it takes 20 minutes. We are a big fan of this Zero Waste swap as it is a natural, encouraging way to start. Also, you can involve your kids in the process and raise awareness on why conventional detergent is harming the planet. Lastly, all ingredients are readily available in bulk, and the plastic-free container will not end up in your trash (as it is often the case with conventional laundry detergent liquids).
Tips For A Zero Waste Vegan Lifestyle
1. Transition Period
We believe that no matter what lifestyle you choose, going through a transition period will contribute to a successful change:
- Start with a few easy to implement swaps, as described above. Going from one extreme to another may be harder, as you will underestimate your motivation or certain pitfalls depending on the situation.
- Identify your needs: list what is truly important to you and the exact criteria you are looking for. Being a minimalist, and understand that you can live happily with less, is a crucial milestone.
- Search for reliable brands that systemically avoid palm oil and beeswax, for example. Once you have verified how a particular brand functions, you can avoid frustrations and endless search later on when you are looking for specific plastic-free items.
- Take sufficient time: prepare your groceries list, give it a try with a few DIY products such as dry shampoo or cleaning recipes.
- Don’t let anyone blame you for your (new) choices: there is nothing ‘unethical’ or ‘untrue’ if you are not following the rules 100% of the time. Being an imperfect vegan or zero wasters is better than making no effort at all for our planet. Share your experience with the community. Gain knowledge and support. Think about what makes you happy, in line with your values. Help others grow and raise awareness on the benefits of a Vegan Low Waster.
2. Read And Stay Alert
- Make sure to read the labels and compare the options of a given product. There are a lot of so-called plant-based recipes that turn out to be animal-derived. This typically means avoiding albumin, casein, carmine, gelatin, pepsin, shellac, isinglass, and whey.
- When going food shopping, make sure to bring your bags and containers to avoid the (tempting) use of plastic bags (generously) offered by the cashier.
3. Think of the ‘Rs’ for your Waste
As such, Waste is not necessarily detrimental. If you know how to repurpose it correctly, it can even be beneficial:
- It helps others in need: donate what you do not use or need.
- It has multiple benefits in your garden: compost from organic Waste is a rich nutrient-based material to use as a base when planting your vegetables and fruits. It will also decrease your home waste by 30 to 50%!
- It is often possible to upcycle (also called creative recycling) items you no longer use, such as toilet paper rolls or egg cartons.
- By refusing industrial food and opting for whole, non-processed, and locally made food, you help your local economy thrive.
- On the world scale, regulating your Waste to its maximum fulfills the principles of a circular economy, rather than a linear one (based on produce-use-dispose items, and therefore creating significant Waste).
Interested in knowing more about all the ‘R’ words? Get a full view on why it matters here, whether it is related to clothing, environmental tips, personal care, or your cooking menu. Save time, money, and resources!
Be proud of prioritizing your health and principles when going plastic-free or vegan, or both. Do not let anyone judge you for starting small, and cautiously.
Keep interacting with your community online or engage with others in your local organic shop to gain support and useful tips. Needless to say that it is best to start somewhere than to never start anything ambitious for the environment.
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A bit funny, a bit whacky. Lots of curiosity, lots of creativity. All for organic, minimalism and local. More of zero waste, more for our future 🌿