Zero Waste Chicago is a grassroots environmental organization founded in 2017 that is on a mission to connect Chicagoans with the resources they need to reduce the amount of trash they make. They offer resources and educational material to increase the awareness of alternatives to the traditional waste route. They aim to divert waste from the landfill through increased recycling and composting, transitioning from disposable items to reusable alternatives, and broader participation in the secondhand market. Through their website they provide helpful resources such as the location of local businesses for zero waste shopping, recycling and composting, information on workshops and events, consultations for individuals and businesses and news concerning the organization and involved community (Baird 2018; Zero Waster Chicago 2018).
Litterless is a blog run by Celia one of the co-founders of Zero Waste Chicago, and it aims to do a similar thing but at a national scale. The website gives tips on how to live zero waste and gives a run down on stores across the US that allow you to purchase food and household staples without packaging (Cummins 2017; Litterless 2018).
The Zero Waste movement took off following the publication of Bea Johnson’s book Zero Waste Home in 2013 which is based on her experience of the Zero Waste lifestyle, which she adopted in 2008 (Zero Waste Home 2018). There are now many blogs, websites and Facebook pages dedicated to living Zero Waste and sharing tips and how-tos. Many local business have also joined the movement, such as the Wasteless Pantry (Perth, Australia), Bulk Market (London, UK), Nude Foods (Cape Town, South Africa) and The Hive Bulk Foods (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia).
Johnson’s Zero Waste lifestyle is built around the 5 Rs: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rot. Expanded upon this means: Refuse what you do not need, Reduce what you do need, Reuse what you consume, Recycle what you cannot Refuse, Reduce or Reuse, and Rot (Compost) the rest (Zero Waste Home 2018). By following this philosophy and making more sustainable choices, individuals and households can dramatically reduce their waste production, reliance on plastic and disposable items and overall carbon footprint.
The Zero Waste movement and Zero Waste Chicago are changing how consumers are buying items, which in turn will impact how produces make and package them. Some of the actions towards living waste free are relatively simple – using a reusable water bottle, buying bulk, shopping locally and refusing plastic bags – and can be adopted without much fuss, this means that more individuals, communities and business can and will partake in them. These actions while small can make a large difference in the amount of waste produced by an individual and community.
The use of social media coupled with local events will strengthen the spread of this movement and give organizations like Zero Waste Chicago a strong foothold in their communities. The next step for Zero Waste organizations would be to make the lifestyle more adoptable and accessible for lower socio-economic households and communities in developing countries.
Baird, S. (2018, 26 March). Fighting Climate Change With Food Scraps: Why Composting Is Easier Than Ever, Vogue. https://www.vogue.com/article/fighting-climate-change-with-compost
Cummins, E. (2017, 22 Dec). How to reduce waste and help the planet this holiday season, Popular Science. https://www.popsci.com/how-to-reduce-holiday-waste
Litterless. (2018). https://www.litterless.com/
Zero Waste Chicago. (2018). https://www.zerowastechicago.org/
Zero Waste Home. (2018). https://zerowastehome.com/tips/