What Exactly Is The Difference Between Zero Waste And Low Impact?

Decoding the two and understanding the differences ☘️

Explore in this Article

  1. What is zero waste?
  2. What is low impact?
  3. Zero waste vs. low impact
  4. Which lifestyle should you choose?

There’s a lot of buzz all around about going zero waste and low impact. The two are different lifestyles that have a lot in common. Both of them aim to reduce the amount of waste we send to landfills and make sure it doesn’t end up there. However, there is a bit of confusion about what exactly is zero waste and low impact and how they differ from one another. So, let’s have a closer look at the two and also learn what differentiates zero waste from low impact.

What is zero waste?

Zero waste is all about minimizing your waste as much as possible. The concept revolves around circularity; so when you take resources, you return them instead of them landing in landfills. One can easily start their journey toward a zero-waste lifestyle by making small changes in their life, like swapping single-use products with reusable alternatives or with zero-waste products.

The principles of zero waste encourage everyone to –
🌱 Send almost nothing to landfills.
🌱 Refuse single-use items.
🌱 Reduce waste as much as possible.
🌱 Reuse everything you can.
🌱 Recycle as little as you can.
🌱 And compost all that is compostable.

There are a lot of people around the world like Bea Johnson and Kathryn Kellog who are practicing a zero-waste lifestyle, and acing it! But zero waste is not really about being perfect; it’s about doing what you can. It’s not about consuming less, but about being a conscious consumer and making smart choices about what we consume, and how we consume it.

Zero waste: Then and now

It is difficult to pinpoint precisely when the zero-waste movement first started. The concept goes back centuries, if not millennia. Today, zero waste has become the new trend that’s shaping a future for us and the planet alike. But looking at events more closely, we can say that the zero-waste movement gained its momentum in 1970. This was when Earth Day first came into existence, and we started recognizing the waste problem.

However, in recent years, many people have come together under various initiatives of the zero-waste movement like Plastic-Free July to reduce waste in one way or another. Despite all the talks about ‘fitting trash in a mason jar,’ it’s not practically possible to go completely zero waste. This is because we don’t have a circular economy yet. But, the zero waste movement has inspired many consumers to slowly move towards circularity.

Turns out that with changing consumerism, we are seeing a slight change in the markets as well. Today, we see a lot of zero-waste stores and even zero-waste products around us and available online. This is surely a small step towards a brighter future; however, we still have a long way to go.

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What is low impact?

The term low impact describes a conscious lifestyle where you are not just reducing your waste; instead, you are focussed on lowering your overall environmental impact. It is a more holistic approach to living a more sustainable life; by focussing on not just reducing your carbon footprint but rather your complete ecological footprint. Your choices play a huge role in low-waste living.

Someone practicing low-imoact living would –
🌱 Always skip disposables.
🌱 Thrift or buy secondhand.
🌱 Skip flights altogether.
🌱 Shop locally-made.
🌱 Ride a bike over driving a car.
🌱 And make many more similar choices that will help him/ her minimize their overall ecological impact.

The term ‘low impact’ was first used by Immy Lucas, aka the face behind the blog Sustainably Vegan. Since then, she has inspired a whole community on her social channels to practice low-impact living. However, there is no set of rules or a user manual to practice low-impact living. Instead, the movement inspires you to do things differently to minimize your overall environmental impact.

Whether it’s ‘No Meat Mondays‘ or ‘Walk To Work’ day, the low-impact movement is all about making small changes in your lifestyle that will help you live more sustainably now, and in the longer run.

Zero waste vs. low impact

The difference between zero waste and low impact is quite simple. Low-impact living is a step ahead of zero waste. Let’s take the help of an example to understand this better. A person practicing a zero-waste lifestyle will buy things that will help him minimize waste when out grocery shopping. Like he will carry a reusable bag, avoid plastic packaging and single-use products, and buy naked veggies and fruits.

But he/ she might not think of reducing their carbon footprint while traveling to and from the store. Or they might not look at how the zero-waste products they’re buying were manufactured and reached the store. In contrast, a person practicing low-impact living will either walk or ride a bike to the local market (and not a store!) They may skip the meat given its environmental impact and buy fresh plant-based produce. But they will also keep in mind everything a zero-waster would.

To sum it up, we can look at the goals of both zero waste and low impact. Zero waste only focuses on the waste you generate; low impact is about your complete ecological footprint. And that’s about it!

Which lifestyle should you choose?

When it comes to making a choice, the best part is you don’t really have to make one. This is because both lifestyles encourage you to take a closer look at the choices you make every day. Be it low-impact living or zero-waste living; both will definitely help you live a more sustainable life. Plus, it will be good for the planet. And isn’t that what it is all about!

You can start with zero-waste living and slowly switch to low-impact living or vice-versa. It is more of a conscious choice based on your convenience. You can even make small changes and partially adopt both lifestyles at once. Ultimately, it’s not about being perfect but about doing your best to have a more sustainable life.

Yours consciously,
GoodGuilt 🌱


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