Zero Waste: What it Means & Why it’s Important

Concern about our mounting global waste is escalating. Climate emergency announcements and images of the millions of tonnes of microplastics in our oceans are almost unavoidable. Environmental researchers predict that rising seawater will reach dangerous levels in the next 50 years.

According to a study by Science Advances, people around the world have produced about 8.3 metric tons of plastic. The waste industry only recycled 9 percent of it. The rest is cluttering landfills and ocean water. This year in the Philippines, scientists found a dead whale with 88 pounds of plastic lodged in its stomach.

It’s hard not to feel worried about the future when we know our current global consumption is unsustainable, which is why eco-friendly consumerism is growing in popularity.

Learn what zero waste means and why it's important for both businesses and individuals

A recent report from the University of Pennsylvania shows that two-thirds of customers say they will pay more for sustainable products. 

Statistics like this have led to a growing wave of so-called “green” products hitting the market. All of which are attempting to win the hearts of consumers with the promise of sustainability. But not all green products are created equal, and many products marketed as such, have been proven otherwise.

This is called greenwashing, a term created by environmentalists to describe the act of misleading consumers about how eco-friendly a product is. One memorable case of this includes the time a California Attorney General filed a lawsuit against Aquamantra, Inc., Balance Water Company. The company falsely marketed its water bottles as “biodegradable” and “recyclable” though there was no scientific evidence to back it up. Check out our recent blog on the term ‘biodegradable’ vs ‘compostable’ to help clear this up.

This kind of misinformation-filled green marketing environment has brought on the rise of a new term which is changing the narrative around green consumerism: zero waste.

What does zero waste mean?

The Zero Waste International Alliance defines zero waste as:

“the conservation of all resources by means of responsible production, consumption, reuse and recovery of products, packaging, and materials without burning and with no discharges to the land, water or air that threaten the environment or human health.”

The zero waste movement:

The term zero waste was coined by zero-waste lifestyle bloggers, starting with Bea Johnston. The New York Times featured her in a 2010 article, then other zero-waste bloggers followed in tow and built massive followings. Kathryn Kellogg fit two-year’s worth of trash into one 8-ounce mason jar and started Other leading blogs in the community include,, and

Characterized by a goal to send less trash to landfills, the zero-waste lifestyle may look different depending on your day-to-day routine. A more zero-waste individual might bring jars to purchase groceries at markets, shop for second-hand items, compost food waste, reuse a metal water bottle, buy local, and stop ordering Styrofoam-filled shipping boxes.

Zero waste consumers buy less, use what they have, and replace things mindfully.

What does this mean for businesses?

In this recent report, consumers say that the primary reason they want to purchase sustainable products was a real desire to help the environment. Consumers are not interested in buying sustainable items for social signalling, ie) to look like a good citizen. Therefore, retailers need to take real steps to become sustainable and be more transparent with their efforts. 

Several large companies are taking notes. The single-use waste recycling company, TerraCycle partnered with Procter & Gamble, Nestlé, PepsiCo, Unilever, Clorox, and Danone. Other zero-waste products include Dove’s 100% recycled plastic bottles. Thinx’s feminine hygiene products, Abeego’s beeswax food wrapping, FinalStraw’s compostable straws, and Nouri’s reusable food storage bags.

Though zero-waste products are not the be-all-end-all solution to reverse the effects of climate change, it’s at least a working contribution. Zero-waste products, services, and initiatives show responsibility for the well-being of future generations and care for our planet. As a bonus, companies in some states that go zero waste and reduce carbon emissions may get tax incentives, conserve energy and lower printing, lighting, and gas bills. Using green cleaning supplies means cleaner, healthier work environments with less harmful chemicals.

How can your business make a change?

There are several ways businesses can take steps towards zero waste, and an easy way to approach this is with three steps: Identify, Action, and Prevention.

First, businesses need to understand or identify where their waste is coming from. One way to do this is by performing a waste audit to determine where the waste is going to see where changes can be made. Other resources are also important to consider in businesses such as water and energy reductions and finding ways to make those processes more efficient, which can also make a big impact.

The next step would be taking action to reduce that waste. We may not be able to get rid of 100% of our waste, but reducing it is possible. If your business wants to help, start with changing one product, sub-service, or packaging process. For example, when preparing for trade shows and public events, opt for zero-waste promotional products.

Finally, to make a lasting change in your business’ zero waste progress, educating employees about awareness and new processes that have been implemented will help ensure success. Training staff to view what once was trash and excess energy or water usage as a valuable resource will make a huge difference moving forward.

Overall, zero waste habits may help reverse the negative effects our historically wasteful and plastic-producing economy created. As concern for climate change and dying ecosystems grow, companies who switch to zero waste will do themselves, their customers and the Earth a huge favor.

Zero waste promotional items from Botanical PaperWorks

Botanical PaperWorks makes seed paper products from 100% post-consumer and post-industrial paper waste, recycling it into seed paper that grows. The special eco-friendly paper not only removes content from waste streams but also doesn’t require any further resources to be recycled. Instead, you plant them in soil and grow plants that will give back to our Earth. No waste is left behind.

Learn more about zero waste promotional items from Botanical PaperWorks

Learn more about how you can incorporate eco-friendly seed paper into your next corporate promotion by subscribing to our newsletter and downloading our full Seed Paper Promotions Catalog.


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