Zero Waste vs. Low Impact Movement

I use the terms Zero Waste, Low/No Waste, and Low Impact Movement a lot these days.

In 2017 I started my zero waste journey. Zero Waste is the goal, mindful practice is the action. When I use the term Zero Waste, that is my ultimate goal, but Less Waste would be a more  accurate description of my evolving lifestyle.

I wanted to take some time and explain these terms. I have done some research on them, but these definitions are mostly what I understand them as and how I use them.

Zero Waste
According to the Zero Waste International Alliance the definition of zero waste goes like this:

“Zero Waste is a goal that is ethical, economical, efficient and visionary, to guide people in changing their lifestyles and practices to emulate sustainable natural cycles, where all discarded materials are designed to become resources for others to use.
Zero Waste means designing and managing products and processes to systematically avoid and eliminate the volume and toxicity of waste and materials, conserve and recover all resources, and not burn or bury them.
Implementing Zero Waste will eliminate all discharges to land, water or air that are a threat to planetary, human, animal or plant health.”

This definition is geared towards big business as well as every day life. The idea is to create systems so that all aspects of industry that are circular, both in production and product, and do not end in landfills or the ocean. For individuals this means changing day to day life before the corporations come around. Living a Zero Waste lifestyle does not mean that one will not generate a single piece of trash, which is of course, impossible, but it means to strive to create as little trash as possible, to seek alternatives avenues that might not generate waste. Zero Wasters consider all sorts of waste when trying to reduce; plastic, water, food, fuel, and all sorts of more traditional trash.

In short, being Zero Waste means trying to live up to the impossible task of generating zero waste of any kind by making mindful decisions in everyday life.

Low/No/Less Waste
This is a more gentle term, a less harsh way to state the above lifestyle but follows the same principles. Whatever they call themselves, one of the tenants that most Low Wasters follow a Low Waste Inverted Pyramid. Remembering to Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Rot, can help to keep Low Waste.

 In more recent times, as we see that recycling is not a sustainable solution, recycle and rot would be in the opposite spots on the inverted pyramid.

In more recent times, as we see that recycling is not a sustainable solution, recycle and rot would be in the opposite spots on the inverted pyramid.

Low Impact Movement
This term was recently created by a Zero Waste Youtuber Sustainably Vegan. She felt that the term Zero Waste was confining bc it is technically unachievable, zero wasters had become judgmental and that it only explored a small portion of all the ways to reduce ones impact on the environment and global community. By creating the Low Impact Movement, she created a lifestyle movement to incorporate low impact mindfulness in all aspects of daily life from reducing your trash, going no plastic, ditching disposables, reducing your carbon footprint, vaganism, activism, etc…. The Low Impact Movement also emphesizes social action and activism. Their motto is “We strive for a LOW environmental impact through a HIGH social impact.”.

TL:DR
Zero Waste - Controversial term used for and by companies and individuals who are trying to reduce waste in all aspects of production and life.
Low/No/Less Waste - Similar to Zero Waste but less rigid and more practical.
Low Impact Movement - A more inclusive, all incompassing term for reducing ones environmental impact.
Zero/Low/No/Less Waster - Someone who practices a Zero/Low/No/Less Waste lifestyle.
Low Impacter - Someone who takes part in the Low Waste Movement.

I hope these definitions are helpful! Please let me know any questions or comments you might have in the comments!