Simply put, zero waste means preventing items from having an end-life at a landfill.
I first heard about “zero waste living” from Bea Johnson, a person who is considered the “guru” of the zero waste movement. She wrote “Zero Waste Home” and her household only produces a pint of trash per year (wow!). Her methodology is based on the 5 R’s: “Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rot, and only in that order.” You can visit her website here.
Our family’s attempt at zero waste is following the 5 R’s, but we are attempting to also avoid sending items for recycling also. After visiting our local recycling facility we see that it is not a sustainable solution. Therefore we follow 4 R’s: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse & Rot.
To us it is not about living this way perfectly (as we are certainly producing more than a pint of trash per year), but more about using “zero” as a guiding post toward being better stewards of the earth.