Living Off the Grid: the zero-waste lifestyle

Sarah Ross

There are many definitions of “Off the Grid.” There is off the Internet grid, or technology grid, as many “CSI” shows like to say when someone forgoes their laptop and credit cards while on the run in order not to be detected. Then, there is off the grid as normal people use it, which usually means that they are hard to get ahold of, due to reclusive tendencies such as dodging phone calls and not answering the door. However, this article isn’t about any of those things — it’s about living off the land, not off the consumer grid. 

Consumer lifestyles come with a lot of waste. Sure, many things are recyclable now, but many things remain pure trash at the end of the day. The bags from your cereal boxes or the plastic rings from your soda cans or from the tag from that new pair of shoes. You may thrift your hole-y shoes, but many times the thrift shop gets things so tattered that they end up in the trash anyway. The disposable fork and spoon from your lunch, your tissues and paper towels — they all end up in a trash can, headed to the dump. So, how much trash can one generate in one week? BuzzFeed actually had one person test how much she threw away in a week, making her carry it around as a form of social experiment.


What bothers me about this experiment is that many of the things she counted as trash are not actually trash. The cardboard and packaging, as well as the paper clippings and some of the utensils and cups she used (if cleaned), were recyclable. The tissues, paper towels and food she threw away were compostable. These are things that millions of Americans throw away on a constant basis, but could be diverted from landfills and composted or recycled, removing them from the waste stream and turning them into something that can be used for manufacturing, agriculture or landscaping purposes, which gives back to the society.

So what is a zero-waste lifestyle? For most, it’s buying things in bulk or buying things made with packaging that is compostable or recyclable. Some even go as far as making their own products, such as toothpaste and deodorant, which come in packaging that is hard to reuse or recycle. Many also find that buying in bulk reduces their purchases since they buy fresh what they need in amounts that won’t go bad before they use them. Rather than explain what I mean, here are the women who are all living the zero-waste lifestyle. 

Interested in the zero-waste lifestyle? Here is a link to the Zero Waste Home, written by Bea Johnson, who is featured in the second video. There are also lots of tips on YouTube or on other blogs online. Are you living a zero-waste or minimalist lifestyle? What tips do you have for those starting out? Let us know in the comments.

Collegian Blogger Sarah Ross can be reached online at or on Twitter @HowSarahTweets. Read more of her content on AltLife or at under Music. Leave a comment.