Zero waste FAQs

Your zero-waste, sustainability and Shop Zero questions are answered!

If you’ve been in-person to our zero-waste shop in Nottingham, you’ve probably heard us answering all sorts of questions about Shop Zero, zero-waste and shopping/living more sustainably. We thought it would be helpful to answer some of these FAQs here too (just click on a question to see the answer):

Zero-waste is a philosophy and a design principle for sustainability that encourages humans to stop creating waste and to develop “closed-loop” systems, where products and materials are reused, repurposed, or recycled.

The goal of zero-waste is to minimise the amount of waste that is generated so that as little as possible ends up in landfills or incinerators. Instead, resources are kept in use for as long as possible and waste is prevented, reduced, and eventually eliminated.

Zero-waste aims to create a circular economy, where waste is reintegrated into the production of new products, reducing the demand for new resources and minimising the impact on the environment.

There are several ways in which a zero-waste lifestyle can help to reduce carbon emissions and mitigate the impacts of climate change:

  1. Energy conservation: Reducing waste means that fewer resources are used to create new products. Consequently, less energy is needed to extract, refine, transport, and manufacture new goods, leading to a decrease in greenhouse gas emissions associated with energy production and consumption.
  2. Reduced resource use: Manufacturing resources include water, energy, and raw materials. By conserving resources, individuals and communities can reduce their carbon footprint, preserve natural habitats, and protect the planet’s biodiversity.
  3. Reduced transportation emissions: A zero-waste lifestyle often involves reducing the consumption of products that are shipped from long distances, which can contribute to transportation emissions. By buying locally and reducing packaging waste, individuals can lower their carbon footprint and support local businesses.
  4. Reduced plastic/petrochemical use: Zero-waste practices aim to reduce plastic and petrochemical consumption by promoting the use of reusable products, such as cloth bags and containers, and discouraging single-use plastics. This helps to reduce the demand for fossil fuels, which are a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions.

Absolutely! Zero-waste practices can make a significant difference in reducing waste and preserving the environment. This approach encourages people to adopt more sustainable practices, such as reducing consumption, recycling, and composting.

By reducing the amount of waste that ends up in landfills, zero-waste helps to conserve resources, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and mitigate the impacts of waste on the environment. Additionally, zero-waste can also have economic benefits, such as reducing the cost of waste management and preserving resources that would otherwise be lost through waste.

It’s important to note that zero-waste is a journey and not a destination – every little step towards reducing waste can make a difference. By being more conscious of the waste we generate and making small changes in our daily lives, we can all contribute to a more sustainable future.

Recycling is one component of zero-waste, but it’s not the only one.

Many people look to the Hierarchy of Waste for guidance. This broadly covers:

  • Prevention (preventing and reducing waste generation)
  • Reuse (giving products a second life)
  • Recycling (recovering materials to be reprocessed into products, materials or substances)
  • Recovery (recovering raw materials such as aluminium)
  • Disposal (disposing of waste through landfill, incineration, etc.)

However, there are many variations of the Hierarchy of Waste, and an increasing number of people believe that recycling should be a last resort.

Zero-waste prioritises reducing and reusing first because the most sustainable way to manage waste is to not create it in the first place.

When waste is generated, zero-waste encourages individuals and businesses to find ways to reuse it, rather than sending it to be recycled. We have our own Shop Zero hierarchy of waste: Refuse/rethink, Reduce, Reuse, Refill, Relove, Regift, Rot, Repair and Recycle.

While reducing the amount of plastic you use is an important step in reducing waste and preserving the environment, it’s not necessary to get rid of all the plastic items in your home straight away. Instead, you can focus on reducing your use of single-use plastics and finding more sustainable alternatives. Here are a few steps you can take:

  • Bring your own reusable bags, water bottles, and containers when shopping or eating out
  • Choose products packaged in paper, glass, or metal instead of plastic
  • Compost food scraps instead of throwing them in the bin
  • Repurpose plastic items instead of buying new ones
  • Gift plastic items you no longer need to someone who will use them
  • Recycle plastic items that can’t be reused or repurposed

By taking these steps and making small changes in your daily life, you can make a positive impact on the environment and reduce the amount of waste you generate.

An inherent part of zero-waste living is planning ahead and shopping with intention (if you really need to shop!) This means that we’re less likely to impulse buy as we choose to only buy what we need. This is a strategic way of saving money as well as waste, as we’re re-evaluating how much we actually do need and stepping out of the cycle of overconsumption that society often encourages.

There are many zero-waste strategies, such as bringing your own reusable containers to buy refills or making your own cleaning products, that can save you money.

If you use a lot of whole foods, buying them in bulk can save on cost and packaging. On the flip side, if you regularly end up throwing food away, then buying it loose from a zero-waste shop can cut your costs by allowing you to buy the exact quantity you need.

Purchasing reusable products like a stainless steel water bottle, metal or bamboo straws and cloth produce bags may require a small upfront investment but saves money over time.

Don’t forget too that reloving and regifting are core to zero-waste living. The next time you need a new item for your home, it’s worth checking out online marketplaces, local charity shops or car boot sales. You may be able to find what you’re looking for at a fraction of the price of buying it new. Plus, you can make money by selling any items you no longer need. There’s an amazing community aspect to regifting and reloving items, especially when you’re able to pass on an item that someone else really needs. And, of course, buying second-hand reduces resource use and slashes carbon emissions.

Our experience is that zero-waste living is a lot more affordable than most people think!

Zero-waste fashion refers to the concept of designing, producing, and consuming fashion in a way that generates as little waste as possible. This approach aims to reduce the environmental impact of the fashion industry by minimising the amount of waste generated during the production process, using sustainable materials, and promoting a circular economy, where clothing is reused, repaired, and recycled instead of being discarded into landfills.

Zero-waste fashion design involves using patterns and cutting techniques that minimise textile waste, and producing clothing in smaller batches to reduce overproduction and surplus. The use of sustainable materials, such as organic cotton, hemp, and linen, is also an important aspect of zero-waste fashion, as these materials are grown and processed with fewer harmful chemicals and have a lower impact on the environment.

In addition to reducing waste in the production process, zero-waste fashion also encourages consumers to adopt a more mindful and responsible approach to their clothing choices. This includes buying high-quality, timeless pieces that can be worn and loved for many years, repairing and repurposing clothing instead of throwing it away and supporting fashion brands that prioritize sustainability and transparency.

Achieving 100% zero waste is challenging, and for most people, it may not be entirely possible. There are certain aspects of modern life that still generate waste, such as packaging materials and products that are not easily recyclable or compostable.

However, the goal of living a zero-waste lifestyle is not to achieve absolute zero waste, but to minimise waste and adopt a more sustainable and conscious approach to consumption and waste management. By reducing, reusing, and recycling as much as possible, and making mindful choices about the products we buy and use, we can make a significant impact on reducing the amount of waste we generate.

The zero-waste movement is about changing our attitudes and habits and working towards a more sustainable and waste-free future. Whether or not it is possible to achieve 100% zero waste, it is important to strive towards promoting a more responsible and mindful approach to consumption.

We’ve got loads of ideas about how to shop without waste at Shop Zero! We also run a fantastic programme of workshops throughout the year to help anyone interested in cutting their waste. Hopefully, these tips will give you somewhere to start:

  • Plan ahead: Make a grocery list and bring reusable bags, containers, and produce bags whenever you go shopping. This will help you avoid buying unnecessary items and packaging.
  • Shop in bulk: Look for shops that offer bulk food items, like grains, nuts, spices, and snacks, and bring your own containers to fill up. This will help you reduce packaging waste.
  • Buy package-free products: Look for products that are sold without packaging, like fresh produce, baked goods, and bulk cleaning supplies.
  • Avoid single-use items: Try to avoid single-use items, like disposable water bottles and plastic bags, and bring reusable alternatives instead.
  • Choose products with minimal packaging: When shopping for packaged items, look for products with minimal packaging or packaging made from recyclable materials.
  • Support waste-free alternatives: Support businesses that offer waste-free alternatives, like refill stations for cleaning and personal care products.
  • Make your own: Consider making your own household and personal care products, like cleaning supplies and toiletries, to reduce packaging waste.

By making small changes to the way you shop, you can reduce the amount of waste you generate and live a more sustainable lifestyle.

If you haven’t shopped at a zero-waste shop before, you might be wondering what to expect. Here’s a rough guide to shopping in-store at Shop Zero:

  • Gather your containers: Make sure to bring clean, airtight containers for each item you plan to buy, such as glass jars or reusable bags.
  • Weigh your containers: We have a scale to weigh your containers before you fill them up. This ensures that you are only paying for the product, not the container.
  • Fill your containers: Browse the store and select the products you want to purchase. Fill up your containers with the desired amount of each product (we’re here to help with this!)
  • Label your containers: If you are buying food items, you may want to label your containers with the name of the product and the weight.
  • Pay for your purchases: Take your containers to the checkout and we’ll weigh and price your purchases.
  • Enjoy your zero-waste shopping: Take your containers home and enjoy your purchases. Repeat the process next time you need to refill.

Can’t see the answer you’re looking for? Drop an email to and we’ll be happy to help.

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