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Thought on Sustainability and Zero Waste Shops

In 1987, the Brundtland Report introduced the now-widely-used term “sustainable development”: «Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs».In the report, the UN established some guiding principles for sustainable development as it is understood today, based on universal ideals such as harmony between man and Nature and harmony between present and future generations.

Sustainability Venn Diagram - The three pillars of sustainability: economic, environmental and social factors.

Sustainability should be seen as a way to ensure that we leave the world an inhabitable place for our offspring, and therefore the concept should especially appeal to our most basic instinct to preserve the survival of the species. However, 31 years after the Brundtland Report, have we introduced enough change in our lives to ensure this bright future we want to promise our children? Have we found the balance between the economic, social and environmental aspects of our lives?

Even though we have undoubtedly made a lot of progress during the last three decades, it is not always that simple to change strongly embedded habits, especially when those habits seem to bring a decent level of comfort to individuals. It is tempting to turn away from sustainable behaviours when faced with arguments such as: ‘Why should I sacrifice a part of my well-earned personal well-being when others keep behaving in the same way?’. Even if all the best advocates of sustainable development and ecology have been telling us for years that living with less is actually the best way to improve our lives (e.g. advantages of homemade food over pre-cooked meals), taking the first step towards a simplified lifestyle can seem like a big leap into the unknown. It is normal to be sceptical at first. Resistance to change is common when we believe the alternative option is not in our best interests.But sometimes changing even the smallest seemingly insignificant behaviours can have a big impact.

A Zero Waste shop offers an easy way to introduce such small changes in your life. It should be seen a ‘facilitator’, a place where you can shop without having to worry about the impact your shopping run will have on the planet. It is a very simple alternative to other, less environmentally-aware shops. Zero Waste shops give you the possibility to obtain the same products with which you are already familiar but without unnecessary packaging. Such shops will therefore enable you to continue to enjoy the same level of comfort you have already achieved, whilst introducing the needed values for a more sustainable society.

Beyond the obvious environmental benefits of cutting down the use of unwanted packaging - which might end up in landfill - Zero Waste shops are also a great way to reduce food waste and to save on household expenses. By enabling you to purchase the exact quantity of goods you require, zero waste shopping makes it easier to tailor your consumption to your real needs and manage your expenses.

Finally, true to the three pillars of sustainability, the Zero Waste philosophy also takes into account the social factor by promoting local and Fairtrade producers.

At Zéro, we believe that if everyone were to start obtaining their basic everyday life necessities from a local Zero Waste shop, it would create a positive change in our society as a whole. Without much of an effort, everyone can be an agent of this long awaited sustainable development.

We hope to have convinced you to take this easy step and make your next shopping run count!

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