Zero Waste vs. Low Impact: What’s the Difference?

  • By: greenorb
  • Date: August 2, 2021
  • Time to read: 5 min.

It’s been two years since I started my zero waste journey. When I hear people using the terms ‘Zero Waste’ and ‘Low Impact’ movement a lot these days, what comes to my mind is – that’s my ultimate goal. 

Both low impact and zero waste are responsible for a healthy environment. 

Each aims to reduce environmental impacts and protect the quality of life. 

Simply put, they’re eco-friendly practices and habits. 

This post explains the real difference between zero waste vs low impact lifestyle? 

What is Zero waste lifestyle?

Zero-Waste International Alliance defines Zero Waste as ‘designing and managing products so that all products are reused – eliminating the toxicity of waste that could threaten human, planetary, and animal life.

The goal is to ensure no trash is sent to incinerators or landfills. 

As the movement is becoming mainstream as consumers and businesses are now forging single-use products as possible. 

By doing so, there’s a reduction in carbon footprint. Zero waste involves:

  • Swapping single-use products with reusable ones – like straws, cotton rounds, and paper towels
  • Buying cleaning and personal care products without any packaging
  • Purchasing plastic-free groceries
  • Consuming less
  • Composting food scraps
  • Recycling products like glass jars

In short words, zero wasters and environmentalists aim at producing little to zero thrash. 

Many zero wasters encourage the recovery of as many resources as possible while at the same time keeping harmful substances out of the Earth.

However, attaining 100% waste-free isn’t possible. 

What is Low Impact Lifestyle?

Low Impact follows and holds the same principles as a zero-waste lifestyle, but rather than focusing on waste; it seeks to holistically reduce one’s environmental impact. 

It aims to reduce human being’s ecological footprint through daily habits and actions. 

From avoiding disposable plastic products and eating less meat to shopping locally, your daily habits will impact the environment.

What may seem significant over time, is when the vast majority practice low impact behaviors. 

Here are long-lasting choices that play a role in low impact living:

  • Shop secondhand products
  • Limiting air travel
  • Buying and easting locally – eat a plant-based diet
  • Minimizing the single-use plastics
  • Being minimalist or vegan
  • Composting food waste
  • Shopping for sustainably crafted clothing

Coined by Immy Lucas, the influencer, low impact movement is helping people realize that landfill isn’t the only area to consider when you decide to live sustainably.  

It’s more of a next-level zero waste that involves climate justice, intersectional environmentalism, and social justice. 

What Are The Differences Between Low-Impact And Zero-Waste Lifestyles?

How are they different? Well, the key difference between the two practices is what each focuses on.

The low impact lifestyle revolves around the entire ecological footprint, while zero waste lifestyle deals with waste creation. 

In practice, if you decide to follow zero waste ideas, you’d bring a reusable bamboo toothbrush or a coffee cup so that you can compost or recycle it later. 

Nonetheless, you might use your car that releases harmful fumes to get into these shops instead of opting for a vegan alternative.

On the other hand, someone who follows low impact principles will consider all these options – bamboo toothbrush, coffee cup, car, and store locations. 

So. Low impact is about seeing the whole picture. 

It doesn’t mean that a low impact lifestyle is 100% waste-free. But the followers make positive decisions as they can. 

The movement encourages us to reduce our overall environmental impact. 

But how are they similar?

Despite their difference in practice, both share the same goal – reducing one’s environmental impact. 

How Does a Zero-Waste Lifestyle Help the Environment?

Those who proudly engage in a zero-waste lifestyle have reasons to smile. 

It’s a practice that is not only sustainable but also protects the environment. 

Such people strive to use reusable products instead of single-use products, especially pollutants. 

Again, they support eco-conscious companies, secondhand stores, and more. 

Although this is limited to individual’s impact on the planet, and not specifically community’s, the movement can make a difference. 

A zero-waste lifestyle helps the environment in the following ways:

  • Reducing the amount of global trash and landfills. Avoiding non-biodegradable and disposable materials results in a low amount of waste in landfills around the globe.
  • Protects soil, waterways, water table, and oceans. Disposable products may release toxic substances that percolate through the soil, thus affecting soil nutrients and water table.
  • Reduces our climate impact. While you may decide to throw away plastic products in landfills, others will opt to burn them. This means many greenhouse gases like CO2 that would affect the atmosphere. Going for an eco-alternative will cut down on emissions by 60%. 
  • It minimizes pollution and conserves resources. Using reusable products equates to low extraction of materials from our natural spaces. It also reduces pollution from production, manufacturing and transporting, and more.

How Does a Low Impact Lifestyle Help the Environment?

A low-impact lifestyle can resolve the problems we are witnessing concerning climate change and the environment. 

But it takes steps to live such a life. 

Whether it’s sourcing organic food or buying produce locally, or switching your car for alternative transport, any small adjustment can reduce your carbon footprint. 

Low impact living helps the Earth in many ways, including:

  • Creating less waste and consuming fewer resources
  • Reduces pollution – walking to a local job instead of using a car reduces greenhouse gases 
  • emphasizes social action
  • Reduces your trash

Today, many environmentalists and influencers subscribe to low impact ideas, which has led to recent rebranding. 

Zero Waste Vs Low Impact: Which Is Right for Me?

The good news is that you don’t have to pick one and leave the other. 

Both zero waste and low impact are related and aim at reducing harm to the environment. 

In fact, zero waste is a part of low impact living. Reducing our waste production is so significant to the circular economy, so is lowering our ecological footprint. 

The fact is that we can’t achieve all the things. Both lifestyles are subtle yet doable. 

At least, one can decide where to put energy, time, and money.

Whatever side you take, you’re going to safeguard our planet. 

Get the big picture and make sustainable choices. No matter what phrase you choose, action is the key, and you’d lead by example. 


Zero waste living and low impact living will impact our planet Earth positively as both are eco-friendly practices. 

Unlike zero-waste, which is about reducing trash and waste, low impact encourages people to reduce their overall environmental impact.

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