Zero waste defined.
In a perfect world, zero waste would mean absolutely no waste produced. But unfortunately that would be pretty difficult to do given our linear system (meaning we take resources from the earth to be used once and then disposed of).
So instead of worrying about going 100% zero waste, let's start with the simple changes that can help reduce our waste little by little.
Zero/low waste is really about doing what you can to reduce what you add to the landfill.
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Let’s do a quick review of the 5 R’s
Don’t take what you don’t need. Take a picture of that business card, politely decline the free pen, say no to plastic bags at the store, and shop local! Accepting these items only increase their demand.
Declutter your home and donate items you no longer use. You’d be amazed at how much lighter you feel when your home is clutter-free. I love Marie Kondo’s book about decluttering - check it out for more tips decluttering, and only keeping the things you truly love.
What do you already have that you can reuse? Jam jars make great storage containers, store safety pins in an altoid tin. Can you repair something instead of replacing it? Patch those pants, darn those socks, stitch that tear.
Swap disposable for reusable. Replace paper tissues with handkerchiefs, paper towels with cloth napkins, and plastic water bottles with reusable ones. Buy it once and use it for years. Second hand stores are great for finding reusable items.
Check your local area for recycling policies. What can and can’t be recycled in your area? There’s a reason recycling isn’t first on the list. Refuse, reduce and reuse before recycling.
Compost! Start a backyard pile or vermicompost. Maybe your city provides composting? Composting is great because it returns organic material back into the soil, resulting in healthier soil and less waste sent to the landfill.
Keep in mind...
Going zero waste doesn’t happen overnight. Be patient, start small, and keep moving forward.
What’s your why? Why do you want to move toward a lower waste lifestyle? Is it the environmental impact? Or for health reasons? Or just to simplify your life?
Simplify your life
Do you really need a different cleaner for your kitchen and bathroom? Check out our Green Cleaning Basics for some simple homemade cleaning product solutions.
Assess your waste
Do a trash audit. What do you throw away?
There’s no need to go out and buy every zero waste product out there. Use what you have first, and then replace (if you need to) with a reusable option.
Throwing away things isn’t reducing waste. For example, I still use a plastic razor with disposable blades because I had some left to use. Once the blades are gone, I’ll transition to a reusable/recyclable option.
We also found ourselves with loads of plastic disposable floss containers (apparently we’re floss hoarders??). Instead of throwing them out for a lower waste alternative, we used them up, recycled what we could using Terracycle, and then got a lower waste alternative floss.
Use what you have
Use mason jars for containers, old t-shirts as rags, silverware from your kitchen for to-go utensils. These are all great options for reducing waste without buying anything.
Learn how to make things. Making my own toiletries and ingredients has been a fun part of our zero waste journey. I buy shea butter in bulk to make lotion, deodorant and chapstick.
Did you know you can also make your own dry shampoo out of kitchen pantry essentials? As a brunette, I use cornstarch and cocoa powder. That’s it!
Appreciate your possessions
We live in a world of consumerism and planned obsolescence. We’re all pushed to buy the next big thing. Like life would be incomplete without it. But things just don’t last like they used to. And that’s the truth. Invest in quality things that can be repaired at home if needed.
Always remember, it’s not about being perfect, it’s actually about a lot of people doing all the little things quite imperfectly. Start small and make changes slowly.
Check out our other Green Living Guides for more tips on reducing waste and living more sustainably!
What’s one small thing could you change today in pursuit of a more zero waste lifestyle?
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