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If you are intrigued by living (almost) zero waste, this article will provide you with easy & beginner zero waste tips on how to get started.
The truth is that becoming zero waste it’s a process. It requires commitment and small changes in your everyday life.
But one thing is for sure: zero waste living is something that can be done by anyone. However, it is performed differently and it is completely individual.
It often depends on your personal lifestyle and other things, including where do you live, do you have farmers market & bulk stores around, how many unpackaged options you have, etc.
There is a bunch of information, that might be overwhelming.
This is precisely why I added simple actionable steps, that you can start implementing right away! Even some of them are obvious, I hope they can still help you out.
What is more, you can repin my infographic (find it in the end), that you can use as a reminder any time you forget something!
Without further ado, let’s jump right to the 14 zero waste tips:
- Rethink what you really need
- Buy things that are meant to last
- Start composting
- Minimize food packaging
- Use what you already have
- Just say “No”
- Eliminate single-use first
- Waste “wisely”
- Buy second hand
- Start cutting your plastic usage
- Start making your own products
- Adopt ”zero waste thinking”
Now, let’s observe each of these zero waste tips closely!
1. Rethink what you really need
Have you ever found yourself, shopping, and buying things that it’s questionable if you need it?
I know the feeling. In fact, most of us have been there. It can happen with food, clothes, shoes, electronics, small gadgets, notebooks, pens, etc.
This can cause unnecessary clutter in your house and mind. While it is not the best thing for your pocket, it can also cause a lot of additional waste that can be prevented easily.
Luckily, the solution it’s easier than you think!
1. Be aware
Whenever you are about to make an unthoughtful purchase, try to be mindful of it. Remember to stop yourself, before it’s too late.
2. Give it a bit of time
The best thing you can do is to set a week or at least a few days before you make the purchase.
So, simply leave the item and leave the shop.
In this way, you will have plenty of time to consider if you really need this particular product.
If you see you can live without it, or you have an alternative at home, then it’s really useless to buy a new thing.
2. Buy things that are meant to last
Think about it, how many plastic bottles you bought for the last couple of years? 40-50? 100?
This is not only a bunch of money that you could’ve saved up, but it is also a lot of plastic waste.
And this is just one of the examples. What about:
– Cotton rounds
– Paper towels
– Baking paper
– Menstrual pads/tampons
– Plastic bag
– Plastic straws
– Food wraps
– Cotton earbuds
– Food wraps
The list can go on, and on. What can you do to fix this?
1. See if you have reusables at home or if you can make some
Maybe you got something like a reusable bottle as a gift, or you bought it a long time ago. Even if it’s plastic, use it until it breaks or until you can. That also applies to other products.
Moreover, you can make DIY things, such as cotton rounds by cutting down an older towel.
2. Buy long-lasting products
Next, it’s best if you start looking for long-lasting items, that are durable and reusable. This will reduce a lot of waste and you will save you money in the long run.
So, switch the disposables with long-lasting or reusables:
Cotton rounds –> Washable cotton rounds
Paper towels –> Cotton cloths
Tissues –> Handkerchiefs
Baking paper –> Reusable silicon mat
Menstrual pads/tampons –> Menstrual cup, reusable pads
Plastic bag –> Reusable bag
Plastic straws –> Stainless steel/bamboo straws
Single use cotton earbuds -> Reusable Stainless Steel Ear Cleaner
Food wraps –> Prepare your own food in reusable food containers
3. Start composting
It is another essential part of the 5R’s of zero waste, also known as Rot.
When you throw your food scraps in a plastic bag, they cannot decompose. What is more, when they reach the landfill, they still can’t decompose. But what is the worst problem?
Landfill gas is a natural byproduct of the decomposition of organic material in landfills. It contains both methane and carbon dioxide, which are trapping heat in the atmosphere.
So, composting can reduce your greenhouse emissions drastically.
It sounds simple. And it is.
The truth is that composting is not hard even if you live in a small apartment! Bare with me, I’ll explain.
1. Decide the composting method
There are a lot of different composting ways, that can be perfect for your situation. The first step is to simply read out 7 ways for apartment composting (they can be also done if you have a garden).
Once you decide the method you want to try, get the needed materials, which in most cases are:
– a bucket (or two)
– some charcoal filters
– compostable bags (optional, if you choose Countertop composting)
– a blender (if you choose Blender composting)
– Bokashi bran, a plate (optional, only if you choose Bokashi composting)
– paper, worms (optional, only if you choose Vermicomposting)
Once everything is set, you can start composting.
For much more details on how to compost, be sure to check this article.
4. Minimize food packaging
This really depends on your situation and how much of a choice you have.
If you are lucky enough to have a farmers market or even a bulk shop nearby, start shopping from there!
Just by that, you will probably reduce more than 70% of your kitchen waste.
Usually, from the farmers market, you can get all your veggies, fruits, sometimes they even some grains/nuts.
Then, from the bulk store, you can get the rest of the grains, legumes, nuts, oats, seeds, cooking products, spices, etc.
It is fairly easy if you have these two options. Oh, but what if you don’t have either of these?
Then, this task will be harder, but surely not impossible! You can find plastic free items in a lot of supermarkets, too.
1. ALWAYS bring your cotton bags (preferably the types that are in different shape and very thin & light) and jars
In that way, you can place whatever you are buying inside, without getting plastic bags.
2. Buy loose vegetables and fruits whenever you can
Most big supermarkets often have a section with loose veggies, and fruits.
3. Always buy the products that are in glass or aluminum container, since they are 100% recyclable
Then you can reuse some of the containers, to store different goods!
5. Use what you already have
This is an easy one, but oftentimes it’s misinterpreted.
If you decide to lower your waste and to try to be (almost) zero waste, that doesn’t mean to get rid of everything unsustainable in your home!
What I mean by that is to first use everything you have, even if it’s a single-use or products in plastic containers, and then start getting your reusables.
Do NOT throw it away, just because it’s plastic! It will be much worse if you do it and it will be even more wasteful.
Eventually, if you really don’t want to use something, try to find someone that might want – a friend, a charity, or a person in need.
1. Finish the products that you already have
It can be from a shampoo bottle to a pack of tissues. You already bought them, so at least use them. As mentioned before, if you don’t want to use something, find someone who will!
2. Once you are done with the stuff, start looking for getting some reusable, plastic-free, long-lasting products
You can find my huge list of zero waste swaps, including 142 zero waste products you MIGHT need!
What I mean by that is to try to plan as much as you can, in order to avoid additional waste.
Probably you will have some small fails at the beginning, at least I did, but with time, you will become better.
For instance, if you are going to travel, always be prepared with your reusables. Bring a small container, in case you want to eat something and you have leftovers, or if you want to buy food that they usually place in a plastic container, etc.
Also, the water bottle! Bring it with you and refill it whenever you can.
1. Plan in advance
If you are going on a trip, doesn’t matter if its small or not that small. Prepare things that you will need, such as – reusables, cotton bags, etc.
That also applies to other situations, for instance, going to work/school/university. For instance, you can always prepare some food in advance, in order to avoid waste from food wraps.
2. Don’t beat yourself if you fail
Especially in the beginning, it will be hard to remember everything you need to do, so remember that becoming zero waste it’s a process. Mistakes will make you become better and better!
7. Observe (your trash)
Why may ask why?
If you do that, you will become more aware of where your waste comes from. Perhaps, it might be a trash bin, full of food scraps. The solution?
Or it could be that your guilty pleasure is a pack of chips or some other packaged snack, every once in a while…
Or maybe it’s milk cartons, food wrappers, cans, plastic bottles, plastic bags, etc?
Take a good look for a few days or even a week. Once you know where most of your waste comes from, you will be able to take action and do something about it.
1. Figure out your trash
This will help you a lot to realize what are the products that create the most waste. For me, it was easier when I wrote a list in my notebook. I recommend to give it a try.
2. Find alternatives
Once you figure out that, then start looking for more sustainable alternatives.
Take a look at your list in your notebook and start one by one. Mark the one you find and then go to the next one.
Luckily, you can find alternative, package free and more sustainable products for almost anything.
8. Just say, “No.”
Do not take things that you won’t use and don’t need. Simple as that.
That can be freebies, from a stranger on the street, or anything else from a family member/a friend. Or even junk mail!
If you won’t use it and if it’s a wasteful product, the best thing you can do is to say, “No, thanks.”
1. Don’t be rude, but refuse whatever doesn’t serve you
If you say it nicely, nobody will think that you are rude.
Just stand out your point and if someone insists, just tell them that you are trying to reduce your waste and that you appreciate the gesture, but you don’t need whatever they are offering you
2. “No junk mail”
A quick solution is to put a sign saying that you only want ”Addressed mail only” or you can even return or contact the sender.
9. Eliminate single-use first
This should be an easy task.
By now, you should know that in order to reduce your waste, you need some long-lasting items.
So, be sure to eliminate plastic bottles for stainless steel reusable water bottle, plastic bags for a reusable bag/a tote bag, paper towels for cotton towels, etc.
1. Make another list
Write down all the single-use stuff that you currently use. This could be from menstrual pads, paper tissues, cotton earbuds to plastic bags, bottles, food wraps.
2. Find an alternative
Pretty much like the previous approach, try to find alternative solutions. You might get surprised positively, by all the options you will be able to find.
10. Waste “wisely”
There are some cases when having a zero waste approach is quite difficult.
But as I mentioned already, zero waste is not about producing ZERO trash, literally.
For example, how can you buy a laptop, that is sustainable and it doesn’t have plastic? Or what about some supplements/medicine?
Of even something from your everyday life, such as milk?
Yes, there are solutions to a lot of situations, for instance, you can always make your own plant-based milk, with oats, nuts or rice. But how realistic is that you can do it ALWAYS?
Sometimes, you might be super busy and other times, you might just feel a bit lazy to do it. But that’s the reality. Just try to be mindful about it and to waste “wisely”.
1. Do your best
Try to do as much as you can, and even if sometimes you ”fail”, don’t be too harsh on yourself.
2. Recycle properly
Even though recycling is a delicate topic, it’s always better to do your part and to always recycle properly. You can find out how to recycle metal, paper, old electronics, and different items.
Try to reduce (if you can) the consumption of an item/product, that you currently cannot find an alternative and more sustainable solution.
11. Buy second hand
A huge part of living (almost) zero waste is second-hand shopping.
Why may wonder why?
The truth is that the fashion industry transformed into a huge waste generator. In just one year (2013), 13 MILLION tonnes of textile has ended in the landfills.
Instead of buying new clothes or other products, and contributing to the waste stream by the fashion industry, you can start shopping second-hand!
1. Check your local second-hand shops
Whenever you need something new, visit s few local second-hand stores first.
Doesn’t matter if its clothing or something else – they often have all different kind of goods!
2. If you are not able to find what you need…
Then check out some second-hand online stores! If you don’t know good websites, I have an article with 16 great websites for secondhand shopping.
12. Start cutting your plastic usage
Instead of focusing on becoming 100% zero waste, start by eliminating just plastic stuff. Especially if you don’t have a bulk store nearby or farmers market.
It might be a bit overwhelming, also if you are just starting and you are not used to all the zero waste lifestyle choices.
Starting from just cutting down your plastic use will be already a huge plus.
Slowly, you will be able to become better and better at it.
1. Always try to find glass & aluminum packaged stuff
This might be easier, instead of trying to be completely packaged free. Furthermore…
2. Make easy swaps
For example, switch from:
– a plastic toothbrush –> a bamboo toothbrush
– shampoo bottles –> shampoo bars
– a plastic cup from a coffee place –> a reusable coffee cup
– disposable cleaning sponge –> cotton cloths
– liquid soap (comes in plastic) –> soap bar
– disposable plastic razor –> reusable metal razor
13. Start making your own products
It is convenient to buy stuff, packaged in plastic since they are often much cheaper than the once that are ”zero waste”.
And there are for sure people that are not willing to pay double or even triple for a product, that comes in a glass jar instead of plastic.
The truth is that oftentimes, the zero waste goods are also without any chemicals and bad ingredients, but still, it can be a bit pricey for some people.
So if you are not ready to pay $8-12 for a package-free deodorant bar, or $9-10 for zero waste toothpaste, there is still a solution for you.
Start making them by yourself! It is easy and you can minimize the expenses quite a lot.
1. Start one by one
When you end your toothpaste, for example, don’t buy a new one but check my article that will tell you how to make your own toothpaste, using just a few (3-4) ingredients.
This can apply to any other product you run out!
Don’t be afraid to try new things and test different recipes.
14. Adopt zero waste thinking
If you didn’t realize already, zero waste is not about producing ZERO trash, literally.
The whole point of the movement is to adopt ”zero waste” thinking, which often comes down to an aim for overall eco-friendly choices and living.
1. Try to keep in mind the 5R’s of zero waste which are:
– refuse what you don’t need
– reuse things
– reduce and minimize your consumption
– rot (compost)
– recycle what you cannot refuse, reuse or rot
– plus, rethink what you need and try to repurpose things!
All in all, it is all about making SMALL changes and swipes in your everyday life.
Feel free to share in the comments below your favorite tip, cool zero waste swap that I missed out or the changes that are the hardest for you!
Remember, sharing is caring! 🙂