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Getting into sustainable living can be quite exciting, but also somewhat intimidating. It requires lots of changes and the creation of new habits.
So, to make things a little bit easier, I collected some of the best ways to start your (almost) zero waste journey.
My advice is to start with the ones that are easiest to implement for you in your current life, and slowly work your way through the rest.
Alrighty, let’s look at the 10 most impactful ways to adopt a zero waste lifestyle:
1. Get reusables
Switching to long-lasting & reusable products will save you money in the long run, but also will help you to reduce a lot of unnecessary waste. To make it easier, consider eliminating the most polluting & single-use items first.
Then, see if you already have reusables at home & start using them. Chances are, you already have some reusables at home; it can be Tupperware, a reusable bottle, or reusable bags.
Next, get long-lasting & reusable alternatives to wasteful everyday products. Some examples include:
- Cotton rounds – Reusable & washable cotton rounds
- Paper towels – DIY cotton cloths (cut an old t-shirt in squares)
- Tissues – Handkerchiefs
- Baking paper – Reusable silicon mat
- Menstrual pads/tampons – Menstrual cup or reusable pads
- Plastic bag – Reusable bag
- Plastic straws – Stainless steel or bamboo straws
- Single-use cotton earbuds – Reusable ear cleaner
- Food wraps – Prepare food in reusable containers
Related post: How To Save $5,337 A Year By Going Zero Waste
Composting is another essential part of living a sustainable life. When you throw your food scraps in a plastic bag and go to a landfill, they produce landfill gas – a natural byproduct of the decomposition of organic material.
This gas contains methane and carbon dioxide, which trap heat in the atmosphere. If you start composting, you can avoid contributing to this. The good news is that composting is not hard and is doable even if you live in a small apartment.
The first step is to learn about the 7 ways for apartment composting and choose one. Once you pick a method, you need to get the needed materials:
- A bucket (or two)
- Charcoal filters
- Compostable bags (optional if you choose Countertop composting)
- Bokashi bran (optional, only if you choose Bokashi composting)
- Paper, worms (optional, only if you choose Vermicomposting)
Once everything is set, you can start composting. You can read my full guide with more details on how to compost.
3. Minimize food packaging
Try to be more mindful when shopping for food. You can start by bringing produce bags and using them for your fruit & veg, instead of plastic ones.
You can also try to see if you have a farmers market nearby & bulk stores, and try to visit it a few times per month to stock up on goods in your reusable bags.
Whichever option you have, the most essential thing is to get reusable bags and bring them with you when you go shopping.
Another thing you can do is to buy products in glass or aluminum containers (instead of plastic) since those materials are 100% recyclable.
4. Use what you already have
You don’t have to get all fancy and start buying a lot of new reusables, and throw away old things.
First, use everything you have, even if it’s single use, or it’s not super sustainable. Alternatively, you can give it to friends, family, or charities, if you don’t want to use certain things anymore, and want to switch to sustainable alternatives sooner.
Once you are done with the stuff (or you decide to give it away to someone), you can start looking for reusable, plastic-free, long-lasting alternatives. To get inspiration & ideas, you can find my list of zero waste swaps, including 142 eco-friendly products.
5. Cut your paper usage
It has been estimated that 1 billion trees’ worth of paper is thrown away every year. (just in the US!) Furthermore, Americans use 85,000,000 tons of paper annually, about 680 pounds per person. Yuck!
A couple of things you can do to reduce your paper usage include:
- Stop junk mail by getting off the list of all direct marketers (US / UK)
- Replace paper towels with reusable cloth towels
- Get recycled or tree-free toilet paper
6. Observe your trash
Looking at your trash for a week or two can be eye-opening. Once, I experimented, and I collected my trash for a month. It was interesting to see where most of my waste came from.
It is a great exercise since you can see what are the products that create the most waste, and then take action and find ways & alternatives to reduce that waste.
7. Buy second hand
Instead of buying new clothes & other products, and contributing to the waste stream by the fashion industry, start shopping second-hand.
Whenever you need something new, visit a few local second-hand stores first, or Check out second-hand online stores, if you cannot find what you need locally.
8. DIY products
It is convenient to buy stuff packaged in plastic since they are often much cheaper than plastic-free and ”zero waste” options. The truth is that zero waste goods can be a bit pricey because the materials & production usually cost more.
So if you are not ready to pay $8-12 for a package-free deodorant bar, or $9-10 for zero waste toothpaste, you can start making them yourself! It is easy, and you can significantly minimize expenses.
9. Eat more plants
Since the vegan diet has the lowest carbon footprint, cutting animal products off your diet has many environmental benefits. It is one of the most powerful things you can do to reduce your individual carbon emissions.
The point isn’t to become vegetarian or vegan overnight. But you can slowly start incorporating more plant-based foods into your diet. You can still make a huge change by reducing your meat and dairy consumption.
By going meat-free and dairy-free for a day, you will save 20 pounds of CO2. For 1 year, that will be 7,300 pounds of CO2. If you want to try this, you can also try a 30-Day Vegan Challenge here.
10. Take it slow
Making a drastic change in your lifestyle means you will have to change some old habits with new ones, and this isn’t always an easy thing to do.
Having a 100% trash-free life can be quite difficult and almost impossible. That’s why don’t beat yourself up if you aren’t ‘perfect’ (no one is).
Try to avoid comparing your journey with others. We all have different resources and specific living situations.
Whenever you can avoid plastic and waste – great! But if there is a situation where you can’t – it’s okay, too. What matters is that you’re trying your best.
Living (almost) zero waste is a process. One of the key aspects of avoiding unnecessary waste is to try to plan and be prepared.
Even after years of trying to live sustainably, I still create trash and buy things in plastic, but I no longer feel bad about it (like I used to).
In the beginning, it will be challenging to remember all the new habits and things you need to do. But with time, things will get easier. Remember, the goal is not to be ”perfect” but to try your best.
Okay, now I want to hear from you – which is the easiest/hardest change for you? Feel free to share in the comment section below. 🙂