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Before beginning with my zero waste journey, I remember I was feeling a bit intimidated;
I was thinking – what are the easiest ways to adopt a zero waste lifestyle faster?
After a couple of years of living (almost) zero waste, I created a beginner’s guide for everyone interested in trying to live more waste-free.
The 10 ways below will help you start a zero waste lifestyle and are packed with actionable steps you can implement immediately.
Let’s look at the 10 most impactful ways to adopt a zero waste lifestyle.
1. Buy reusables
Switching to long-lasting & reusable products will save you money while reducing unnecessary waste. There are hundreds of wasteful things you can avoid, like:
- Plastic bottles & bags
- Paper towels/Tissues
- Baking paper
- Menstrual pads/tampons
- Plastic straws
- Food wraps
- Cotton earbuds
The list can go on and on. To make it easier, consider eliminating the most polluting & single-use items first.
1. See if you already have reusables at home -If you have a reusable bottle, food containers, or reusable bags – start using them! Even if some things are plastic, use them until they break.
2. Invest in long-lasting products – Next, start looking for long-lasting items that are durable and reusable. 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 & (almost) zero waste life.
When you throw your food scraps in a plastic bag and go to a landfill, they can’t decompose.
There, they produce landfill gas – a natural byproduct of the decomposition of organic material.
It contains methane and carbon dioxide, trapping heat in the atmosphere.
If you start composting, you can reduce your greenhouse emissions drastically.
The good news is that composting is not hard and is doable even if you live in a small apartment.
Additionally, you can also try to reduce food waste altogether.
1. Pick a composting method – The first step is to simply read out 7 ways for apartment composting and choose one.
2. Prepare – 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)
3. Compost – Once everything is set, you can start composting. Read my full guide for much more details on how to compost.
3. Minimize food packaging
This depends on many factors, such as where you live, your budget, your options, etc.
But if you have a farmers market or a bulk shop nearby, start shopping from there.
Just by that, you will reduce most of your plastic waste from food packaging.
Alternatively, if you don’t have those options, you can also find plastic-free items in regular supermarkets.
1. Always bring reusable bags and jars – Use them instead of single-use plastic or paper bags.
2. Buy loose vegetables and fruits – Big supermarkets often have a section with loose veggies and fruits.
3. Buy products in glass or aluminum containers since they are 100% recyclable – Then, you can reuse some containers to store different goods.
4. Use what you already have
If you decide to lower your plastic waste and try to be (almost) zero waste, that doesn’t mean getting rid of everything unsustainable in your home.
First, use everything you have, even if it’s a single-use or products in plastic containers, and then start getting sustainable alternatives & reusable items.
Do not throw it away just because it’s plastic! It will be much worse if you do it and even more wasteful.
Eventually, if you don’t want to use something, try to find someone that might want it – family members, friends, charities, etc.
1. Finish the products you already have – It can be from a shampoo bottle to a pack of tissues. 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.
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.
This is insanely much!
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 cleaning cloths
- 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 fantastic exercise since once you see your biggest waste sources, you can take action and find ways to reduce them.
1. Figure out your trash – This will help you realize the products that create the most waste.
2. Find alternatives – Once you figure out that, start looking for more sustainable alternatives. You can find alternative, package-free, and sustainable products for almost anything.
7. Buy second hand
The truth is that the fashion industry is a huge waste generator. In 2013, 13 MILLION tonnes of textiles ended up in landfills.
Many of these items are made of cheap synthetic polyester (plastic).
Instead of buying new clothes & other products, and contributing to the waste stream by the fashion industry, start shopping second-hand.
1. Check your local second-hand shops – Whenever you need something new, visit s few local second-hand stores first.
2. 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.
So if you are not ready to pay $8-12 for a package-free deodorant bar, or $9-10 for zero waste toothpaste, start making them yourself!
It is super easy, and you can significantly minimize expenses.
2. Experiment – Don’t be afraid to try new things and test different recipes.
9. Cut down the meat and dairy
Since the vegan diet has the lowest carbon footprint, cutting animal products of your diet has many environmental benefits. It is one of the most powerful things you can do to reduce your individual carbon emissions.
While not everyone will become vegetarian or vegan overnight, 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 try the 30-Day Vegan Challenge here.
10. Be more mindful
Making a drastic change in your lifestyle means you will have to change some old habits with new ones.
Having a 100% trash-free life can be quite difficult and almost impossible. That’s why you should be mindful.
Some actionable tips to consider here include:
- Don’t beat yourself up if you aren’t ‘perfect’ (no one is). 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.
- Become more aware of your spending patterns. Before buying new things, ask yourself if you truly need them. Try to wait a few days before you make the purchase. If it were an impulse, you would forget about it or find that you can live without it.
- Do not compare your journey with others. We all have different resources and unique living situations.
Living an (almost) zero waste lifestyle is a process. One of the keys to avoiding unnecessary waste is to plan ahead and be prepared.
In the beginning, it will be hard to remember all the new habits and things you need to do, and you will probably have some small ‘failures,’ at least I did.
But with time, you will improve, and all those mistakes will only help you learn. Remember that the goal isn’t to become ‘perfect” but to try your best.
Even after years of trying to live zero waste, I still create some trash and buy some things in plastic, and I no longer feel bad about it (like I used to).
Now I want to hear from you – which tip is the easiest/hardest change for you? Feel free to share in the comment section below. 🙂