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Looking for how to start your zero waste lifestyle?
I’m going to share with you 16 easy, but essential changes you can do to minimalize your waste.
The tips below helped me to gradually reduce my waste. If you adopt some of them, I’m sure you will be able to live more trash-free, too!
Now, let’s get started.
16 Easy ways to reduce your waste:
- Always have a reusable bag
- Stainless steel water bottle
- Stop buying stuff, impulsively
- Reduce food waste
- Bring your own containers
- Reduce takeout
- Dental hygiene
- Plastic-free grocery shopping
- Reuse things & Use LESS
- Cut your paper usage
- Make your own cleaning products
- Second hand
- Cut down the meat and dairy
- Get inspired
- Don’t be harsh on yourself
1. Reusable bag
Plastic single-use bags are all over landfills and oceans.
They are dangerous for marine wildlife, and really, simply remembering to bring your own bag is the only effort you have to put in to avoid plastic bags.
If you have your reusable bag with you, this will prevent you from getting disposable plastic bags.
I advise you to keep one always close to your door (or in your car, if you have one).
In that way, you will rarely forget it, and you will remember to take it with you, every time you are going out.
Check your local second-hand stores, or purchase online some great reusable bags, like these ones (link to Amazon).
2. Stainless steel water bottle
This one is simple, too.
Always bring your reusable water bottle with you. And never leave your home without it!
The benefits of a stainless steel bottle are that they are lightweight, long-lasting, recyclable, and it keeps your water cold (or your tea warm!) for a very long time!
Plus, you will save money, singe you will no longer buy plastic water bottles.
3. Stop buying stuff, impulsively!
What’s the odds that you REALLY need a new shirt, that is similar to a few others that you own?
Or more food, while your fridge is full?
Or a new coffee maker, even though you have one, that works perfectly?
Don’t worry a lot of us have been there.
But it is not something you want to keep doing.
Luckily, you can easily change this by simply making more conscious decisions.
Anytime you feel like buying something new and it is questionable if you really need it, try to stop yourself.
Give it a few thoughts and also a few days before you make the purchase.
This will allow you to think. If it was an impulse, you will forget about it or you will find that you can live without it, too.
4. Food waste
As I mentioned before, do you really need more food, while your fridge is full? Of course not!
When we waste food, it usually ends up in a landfill. When this happens, the food goes through an anaerobic digestion process, where the organic matter is converted into methane.
Methane is known to be a potent greenhouse gas, and it is 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide.
Luckily, there are a few simple ways that will help you to avoid food waste:
- do not shop while you are hungry
- do not forget about all the food in your fridge
- eat first the food that’s about to go bad
- think about saving money – the less you go to the grocery shop, the more money you will save and no food will go to waste!
Related post: How To Save $5,337 A Year By Going Zero Waste
5. Bring your own containers
Do you feel like drinking a coffee or eating a nice salad outside? No worries!
You can still do it, even when trying to be zero waste.
The trick is to always bring your reusable coffee mug or food containers, in case you don’t want to sit inside the place (or if they serve in single-use plastics, yikes!).
The essentials that you will come in handy are (links to Earth Hero):
- reusable coffee mug (that you can use for water bottle, too!)
- stainless steel container / 2-tier stainless steel container (even if you have plastic containers, that you bought before, you can still use it, especially at the beginning)
- metal spork / recycled stainless steel set
- reusable straw
6. Reduce takeout
The convenience of takeout – you make a phone call and in half an hour or even less, you have a huge pizza or a nice meal, in front of your door!
But what about the plastic containers, that your food is often coming? It is often accompanied by single-use napkins, plastic packages of sauce, plastic cutlery, and so on.
By ordering less food, you will not only reduce your waste but you will also:
- save money
- you will eat much healthier, by preparing your own meals
If you really feel like eating something from a restaurant – go there, sit, and order. And don’t forget to bring your own containers, if you end up with some leftovers.
7. Dental hygiene
Did you know that around 111 million toothbrushes are thrown into the landfill each year?
What is more, such plastic items can take over 400 years to decompose.
What can we do about it?
Switch to a bamboo toothbrush! The good thing about it is that the handle is entirely biodegradable.
Wait what about toothpaste?
They all come in non-recyclable tubes, and the other disturbing thing is that they are often filled up with not-so-healthy and harmless ingredients.
The easiest solution is to make your own toothpaste/toothpowder, or to buy zero waste toothpaste tablets!
If you want to make it, follow my guides, that will teach you:
Otherwise, some excellent eco-friendly toothpaste products are:
- Geoganics toothpaste, tooth tablets, or tooth powder
- Davids spearmint or peppermint toothpaste
- Unpaste toothpaste tablets
8. Plastic-free grocery shopping
To reduce your plastic, you should create some new habits.
Going to a supermarket and trying to be a zero-waste might be hard.
Often, 99% of the stuff in your supermarket will be wrapped in plastic, or they will be stored in plastic containers and bags.
Usually, you can always find some plastic-free options – such as things in glass jars, paper, or aluminum cans, most of the things will still come in plastic.
If you have a choice, always pick glass and metal, since they are 100% recyclable.
Furthermore, some additional tips are:
1) Find a farmer’s market around your city
- They are one of the best things you can do since you will also support your local farmers and you will buy locally grown veggies and fruits.
- You can always bring with your reusable bags so you can avoid plastic. They might have nuts and legumes, too, so be sure to bring some jars!
But what if they don’t have grains, nuts, and pasta? Then…
2) Find a bulk store around your city
- If you have a bulk store in your city, just go a few times per month and fill your jars to the top!
However, this might be a bit harder, especially if you don’t have a bulk store around.
If that’s the case, you can either order online or you can get things in glass jars or cans. (not the best solution but hey, it is something).
9. Reuse things & use less of everything
Zero waste is all about buying less.
If we even out what is thrown away across everyone, it would turn out that each of us would contribute 4.4 pounds of garbage, DAILY.
This is around 2.609 pounds (1183kg) per person per year.
If you want to reduce this madness, before you want to buy something, ask yourself:
- Do you really need this?
- Do you own a similar thing, that can be repurposed?
Another thing is to try to reduce your daily usage of toothpaste, body soap, dish soap, laundry detergent, etc.
That doesn’t mean to go all crazy about it. My advice is to simply be a mindful consumer and to avoid overusing things.
In the long run, this will make a positive impact!
Have you heard of the Earth Overshoot Day? It happened in August 2018. The day illustrated how many resources the earth can sustainable produce for the year.
It was calculated that we are using almost TWO earth’s worth of resources.
10. Cut your paper usage
How much paper do you think you waste, yearly?
It has been estimated that 1 billion trees worth of paper is thrown away every year (just in the U.S.)
Furthermore, Americans use 85,000,000 tons of paper a year; about 680 pounds per person.
This is insanely much.
How to fix this issue? Start small… for example:
- Are you sick of junk mails in your post box?
- Do you really need this disposable paper towels in your kitchen?
- Are you sick of all the receipts from the shops?
Solution 1: Get Off the List of ALL direct marketers.
If you are a US citizen, find all the info on how to do this here.
For the UK: check here.
Solution 2: Replace the paper towels with reusable cleaning cloths.
You can even cut up some old t-shirt or old bathroom towels. They will do the job even better than disposable paper towels!
Solution 3: Online receipts (if possible), or less frequent shopping.
Honestly, I know that most times, it is almost impossible to avoid getting one.
But whenever you have an option, refuse receipts, ask to get digital ones, or shop less frequently.
11. Cut down or make your own cleaning products
First of all, they all come in plastic.
Second of all, they are filled with chemicals that are not healthy, and most importantly – they are not needed.
With a few natural ingredients, you will be amazed at what you can do!
Soon, I will share my favorite homemade cleaning product with you, with as little as 3 to 4 ingredients!
The best thing – you can simply use it for everything – surface cleaner, dish soap, window detergent, toilet cleaner… really, everything.
They have all-purpose cleaners made of plant-based ingredients and refillable or plastic-free packaging.
The zero waste lifestyle is often intertwined with the minimalist lifestyle.
Minimizing, downsizing, owning less.
Simply said – getting rid of the things that you don’t need.
It may sound simple, but for some, it might be a bit harder simply because It’s the emotional attachment you have to THINGS.
But that’s okay – you can always start slow.
For instance, with your desk. Check all the old papers, pencil cases, pens, notebooks, school books… figure out do you use them all, and do you really need them all.
Then check your wardrobe. Take out all of the things you DON’T use at all. Why would you just keep it there, where you can give it to someone /a friend or charity/ who will use it?
Collect all the things that just collect space and dust and make a donation to your local charity or thrift shop.
You can even try to sell it online – there is a lot of ”second hand” webshops and apps such as:
- 55 Things I Stopped Buying To Save Money And Waste
- How To Become A Minimalist In 30 Days
- 68 Things To Get Rid Of (Minimalism)
- How To Be Ruthless When Decluttering Clothes: 9 Steps
13. Second hand
Shopping second-hand, is the most sustainable way to buy anything.
You will be positively surprised by the *cheap* goods that you can find there.
Since I was a little kid, my mum taught me to go to second-hand shops.
Honestly, I never liked it – the fact that I have to search for things was not appealing to me.
But once I got older, and after seeing the cool stuff my mum was finding, I started going on my own.
Now some of my favorite jeans, shirts, and coats are from second-hand shops!
But why the second hand is your best option here?
The CO2 emissions from clothing production account for 3% of all global emissions. This includes outsourced production, washing, cleaning, and shipping.
By buying secondhand, you’ll save clothing items from a landfill, and will help to reduce the overall demand for clothing production.
Related post: 16 Best Online Thrift Stores for Secondhand Clothing
14. Cut down the meat and dairy
The zero waste movement suggests living animal products free as much as possible.
While I know I can’t expect everyone to become vegetarian or vegan overnight.
But this is not my suggestion here.
By simply reducing your consumption of meat and dairy, you can still make a HUGE change!
For instance, you can start by implementing ” meatless Monday ”.
Or if you are willing to make a bigger change, watch this Ted talk, where Graham Hill suggests you be a ” weekday veg ” – to eat only plant-based food during the weekdays, and to eat meat only on the weekend.
A pretty cool idea, right?
Furthermore, if you go meatless and dairy-free, know that EVERY DAY you will save 20 pounds of CO2.
For 1 year that will be 7,300 pounds of CO2!
Moreover, a study found out that:
Shifting less than 1 day per week’s (1/7 of total calories) consumption of red meat and dairy to vegetable sources of protein could have the same climate impact as buying all household food from local providers.
I’m sharing all of that because I want to make a point.
Since the vegan diet has the lowest carbon footprint, you can reduce your footprint by a quarter just by cutting down on red meats such as beef and lamb.
The carbon footprint of a vegetarian diet is about half that of a meat lover’s diet.
If this is something you would like to give it a try, you can even try the ”30 Day Vegan Challenge”, you can subscribe *for free* here.
15. Get inspired
We live in the best time, where so much information and resources are available to us!
You learn a lot by simply following a few zero waste accounts, blogs, or groups.
The other cool thing about it is that when seeing others, you will really get a lot of ideas and you will feel more encouraged.
You will see that reducing your trash, and living more eco-friendly isn’t as hard as you think.
16. Don’t be harsh on yourself
Following others, that are living this way can be a great dose of daily inspiration, but please, do not compare your journey with others.
We all have different ways of living and different resources.
Do not get discouraged, by seeing all these perfect zero wasters.
The truth is that nobody is perfect. The point of sharing our zero waste journey is always to inspire and never to discourage.
Just do your part as much as you can, be a conscious consumer, and spread the message!
Spreading the zero waste movement is a great thing that you can do (of course, without being pushy and trying to change people – just share with them what you know!).
All in all, remember that zero waste living can be challenging.
And the whole point of being a zero waste doesn’t mean that you will produce ZERO trash.
Unfortunately, we live in a linear economy that makes it impossible to be 100% truly zero waste.
The whole point is to TRY and to be conscious about what is happening around the world. It is about making BETTER and more sustainable choices.
Nobody is perfect.
Just try to be the BEST version of yourself, both for the planet and for your well-being.