Waste is a huge problem in our society.
Unfortunately, we are accepted to use things once, and then to throw them away.
We can all agree that this is not sustainable. The positive thing here is that nowadays, there are plenty of sustainable, Eco-friendly alternatives!
In this article, I will share with you how to start your zero waste lifestyle and some of the easiest changes you can make in order to minimize your waste!
So, let’s get started!
16 Easy ways to reduce your waste
1. Tote bag / reusable bag
This is the thing I rarely go out without.
Have your reusable bag in your car or in your bag.
This will prevent you from getting a disposable plastic bag if, for example, you randomly decide to stop by the farmer’s market.
The truth is that plastic bags are all over the 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 order to avoid plastic bags!
Keep it always close to your door so you will be able to see it every time you are going somewhere.
Check your local second-hand stores, or purchase online some great reusable bags, like these ones.
2. Stainless steel water bottle
This one is simple.
Always have water with you in a reusable bottle. And never leave home without it!
This will also prevent you from buying a plastic bottle when getting insanely thirsty!
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!
3. Stop buying stuff, impulsively!
What’s the odds that you REALLY need this nice shirt, that looks similar to the 5 others that you own?
Or more food, while your fridge is full?
Or this new coffee maker, even though you have one, in a great condition and working perfectly, at home?
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 taking more conscious decisions!
Anytime you feel like buying something new and it is questionable if you really need it, 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!
The truth is that food waste is another huge problem.
But there is an easy way how to prevent buying more food.
The trick here is to not shop while you are hungry and not forget about all the food in your fridge.
But what if you have a craving for something? A moment that you really feel like eating this sweet potato?
Well, you need to be strong! 😀 Think about all the cool and delicious meals that you can do with what you already have.
Also, think about saving money. The less you go to the grocery shop, the more money you will spend and no food will go to 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.
The essentials that you will come in handy are:
– reusable coffee mug
– stainless steel container / glass container (even if you have plastic containers, that you bought before, you can still use it, especially at the beginning)
– bamboo spork / stainless steel fork, spoon, straw (I’m not a big straw fan, but as people in coffee shops are often giving straws, you may prevent that by telling them that you have one, or you don’t need it)
6. Forget 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
– by preparing your own meals you will eat much healthier!
It is a win-win-win situation! *yes, three WINS!*
If you really feel like eating something from a restaurant, just go there, sit, and order! 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.
That can we do about it? Switch to a bamboo toothbrush! The good thing about it is that the handle is completely biodegradable.
Furthermore, here comes the toothpaste.
They come in non-recyclable tubes, and the other disturbing thing is that they are often filled up with things, that can harm you and others that you really don’t need.
Make your own toothpaste! You will need literally 1 ingredient for the first toothpaste variation, or 2 ingredients for the second version.
Version one: soda.
Simply brush your teeth with baking soda. You will be amazed at how clean your teeth will feel afterward.
NOTE: Since soda is a bit rough, it probably won’t be the ideal option for people with sensitive teeth/gums. That’s why there is a second option (check below).
Version two: soda and coconut oil.
Mix equal amounts of soda and coconut oil, leave it in the fridge for 15-20 minutes and voila!
You have your homemade toothpaste.
8. Plastic Free grocery shopping
In order to reduce your plastic, you should create some new habits.
The thing is that going to a supermarket and trying to be a zero waste might be quite impossible.
Often, 99% of the stuff in your supermarket will be wrapped in plastic and it will be stored in plastic containers and bags.
As you can always find some alternative 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, zero waste is to completely lower your impact and waste, so you want to completely exclude even the glass, paper or aluminum. But how?
Find out farmer’s markets 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 often have nuts and legumes, too, so be sure to bring your jars!
But what if they don’t have grains, nuts, and pasta?
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 some cans. (not the best solution but hey, it is something).
9. Reuse things that you already have AND try using less of everything
After all, 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 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 re purposed?
Furthermore, try to reduce your daily usage of toothpaste, body soap, dish soap, laundry detergent, etc.
On 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 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?
– Or do you really need this disposable paper towels in your kitchen?
– Or 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 for 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 the disposable paper towels!
Solution 3: We often take the receipts as a habit, or to double check, if the price of our purchase seems a bit too high.
Instead of double checking the price, calculate it roughly in your head and also take an eye on the machine, that is checking the products. If something costs more than it should – say right away.
”The chemical bisphenol A (BPA) is used for thermal paper coatings because of its stability and heat-resistance.
This allows inkless printing for receipts from cash registers. People who often are in contact with BPA coated receipts do have a higher level of BPA in their bodies than people with average contact.”
So think twice if you really want to TOUCH this paper, filled with poisonous chemicals.
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 be sharing with you my favorite homemade cleaning product, 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!
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. 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 are a lot of ”second hand” web shops and apps such as:
13. Second hand
Ok, but what if you need new stuff?
You have 2 options here: get your ”new” things from a second-hand shop.
You will be positively surprised by the *cheap* goods that you can find in 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 with time and after I was seeing the cool stuff my mum was finding, I started going on my own, once I got a bit older.
Now some of my favorite jeans, shirts, and coats are from second-hand shops!
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.
14. Cut down the meat and dairy
Okay, I know. It is not that simple to become a vegetarian or vegan.
But this is not my suggestion here! (although if you want to try it, you are more than welcome! I promise, it is not hard 🙂 )
The zero waste movement suggests living animal product free as much as possible.
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 suggest 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, indeed!
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:
All in all…
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 you want to try the ”30 Day Vegan Challenge”, you can subscribe *for free* here!
15. Get inspired
To get inspired and motivated!
We live in the best time, where so much information and resources are available to us!
What is more, it is amazing how much can you learn by simply following a few zero waste accounts.
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, once you see that it is actually quite easy to live a zero waste life!
A daily dose of inspiration is always welcome, so take advantage of it!
16. Don’t be harsh on yourself
… and DO NOT compare yourself and your life to someone else’s!
We all have different ways of living and different resources.
In case you start following a bunch of zero waste accounts, do not get discouraged, by seeing all these perfect zero-waste feeds.
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!
If you have relatives and close friends, that you think might be interested in implementing some zero waste changes, be sure to share this /or any other!/ article that you find useful.
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!).
For instance, when I was starting my zero waste journey I was living with 3 more people.
2 of them were interested why I am trying to reduce my waste so I explained everything I knew back then.
Later on, both of them started to reduce their plastic waste, exponentially! And I was super happy and proud that I shared this information with them!
Most likely you heard the phrase “Sharing is caring”… so feel free to show that you care! 🙂
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, and even if it seems like that, you cannot see what is happening ”behind the scenes”.
DO NOT lose your hope and motivation!
Just try to be the BEST version of yourself, both for the planet and for your well-being.