A lot of people ask me “how did you go zero waste?” The answer is: Research. Tons and tons of research. I read articles, blogs, books, watched videos, documentaries. I was like a sponge, soaking it all up. Then, I applied that research and started making more conscious, educated choices. Yes, I bought a few new items (like my reusable water bottle, travel mug, etc.) but it was more of a mindset change than anything else. Zero waste living isn’t so much about what you buy: It’s about how you live, and what you do with the items you buy/already have. For example, you could already have a reusable water bottle, but it doesn’t mean anything if it sits in your cupboard all day long, not being used. Zero waste is about developing a relationship with your items, learning to cherish them and purchasing with end of life in mind. If you’re new to the zero waste lifestyle, all of this can be quite overwhelming. That’s why I’ve created this zero waste beginners guide: It’s everything you could want to know about the zero waste lifestyle rolled into one. Here I’ll explain exactly what zero waste living is, along with 20 actionable tips to get started. Are you ready to dive in and start making a difference?
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Zero Waste Beginners Guide
List of sections:
1. What is zero waste?
2. What can you do?
3. 20 Tips to Get Started
What is zero waste?
▨ Section 1 ▨
First, zero waste isn’t zero…
Unfortunately, society hasn’t gotten to that point yet.
Aside from individual businesses that are definitely making a difference, our economy is still very much so linear. This makes it very hard to avoid all single use items. And that’s okay – it’s not your fault. Rather, it’s the system, not you.
What can you do?
▨ Section 2 ▨
Here are four core values to keep in mind when going zero waste:
- Focus on simplicity: The less items you have, the better off you are. Make a point of using what you have first, before buying new. In fact, opt for second hand items before new, whenever possible. Keeping things simple is always best.
- Build community: If you want to change the system, you can’t do it alone. Building community, especially in your own community, is so important. This can be as simple as finding an online community that supports you, talking to friends about your zero waste efforts, or getting family members on board. When first starting out, it’s best not to go overboard.
- Remember your reason: Whenever you feel discouraged or if you had a zero waste fail, don’t give up. Remember the reason you decided to go zero waste. In fact, upon starting out, I highly recommend you ask yourself – why do I want to go zero waste? Maybe it’s because you love the earth and/or want to avoid toxins found in plastic. Jot down your answer in a notebook and reference it whenever you need some inspiration. It’s good to remind yourself when the going gets tough.
- No one is perfect: In line with remembering your reason you’re going zero waste, realize no one is perfect. Even the best zero wasters produce some form of waste (Ex: A plastic straw they didn’t ask for in their drink, a plastic dish handed to them at a party, etc.). The goal is to reduce the amount of waste you’re currently making to a minimum. Not everyone can fit their trash into a picture perfect mason jar, and that’s okay. Any difference you make is better than none.
20 Tips for Zero Waste Beginners
▨ Section 3 ▨
- Invest in a reusable water bottle so you can stop buying bottled water packaged in plastic (+ save money).
- While dining out, say “no straw please” when ordering your drink and store any leftovers in a container you brought from home (it’s okay if it’s plastic Tupperware and not a mason jar or a metal tiffin – it’s still reusable).
- Bring a zero waste kit with you you can leave in your car or purse that contains your:
- Go to the farmers market and purchase seasonal, local produce completely plastic free. Here are my favorite zero waste farmers market essentials (you can also use them at the grocery store if you don’t have a farmers market near you).
- Don’t throw out your food scraps – compost them. Better yet, hold on to some of them and make some delicious food scrap vegetable broth.
- Got gardening room? Get gardening and grow your own food – it’s completely package free. No outdoor room? Try windowsill gardening instead.
- Give bulk food shopping a try without producing any waste (bring your own containers with you, even if all you have is Tupperware – still better than single use bags).
- Make your own toiletries such as toothpaste, mouthwash, and deodorant – it’s really easy and saves you a buck!
- Swap out paper towels for reusable dish towels. If you must use paper towels and napkins, make sure to compost them after use.
- Keep your bathroom plastic free by getting a bamboo toothbrush (I love Brush with Bamboo!), using bar soap (instead of gel), and Plaine Products shampoo and conditioner. If Plaine Products is too expensive, look into getting a shampoo bar or dabble in creating your own shampoo and conditioner.
- Skip plastic wrap and opt for bees wrap. Here’s how I store leftovers without plastic.
- Create your own zero waste cleaning supplies (my go to is my all-purpose citrus vinegar cleaner and my zero waste laundry detergent).
- Go thrifting for your clothes and zero waste essentials. Look for local thrift stores near you – Goodwill or Salvation Army are good options too.
- Go to your local library whenever you want to read a book – they have so many to choose from and the books get reused over and over. Some eco-friendly reads I recommend:
The Zero Waste Home
Zero Waste: Simple Life Hacks to Drastically Reduce Your Trash
Plastic Free: How I Kicked the Plastic Habit and How You Can Too
- Save a buck and make your own dish soap (which doubles as a hand soap too).
- Looking to clean out your house? Don’t just throw your things away – donate them. Often times thrift stores will accept a lot of things you no longer need or want such as toys, board games, books, clothes, dishes, etc. You can also give any electronics to Best Buy – they accept anything televisions (big) to phone chargers (small).
- Learn how to freeze food without plastic – that being said, don’t just get rid of your Tupperware to do this. Use it until it’s at the end of its life, or give it away to a friend or family member who needs it before replacing it with a more sustainable option.
- Make your own lunch using farm fresh produce and reusable containers. Here are my favorite zero waste lunch essentials.
- Learn how to repair your items when they break – ask someone older to show you how to sew and mend things. Or, get them repaired by a specialist.
- Gather memories, not things. Focus on spending genuine time with other people instead of going out and shopping. Someone’s birthday coming up or a holiday? Get them experience gifts over material gifts whenever possible – treat them out. Your time is much more valuable than any item you can purchase them.
Did this zero waste beginners guide help you?
If you need more tips, be sure to download my free e-book “10 Ways to Reduce Trash“.
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