Have you thought about going zero waste and actively attempting to reduce your carbon footprint in the world? It involves more than just storing food in trendy mason jars, buying fresh produce at farmers’ markets, and making products from scratch.
It’s a lifestyle dedicated to cultivating meaningful experiences and prioritising environmental sustainability.
Perhaps you’ve considered it. But without knowing the basics and getting some guidance, abandoning your dependency on plastic and the usual ways of shopping, cleaning, and eating can be pretty intimidating. Before you embark on your own zero waste journey, it’s important to get an understanding of the lifestyle from people living it on a daily basis.
I’m not living a zero waste life – yet.
Because guess what? It doesn’t happen overnight. And if you try and make that significant of a life change happen immediately, chances are, it won’t stick.
So if you’re any bit interested in living a zero or less waste lifestyle, here are some key things to keep in mind:
What is zero waste?
A zero waste lifestyle isn’t simply about eating clean and purging your plastic belongings — it involves adopting a more thoughtful, minimalistic approach to living. Zero waste aims at eliminating as much trash from the household as possible turning it into a simple, richer life based on experience instead of things. It’s definitely about changing our perspective. Changing how we feel about consumption and how we value the things we bring into our lives.
How to get started?
Coming to terms with the amount of harmful waste you produce on a daily basis can be seriously overwhelming, so the key is to start small and work toward achieving your larger sustainability goals. No one goes zero waste overnight.
Establish your ‘Why”
Most everyone who decides to explore the zero waste lifestyle has a “why” behind what they’re doing. Get specific with your “why” so you can return to it on a daily basis as your inner motive. Are you a surfer who hates seeing plastic wash up on the beach? Have you experienced a health scare or issue after using a beauty product containing toxins?
Assess your waste
The easiest place to start is assessing where you’re making a lot of waste and focusing on those areas first. Even if you can’t solve every aspect of that area right away, you can start to prioritize the steps you want to take. Which leads me to my next point…
Maybe you realize you’re throwing away a lot of trash by getting to-go coffee and takeout on weekdays. Prioritize making coffee at home and taking it in a reusable mug, and meal prepping and packing your lunch.
Maybe you’re a product junkie and realize you’re throwing away tons of shampoo, lotion and soap bottles. Look into shampoo bars, bulk beauty items and sustainably made products. Looking at the big picture of all the waste in your life can feel overwhelming, but once you break it down and focus on one area at a time, it becomes so much more doable.
Replace items as they run out
Where all my budget-conscious friends at?
Repeat after me: I do not need to buy every zero waste alternative at once. Phew, that felt good didn’t it? If you have the cash, and the desire to do a full overhaul of your life at once, by all means, go for it!
But what I’d recommend is purchasing zero waste alternatives once your non-zero waste items run out. Because buying something then throwing it out unused is pretty wasteful too, right?
But on the topic of using up your old items….
RESEARCH HOW TO PROPERLY RECYLE OLD ITEMS, DONATE, SELL OR UP-CYCLE THEM
Your goal is zero waste, so don’t go throwing your old items in the trash now! Recycle whatever you can. Compost whenever you can. Find a way to reuse an old item whenever you can. Donate items, or gift them to friends. The goal of zero waste living is to keep matter out of landfills.
Learn to say no to the little things
Whether it’s a business card at a meeting, a straw at a restaurant, a plastic bag at the store, or a disposable pen from a conference, recognise and deny waste — no matter how small — is crucial. Next time someone hands you something, think. Do you really need it?
Start eating real food
When it comes to the kitchen cut back on processed foods and reach for the natural stuff. Start to eat real foods like fruits, vegetables and anything that doesn’t come in packaging.
Try using less of everything
I use very little dish soap, laundry detergent, body soap, and toothpaste.
Join zero waste communities for support
To stay motivated and open to learning helpful tips from others, seek out zero waste communities for support — whether online or in person. I follow a lot of zero waste accounts on Instagram and am a part several groups on Facebook. They provide a daily source of inspiration.
Essential products to welcome into your life
Though many items you already own can be reused for zero waste purposes, you can also cut out disposable products by investing in long-lasting replacements. Here are some essentials.
1. Reusable water bottle
Plastic bottles should be among the first things to go in a zero waste lifestyle. In 2017, The Guardian reported that one million plastic bottles are purchased around the world every minute. If consumers don’t cut down, that insanely high number could increase another 20 percent by 2021.
Invest in a reusable insulated bottle which makes it perfect for holding hot and cold beverages.
2. BYOJ (Bring Your Own Jars)
When storing food, drinks, or a variety of other supplies, try eliminating plastic Tupperware and Ziplock bags and replacing them with glass jars.
3. Cloth bags and totes
Cloth bags are essential for storing, transporting, and buying food in bulk. I couldn’t live without them. You can sew your own using old shirts or sheets. Reusable tote bags also cut out plastic and paper bags when grocery shopping.
4. Reusable straws and utensils
Eliminating single-use plastic straws is a must. If you like straws and drink a lot of smoothies, they make all sorts of reusable straws from bamboo, stainless steel, glass, and silicone and same goes for utensils.
REMEMBER: IT’S A PROCESS!
It won’t happen overnight, and it might even take a year or two to go fully zero waste if that’s your goal. But you know what, you’re awesome for wanting to make this change and for making the effort to do so. Everyone’s zero waste journey is different. So never compare yourself to other people. Get inspiration from them, communicate with other zero waste-ers in the process when you have questions or concerns, be supported by other people – not intimidated.