If you are looking for a way to be more eco-friendly, lead a healthier, greener lifestyle, or cut down on household costs, creating a zero waste home can help get you there. Zero waste is a movement that aims to send no garbage to landfills, but it is important to note that this lofty goal doesn’t mean a zero waste lifestyle is all or nothing. Any step made to minimize your waste output and conserve natural resources will make an impact by reducing your carbon footprint.
If it sounds hard, we promise it isn’t! In fact, it is probably easier than you think. To get you and your family started with zero waste, just use these 10 easy tips.
1. Start Small
You don’t have to make every change at once to go zero waste. Instead, tackle one or two changes at a time. This way, you are more likely to stick with them and you won’t feel overwhelmed.
Even a seemingly small first step, like bringing a reusable mug to your favorite coffee shop or swapping to reusable grocery bags, will make an impact. For example, if you grab coffee-to-go twice a week, you will be saving over 100 cups from the landfill by using your own mug. And for grocery bags, every time you use your reusable bag, one less plastic bag gets stuffed in a landfill. Baby steps add up!
2. Use Less
While shampoo commercials show the actor using a handful of soap to achieve a creamy lather, you actually only need a small amount. Be mindful of how much soap you use to wash the dishes and your laundry as well. In many cases, people overuse these products and could achieve the same results with far less. The same goes for beauty products. To use less, you can also:
- Turn off the lights when they aren’t in use to conserve energy. Or, try switching to LED bulbs to reduce your energy usage further.
- Take shorter showers to consume less water. You may even want to consider swapping to a low flow showerhead.
3. Go Package Free
Food packaging is a significant contributor to most household garbages, but it doesn’t have to be.
Shop Bulk: Try buying in bulk and don’t forget to bring your own glass jars and fabric bags. This method skips the plastic packaging and can also help save you money.
Grow Produce: Start a garden to grow your own fruits, vegetables, and herbs. They will always be fresh and package free. Plus, you won’t have to worry about unknown pesticides. Don’t want to garden? Hit up your local farmers’ market and support local.
4. Upgrade Your Hot Drinks
Skip those wasteful coffee pods that take 500 years to degrade and swap to a machine that uses a reusable filter. Or, you can even try a drip coffee cone or French press for a delicious cup of java that uses zero electricity.
More of a tea drinker? Try loose leaf. You can buy it in bulk, it packs more flavor, and you won’t risk getting microplastic from tea bags in your cup.
5. Forgo Fast Fashion
Fast fashion is a growing problem, heavily contributing to landfill waste as the second most polluting industry. To be part of the solution to textile waste, you can:
Wear Clothes Longer: Wearing your clothes for a season or two contributes to the fast fashion problem. So instead of buying new clothes, look at what you already have in your wardrobe first.
Mend Clothing: Instead of tossing clothing when it gets a rip or a hole, take the time to mend it or get someone to do it for you. If it is unsalvageable, cut it into rags for cleaning or upcycle the clothing into bags, accessories, or makeup wipes.
6. Shop Secondhand
For those times when you do need new clothes, hit up the secondhand shops. Buying used clothing keeps textiles out of the landfill. Plus, by purchasing a pair of jeans used instead of new, you are saving 18,000 gallons of water—the amount of water it takes to grow cotton for one pair of new jeans.
Secondhand shopping is especially great for kids’ clothes since they outgrow garments faster than they wear them out most of the time. Other items to consider buying secondhand include furniture, toys, and home decor.
7. Recycle Right
Before throwing anything into the recycle bin, thoroughly wash it. Not only does stuck on food make the item unfit to recycle, but it can also contaminate other pieces in the bin—making them unsalvageable as well. On top of this, be sure to recycle batteries, ink cartridges, and light bulbs correctly by bringing them to a recycling center in a hardware or office supply store. For electronics, find an electronic recycling bin near you.
8. Embrace Sustainable Hygiene Products
Diapers make up 2% of landfill waste, while every year a staggering 20 billion tampons, applicators, and sanitary napkins are dumped in North American landfills. To help combat these numbers, you can opt to use cloth diapers and reusable pads. They will cut down on your waste contribution, aren’t filled with irritating chemicals, and will also save you money in the long run. You may also want to swap to other zero waste grooming supplies like a bamboo toothbrush, bar soap, and a safety razor. Just be sure to use whatever you have on hand first before buying anything new!
9. Rethink Gifts
Traditional gifts come unrecyclable wrapped in paper, which gets thrown directly into the bin. Plus, the gift itself may get minimal usage. So instead of gifting items, try giving experiences instead. This may include tickets to a play, a museum, festival, or other attraction. However, this type of gift also doesn’t have to cost money. A picnic in the park, a day spent at the beach, or a hike through nature are also fun activities to consider.
Prefer a physical gift? Try giving an indoor plant. Not only are they great for filtering the air indoors, but they are also super trendy right now.
Before you reach for the trash, compost, or recycling, think if you can use that item in any other way. For example, glass pickle jars are great to go bulk shopping with, while food scraps are great for making vegetable broth or eco-friendly dye. Have cardboard boxes? Let your kids get creative and make a castle, a guitar, or whatever else their imagination can conjure up.
Many people shy away from zero waste because there are a lot of misconceptions about what it is. But in actuality, it is an easy way to cultivate an eco-friendly lifestyle. If you evaluate where you can make changes and take it slow, your zero waste habits will become second nature before you know it—saving the environment and your wallet!