Zero waste living may seem like an extremely daunting task when you are first beginning. If you are anything like me, you probably take out the garbage at least once a week! So how in the world could you adopt a zero waste lifestyle? With a little bit of research and good old-fashioned dedication, I know you can make it work.
Zero waste has been defined by many different people in many different ways. The EPA has compiled the results from several different state’s and county’s own initiatives on going zero waste. For example, Austin, Texas has defined their goals for zero waste as diverting 90% of their solid waste from landfills by 2040. Asheville, North Carolina has a goal to redesign resource life cycles so that materials are first reused instead of being discarded after one use.
There are also plenty of companies trying to find alternative ways to solve our waste issues. For example, during our conversation with Austin from Carbon Neutral, we learned all about a software tool that allows companies to calculate their own carbon footprint of a product that they are producing. This is a great step towards predicting how products impact the environment.
On a more micro scale, zero waste can be achieved in our daily personal lives. Why is it important for us to adopt a minimal if not zero waste lifestyle? Well, over 300 million tons of plastic is produced every single year and 50% of these products are only meant for single use. To put this into perspective, this amount of plastic could roughly reach the moon and back 25 times — just in one single year! On top of this, plastic takes 450 years to decompose. Therefore, it is important to find ways to cut down on this in any way we can.
Check out this beginner’s guide to learn how to start your journey towards zero waste!
- Bring your own reusable items.
This can include reusable shopping bags, metal straws, mesh produce bags, reusable water bottles and glass tupperware containers.
- Buy in bulk.
When you buy in bulk, you can bring your own glass jars or containers instead of using packaging. A lot of major grocery stores have a bulk section where you can buy all sorts of items ranging from rice to salt to nuts and more!
- Thrift shop.
The fashion industry is a huge culprit of creating waste. When you buy second-hand, these clothes were already made and it won’t cost any new materials to make it.
- Shop zero waste.
While at the store, try to choose products and brands that package their products in a minimal way. For example, some stores will display bars of soap for sale with no packaging at all. This is a much better option than choosing a bottle of soap in a plastic container. Sometimes, products will be in compostable packaging, which is also a much better option.
- Create your own products.
This option can also be super fun and save money! For example, it is very easy to make cleaning products and beauty products at home!
- Simple swaps.
Take a look at the items you use daily and try to swap anything that is generally thrown away after one use. For example, when I was working on my own zero waste living, I realized that I only use dryer sheets one time and then throw them out. Therefore, I decided to swap the sheets out for dryer balls, which can be used for 2-5 years! Another great swap is to sub out paper towels for washable cloths.
- Shop local.
Shopping local cuts down on shipping and transportation waste that occurs when buying from all around the world. Local products also come with much less packaging — if any packaging at all.
- Grow your own food and compost.
This one may take a little bit more time and planning, but it is totally worth it! Having a small garden, even if it is an herb garden, is a great way to reduce the amount of waste you produce from buying produce from stores. Then, you can use all of your vegetable scraps to create a compost that can fertilize the soil for your garden!
Instead of throwing away items that you no longer want, first ask yourself if they are items that can be donated. Therefore, you are giving the items away for a good cause and you are not creating more waste.
- Plan your meals.
This one has been a life saver for me! When you plan your meals ahead of time, you are reducing the chances of purchasing take-out food when you are hungry and don’t know what to make. Take-out food creates a lot of single-use waste that could be avoided by simply preparing your own food ahead of time.