For a lot of people, the concept of zero waste is pretty daunting. There is plastic in everything we buy. But if you’re new to the zero waste community you don’t have to go all-in right off the bat.
There are simple swaps you can make every day to reduce your waste little by little. And before you know it, you’ll be a pro at it.
In this post, I’m going to show you the areas where you can start to reduce your waste. 19, in fact. So if you want to learn how to end the throwaway culture and reduce your waste, keep reading.
And you don’t have to implement all these tips today, you can gradually start making changes as you run out of things.
So, without further ado, here are:
19 ways that you can start reducing your waste
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1. Refuse single-use items
This is the easiest way to get started on your zero-waste journey and is the first step many people take. So many single-use items have a reusable alternative.
By making the switch to reusables you can save tons of plastic from polluting the ocean and rivers.
I have listed some single-use swops below that you can make today to make it easier for you.
2. Carry around a water bottle to refill when you go out
Only do this if the water in the area where you find yourself is safe to consume. Look out for public water fountains that you can use to refill your water bottle.
If you are at a restaurant and don’t want to consume other beverages you can ask for tap water instead of bottled water to avoid the plastic that the water comes in.
3. Bring your own reusable cup when you know you are going to get take away beverages
Any hot beverage will come in a disposable cup with a plastic lid. But what seems like a paper cup actually has plastic film around it to keep the beverage inside.
Some companies will even give you a discount for bringing your own cup.
If you can’t bring your own or you forgot it, you can always refuse a lid to minimise the waste or try to make some time and grab a sit-down beverage. That way you can enjoy it more thoroughly.
4. Bring your own reusable shopping bags to grocery stores
Plastic bags have a purpose that
You can even use smaller bags for loose produce on shelves instead of using plastic bags supplied by the store.
If you forgot your bags you can always ask for a box or find a use for the plastic bags, like separating food waste from other waste in your trash can. Or even using them as a temporary trashcan and not owning a trashcan.
5. Use less toilet paper
Toilet paper is something that gets taken for granted. No one really pays much attention to how much gets used in one sitting.
It contributes to a lot of deforestation since not many brands use recycled paper and it can only be used once.
So, next time you visit the bathroom why not only take 2 or 3 blocks off the
This way you reduce the amount of toilet paper you’re using and the amount of sewage waste that ends up in rivers.
6. Use less paper in general
Paper is one of those things where you really can only get one use out of it. And for a digital generation, we tend to still use paper a lot, like paper towels in the kitchen.
So, take stock of all the paper you use in your life and find cloth alternatives for them. You can even reuse old clothes to make cloth towels with.
7. If you happen to end up with a
single-use item, find another use for it
Disposable items are everywhere and it’s inevitable that one will end up in your possession. Don’t fret, just try to use it more than once in any way you can before seeing if there is a possible way to recycle it.
I do this a lot. Because I live with my family, who are not zero waste, I find uses for all the plastic containers that come with the groceries.
I have so many yoghurt tubs with plants in them around the house. It’s a hobby of mine to grow fruits and vegetables from the food scraps we have.
And the yoghurt tubs are already there so I use them instead of buying pots or wood containers to plant them in.
There are so many other cool things you can do with what you already have in your house. Just Pinterest some ideas and you’ll be busy for a while.
8. Don’t throw out all your plastic when starting this journey
Yes, it’s fun to get rid of old things and replace them with new, better things, but you can still get a lot of use out of these items for a few years to come.
By throwing away these items we’re still contributing to waste ending up in landfills when it is unnecessary.
Keeping them teaches us some lessons along the way when it comes to living a zero-waste lifestyle.
9. Use soap and shampoo bars and not liquids
Bars are easy to use and many companies have made it easier to use shampoo bars than it was before. They don’t contain any plastic that will end up in landfills or even glass that might not get recycled.
If you don’t want to swap out your liquids for solids then try finding companies who use recyclable packaging or make use of refillable bottles.
If you live in the United States there is a company called Plaine Products that have a refill service. They have 100% natural ingredients and their products don’t contain any plastic. You can check out their website HERE for more info.
Along with making simple swops, here are a few other things you can do to minimize your waste.
Buy in bulk
Buying items that won’t spoil in bulk can really reduce plastic and save money at the same time. All you need to do is store these items in airtight glass containers and you’re good to go.
You can even find out if there is a zero-waste store near you that doesn’t use packaging where you can fill up your own containers.
11. Start a vegetable or herb garden
You don’t need a lot of space to do this either.
If you have windowsills or a small space outside you can ask around if anyone has pots they don’t use anymore or build small wooden boxes with reused wood and plant your produce in there.
There is this great company called The Garden Tower Project if you have very limited space. Using the tower you can grow up to 50 plants in only 4 square feet.
The tower can rotate for easy access and it’s all organic. You can find out how it works on their website HERE if you’re interested.
This way you can make sure the food you eat is truly organic and you can get more plants into your diet without spending a lot of money.
You can plant herbs you use most frequently but don’t need a lot of at a time to minimise food waste and use more freshly in your food.
You can even dry them to free up space for other things you want to plant.
Planting foods like celery, lettuce, spinach and carrots will enable you to use them in dishes more often without the risk of having them rot in the fridge because you could only buy them in big bundles.
You can experiment with growing different types of produce for some variation in your diet.
12. Compost your food waste
Firstly, try and minimise your food waste by meal prepping and freezing fruits and vegetables that can’t be used as quickly.
Then, make yourself a compost heap that suits your needs. There are many types that you can choose from.
The Garden Tower Project’s towers also double as a compost container, fertilizing your produce and getting rid of waste at the same time. This is great if you live in the city and don’t have much outdoor space.
13. Try to stay local
Go to farmer’s markets to buy your produce and eliminate the risk of buying foods that have been imported. Shop around and buy products and clothing only made in the country you
Support local small owned companies like coffee shops and restaurants in your area. By doing this you will support the local economy, lessen the carbon emissions from
14. Use your appliances until they break
Even if your fridge is 5 years old, it doesn’t mean you have gotten its full use out of it and now you can get a new one. Appliances like that can work easily for up to 30 years and do the same job as the latest model that advertisers love to claim is unlike any other.
If it’s not broken, you can still use it.
Do your research and find a replacement when it does break that will last for a long time and meets all your requirements to eliminate having to buy another one because this one wasn’t what you wanted.
However, for appliances that use a lot of electricity, it’s better to find a more energy-efficient product. This way you eliminate more waste than you would if you kept it.
15. Only buy things after you have thought about it for a while
We tend to buy things just for the sake of being able to buy them and then ending up with less and less storage space in the house each year.
Or worse, we throw them out within a month’s time because we realise we don’t need them, contributing to more waste.
Living a zero-waste lifestyle means being conscious about every purchase that you make and making sure you are going to use that item for a while.
Fashion and textile waste
16. Buy less clothing
Don’t throw out your clothes every season. When buying clothing make sure they are versatile and can be worn with a few other pieces and colours.
Something that suits your needs and can be kept for a long time. Pick neutrals that can be dressed up or down.
Make peace with being seen in one outfit a
Try to find companies that have ethical work practices and take care of their employees, giving them good pay and benefits.
Ask around if you are looking for items that can be used secondhand like the framework of a crib or accessories for your home. Anything you can find second hand will minimise waste.
Going to a thrift store to find clothing can be very exciting, there’s so much potential to find a golden oldie, many of those clothes are still high quality and will last for years. Plus, rocking the vintage look will give you a unique style.
18. Walk or cycle, if you can
If you have access to good pedestrian roads and you don’t need a car to get around, rather choose to walk or cycle to your destination.
This not only reduces carbon emissions but it also helps your body function better and gets you healthier.
19. Recycle your waste properly and responsibly
Make sure you can recycle the item. For instance, a toothbrush cannot be recycled because it consists of many different materials.
So, do your research and find out if you are recycling items that cannot be recycled. In order to avoid this, find alternatives to those items that you can either compost, reuse and/or recycle.
20. Spend money on experiences rather than things
If you have some time on your hands, a little money to spend and you want something to do, don’t spend your day at the mall.
Do some research and find out which recreational activities you can do in your area that will give you some awesome memories.
After all; memories we keep forever, things we discard in a few months or days. You can even invest in some education, take a few online courses, attend a cooking class, it will only benefit you.
A zero-waste lifestyle is a journey and not a quick fix to our environmental problems. It will be difficult at first to incorporate everything into your lifestyle but don’t get discouraged.
Pat yourself on the back for not buying something or not going to the mall just to get out of the house.
This journey will consist of little successes and failures and will not be 100% perfect. You don’t have to get everything right in one shot.
Making the decision to go zero-waste or even to reduce your waste is a step in the right direction and I congratulate you on that.
I hope you found my beginner’s guide to zero-waste helpful. And that this journey is fulfilling, joyful and lots of fun.
And remember, you are not alone in this. You can make friends on Instagram who will gladly help you. Let me know in the comments how you reduce your waste or ask any questions you might have.
Cheers for now,
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