A Beginner’s Zero Waste Lifestyle Guide to Embrace Sustainability
In this day and age where we package packaged produce(1) (yup, it's true!), going zero waste can be a challenge. However, making a conscious effort not to be the reason that dozens of plastic bags lie in a nearby landfill can be pretty rewarding. Not to mention, our planet could use the break. If you've been thinking about changing your plastic-friendly ways, this zero waste lifestyle guide will provide tips and tricks to lead a more eco-conscious life.
And yes, we get that leading a zero waste life is hard, considering how most things are delivered to us these days (ahem, packaged in single-use plastic). But you can start small by incorporating just one or two of these tips and gradually moving on to the more challenging ones. After all, going zero waste is a marathon, not a sprint.
What is Zero Waste?
According to the Zero Waste International Alliance(2), the zero-waste movement is all about conserving the planet's resources by producing, consuming, and reusing products responsibly, as in using them without filling the land, water, or air with discharges that harm both people and the environment. In other words, it is a type of living that ensures waste doesn't end up in landfills and is repurposed for another use.
Spontaneous purchases at the supermarket are one of the most challenging impulses you'll need to work on once you start your zero-waste journey. One way to get around this issue is to plan ahead. Just write down what you want to cook throughout the week, calculate how much food you'll need, and stick to this list. You'll never have to throw away food that's gone bad again!
Buy in Bulk
Buying in bulk isn't just cheaper; it's also better for the environment. You can store bulk ingredients in reusable containers and bags that eliminate the use of plastic. The most common foods you can buy in bulk are beans, spices, nuts, oatmeal, freeze dried fruit, and dried vegetables.
Do It Yourself
If you can't find a specific food item in bulk and have some spare time, consider whether it's worth making it yourself. For example, you could make a batch of cookie or pizza dough and store it in the freezer for future use. Or you could pop your corn and store it in an airtight container to last all week instead of buying ready-made snacks.
Cook as Much as You Need
A surefire way to reduce your food waste is to cook only as much as you intend to eat. Why follow a recipe that yields four servings when it's just you and your partner in the house? So, stick to recipes measured to the tee or calculate the ingredients in advance to yield the desired servings.
Compost Your Scraps
Composting food scraps is one of the best ways to minimize waste. And yes, this tip may sound great for folks with a garden, but city dwellers can also get in on the action. Just keep an eye out for those scrap composting bins around your city. Worm bins are also a good option if you don't find any. These special worms can turn anything you throw into compost, whether it's ground coffee or apple peels.
Swap Paper for Cloth
Instead of using paper towels, which only add to the pile of waste at your local landfill, use cloth napkins or towels. You can even make your own by using old clothes that you don’t use any more and don’t serve a purpose in your closet.
Grow Your Own Herbs
Herbs are very easy to grow. All they need is a sunny spot and some water, and they'll turn from a fragile seed into a lush plant in a few days. Plus, they only require a little outdoor space on your balcony; just a terracotta pot does the trick. PS: If you grow more herbs than you need, cut the extra and sun-dry them to turn them into spice.
Sell or Donate
If you have a few pieces in your collection that do nothing else but gather dust, donate them to a thrift store or sell them online. Your once-iconic T-shirt might be someone else's present-day showstopper.
Upcycle Your Old Clothes
Clothes that have worn out, particularly cotton ones, can be used as cleaning rags or cushion filling. If you are good with crafts, you can use these fabrics to make other things, like reusable tote bags, pillows, or pajamas.
Say "No" to Fast Fashion
"Fast fashion" clothes are pieces that last just a few seasons. We all know that avoiding this type of clothing is good for our wallets in the long term, but it could also help the environment. Business Insider says the fashion industry produces tons of carbon emissions from international flights and maritime shipping. Since many of these "fast fashion" clothes end up in landfills in less than two years, shopping for clothes locally is the most sustainable option.
Cut Back on Plastic
The first thing you can do to turn your bathroom into a zero-waste oasis is to ditch everything that is or lies within plastic. For example, swap those single-use razors with a metal one for a lifetime of shaves that don't take a toll on the planet. You can even swap those shampoo-filled bottles with shampoo bars, many of which are also chemical-free (unlike said bottled shampoos).
Make Care or Cleaning Products from Scratch
Another way to minimize waste is to make care and cleaning products. From deodorants based on baking soda and coconut oil(3) to cleaning solutions made with vinegar and lavender oil(4), there are many recipes online for products that are 100% safe for you and the environment.
Which tips from our beginner's zero waste lifestyle guide will you start with? Let us know in the comments down below!
- Branden Evans