Easy steps to get you started on the zero waste journey room by room.
Single use plastic is one of the leading causes of ocean pollution in the 21st century. Around 18 billion pounds of plastic go into the ocean every year, just from coastal regions. Not surprisingly, the Pacific Ocean currently holds what is known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, the largest concentration of plastic debris in the world located between California and Hawaii. For comparison, the Patch is twice the size of the state of Texas and three times the size of France. Zero waste is a call for action we can’t ignore.
Because these figures are clearly problematic, there is an urgent need to change our habits. Lately, there has been a buzz about a lifestyle in which people will generate minimal amounts of trash, especially plastic. That is the zero waste lifestyle. Although not done overnight, there are simple habits of this lifestyle that can be easily incorporated into any routine and make a huge difference in the long run.
Zero waste Kitchen
- To save money and the environment, cooking more often is a must. Opting for recipes with more vegetables and grains will help you lead a healthier life and diverge from pre-packaged food, take out boxes, and single use plastic utensils. To keep organization flowing on busy days, stainless steel to-go containers, stainless steel straws, and bamboo silverware kits are the best bet when going zero-waste in the food prep section.
- Buy from bulk stores or go to the farmers market to avoid excessive packaging.
- At the start of the zero-waste transition it might really useful to set a reminder on your phone to not forget the grocery bags when going shopping. Another option is to simply leave them in the car, by the door, or somewhere visible on your way to the grocery store.
- When going to coffee shops, you can request the barista to put your coffee in the reusable mug/tumbler.
- For zero-waste grocery runs, reusable bags made of cotton or other natural fibers that will last are the best bet.
- To keep hydrated and environmentally friendly, switch from single use disposable water bottles to a reusable one.
- For the morning pick-me-up go from disposable coffee cups to a reusable tea/coffee tumbler or travel mug. Those who use a Keurig machine, either at home or at work, should avoid single use K-Cups (which are not recyclable or biodegradable at all) and go with the refillable version instead.
- For a prettier and more sustainable kitchen, ditch the boring paper towels and go for lasting kitchen cloths that can serve the same purposes.
Zero waste Dining
- When having a cookout, have a reusable meal-ready kit with you. This kit can include stainless-steel straw, wood or stainless-steel utensils, a napkin cloth, and either a travel mug or a tumbler. You can also bring your own container to take the leftovers instead of using the Styrofoam single use take-out boxes.
- Another easy change for an outside zero-waste meal, such as a picnic or a barbecue, is to have edible ware instead of plastic ones. They are as useful as conventional cutlery and will add to the uniqueness of the event – besides being an awesome zero waste conversation starter!
- When purchasing new clothes, take into consideration where and how the clothes were made. Was it made in an underdeveloped country? Is it organic or fair-trade material? Conscious purchases help the environment and help people have fair means of living as well.
- Sometimes fair-trade and organic can be a little out of budget, I know. Fortunately, buying second-hand or hosting a clothing swap with family and friends is a fun zero waste way of renewing your wardrobe without breaking the bank or the planet!
- For those out there who are all about unique pieces, customizing your own is another fun zero waste way of having the coolest apparel around.
- The zero-waste wardrobe is a relief because you don’t have to keep the clothes that doesn’t serve you anymore. The simple thing to do is to donate the pieces, and, voila! Enjoy a cleaner wardrobe.
Zero waste Office
- In the era of technology, print receipts, coupons, and tickets are becoming less and less common. For that reason, many websites and companies offer their consumer an electronic alternative. As a zero waste apprentice, always go for it! Check your email inbox to make sure you either opt out or switch from the physical to the digital version.
- Make sure you have a recycling bin in the office space and not just the regular trash bin. The recycling bins are useful for office paper, plastic, and even glass from things or situations that cannot be avoided or easily swapped in the first place.
- When working, always prefer emailing to printing whenever printing is not an absolute must.
- For the desk space, instead of plastic items, such as pen/pencil holders, go for items made of sustainable or recycled materials. You can even try your hand with a zero-waste office DYI!
Zero waste Bathroom
- Own your beauty and personal hygiene routine and try making your own eyeliner, blush, body scrub, and toothpaste. With recipes found online, you don’t have to worry about excessive packaging, huge lists of chemicals or the taste of fake mint in your mouth. Ugh.
- For oral personal hygiene, switching from a regular plastic toothbrush to a compostable bamboo one is honoring the badge of zero-waste pupil. The bamboo alternative creates much less impact on the environment and can be used for as much time as the conventional toothbrush.
- Make-up makes us pretty, but it does not have to make the planet ugly. When choosing brushes for instance, opt for those made with degradable fiber and wood.
- Shaving can also be environmentally friendly! Disposable razors are difficult to recycle and end up in landfills for too long. Instead of buying several short-lived plastic razors, opt for a metal safety razor instead.
- Body wash, shampoo, and conditioner make us throw away countless bottles throughout the years, but what if that could change? It can! Using soap and shampoo bars in lieu of bottles will help reduce the amount of plastic sent to landfills and the microbeads that go down the drain as well.
- What about toilet paper? You can also be zero waste on those by switching to bamboo TP rolled in compostable paper wrap. It’s a win-win nonetheless!
- The beauty of living zero waste is that there is an alternative even for those bloody days. Instead of using disposable pads and tampons, going for reusable pads or menstrual cups is an awesome and greener option.
Zero waste Laundry Room
- Living zero waste means you can make your own cleaning products, such as stain removers, laundry soap, and fabric softener. By doing so, you avoid regular packaging and the microbeads that come in most industrial formulas.
- Static can be a real annoyance when doing laundry, but regular dryer sheets can’t be recycled. Instead, opt for wool dryer balls and enjoy static-free and eco-friendly laundry.
Living zero waste is not done overnight, but long-term sustainable changes come in small digestible bits instead of large overwhelming chunks. Take the time to assess your life and keep these simple swaps in mind. Little by little, it is possible to make a successful transition to a zero waste lifestyle.