Let’s start with the basics.
What is Zero Waste?
A zero waste lifestyle means producing no waste that will get sent to landfills: this means no cotton balls, q-tips, plastic packaging, feminine products, and other products that can’t be recycled or reused. ALL of the “waste” you produce is biodegradable. Food scraps, coffee grinds, along with other plant substances can all be composted. Cardboard and glass can either be reused or recycled. Other than that, if it can’t be reused or composted, we don’t buy it.
This may sound hard, nay – impossible. But let me encourage you, it’s not. I’m just a typical girl on a tight budget, and I’ve been able to reduce my waste significantly over this past year. In fact, I don’t even use a trash can anymore! I still produce waste, don’t get me wrong, but it’s generally small enough to take out to the dumpster immediately. I’m not where I want to be yet, but I’ve already improved so much and I believe by next year, I will be completely zero waste.
There are so many reasons a person may want to live a zero waste lifestyle, but here are my top 10.
- We consume a lot
- We waste a lot more
- Ever heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch?
- Trash ends up places we don’t want it: our streets, our water systems, and natural habitats (see #3)
- Hello, um, THE PLANET
- Zero waste leads to a much healthier lifestyle, food wise AND chemical wise.
- Saves money! Buying in bulk & shopping locally saves the price of packaging and labor – you actually save more this way!
- Brings more peace &less stress (see my post on
- It’s easier to keep a clean home when you don’t have a bunch of stuff that’s going to end up as “trash”.
Zero waste doesn’t have to be a lifestyle only for the rich and people who have time to DIY a bunch of stuff. It’s a mindset and a culture we bring back to life: Using what we have, fixing things that are broken, being mindful of our impact and how we are stewarding the resources on this planet. Although the great depression might have caused a bit of an internal hoarding issue in the older generation, I have learned valuable lessons from watching my grandparents. My granny, who already went to be with the Lord, literally had hundreds of milk jugs, containers, mason jars, newspapers and more. While maybe she was a little closer to the hoarding side of the spectrum, I watched her and learned why she kept things I considered trash… and she usually re-used the things over and over. If it broke, she fixed it.
The Journey to Zero Waste
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t expect anyone to go 100% zero waste overnight. It’s a process – a journey. I’ve been on the journey for about a year now, and I still produce waste. It takes time to figure out waste-free products you like, whether you’re making it or buying it in bulk. It’s not hard, but it takes consciousness. There are a lot of days I have felt lazy and a lot of times I don’t want to be conscious about what I’m doing. But the truth is, because my conviction is so strong it’s getting to the point where I sincerely feel convicted when I’m producing waste simply because I’m lazy. What a poor excuse.
I bet you’re wondering where on earth to start on the journey to reducing your waste. Thankfully, you’re not alone. There are actually a lot of us who have pic
ked up on this trend, and we are all at different steps in the journey. The people who have already achieved zero waste are able to provide resources for us babies trying to figure it out. One of those people, and my biggest inspiration, is Lauren Singer, Founder and CEO of trashisfortossers.com and The Simply Co. She’s been living zero waste since 2012. Check out her amazing story for motivation.
Easy steps you can take right now!
- Look at what’s in your trash bin and figure out what you’re sending to landfills. It’s easier to reduce your waste if you know what you’re producing.
- Look around in your home and see what is packaged in plastic. Check your bathroom, beauty supplies, toiletries, kitchen, fridge, pantry, etc. This will help you get an idea of what kinds of things you’ll be working to replace and buy in bulk.
- Use what you have until you run out, then find an alternative that is either in recyclable cardboard, glass, or reusable container. For kitchen things, I love reaching the end of my coconut oil, jellies, and other glass bottles and jars, because I can re-use these for other package free foods I bring home. If you already have plastic containers, etc, keep them. It might be tempting to get rid of them and get all glass, etc, but by getting rid of your plastic, it’s essentially adding to the waste problem.
- Use reusable shopping bags & produce bags. You can turn old T-shirts into tote bags, or you can buy cheap canvas & cotton tote bags. I’d recommend staying away from plastic reusable bags because the ultimate goal is to strop relying on plastic, but if that’s what you have right now then use it!
- Start recycling everything that can be recycled.
Stay tuned for more resources and tips on reducing your waste!