Beginner’s Guide to Going Zero-Waste
Essentially, zero-waste is a set of principles preventing waste. The goal is to expand the life cycle of all products. Then reuse to make a positive impact on the environment. I know that there are many misconceptions that a waste-free lifestyle is time-consuming, expensive, and depriving. Honestly, there was a time I believed it, and I was never fond of the idea of reusing anything or everything. However, it has truly saved me loads of cash, got me into purchasing less processed items and more organic products. I’m not fully living a zero-waste life because it takes time and practice to make healthy zero-waste habits stick. Like everything in life, it is a journey, a process, and something that will never happen overnight.
Forcing zero-waste practices will prompt you to resent them entirely. Think about why you want to make the change and let that be your motivation. Challenge yourself in a way that best fits your life. Try a new habit once a week or once a month. Everyone accumulates a different amount of waste; my trash bin probably doesn’t weigh the same as my neighbor’s. Start by evaluating your daily routines. While reading this beginner’s guide, take notes, make a list, and see how you can implement these tips in your life.Common Errors
Top 10 Realistic Zero-Waste Hacks
1. Reuse Glassware
I’m not a fan of using plastic or stainless steel storage containers due to their impact on our health. Some studies show the positives and negatives of storing food in stainless steel and negatives of using plastic containers. It’s a subject worth researching before purchasing new containers. To be safe, I prefer using glass reusables. I find it easier to clean and repurpose. Nothing is better than using what you currently have and repurposing glassware your groceries or beauty products come in. Reusing glass is the easiest zero-waste hack you can achieve right now. If you own products that come in a glass container, remove the labels, clean it properly, and simply reuse it. You can also purchase glassware from the following places:
2. Use Veggie Scraps as Compost
This hack isn’t one I currently practice but one I am trying to include in my routine. In fact, composting is a process of turning organic materials to create nutrient-rich soil. Anything that naturally grows in the ground can be composted, including fruits and vegetable scraps, spoiled produce, paper, wood, dead flowers, etc. You can compost in your backyard or indoors using just a bin. Composting will enrich your soil, reduce the need for chemical fertilizer, lower your carbon footprint, reduces the trash volume sent to landfills, and more. If composting isn’t an option, you can immediately nourish your soil using banana peels, coffee grounds, or eggshells.
3. Buy in Bulk
Whether it’s fruits and veggies, dry goods, pet food, soap/laundry detergent, or hygiene items, shopping in bulk will save you money, period. Just purchasing food in bulk will benefit you and the environment in so many ways. You can buy exactly what you need, eat less processed foods, buy what’s in season, and improve your cooking skills now that you are cooking from scratch.
Bulk shopping takes some getting used to, but the basics such as regularly keeping totes near your front door, in your bag, or car are great ways to start. Trust me; they will come in handy. I always forget to bring my reusables to the store, so I try to plan before grocery shopping. Planning allows me to spend less time and helps me stay within my budget. If you decide to shop bulk at your local market, remember to get the tare weight of your jars. Once you get the tare, label your jars, and you’ll never end up paying extra. Here are some of my favorite online store for bulk shopping:
4. Buy Secondhand
Secondhand shopping is a zero-waste hack I have been trying to get used to for a while now. When I do, I thrift for unique clothing pieces. You’ll be surprised at what you can find at a thrift store. People donate unused or barely used items all the time. Just try it once (maybe twice) and see what you find. As someone who loves fashion, developing a unique wardrobe is what sold me. I used to hate bumping into someone wearing the same outfit. Thrift stores are so diverse and unique. It is rare to find yourself twinning with your co-worker.
5. Shop or Own Less
Shopping less is the easiest way to generate less waste in general. You’ll get to spend more time with things that add value to your life and save money. I’m not saying to join the minimalist community (although it is the best thing ever), but minimizing the “things” you own will give you clarity of mind and more. Decluttering your space will declutter your mind. I bet you would be shocked by the number of things you own. Once you start donating or selling them, you’ll be even more shocked at how great you feel. Simple living is more about what you love, and ultimately less stress.
6. Replace Items as they Run Out
If you have a set of plastic utensils for family or friend gatherings, don’t just throw them out. Once you run out, don’t repurchase it. Focus on eliminating single-use items as much as possible. I find it difficult to stop using paper towels, toilet paper, and q-tips. It’s just who I am, and it will take a little longer to get used to other methods. My alternative is to support ethical brands like Seventh Generation. The same goes for clothing pieces. If you were a huge Forever 21 or H&M shopper then discovered the dangers of fast fashion, do not get rid of your whole wardrobe because of it. Little by little, season by season, build your wardrobe up to where you would like it.
7. Start Meal Prepping
Meal prepping is one of my favorite hacks. If you are busy all the time, spend most of your paycheck eating out, find it hard to eat healthily, and want to get in shape? Start making meal plans for the week. I would suggest planning your meals for four days because it is easier to make it a habit and you won’t get bored. I commonly meal prep my snacks, breakfast, and lunch. My dinners are usually my lightest meals like smoothies or soups, so I tend to wing it. Meal prepping is known to save you money and time, improve your cooking skills, control your meal portions, and allow you to spend more time doing the things you love.
8. Educate Yourself on How to Properly Recycle
Believe it or not, you are probably recycling wrong. According to Our World in Data, between 1950 and 2015, only 9 percent of plastic waste was recycled. Recycling means washed or uncontaminated glass, plastic bags, paper, cardboard, etc. Recycling a pizza carton with grease can contaminate anything else it touches. When you make spaghetti and throw out your RAGÚ jar with tomato sauce in it, someone at the plant has to clean it out. A RAGÚ jar recycled without the lid turns everything it touches into trash.
Now don’t get me wrong and read this thinking, “I probably shouldn’t recycle then,” because our worst recycling mistake happens when we stop. Learning how to properly clean, sort empty bottles and boxes will help processors. Don’t just recycle thinking someone will sort through it later. The process of converting waste materials into new materials and objects is a partnership. We all have to do our part.
9. Learn How to Make Things Yourself
Try to DIY as often as you can. Make your toothpaste, deodorant, lotion, body oil, or multi-purpose cleaning spray. Look at the things you purchase, read the ingredients, and try to make it yourself. Doing-it-yourself will not only benefit your pockets but your health overall. You are including fewer toxins in your home, your space, and your body. I personally started purchasing fewer mock-meats from the grocery store and started making it from scratch. It is remarkably cheaper, and I get way more for meal-prepping. Learning how to make things yourself will save you money, keep your brain sharp, and add valuable skills. You can even share your DIY or end up selling it. You never know what you can up with or how it can benefit you.
10. Make a Zero-Waste Friend or Join the Zero-Waste Community
There are tons of communities or individuals like myself that love sharing their zero-waste journeys. Instead of wasting time coming up with excuses as to why you shouldn’t start a waste free lifestyle, join a group chat, listen to podcasts, and read blogs like this. It will inspire you to live with less. If you met me a few years ago, you would never guess that someone like me would become an almost zero waster-er. Don’t be intimidated; this journey is different for everyone.
I have to say, being 100% zero-waste is not feasible for most consumers. There are several things we would need to change to eliminate waste and our carbon footprint. Specifically, think of how streaming services are now the norm, and unfortunately, it could be harming our planet in other ways. Are we going to avoid streaming services completely? I doubt that. We do not live in a perfect world and will never live in a perfect world, but we can make day-to-day decisions that benefit ourselves and our community.
Moving forward, be strategic, start with areas of your home or your life. Whether you are working on your kitchen, bathroom, closet, laundry and cleaning, dining and entertaining, office, medication, or gardening, your small or large efforts are making meaningful change
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