Have you heard of people talking about zero waste living? Are you confused as to what it means or how you achieve it?
It sounds impossible to lead a lifestyle which creates little to no waste. You’ll be interested to know, though it takes serious planning, it is possible.
But how do you start this lifestyle? How do you maintain such a lifestyle?
Well, you’re in the right place. I’m going to discuss with you what a zero-waste lifestyle is, how you can get started, how you can maintain this lifestyle, and a few tips to help you thrive with the process.
Let’s get started:
A Zero Waste Lifestyle
Leading a life where you create no waste at all is unrealistic when first embracing this lifestyle. Not to mention, our culture is one which produces a ton of trash.
However, there are things you can do to reduce the amount of trash you produce drastically. Living a life with the purpose of reducing the amount of waste coming from your home and lifestyle habits is a zero-waste lifestyle.
This doesn’t equate to total perfection. It mainly means someone is making an effort to reduce their volume of garbage, and thereby reduce their footprint on the planet.
How to Get Started
If producing less garbage in your home sounds like something you’d be all about, you need a game plan. However, be sure to look before you leap. If you don’t, there’s a good chance you’ll lose momentum quickly.
Here are a few things you can do to begin embracing this lifestyle:
1. Be Realistic
When you first discover this lifestyle, be realistic. You can’t take everything you’ve ever known and grew up with and ditch it overnight.
It’s our norm to go to the store and buy items in plastic containers we can easily toss in the trash. Also, we aren't in the habit to remember to take our own grocery bags every time we go shopping.
These are all habits you’ll have to work to reform. To expect this to be an instantaneous process is misleading and will be discouraging when you keep forgetting.
Understand going into this process, it will take time. You have to reprogram the way you process things, form new habits, and be intentional about maintaining this lifestyle.
2. Examine Your Reasoning
Do you have a specific reason for wanting to go zero-waste? If not, you need one. It could be you love the earth and are tired of seeing it polluted.
It could also be you’re tired of spending a great deal of money on convenience, and you’re ready to lead a greener, thriftier lifestyle.
Whatever your reason is, you need to know it and keep it in the forefront if your thoughts. Your reason and motivation are what will remind you to be steadfast when you’re in a hurry and don’t want to take the time to pack your lunch for the day.
You’ll drive past ten fast food restaurants on the way to work, but you know you’ll use products which cause waste.
If you don’t have a firm reason as to why you’re choosing this lifestyle, you’ll rush out the door yet make time for the five-minute stop at your favorite fast food place because it’s the easier option.
Keep your reason for this lifestyle choice close to you at all times because you’ll be surprised how much you’ll need it.
3. Be Honest with Yourself
When launching this lifestyle choice, you must begin by looking at yourself and the waste you’re creating now.
It can be a hard exercise, because you may not have realized how much waste you’d been producing. This isn’t to guilt-trip yourself.
Instead, it’s to get you to know where your starting point is. It’s also a great way to see in which areas you create the most waste.
Do you create more waste in your bathroom or kitchen? Are you someone who collects a ton of beauty products or do you stockpile plenty of convenience foods?
When you realize which areas are your worst, start with the area of the most considerable amount of waste and work your way down from there.
4. Be Thrifty
Finally, don’t be wasteful while trying to start a zero-waste lifestyle. You may look at all of the waste you’re creating and take everything which isn’t reusable and throw it out.
Well, not only is this not budget friendly and counter-productive, but you wasted many products which still had use to them.
Instead of trashing everything you have, wait until the item runs out and replace it with a zero-waste alternative.
By doing this little by little, you’ll slowly begin to rid your life of products which create waste and have a better supply of those which don’t.
How to Maintain a Zero-Waste Life
Starting a zero-waste lifestyle and maintaining it are two different things. When you begin the lifestyle, you’re motivated, and you’re working towards different goals.
But what about when you’ve knocked most of the waste from your life, and you need to purchase a new item?
Well, there are a few questions you can ask yourself while shopping and maintain this lifestyle to ensure you stick with your zero-waste life:
1. Can I Buy in Bulk to Reduce Packaging?
When you go to purchase an item, you’re buying new and not replacing a previous item which created waste; you might find it’s more cost effective to buy the item in bulk.
The best part about purchasing in bulk, is often the item will come with no packaging or at least less packaging since it’s all in one bundle.
It’s a good idea to check your bulk options first before buying anything.
2. Can I Live Without This?
When you go to buy an item, it’s important to ask if you really need it. Many times we purchase items because they make our lives easier or because we’re accustomed to having such things in our lives.
However, when you slow down and analyze the purchase, you may realize you don’t need the item at all.
Instead, you’re buying out of convenience or because you only thought it was a necessity.
3. Can I Make it Reusable?
There are many items in our lives we have the opportunity to replace items with reusable options. When you go to purchase something new, ask if you can make it zero-waste friendly.
For instance, if you want to purchase a new item from produce, ask yourself if you can buy the produce without bagging it?
At the very least, choose the brown paper option. Paper bags can be reused as paper towels and composted after.
4. Is DIY Possible?
Instead of purchasing the item, ask yourself if you can make it yourself. I’ve recently begun upcycling my clothes and working on sewing my own clothing.
I was looking into purchasing new clothes when I found many great patterns and ways to upcycle what I already had to make new outfits.
For instance, I use my husband’s old work shirts to make great swimsuit cover-ups, and I had an old dress I quit wearing because I didn’t like how it looked on me.
Now, I cut the top of the dress off, added elastic to the waste, and made a great maxi skirt.
Look at what you want to purchase to see if it needs to be bought at all, or if you can make it yourself.
5. Ponder Before You Purchase
Consider the purchase before you purchase anything. If you don’t, you could end up making a bad investment and a wasteful one too.
Make sure you need what you’re buying, you can’t make it yourself, it isn’t available in bulk, and you’re purchasing it in the most frugal and zero-waste way possible.
If you bring an item home you which you know you will use for a long time, plus it had little to no packaging, you’ve probably done well in your decision making.
6. Reassess as Needed
Finally, to continue to thrive in a zero-waste lifestyle, don’t rush. Make it a point to reassess your lifestyle one to two times per year.
Look at the purchases you’ve made, the items you’ve accrued or gotten rid of, and see if you’re doing better than your previous assessment (or the place you started from.)
If you’re doing better, great! If not, figure out where you could be doing better and locate your weak spots to find a solution for the trouble areas.
Tips for Thriving with a Zero-Waste Lifestyle
There are a few basic tips which can help you transition to or thrive in a zero-waste lifestyle. Here are a few places you can focus your efforts to reduce your waste:
1. Stop the Paper Products
Paper products are a waste. They were created with the idea of tossing them. Instead of using paper plates, choose washable glass options.
You can use hand towels in the place of paper towels, and you can make your own drinks in glass pitchers instead of purchasing premade drink mixtures.
2. Get Creative
There are many things around you which can be upcycled and used for new purposes. Pallets are a big item to upcycle.
3. DIY Supplies
Instead of buying cleaning supplies filled with chemicals, which can be expensive, and come in disposable containers, consider making your own.
Try using vinegar based recipes and putting them in a spray bottle which can be reused over and over to save money and waste. You can make your own toothpaste, deodorant, lotion bars and soap, to name a few.
4. Cook from Scratch
When you purchase convenience foods, they usually come in disposable packages. That is part of the convenience.
Instead of adding to the waste you produce by using these products, cook from scratch. You can make more meals from a few staples and use much less packaging.
5. Ditch Convenience
It’s easy to go out to lunch every day instead of packing. The problem with this is you waste money, and you create trash too.
6. Shop Second Hand
When you need to purchase an item, don't rush out to the nearest store, instead slow down. Check social media sites and other places where people advertise things they’re trying to sell.
You could save a great deal of money by purchasing second hand, and you stop an unused item from heading to the landfill because you can still use it.
7. Use What You Have
It’s important to make the best use of what you have. For instance, many people have found a great love for many new kitchen gadgets.
However, I have a crockpot and a pressure cooker which still work wonderfully. For this reason, I haven’t rushed out to purchase these new gadgets because I’m using what I already have.
8. If It Breaks, Fix It
In my grandparents’ day, if something broke, they fixed it. When their cars broke down, they repaired them. If an appliance broke, they fixed it.
Now my generation looks at things breaking as an opportunity to purchase new. Don’t do this unless something is beyond repair. Not only will you save money, but you aren’t wasting either.
9. Take Care of What You Have
If you want what you have to last for a long time to keep your wastage down, you have to take care of it. Read the instructions on your clothing before washing.
Make sure you’re performing necessary maintenance on vehicles and home appliances to keep them in good shape and giving them a longer lifespan.
10. Go with Digital
It’s common to purchase certain items online. When you do, you may have a choice for a paper copy or a digital copy.
11. Recycle When Possible
That will reduce the amount of waste being produced.
12. Be Sure to Compost
If you have leftovers you can’t eat before they go bad, remember to compost. Composting is great for kitchen scraps as well.
Plus, it’s an organic way to grow your garden to reduce your waste even more. When you produce your own food, you don’t have to use gas to shop for food and no packaging is required.
Well, you now know how to begin a zero-waste lifestyle, how to maintain it, and have a few tips to help you avoid waste as well.
This should give you enough information to do well on this new zero-waste endeavor.