It's never really zero waste...
I would like to start by saying that "zero" waste is BS. There is not such a thing as zero. Less waste? Lower waste? Yes, absolutely, but not zero. I know that it sounds contradicting but zero-waste sounds better than lower-waste. So we are just going to stick to the name.
We are far ahead of the times where people were competing over who has the smallest jar of trash. This is simply NOT realistic. I agree that we all should do our best to reduce our waste, but I also know that this is simply not possible for everybody. It's nearly impossible to be 100% perfect ALL the time. We live in a crazy world, and the reality is that most people and governments don't give a flying s**t about it. At least not yet...
Zero-waste is more of a goal or ideal rather than a hard target
of actually producing no waste
This is the reason that I wrote this post. I know a lot of people get overwhelmed and if you look around, it seems that everything is packaged in plastic nowadays. That's why I come at you with 10 EASY steps to lower your waste as much as is possible for your circumstances, budget, and culture without a big headache halfway and a bitter feeling of failure.
The simplest and best way to lower your waste is to do research -- if you're reading this you're on the right path 😉 Research what others are doing, and how they achieved their goals to reduce the amount of waste/trash they produce in their everyday life. There is no need to reinvent the wheel.
I'm not perfect in any way about all this zero-waste movement and there's plenty of room for improvement. But I'm trying my best to lower my waste as much as it's possible for me and my way of living. That's how I found that these ways of lowering my waste are possible to be achieved no matter my budget or the city I live in. I'm sure they will help you too, so keep on reading.
Overview & Quick Links
- It's never really zero waste...
- 1. Ditch plastic bags
- 2. Say no to the straw
- 3. Get a reusable bottle/mug
- 4. Start composting & minimize food waste
- 5. Bring your own cutleries
- 6. Shop in bulk
- 7. Make your own cleaning products
- 8. Minimize the consumption of meat & dairy
- 9. Shop secondhand
- 10. Reuse what you can and declutter as much as you can
- 💬 Comments
1. Ditch plastic bags
So this might be the easiest step of them all. Just say no to plastic bags when you go shopping, and bring a reusable one. You can use organic cotton or mesh bags as reusable produce bags, or they can be used when shopping for bulk items like nuts, pasta, rice, etc.
Nowadays there are so many beautiful reusable bags. Tote bags are a must-have. And they are sooo pretty, not like their ugly plastic bag cousin. You can use them when shopping for food, books and basically anything.
Keep them hung up beside your entrance door or in your car so you never forget them.
2. Say no to the straw
I bought myself a while ago a set of 4 metal straws + a cleaning brush for a few dollars. Still the best $8 that I ever spent.
Reusable straws, either glass, bamboo or silver are an amazing way to reduce your waste. The collapsible ones are super convenient and pocket-friendly too.
When drinking out, just ask politely that your drink comes without a straw. Bring your reusable straw or simply drink straight from the glass 🤷🏻♀️
3. Get a reusable bottle/mug
If you don't already have a reusable travel mug don't worry. There are so many beautiful travel mugs on the market. My personal favorites are JOCO cups (super cute). There are definitely cheaper mugs out there but when you buy one mug/bottle that you're going to reuse over and over again, then quality & if you absolutely love it matters!
Choose a glass or stainless steel travel mug or bottle and at the end of their life, you can recycle them. Bonus tip: you can even use mason jars for cold liquids.
4. Start composting & minimize food waste
Food composting it's actually a thing which I had no idea it existed. I know there are some countries in Europe which composting is a requirement by the government but unfortunately, I don't live in such a place...yet. While not everyone has room for an outdoor composting system, there’s a wide range of countertop composting systems that make this practice easy and accessible for everyone, even those with limited space.
Composting: organics such as food waste, as well as, hair & nails can be turned into high-quality compost & used for growing new plants.
Food waste is quite a big deal, it's basically one of the biggest causes for landfill gas which is composed mainly of methane. So in simple words, more organic waste in landfills equals more methane gas causing the Earth's temperature to rise. That means more wildfires, insects spreading illnesses further as their access to new climate grows, dehydration for animals & humans + other extreme natural disasters like hurricanes and floods that are linked to climate change.
Some ways that you can reduce your food waste is to save and eat your leftovers, store food in the right places to avoid a massive amount of food waste, shop smart and realistically (don't buy more food than you need) and when eating out don't order more than you can eat and if you have any leftovers ask politely the waiter to make it for take-away.
5. Bring your own cutleries
Try to dine in as much as possible rather than take-away. Refuse any plastic cutleries that the restaurant might offer you and bring your own. There are many pretty sets on the market but you don't really need to spend money on that. Simply take a napkin and fold in a knife, spoon, and fork from your silverware drawer.
6. Shop in bulk
Buying in bulk is not only eco-friendly saving lots of single-use plastic packages but it's also so MUCH cheaper. You are not paying for excess packaging so you should find it cheaper than buying similar items at the supermarket. Also buying in bulk saves a lot of time as well. With having bulk items in storage at your home, you can make fewer trips to the store for these non-perishable items.
4 steps for a hassle free bulk shopping spree:
- Bring your own jars and containers.
- First things first, weight your jars.
- Fill up on all the pantry staples and treats that your heart desires
- Pay and that's it, you are good to go.
I totally understand that not everybody has access to a grocery store with a bulk section, let alone a dedicated bulk store, the movement is growing but we are not there yet.
Some simple tips that you can incorporate if you don't have access to a bulk store are:
- Eat lots of whole fruits and vegetables as most of the time they can be found package free or you can bring your own reusable produce bags.
- Stock up on dry goods like rice, pasta, and quinoa that come in cardboard boxes or get the largest package you can find to limit the amount of packaging in the long run.
- Look for products that come in packaging that can be recycled.
7. Make your own cleaning products
You can save so much money & packaging simply by making your own cleaning products. They work great and they are non-toxic unlike many cleaning products that you can find in supermarkets.
Make this simple all-purpose cleaning spray that is effective, simple, and replaces many packaged cleaning products: fill a glass spray bottle halfway with water and the other half with vinegar and add 15-20 drops of essential oil like lemon or lavender. Spray on all and any surfaces (including kitchen & bathroom) and use old textiles (old t-shirts etc.) as your rags.
8. Minimize the consumption of meat & dairy
This is a no brainer coming from a vegan food blogger huh? But listen to me, this is not me telling you ditch meat all animal products and become a vegan GOD (if you are not already of course 🙂 I believe a lower waste lifestyle is for anybody, no matter if they are vegan, keto, or gluten-free. These labels don't matter, AT ALL!
But the reality is that switching from a meat-based diet to a diet based on whole grains, fruits and vegetables reduces water and land use, lowers pollution, slows deforestation and reduces the destruction of topsoil, among other benefits. So just try to do your best and if you don't want to switch to a whole-foods plant-based diet then at least try to minimize animal products.
9. Shop secondhand
You can shop for so many things secondhand -- books, kitchenware, you name it, but also clothes! Why would you want to do that? Well, the reality is that fast fashion sucks, the clothes are mass-produced therefore the quality is never that good, it creates tons of (toxic) waste and the working conditions for the factory workers are less than ideal.
Second-hand clothes, for the most part, are really cheap, you can find unique pieces + the planet & your wallet will thank you for that.
OK, so maybe you shopped second-hand and you found some pieces but you are kind of bored with your wardrobe. Some clothes might not fit you anymore (it happens, we all at some point grow out of our clothes) or you simply don't love that piece or garment anymore. Just make sure to donate or recycle them.
Where to shop you might ask? It takes some effort & patience to find good quality thrift shops and clothes that you actually like, but it is totally worth it! You can shop at thrift stores, consignment stores, online second-hand stores like Depop or Poshmark or you can even swap clothes with friends. How cool is that?
And lastly, keep in mind that if the idea of wearing somebody's else clothes doesn't appeal to you or you simply don't have any access or found any good clothes in thrift stores there are some pretty reputable non-secondhand ethical clothing shops. If your budget allows it, stock up on essentials and try to build a capsule wardrobe. The clothes might be a bit pricier but the quality is top-notch, they pay their workers a fair wage & also is better for the environment as well. The clothes will keep you much longer in the end too.
10. Reuse what you can and declutter as much as you can
There are so many products on the market labeled zero-waste & sustainable but that doesn't mean that you need to go and buy everything "zero-waste" out there - this defends the whole purpose of this movement. The most important step that you can take right now is to reuse what you can and declutter even more. As an example, you can use the fork and knife that you have at home and wrap it in a kitchen towel for taking away cutleries, no need to buy the fancy ones (they accomplish the same job).
When it comes to decluttering, you don't need to throw out every single thing that you own, but actually think very well about your belongings, like Marie Kondo says if it doesn't bring joy do you really need it? Or if it doesn't fulfill a need or purpose. Keep what you need/use/love and get rid of the rest - either donate or recycle.
If you liked this post check out:
-10 Easy Steps to go (and stay) Vegan in 2020
So, guys, that's it. My 10 easy steps to a zero-waste lifestyle. These are some tips that I personally incorporated into my lifestyle. By no means I'm perfect, but I'm striving to do better, not to be perfect.
If you enjoyed reading this post as much as I enjoyed writing it share it with your friends and family & let's connect on Instagram!