With more negative environmental news every day, we could feel powerless and be discouraged with such big recorded problems. But there is an efficient solution that anyone can take to reduce their impact on the earth’s resources, and it requires adopting a lifestyle of zero waste.
Modern culture, whether by unconsumed foods, needless packaging, or excessive energy and water use, can be enormously wasteful of resources. Using a zero-waste approach means looking at every aspect of your life and wonder whether there is a better way to reduce waste. The principle is that while each move may be a small one, the cumulative consequences can be immense, and they only escalate as more individuals become involved.
Fundamental First Steps
Moving through the zero waste lifestyle is a project that only gets bigger and progresses over time. Still, it does not need to be a massive disturbance to your current lifestyle to get started. Here are only three improvements that you can make right away that will have an immediate effect on your carbon footprint and serve as a foundation for building around a longer-term plan.
Start Using Glass Jars and Bottles
Glass jars and bottles are an ideal way for the kitchen to store dried or even wet products. They are more appealing and can be reused again and again. They can also be taken to bulk stores and get filled with loose-goods, avoiding the need for unnecessary packaging.
Instead of sending them to the garbage, reuse tomato sauce jars, cookie jars, dressing bottles, or any other jars and bottles of stuff you finish or look in second-hand shops for jars you can give a new life.
Use Tote Bags for the Supermarket
In the billions of plastic and paper shopping bags used and discarded annually, reusable cloth bags will help you make a dent. They don’t need to cost much to buy, and if handled properly and cleaned with care, they will last for years. And you might build your totes out of old clothes or sheets for a complete zero-waste lifestyle.
Give Priority to Reusable Items
To minimize plastic waste, you can replace single-use daily items by their reusable version. Instead of the disposable paper napkins, go for the fabric made ones, instead of wrapping sandwiches in paper towels, use kitchen towels or stainless steel containers.
Buy a good quality water bottle made of glass or stainless steel and fill it before you leave home, instead of depending on bottled water. Instead of relying on disposable paper tissues, go back to the old times when everyone kept a handkerchief in their pocket, wash and reuse. Use old clothes as cleaning rags rather than buying single-use cloths. With a little effort, the opportunities are infinite.
Moving forward: Using the Five Rs Wisdom
There is a practical way to approach a more advanced level of zero waste. Bea Johnson, a key figure in the minimalist living movement, created the idea of the 5 Rs, building on the initial 3 Rs of Reduction, Reuse, and Recycling adopted in the 1970s. The 2 additional Rs of Refuse and Rot lead to a holistic solution by keeping your waste footprint to the minimum necessary without living an austere life.
By rejecting the needless things that are thrown at you almost every day, you will start working on your pollution footprint. There’s no reason you need to accept everything you’re offered because it’s free, from newsletters, advertisements, and promotions, to gift items and other free stuff. In almost every case; these free items are rarely looked at or used before finding their way to the trash.
An excellent way to minimize the total amount of products you purchase, as well as rejecting excessively wasteful objects. Plan the meals a week in advance, for example, add to your shopping list just the items you will need, instead of buying stuff out of cravings and end up wasting a portion of them. In the end, you’ll spend less time and money at the shop, and discard less.
Whenever you feel like you need a new item or appliance, decide whether this purchase is something you will actually use. And if it’s a justifiable investment, strive for quality so the product has enduring value.
As with re-purposing glass jars for storage, instead of tossing anything in the garbage when it’s no longer needed, consider ways to put it to a new use. Just like when an object is broken or damaged, see if it can be fixed instead of discarded.
If an object is in good shape but is simply unused, consider donating it to a flea market so that it is not wasted and someone else can find value in it.
You can purchase most of today’s daily products in recyclable packaging, so select them whenever possible. Not only can the recycling act save energy, but recyclable products will gradually become the standard choice as the vast majority of people start choosing them.
Finally, any vegetable cuts from the kitchen can be rotted into compost if you have the yard space. However, don’t add animal products or dairy to your compost as they will attract bugs and risk of infection.
If you don’t have enough backyard space, there is another option, fortunately, most places now have a drop-off point where waste food of all sorts can be deposited and sent to a waste treatment center or biofuel processing facility.
Concrete Tips On Waste Reduction For Daily Home Life
If the notion of zero waste is an enticing one for you, here are some practical steps you can take to launch your journey to be free of waste.
Zero Waste Gift Wrapping
The holiday times can be very wasteful, especially with the gift wrapping destroyed and disposed of after one single-use. Here we gathered the best and most creative options for a zero-waste holiday season:
-Use mason jars, they come in various sizes and colours, depending on your gift’s size, pick a nice looking mason jar that the person can put to use later instead of throwing a gift bag in the trash.
-Use fabric to wrap the present instead of the regular wrapping paper, you can even give use to some of those clothes that you were thinking to donate for charity, choose a nice pattern or a plain fabric and make a fabric ribbon out of leftover rags.
-Use newspapers, magazines, old book pages or outdated maps that would typically go to the recycling bin. Give a nice touch to your presents using a colourful section of the newspaper to make it more visually appealable or if you feel more conservative, you can stick to the regular black and white pages.
-Re-purpose paper grocery bags, most of them are left unused after you bring them home, so they are a great option to use instead of the regular paper gift wrapping. If they have a logo or a commercial wording, you can always cover that area with a gift card.
-Use natural elements to decorate your gifts wrapped in newspaper or grocery bags, place a few cinnamon sticks tied in a pretty fabric ribbon, or add a few pinecones tied with some hemp lace.
Zero Waste Kitchen Tips
-Buy in bulk as much as you can, bring all those glass jars and bottles you’ve been gathering and ask the store to fill them with loose goods, cereals, nuts, seeds, oil, sauces, shampoo, or pretty much with anything you want.
-Replace all single-use disposable items like paper napkins, plates, disposable cups and cutlery, paper towels, cleaning cloths, aluminium, plastic wrap, etc.) for the long-lasting versions you can wash and reuse a thousand times.
-Make your own foods like mayonnaise, hummus, jams, cookies, salad dressings, instead of buying the ready-made options.
–Grow your herbs, fruits, and vegetables at home, instead of buying them in the supermarket, which will save you a lot of money and avoid the unnecessary bags and packaging that these typically come in.
-Use all the vegetable food scraps that come from the kitchen like carrots, tomatoes, onions, etc., to make a vegetable broth that you can use to prepare something later, then compost everything and use the nourished soil to grow your veggies.
-Invest in a good quality pressure cooker and use it to prepare your beans, lentils, and potatoes to reduce the cooking time in half and you won’t need to buy the readily available canned versions.
Zero Waste Bathroom Recommendations
-Learn to make your own personal care products like natural toothpaste, organic deodorant, soaps, skincare like hydrating creams, lotions, scrubs, toners, organic makeup, and stop buying expensive brands. This will significantly impact your carbon footprint and save you a lot of money.
-Replace your regular plastic made toothbrush for a bamboo or a wooden compostable toothbrush that is eco-friendly since it gets decomposed much faster than the plastic one.
-Invest in a menstrual cup instead of relying on the regular disposable pads.
-Buy shampoo and hair conditioner in bulk, or if your hair is short, you can wash it by rubbing baking soda and rinse it with vinegar to give it some shine.
As you can see, there are millions of options in every single part of our lives, we could continue the list forever, and new ways to reduce waste will always come up if you put a little bit of creativity and effort into it. Every little action counts and has an impact on real results.