Plastic is filling our oceans, about 4.8 to 12.7 million tonnes of it. Americans throw out an average of four pounds of trash per person per day. Thousands of jurisdictions in 19 countries announced climate emergencies. With this in mind, it's understandable that more and more people are trying to reduce the amount of waste they produce.
The zero-waste movement started with a few zero waste bloggers who fit a year's worth of trash into small mason jars. Now there are hundreds of zero waste blogs. Zero waste restaurants and food stores are also popping up around the world.
Though some zero waste blogs make going zero waste look trendy and stylish, the movement means much more than that. Buying newer, more eco-friendly beeswax wraps and bamboo toothbrushes are not the only ways to have a more zero waste lifestyle.
As long as you're more conscious of the effects your purchases have on the environment than you were before, you're on the right track. It's not possible to be 100% zero waste all of the time, especially for those who are working and raising kids. Your children might still bring home plastic-wrapper filled goodie bags home from birthday parties. You may not have time to cook every day and still need to order takeout. Be gentle with yourself and don't compare your zero waste journey with other people. It's not a contest!
Instead, work around your busy schedule and budget with these easy and affordable zero waste lifestyle changes.
Use what you have
The simplest way to be more zero waste is to simply find more ways to use what you have instead of buying new.
- Fix broken appliances, clothing, and toys. Sew up buttons on old jackets.
- Borrow from friends.
- Participate in swaps and exchanges.
- Thrift for secondhand clothes.
Make it at home
Who says we need to buy the latest plastic-filled goop and do-dads? Surprisingly enough, we can get by with a lot less when it comes to beauty products, cleaning supplies, and other daily essentials. Reusing your containers and bottles means less packaging, money, and decision making wasted in the long run.
- Create laundry detergent, dry shampoo, and floor cleaner with simple, natural ingredients such as vinegar and essential oils. Some other ingredients in common cleaning supplies are harmful to the environment and human health.
- Replace floor cleaner cloths with old socks and shirts.
- Collect bits of packing here and there for gift wrapping including tissue paper, ribbons, dust bags, boxes, twine, or jars. About 540,000 tonnes of holiday gift wrapping goes to waste every year in Canada. Shiny foil packaging, old artificial garland, and glitter are all considered garbage. Make your wrapping out of the shiny silver insides of potato chip bags. Recycle old newspapers. Collect fallen pine branches for ornaments.
- Make DIY lip balm.
Ditch the disposables
Throwaway items are convenient, but they pile up fast. Maybe it’s not realistic to cut out disposables totally, but reducing the amount you collect is.
- Buy cloth diapers instead of disposable diapers. Around 30 to 40 billion disposable diapers are sent to North American landfills annually. Plus, reusable diapers are, on average, half the cost of disposable diapers. After using cloth diapers, shake solids into the toilet, put the used cloth diapers into a bin, then run these through a washer once your bin is full.
- Carry a reusable coffee cup and water bottle.
- Purchase takeout from restaurants that exclusively use compostable containers. Bring cutlery with you.
- Use silicone freezer bags.
Switch to a paperless kitchen
Wiping up messes with paper towels turns wasteful and costly quick. Reusable cloths and rags stored in drawers and cabinets have a longer shelf life.
- Have a bin for wet and used rags, then throw these into a clothes washer once full.
- Pre-soak and trouble clean-ups in hot water and vinegar.
Choose biodegradable or zero waste products
Sometimes we have no choice but to purchase new items, especially when the things we own fall apart, become ineffective or inefficient. In these moments, swap non-eco-friendly items for zero-waste products.
- Kitchen supplies: silicone cupcake liners and baking mats, french presses, cloth napkins, beeswax wraps, compostable dish scrubbers or wooden scrub brushes.
- Washroom supplies: bars of soap wrapped in recyclable packaging, compostable earbuds, recycled content toilet paper, plastic-free and refillable dental floss, organic loofahs or bath brushes, makeup with recyclable packaging, reusable feminine hygiene products, razors with replaceable blades, and bamboo toothbrushes
- Laundry supplies: dryer balls and cloth hankies.
- Paper Supplies: recycled paper or seed paper for crafts, notetaking, wedding invitations, wedding favors or printed memorial service programs. After use, seed paper is 100% plantable and biodegradable, turning into wildflowers, herbs or vegetables.
Reduce your food waste
A little preparation goes a long way to prevent throwing away food.
- Move close-to-expiring items to the front of your fridge at the start of every week.
- Make soup stock out of leftover meat products and veggies
- Offer to take unfinished food home from group business lunches.
- Have a composting system in your kitchen.
- Set up a meal prepping day to plan what ingredients you'll use and for what.
- Freeze your leftovers before they go bad.
Bring your jars, containers, and reusable bags to grocery markets
The bring-yours method is a simple and popular way to reduce waste.
- Visit a zero-waste market in your city with your jars and bags.
- Bring your produce bags.
- Bring your small, easy-to-transport carry bags around as much as possible.
Being mindful of what you throw away is the first step towards living a zero waste lifestyle. With a little patience and self-compassion, it's possible to reduce waste and help protect the planet. Take it one step at a time and remind yourself that the zero waste lifestyle is a process.
You can buy seed paper sheets for eco-friendly paper craft projects from Botanical PaperWorks. We have a variety of seed options, including wildflower, herb and veggie, and over 25 seed paper colors. Join our mailing list to receive emails with freebies, projects, coupons, green living tips, and decor ideas and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest