How to Create a Zero-Waste Home
Packaging. It’s everywhere. It’s on everything. Most of the time, it’s an indication that something is “new.” But why? And is it necessary? The answer is: not really.
Once you unwrap your shiny new item, the packaging is destined for the trash. The trash’s fate? A landfill. If it’s plastic or a byproduct of plastic, it may take 1000 years to decompose. Of course, that’s if it stays there. However, lots of these items often end up in our oceans, further polluting our environment and harming marine animals. (Note: This barely scratches the surface of the dangers associated with plastic production and consumption.) Sounds tragic, right? So let it stop with you.
If you’re tired of contributing to the senseless harm placed on our beloved planet, use the following tips as a guide to get started. Plus, opting for a zero-waste home and lifestyle is the perfect way to lead by example. There’s no better way to live than by living your values!
Say sayonara single-use items
The value placed on individual items in our consumption-centered society is out-of-this-world crazy. Think: you’re at a cafe and you order an acai bowl to go. It comes in a plastic bowl. The server places it inside a plastic bag and hands it to you. Inside the bag, you find enough paper napkins for a small family along with a package of plastic utensils wrapped in more plastic—you may even find a straw in there! OK, let’s do the math. That’s at least 10 items that will end up in your trash can. TEN ITEMS! And that’s just during your lunch break! That doesn’t even include your Starbucks coffee cup from earlier that morning. Take a minute to redefine your values. Do you value these disposable items? Probably not. Instead, opt for things that truly have value. The first step is to prepare. Here’s your zero-waste starter kit:
A Zero-waste home starts here
Trendy canvas bag
Possibly one of the most important items in the “kit,” you’ll need a cute, reusable tote to carry around your items. Luckily, you can find ethically made bags on Etsy and other progressive online shops such as Wild Minimalist.
Depending on how messy you are, you may want to tote around 1-3 cloth napkins. These are perfect for impromptu lunch outings, wiping up accidental spills and even cleaning runny noses!
You have lots of options here! Choose from glass, bamboo, stainless steel or biodegradable silicon—which is perfect for coffee drinkers. Many of these options come with brushes to clean those hard-to-reach, middle-of-the-straw areas to prevent bacteria from building up. Remember to emphasize “no straw, please!” to your server or cashier as plastic straws are always the default.
Cotton bulk bags:
These double as bulk bags! You never know when you’re going to need a random item from the store on your way home. So keep some cotton or canvas bags in your car or in the bottom of your tote at all times. These are great for regular grocery shopping trips, farmer’s market visits and bulk bin hauls. Not sure what (or where) to buy in bulk? Whole Foods and other natural food stores typically have a bulk section. Scope out the best store near you! Once you start buying in bulk, you’ll see your waste production decrease and your savings increase! Buying foods such as beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, dried fruits and so much more is far less expensive since you’re no longer paying a premium for packaging.
Having a small stash of mason-jar-style containers will benefit you tremendously. You can reuse glass jars from condiments such as nut butters, or you can pick up a few jars from your local thrift shop. Use your jars to store bulk items at home and keep one in your tote for when you order beverages such as smoothies and juices. The latter will actually decrease your waste by three items: plastic cup, plastic lid, plastic straw. Jars also come in handy when you start making your own personal care items such as homemade toothpaste.
OK, they don’t have to be bamboo (they’re just oh-so cute!), but having a reusable, to-go set of utensils is super important. A fork, spoon and smooth knife will come in handy when it comes to various activities, including eating out, sampling foods at markets and attending gatherings where only plastic options are available.
Stainless steel container with lid
These are a little on the bulkier side. But a moderate-sized stainless steel container comes in handy when it comes to takeout foods or storing restaurant leftovers.
This one is a no-brainer. There’s really no excuse for using plastic water bottles these days. At the bare minimum, most people at least have some form of a reusable bottle. Opt for a BPA-free water bottle, preferably stainless steel, to carry around with you to refill wherever you go!
While there is a far longer list of must-have, waste-free items, this one hits all of the essentials. The most important message here is to be prepared. The best part about each of these objects is they are all pretty small, meaning you can stuff them into one fashionable tote and bring them wherever you go. Plus, they make for great conversation starters, which ultimately will inspire others to consider their own impact on the environment and to follow your lead in creating their own zero-waste home!