There are a lot of “zero-waste” blogs and other resources available on the Internet, so I urge everyone to do their own research and check out the true experts. They can all explain why moving towards a circular economy is better for the planet and why single-use plastic is the devil.
I’ve drawn on these resources as I’ve progressed along my “journey” to reduce our household waste. After a few years of really focusing on the things we can do (and the things we can’t quite take on), I think I have a decent number of tips to share. Also, many people living the “zero-waste” lifestyle don’t have kids, and that adds a serious wrinkle to one’s systems. Decreasing your own trash is different than reducing what a family of five generates!
This is a huge issue and there is so much that can be said (thus the reason I talk about it on the daily!), so I’m going to start with some broad-stroke tips for getting started. Take ‘em or leave ‘em.
one. // Use what you ALREADY own.
Being “eco-friendly” is trendy. There are stores that will sell you many things to help you go forth on your “zero-waste” journey. Some of these things are very useful (metal straws). Some of these things are beautiful but not necessary (Wreck jars). Use up the things you already own. Even if this means using some not so Instagram-able plastic Tupperware until it breaks, using items that are already in your life is always better than supporting the manufacturing of new materials.
two. // Buy LESS and buy USED.
The cold, hard truth is that the world is against us in this crusade. It might change in the future, but for now we live in a disposable economy and it’s incredible hard to avoid having trash come into your life. The best way to create less waste is to just consume less. When you need or want something, first shop your house. Maybe you have something like it that you’ve forgotten about. If not, ask around. Maybe you can borrow it or get it for cheap from someone you know. If that fails, buy it used. There are lots of online or local consignment options.
Food is obviously a semi-exception to this point because you have to buy some amount of food. It’s still a good area to think about buying less (statistics about wasted food are crazy!) but when talking about shopping for food, this is an area it’s more important to consider the packaging…
three. // If you have to buy, CONSIDER the PACKAGING and the MATERIAL.
Best choice = buy without packaging.
Better choice = buy with compostable packaging.
Good choice = buy in paper, glass, or aluminum packaging.
Less than ideal choice = buy in recyclable plastic packaging.
Worst choice = buy in non-recyclable packaging.
Packaging is pretty easy to “rate” but the material of the product can be harder. But the key question to ask yourself is “what is going to happen to this when I can’t use it anymore?” For this reason, I try to buy mostly clothing of organic fibers and toys made of wood or paper. And you always want to think about the quality of the item. If it’s really high-quality plastic that won’t likely ever break or is something you’ll use for years and years to come, then you should buy it!