How To Adopt A Zero Waste Lifestyle: An All-Encompassing Guide
So, you’re thinking of converting to a zero waste lifestyle?
You’ve already taken the first step if you’re doing your research. And you can rest assured that you’re are doing the right thing.
You see, going zero waste is the way of the future. A worldwide movement of activists is continually growing around the globe, and their aim is to save the world one less piece of waste at a time.
But you don’t need me to tell you this. You’ve probably already read the many zero waste blogs, seen the articles, and heard the protesters plead for more environmentally conscious waste policies in their respective countries.
However, you don’t have to get-up-in-arms or start protesting to join the zero waste movement. The truth is, the zero waste movement is supported by the millions of people who adopt a more minimalistic and eco-friendly outlook on the world every year.
It is kept going by the people who simply don’t fill their bins as much as they used to. By the people who repurpose their old possessions and who make conscious decisions throughout the day to make a change in the world.
What I’m trying to say is that the zero waste movement is held together by people like you!
So, if you’re looking to get started in a zero waste lifestyle, there’s no better time than now.
And if you want the transition to a waste-free life to be smooth and as easy as possible, there are some simple rules you can follow.
What are the guidelines? Let’s find out!
Don’t dive in too fast!
Every single well-known, experienced, and influential zero waste lifestyle follower got their start as a beginner – just like you are now. They didn’t move from filling a few trash bags a week to a single jar of waste a year overnight.
It took time.
And it’ll take time for you too.
Which is no surprise really, it’s a complete lifestyle change after all. You’ll have to work on habits until they stick and make a conscious effort to be more eco-friendly every day.
And it’s important that you don’t just confine your zero waste lifestyle to the home.
Maybe you’ve already tried to adopt a zero waste lifestyle and it all seemed like a bit too much to handle. You’d bought the zero waste deodorant, you stocked up on zero waste toothbrushes you even had the whole ‘zero waste home’ thing going with your whole family.
And it still didn’t work out!
Before you knew it, the waste was building up again and you couldn’t stick to the plans you’d made. That’s alright, it happens to most people starting off on their zero waste journey.
It’s completely understandable to struggle when taking on such a big dedication but also taking your time can prevent the chances of burnout happening.
So, let the process be gradual and go with the flow. Do what feels natural to you and let the rest follow soon after.
By pacing yourself, you have a higher chance of sticking with the zero waste lifestyle for longer … perhaps even an entire lifetime!
And who knows? You might end up becoming one of those zero waste influencers one day!
Figure out why you’re going zero waste and write it down.
The importance of this step cannot be underestimated.
I mean, we write out shopping lists to remember what we need from the shop, why wouldn’t we write out lists to help us remember why we’re trying to change the world!
And it’s okay to need a bit of encouragement every now and then, in a world of overconsumption, global warming, and growing landfills, it can be difficult to live an eco-friendly life.
Keep your list in a place that makes it visible to you every day. Read over it every morning or whenever you’re doubting yourself.
So, pick your brains! Self-analyze!
You need to take a step back and ask yourself “Why am I doing this?” and “what do I want to achieve from becoming zero waste?”
Here’s just a few common reasons that you might be able to take inspiration from:
- Are you sick of having plastic cups and bottles float around you as you go for a relaxing swim in the sea?
- Are you sick of not being able to relax at the beach because you’re not sure what might have washed up on the shore?
- Maybe you’re sick of politicians not caring about the environment anywhere near as much as they should.
- What about all the stories we hear about animals chocking on those single-use plastics that hold beers together?
- And better yet, that whole species could be wiped out because humans produce too much waste.
- It could even be something as simple as you saw an online zero waste shop selling cool zero waste products that you’d love to try out.
- Or that you’re just sick of seeing landfills grow and forests shrink?
Whatever your reasons, they’re valid.
And if they’re important to you, that’s all that matters.
Just make sure you list things that’ll get you fired up for another day of zero waste living!
Check your waste
Don’t worry, this step isn’t as bad as it sounds.
But before you start off on your zero waste journey, you need to know exactly what you’re getting rid of and where it comes from.
Seeing what you throw away can allow you to see what you need to change. For example, if you’re always throwing away the plastic bag your fruit comes in, why not switch to doing a more zero waste shop in a store where the fruit & veg isn’t packaged – you could even bring along your reusable bag or purchase a biodegradable plastic bag at the shop!
After you’ve got an idea of your waste profile, it’s time to ask yourself –
“what can I eliminate first?”
As tempting as it might be, you can’t just reduce your waste to 0 in one go. And believe me, every single zero waste fan has dreamt of doing the exact same thing.
However, you can cut things out one at a time. Starting with single-use plastics for example. These bothersome plastics are actually incredibly easy to weed out of our waste with just a small bit of effort e.g. straws, plastic water bottles, plastic coffee cup lids.
These plastics are completely avoidable and don’t need to be in your bin.
So, put your waste up for judgment and then put an end to it!
Don’t just throw everything out at once!
Now that you’ve started the elimination process, it can be hard to stop.
Maybe you find that you’re eyeing up a few items in your house that doesn’t seem very ‘zero waste’ to you.
Well, stop right there!
The whole point of living a zero waste lifestyle is to use what you have. So, don’t be too quick to throw out possessions just so you can replace them with their zero waste alternatives.
Make sure you use everything up before buying a replacement, and when you do buy a replacement, be sure that it meets zero waste standards.
Get creative and crafty!
Going zero waste doesn’t have to be all hard work and dedication! There’s plenty of time to have fun and lots of laughs along the way.
You can become a detective in your own home, scouting out items that can be repurposed for other uses. This is a fun activity to get the whole family involved in, and with kid’s wild imaginations, who knows what great ideas they might come up with?
Even just a simple jar can be turned into a reusable water container, and berries or fruit that’s about to go out of date? Why not add it to the jar to flavor your water!
How about trying to turn an old t-shirt into a new stylish tote bag? It’s doable, there’s plenty of instructions and tutorials online that’ll show you how. You can even sew some other old materials into the bag for a touch of color and design. And when people ask where you got your lovely bag, you’ll be able to tell them you made it yourself! That’s something to be proud of.
Another one that the whole family will gladly get in on is cooking ‘fakeaways.’ And if you can’t already guess what that means, it’s a takeaway that you make from home. Think about all your favorites: chicken tikka masala, beef curry, big macs. All of these can be made from a few ingredients at home!
And don’t worry, you won’t produce any extra waste while buying the ingredients. Almost every town and city has zero waste shops nowadays. So, why not bring a jar or two with you to the zero waste store and get your fill of spices and sauces!
And if you must – always buy secondhand
If nothing is working for you, and all the sewing, repurposing, and patching-up in the world just won’t achieve what you want – it’s time to go thrifting.
Trust me, you can find absolutely everything second-hand. If you want it, someone has already gotten their use out of it and is trying to sell it.
And no need to fret, almost all thrift/charity shops these days perform quality checks so you can be assured that whatever you buy is almost as good as new!
Even better yet is that shopping second hand is becoming more common online, so you can pick up a thing or two when you’re on the go.
But wait! That’s not all. The best is yet to come. “what could that be?” you might ask? What could I learn about thrifting?
Sustainable clothing brands like ‘Lucy & Yak’ or ‘Pangaia’ repurpose secondhand clothes to mimic the latest fashion trends. Some of their clothes or accessories even include 100% sustainable fabrics or materials. So, you can be sure you’re receiving high-quality clothes that’ll last a long time.
In fact, these brands are becoming so popular that even people who have never heard of the zero waste movement will frequently shop there.
You’ll hear this again and again from most minimalists and zero waste lifestyle proponents: think before you buy.
And by thinking before you buy, they usually mean that you should deliberate on making a new purchase for up to 30 days!
“But that’s crazy!” you might be thinking (or exclaiming loudly!) but it only seems like that now.
After the first time, you give yourself pause to think, you’ll do it forever.
Because 99% of the time you’ll realize that you never needed the thing in the first place. That it was just a fleeting desire that you’d regret purchasing later.
And the easiest way to live a sustainable life and avoid waste is to limit your purchases to the completely necessary.
Also, be sure that what you’re buying inspires joy in you and motivates you in some way. Because if what you’re buying has a significance to it, you’re much less likely to throw it out again.
Some zero waste products that help
Okay, I know I’ve already suggested that you don’t throw anything out, but that doesn’t mean you can’t start planning your next zero waste shop!
I mean, who doesn’t like browsing through nifty and stylish zero waste products online?
Admit it! We all do it.
But, before you make any purchases, it’s best to know what you should be looking for.
You see, there are these nifty little toolboxes known as ‘zero waste kits.’ Maybe you’ve heard about them before, maybe you’re dreaming about receiving one for your birthday or Christmas (they are one of the most common zero waste gifts after all) and you should be!
They’re incredibly diverse toolkits offering you every instrument and item that you’ll need to start building your zero waste lifestyle. These versatile kits can contain anything from sustainable stainless-steel straws to biodegradable mesh bags and any other zero waste essentials that you can think of!
Not to mention that getting all the essentials in one kit usually means a bargain! And on top of that, you’ll have everything you need in the one place making going zero waste simple!
As great as zero waste kits are, however, they can’t fit everything into them! Luckily for us, there are a few more spinoff kits to look into.
Consider zero waste hygiene/body wash kits for a moment. From zero waste shampoo to zero waste deodorant – these kits have everything you need to keep yourself shiny and clean!
Put your skills to use
Maybe it’s been years since you’ve gotten the sewing kit out or even held a screwdriver and I wouldn’t blame you! Repairs and patchwork take time that we often don’t have anymore.
However, that still doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t wipe the dust from your toolbox and put it to use every now and then! You’ll even get the chance to wipe the dust off your skillset and try things you might not have done in years!
It’s easy to throw away a kid’s toy that’s looking a little worn and it’s even easier to bin a perfectly good pair of jeans with a rip in them – but do we have to?
The simple answer is no. It may be immediately easier, but it won’t make your life easier in the long run.
And think of it this way, you’ll be able to save some money all the while improving the skills you already have.
Who knows? Your skills could get so good that the items you’re repairing turn out better than they were before!
So really, there are positives all around!
Learn to value your possessions
Unfortunately, we live in a world of uncontrolled overconsumption where the wrapping, packaging, and even the product themselves tend to get thrown out after a short time.
So, it’s time to start thinking about what you own a little differently.
This may require a bit of soul-searching and brain-picking, but the results are lifechanging.
The key is to look at every one of your possessions as a gift from the earth. This may seem a little whimsical but in reality, everything you own has been made from the earth’s natural resources. Your possessions didn’t just appear out of thin air.
Fortunately, we can thank the earth for its many gifts by treasuring and taking care of every last one of them!
You see, out disrespect for our possessions is not only a symptom of overproduction and overconsumption but also our indifference to our world’s environment.
And it’s very easy to not care when that’s what we’ve been taught by corporations and businesses since day 1. You see, they want you to be stuck in a never-ending cycle of ‘throw things out, buy them again.’ It keeps the cash flow going and ensures they’ll land a big profit.
And the best thing you can do to protest this is to look at your possessions like the gifts from the earth that they really are. Every last one of them.
Manifesting this mindset and applying it to every aspect of your life will make living a zero waste lifestyle immensely easier. It gives us that feeling that we’re fighting for something worthwhile, something bigger than ourselves, and we are!
None of your items are dispensable, none of them belong in the bin, and they can always be used by someone else if you don’t need them anymore.
So, pass the gift along or cherish it forever.
The first question you’ll always hear asked when composting is brought up is:
“don’t you need a special bin for that?”
The simple answer is now, you don’t. However, it helps if your whole family going zero waste and there’s a lot of leftover food and organic waste to throw out.
If you’re going zero waste on your own, you’ll only need a jar or two. Yes! A humble jar.
You might be tempted to shake your head and call me crazy, but it works! And there’s a lot of evidence that shows it working online.
Just search for ‘zero waste compost jar,’ and not only will you find tips and tricks on how to start composting, but you’ll also find a slew of zero waste blogs run by people who use compost jars in their everyday lives.
Reach out to other zero waste lifestyle enthusiasts
This can be hard to do when you’re just getting started but the earlier the better!
Listen, we all know that being a beginner is hard. We always think that we’ll be annoying everyone else with our questions or merely by the fact that we don’t know much yet.
Perhaps you feel like they’ll turn their noses up at you and think you’re not ‘zero waste’ or ‘eco-friendly’ enough for their standards?
Nothing could be further from the truth!
In reality, the zero waste community is incredibly easy to become a part of. They welcome all types of people from all backgrounds with open arms. All in the name of reaching the same goal – a cleaner and safer goal for everyone.
Honestly, the zero waste community might even overwhelm you with how much they’re willing to help. They absolutely love to talk about all things ‘recycling, repurposing, zero waste’ as well, so they’ll jump at the chance to give you the low-down.
It’s incredibly important to build a support network when starting off on a new life journey, and though your family and friends can be a great help, they may not know the ins and outs of a zero waste lifestyle.
So, it’s best to meet some people within the zero waste movement so that you can get support from those who know exactly what you’re going through. Not to mention that zero waste enthusiasts always have a trick or two up their sleeves to share with you! (it comes naturally with how much creative work they have to do to live a zero waste lifestyle!)
And before you know it, there’ll be new beginners and you won’t be the newbie anymore.
Getting involved usually goes hand in hand with joining the zero waste community. You’ll be so swept up in everyone’s enthusiasm that sometimes you won’t have any choice!
Which is good. Either way, in most towns and cities there’ll be community clean-up initiatives planned every other week or so. Be sure to know when these are happenings that you can lend a helping hand.
Most zero waste lifestyle enthusiasts claim that it was getting out onto the streets and seeing the waste for themselves was what really made them dedicate to the zero waste lifestyle.
And that could easily happen to you too. It’s easy to just walk past litter and rubbish on the ground every day, but when you’re the one picking it up and putting it into bags – it’s hard to ignore. And as the bags of waste pile up, you’ll realize that something needs to change, and fast.
Plus, the pride of a job well done and looking back on a stretch of rubbish-free greenery or pavement is all the motivation you’ll ever need to continue living zero waste.
Even better is that you’ll have the chance to stop and talk to other environmentally conscious people in real life. Working together for a better and cleaner world tends to bring people together, and a clean-up event is not different.
So, be ready to meet a bunch of new likeminded friends who you can share your zero waste lifestyle experiences and tips with!
And always, ALWAYS, recycle your old things
If you really want to stick to a zero waste lifestyle, becoming familiar with your local recycling facilities is essential.
You see, even the most diligent and eco-friendly people will struggle from time to time to repurpose or repair and item. Maybe they simply don’t have time or just don’t want the product anymore.
And that’s fine, it happens to everyone.
The best thing you can do now is give it to someone who does want it. Visit your local thrift store and ask if they’re accepting donations. Be sure to find out what they do and don’t accept while you’re there as some thrift stores have restrictions on what they sell.
A local charity is also a good bet. They’re always looking for essential items such as kitchen utensils, hygiene products, clothing, and bedwear.
Some cities or towns will even have clothing bins that you can simply deposit your clothes into. The company/charity in control of the bins then distributes the items to those in need.
If you’re still not sure where to bring your stuff, why not do some online research about charities or recycling facilities in your locality? It’s likely that your local council will also have a list of places where your secondhand possessions will be left in good hands.
As you can see, none of your possessions belong in the bin when they could be doing so much good elsewhere.
So, it’s a good idea to always be looking into alternative and new ways to recycle that which you have no need for anymore.
To finish …
And there you have it, everything you need to know to get yourself off to a good start in a zero waste world! It may seem difficult altogether, but I promise you that taking your zero waste journey one step at a time will have you living a completely waste-free life before you know it! So, why not take that first step today?