The zero waste phenomenon has been extremely interesting to me lately. While I am not zero waste, I am currently working on limiting my footprint as much as I can. For awhile I felt bad for not starting sooner, but I realized that I did not fully understand the immensity of the problem and reducing waste seems like something that would be too much of pain to do or wouldn’t really make that big of a difference.
Then I realized, every action helps. Whether you are purchasing organics and sustainably made products, to producing less waste you are casting your virtual vote and reducing the impact that billions of humans have on the world. Doing these things will actually save you money, better your health, and make you feel great.
Once you start paying attention to how much you really throw away, think if even 100 people produced that much, or 1,000 people, or 1 billion. Plastic can take between 450 to 1,000 years to fully decompose. All of that plastic is just piling up and it’s not just the plastic laying there, it is the facilities needed to manage it, the industries built around making sure it doesn’t leach into your water supply. All of these things have effects.
You may be feeling like I did when I started learning more about it. Overwhelmed. How in the heck do you even make a difference with everyone wasting so much? How do you even start? Here are some easy ways to get started, that doesn’t require you to buy anything.
Let’s start with plastic.
There are a lot of things that come in plastic. Eventually you may want to avoid as many things that come in plastic, but to start, make sure you are recycling. Clean out anything you are recycling, so that they don’t have to spend extra energy doing so, plus, it is just nice. Start collecting some of your cleaned out jars. Eventually, you can start re-using them for things in your pantry for storage and you don’t even have to buy anything new!
Reuse your plastic freezer and sandwich bags.
This used to creep me out, but as long as there wasn’t any animal products like meat or dairy in it, they are easily cleaned. Take your sponge with some soap and wash quickly. I tend to do a handful at a time and hang them off my utensils to dry out. I spend so much less money on ziplocks than ever!
Stop buying plastic water bottles.
Reusable plastic water bottles are better than disposable ones. I have a glass one that I got from Costco, but use a reusable water bottle over packs of water bottles. Here is one like it.
They even make water bottles with filters in them! Think about how many water bottles you may be going through a day, again think about if everyone you knew also did that. It is insane! I also notice I drink much more water now that I have a water bottle that I like. More hydrated bodies are happier bodies.
Ditch plastic bags.
Stop getting plastic bags at the store if you can. Either carry them, use a reusable, or ask for paper. I love getting paper sometimes because it is a useful way to line my recycle bin as the bags are also recyclable! The most difficult part is if you have a pet, like a cat. What do you use to clean up after them and their litter box? For daily scooping, I am making the transition to using biodegradable plastic bags. If you are completely changing the box, empty it into your current trash bag and take it out!
When you go shopping
Being more aware of what you are getting and how it is made is a good step. Sometimes we can’t know and that’s okay, the point is that you are doing your best.
Buy locally when you can.
You can buy local at a grocery store! On the label you can see where it was made. Oftentimes, it is be cheaper as well since the food is traveling less time. Local foods also last longer and tend to taste better. A win! Plus, if you are consuming honey, try local honey to help with seasonal allergies!
Buy at the bulk bar!
A lot of grocery stores are adding bulk bars where you can everything from pasta to spices. I save SO MUCH money when buying here. You just don’t get the fancy packaging…which is awesome! Less waste! You can grab one of their containers or bring your cleaned ones from home. Make sure to stop by the front desk of your grocery store so they can weigh your container beforehand so you are not paying more.
Buy recycled products.
There are a ton of products you use all the time that are now made using recycled material. Paper towls, toilet paper, toothbrushes, etc!
Twist ties and rubber bands.
This is the thing that tends to make people think I’m weird. I save these things. The rubber bands that grocery stores put around containers to keep them shut are great ways to wrap around chip bags to keep them from going stale. The twist ties are so useful! It is so awesome when you need something like this and you realize you have one in a drawer in your kitchen!
Eat your food!
This seems like a no brainer, but while food is more easily broken down, you save yourself so much money by not throwing things away as much. Plus, it tends to also encourage creativity when you cook. I have whipped up random dishes or tried recipes that I didn’t know about because I was trying to find a way to use up a certain ingredient.
This brings me to…
Eat your leftovers
Whether it is a full serving of what you had the night before or extra rice you cooked too much of, eat it! That extra rice can be added to veggies and used in a fried rice dish. If I have random veggies that I don’t know what to do with or am tired of doing the same thing all the time, I’ll hit Pinterest and type in the name of the food and “recipe” afterwards. Oftentimes you find something awesome!
Make your own things!
If you are DIYer and someone who loves crafting, making your own soap, cleaning solutions, conditioners, etc can be super fun. You can make simple cleaning solutions with Borax (which is hella cheap) and costs you so much less. You can also pick your own combination of essential oils to get the scent that you love. Lemon is pretty useful and I love it, but what about Bergamot or rose? It’s also a bonus that less chemicals is also better for the environment!
Whatever you choose to do, remember that anything you do helps.
Don’t just throw away everything and start over, work with what you have and when it comes time to replace things, try the version that is better than the environment and your lifestyle. Together we all make a difference.