Zero Waste: 10 Simple First Steps To Take

A few years back I came across a video about zero waste city in Japan. I remember being blown away by the dedication of people who are separating their garbage into 34 different categories on daily basis. Living zero waste is a lot of work, but every effort counts.

Definition (source):
Zero Waste is a goal that is ethical, economical, efficient and visionary, to guide people in changing their lifestyles and practices to emulate sustainable natural cycles, where all discarded materials are designed to become resources for others to use.

You can find heaps of tips on zero waste living on the internet. However, I feel like some of them are rather complicated to take for the beginner. It can also be rather overwhelming to drastically change your behavior.

I am no professional in zero waste living, but I find a great interest in it and am trying to make a change in my own behavior. The following are my suggestions on simple first steps moving towards zero waste living. Steps, that you can take right at this moment. Steps that I have managed to take already.

ONE: Paper to pixels
It is surprising how resilient are paper goods. In the digital age, we still are handed leaflets and receive junk mail to our mail boxes.

Most of us pay our bills online and yet still receive paper forms in our mail. Unsubscribe from unwanted magazines or newsletters, or switch to a digital version of them.

TWO: Glass over plastic
Some of the products come in containers. In most cases, those containers are made from plastic, which, probably for nobody’s surprise now, takes forever to decompose. It also usually contains such harmful chemicals as BPA, phthalates, PVC or polycarbonate. Yes, glass takes ages to decompose too, however, it is free from all the nasties and is perfect for reusing.

Clean glass jars can store loose leaf tea or grains. They can also be used as containers for homemade skin and body care products.

THREE: Your own takeaway cup
Take away drinks have become almost inseparable part of our lives. If we have takeaway coffee 2-3 times a week, by the end of the month we have over 20 paper cups wasted.

If you like to take your drinks away, it is worth investing in a reusable cup. There are a bunch to choose from. For what I know, Keep Cup offers a great variety of reusable cups that are in style. Take a look this one, simply perfect. Besides, some coffee shops  provide 5-10% discount on your drink if you bring your own cup!

FOUR: Choose less packaged goods
So much unnecessary packaging! Choosing less packaged items can reduce waste at home significantly. Instead of purchasing a box of tea bags, get loose left tea. Same goes for coffee and most of the grains. Think twice before putting something in your cart, there must be less packaged alternative available.

Instead of purchasing a plastic bag each time you go groceries shopping, get a fabric one. Fold it, and just keep it in your handbag. When shopping, don’t put every single item in a separate plastic bag. If you are buying an apple, a carrot or couple of bananas, take it as it is. You will have to wash the fruits and vegetables anyway once home.

FIVE: Plan your meals
In my opinion, wasting food is the worst. Simply because what we are wasting could save lives.

To avoid food wasting in your household – plan your meals. Once you have your meals planned, make a list of foods you need to get, and off you go. Another thing that can help preventing food wasting is going for groceries with a full tummy. 

SIX: No more freebies (samples)
The word “free” seem to have some kind of magical power over people. We need a free good or not – we take it, simply because it is free. This must change. Learn to say no to free goods that are completely useless (that foundation sample, 3 tones darker than your skin), and double think when taking an item which you think might be actually useful.

SEVEN: Avoid disposables
Every day we are using more disposable items than we think. Paper towels, tissues, plastic straws, cups and flatware, it all have sustainable replacements (fabric, glass, stainless steel and so on).

The same goes for personal care products, such as toothbrushes, razors, feminine hygiene products and so on. Do your homework, check which items you dispose and look for more sustainable alternatives.

EIGHT: Make your own
There are heaps of things you can make at home with the ingredients you most likely already have.

Just recently I have started making my own deodorant (recipe coming soon), face wash, house cleaning products. You can also try sewing your own shopping bag from unworn clothes. Use your imagination or simply google for ideas.

NINE: Tap water is just fine
Well, make sure you double check on this one. Where I live, tap water is completely safe to drink. If you still do not feel comfortable drinking tap water, filter it. Also, take tap water with you when going out, instead of buying yet another bottle.

TEN: Refill
It is not only cheaper but also more sustainable to refill. With a little bit of research, you eventually will be able to find a place that provides refilling services from water to milk or oil. For most of house cleaning products, makeup and other goods, refiners are available. Look it up!

I am not saying that living zero waste is the only right way to live. I am not living zero waste, but I am trying to minimize the amount of waste in my household. I believe, that every thought and effort made counts.