Steps Toward a Zero Waste Lifestyle
Whether we want to admit it or not, humans are trashy. As in we create a lot of trash. The average person creates over 4 pounds of trash every day and about 1.5 tons of solid waste per year, according to the National Wildlife Federation. This waste is ending up in the over 2,000 landfills currently open in the United States, or worse, in our oceans.
Did you know that by making a few changes to your everyday habits you can make a huge impact on our environment? While it can seem daunting at first, there are so many everyday changes you can make that have a massive effect on the environment. Recycling just one glass bottle saves enough energy to power a 100-watt bulb for four hours! Starting your zero-waste journey can seem like an impossible task. Luckily, we’ve gathered a few tips and tricks to help you get started.
Ease Into It
It may feel like transitioning to a zero-waste life is an all or nothing situation. But the thing is it is okay to take time to transition into any new lifestyle. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and you don’t need to overhaul the entirety of your consumer habits in that short time either. Ease into the process so that it doesn’t seem so overwhelming. For example, don’t raid your cabinet and throw away every plastic container you have. If they get a crack or become unusable, throw them away and replace them with a glass alternative. Don’t dump out all of your cleaning products in favor of white vinegar. Use them up, then dispose of them properly.
Pro Tip: Save the glass jars from food items such as spaghetti sauce and repurpose them as containers. If you struggle to get the label and glue off, try oil and baking soda. It works almost every time.
Before you can start working on your problem areas, you need to know what they are. Take a look at your trash can and determine the areas that are your weaknesses. Do you have multiple milk jugs that can be put into the recycling bin? Perhaps you have a lot of food waste that can be composted and repurposed for your garden. Take note of the items in your trash, then figure out what makes the most sense for you to eliminate.
Recycling programs may seem straightforward, but you’d be surprised by what you don’t know. More and more trash collectors are cutting out the need to sort your different types of recyclables. Now you can throw everything in the same bin. You may have a local composting program that will be happy to take your food waste and turn it into nutrient filled soil. Items that you didn’t think are recyclable such as ink cartridges, motor oil, and electronics? Places like public libraries and motor oil stores will take these items from you and make sure they find their way to the appropriate facilities.
You’d be surprised by the number of items that you can make yourself to cut down on waste and save money. Things such as laundry pods (surprisingly easy to make), dryer sheets, and household cleaners. It can sound like a lot of work, but can be fun to get in there and use your hands and save a buck or two. Plus, you don’t have to worry about the chemicals you are breathing in next time you clean your bathroom.
Shop Local and in Bulk
Did you know that about 40% of food in the United States is wasted? A super easy way to cut down on food waste is to shop for items locally. Farmers markets are an awesome way to get fresh food, reduce packaging waste, and support local businesses! It is a win for everyone, especially the environment.
Purchasing in bulk is also a great way to cut down on packaging; it is also usually more cost effective. Some stores even have bulk food areas where you can purchase items such as noodles, rice, and beans by bringing your own container to put them in. You simple weigh your container before filling it and subtract that from the final weight to determine your cost.
If you aren’t sure where to buy in bulk, check out this comprehensive list of stores that offer this service.
In select areas they also have food delivery services. Companies like Imperfect Produce deliver healthy, delicious fruits and veggies for 30-50% less than grocery stores. The only catch is that these items might not be picture perfect. They are often deemed too “ugly” for the grocery store, but are completely safe to eat. Boxes include items like a misshapen apple or a crooked carrot. Fresh fruits and veggies at a discount, delivered directly to your door? Yes please! They are even delivered in a compostable cardboard box.
ProTip: If you find yourself consistently having food go bad before you eat it, create an Eat Now section of your fridge.
Becoming more environmentally friendly has never been easier. With the internet, there is an abundance of information, and new products are being created every day to cut back on waste. An easy way to start, is taking your own bags to the grocery store to avoid using theirs. They even make reusable produce bags, perfect for fresh fruits and veggies.
Water is necessary for every human being, but, by replacing your daily plastic water bottle with a reusable one you could save yourself almost $3,000 a year! Most tap water is more heavily tested and regulated than bottled water anyway. Plus, there are so many cute reusable options to choose from!
Another item that can be substituted are straws. Many companies are choosing to go strawless because of the harmful effects they have on the environment. Purchasing an acrylic or stainless-steel reusable straw is a simple and easy way to do your part.
A product that you probably don’t think about much is your toothbrush. Dentists recommend that you change your toothbrush every 3 months. Over a decade one person will send 40 plastic toothbrushes to a landfill. Fortunately, there are some great bamboo alternatives that can be composted.
Composting can seem really intimidating, but is such an important step in your journey toward less waste. Food is unable to break down in landfills due to a lack of air circulation needed for the decomposing process. About 60% of our landfills are full of organic matter. To make things easy, you can check with your local municipality to see if they have a compost program. If they don’t, you can start your own backyard compost.
There are two types of enclosed composters, a tumbler and a bin. A tumbler does exactly what it says and is the lower maintenance of the two types. You throw in your food scraps, then turn it every so often to get proper aeration. It only takes about a month to turn your trash into soil.
The second type, the worm bin, requires a bit more effort. You find a bin and poke some holes to create air flow. You also need some moist bedding. Next, you get red worms and place them in the bin and let them do their work. About twice a week feed the worms your vegetable waste and every few months or so, remove the compost and put the worms in fresh bedding.
Living a more environmentally friendly lifestyle might mean adding a few more steps to your daily routine, but it is so worth it. Not only are you working to preserve the environment, but you’ll save money, and see some health benefits too.
What steps are you taking in your life to decrease waste? Let us know in the comments below!