10 tips to help you start moving towards a Zero Waste lifestyle

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About nine months ago I first heard the term “Zero Waste”.

I had seen TED talks by Lauren Singer of Trash is for Tossers and Bea Johnson from the Zero Waste Home, and became instantly hooked on the idea of a life creating as little waste as possible.

I began researching at every opportunity this “zero waste lifestyle” idea, and began implementing what I’d learnt into my life.

I became extraordinarily passionate about the topic, and talked to my friends and family about it as often as I could.

Now, after having been on this path for a while, I feel ready to share what I’ve learnt with you all.

Moving towards a zero waste lifestyle was a natural progression for me, I believe.

I’ve always been passionate about the environment and trying to live a more sustainable life – For years I’ve been one of those people who always take their canvas bags to the shops, and totes their reusable water bottle around with them.

I was a part of environmental groups in high school, and attended the Australia Youth Climate Coalition’s Powershift conference back in 2011.

I even switched to a vegan lifestyle two years ago, in an effort (among other reasons) to lessen my impact on the environment.

But learning about, and moving towards, a zero waste lifestyle was a whole new level.

Zero Waste goes by the ethos of the Five R’s: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rot.

It may seem super hard when you first hear about it, but take it step by step and you’ll find it’s easier than you think.

I wanted to share these ten tips to help you on your own journey towards a zero-waste lifestyle:

  1. Carry a reusable water bottle around with you. The concept of bottled water doesn’t really make sense to me (in the western world), when you can just fill up a stainless steel or glass water bottle from a tap.
  2. Get a reusable coffee cup for your morning latte. Disposable coffee cups are a huge environmental problem. There’s often confusion about which bin they go in – can they be recycled? Often, they cannot, because of the plastic lining inside the paper cup. Save the whole environmental hassle and purchase a Keep Cup or similar.
  3. Avoid plastic shopping bags. These are used once and then spend a lifetime clogging up our waterways, ending up in the stomachs of marine life when they confuse them for jellyfish and eat them, among other issues. They’re not necessary – grab some cloth bags for your shopping and mesh fabric bags for your loose fruit and vegetable produce and say no to the plastic bag.
  4. Ditch the straw. The same as plastic bags, these little devils, used once and then disposed of, end up in the water injuring animal life. All that harm for something that is not necessary, but is more of a luxury. If you really want a straw to use, invest in some stainless steel, glass or bamboo ones.
  5. Be prepared with what I call a ‘lunch kit’. Along with my reusable coffee cup, which lives in my handbag, I also store a container, cloth napkin, and spork, so I don’t have to use a plastic takeaway container, disposable napkins and cutlery when I’m out and about and get a bit peckish. Check out some items here you could use to create your own ‘lunch kit’.
  6. Next time you walk down an aisle of your supermarket, take a really good look. A good look at all the plastic packaging. Unnecessary plastic packaging, I might add. Avoid food packaging by buying dry goods (like rice, nuts, coffee, loose leaf tea, and dried fruit) and some liquids (like vinegar, honey, molasses, and peanut butter) from a bulk food store, buy your fruit and vegetables from a green grocer or local farmer’s markets, which will help you to avoid so much of this plastic packaging. Just remember to take your produce bags, cloth dry goods bags, and glass jars to put these goods in!
  7. Avoid fast fashion by buying only what you need and buying secondhand whenever you can. Really think about if you need that clothing item before you purchase it. If you need a new clothing item, take a look in your local secondhand shops to see if you can purchase that item pre-loved, or if not, from a sustainable clothing company. Evaluate your wardrobe and appreciate the items that you already own before you run out and by more.
  8. Learn how to recycle and compost properly. For ages I didn’t realise that soft plastic had to be recycled in a specific way in my council area. I had been just chucking my soft plastics into my recycling bin, but then I found out they were meant to be all put inside the one plastic bag which was filled and then tied. If you’re putting items into your recycling bin, you should make sure you’re doing it properly by checking your council’s regulations. The same as if you are using a council organics/compost bin – check the regulations. Alternatively, learn how to make your own compost pile or worm bin at home. There are lots of resources online to help you through the process.
  9. Reevaluate your beauty and personal care products. So many of the beauty products we use come in packaging that is not recyclable, contain ingredients that aren’t environmentally friendly (mircobeads, anyone?), or aren’t necessary at all. Look at more environmentally friendly options for your products, or choose to make your own. I’ve been making my own deodorant and toothpaste for a while now, and use a bamboo toothbrush and safety razer to avoid the disposable plastic alternatives.
  10. Switch as many disposable items as possible in your home to reusable items: For example, switch from tissues to handkerchiefs, paper napkins to cloth napkins, plastic sponges to cleaning cloths, cling wrap to beeswax or vegan cloth wraps, toilet paper wrapped in plastic to bamboo toilet paper wrapped in recycled paper, and disposable batteries for rechargeable ones, for some examples.

More resources:

If you want to know more about the Zero Waste movement, I’d suggest checking out Trash is for Tossers, Bea Johnson of the Zero Waste Home, The Rogue Ginger (Australian), Going Zero Waste, and Treading My Own Path.

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