13 Habits to Help You Adopt a Zero Waste Lifestyle
‘Zero waste’ is probably the most overused term and misunderstood concept of sustainability.
Contrary to the popular notion, living trash-free does not imply living without life’s luxuries. It is rather about making conscious choices that help you curb your ecological footprint.
Watching zero-waste nerds making only a jar of trash a year might feel overwhelming, especially if you’re about to step into this side where the grass is actually greener. Switching to a zero-waste lifestyle doesn’t happen overnight, but with the right inspiration and a little forethought, you can smoothly sail your zero-waste ship.
Here’s a guide on some old habits to ditch and new habits to welcome into your life. The zero-waste tips have been categorized into different aspects of your life so you can easily incorporate them to minimize waste. Time to break up with your trash!
Zero Waste Food & Kitchen
#1 Set up a compost bin in your kitchen. Kitchen scraps are a goldmine for composting. Vegetables and plant-based scraps like banana peels, eggshells, tea bags, old bread offer a great source of nutrients. You can either pile up the compost in your outdoors or hand it over to municipal compost centers.
#2 Be mindful while grocery shopping. Buy products like cereals, rice, grains, beans, granolas in bulk. This way you reduce the consumption of disposable containers and plastic packaging required in single-servings. Additionally, fewer trips to the grocery store will help you cut down fuel consumption and save money.
Take your own reusable containers, like mason jars, to store loose items. Keep in mind the purpose of the jar and bring a suitable size accordingly.
Also, carry a reusable bag when heading out. You might be tempted to opt for disposable plastic bags, however, remember that there are simply too many disposable bags to recycle.
#3 Eat sustainably healthy food. As a matter of fact, food production contributes approximately 30% of the total greenhouse emissions and uses about 70% of freshwater. Eating mindfully by adopting sustainable eating habits will not only protect your body but also the planet.
Cutting down on meat and having plant-based meals are two crucial elements of eating sustainably. Read this guide on how to follow a sustainable diet and live an ethically healthy life.
#4 Replace paper towels and napkins with cloth towels. As opposed to plastic, paper is biodegradable; however, the fossil fuels involved in its production and transportation are not completely environment-friendly. Use reusable dish towels in your kitchen. They are washable and cost-saving compared to the disposable versions.
#5 Eat the uneaten. Did you know 40% of all the food goes to waste in the U.S.? Let’s change this habit and learn to love our leftovers. Scour the magical world of internet and you will find a gazillion leftover recipes on it. From potatoes to turkeys and seafood – leftover lovers can get their hands on every recipe right here.
#6 Switch to green kitchenware. There’s an entire world of reusable kitchenware made from bamboo and other eco-friendly alternatives out there. Of course, it requires a bit more on your part as you need to regularly clean the utensils since they are non-disposable. But, on the brighter side, you get to contribute your bit in saving the planet in a convenient and fashionable manner.
#7 Turn your grease to green. Do not dispose of leftover oil down the drain. Instead, donate it for recycling into biodiesel.
Yes, you heard that right! When combined with alcohol, vegetable oil and animal fat can be converted into biodiesel (an eco-friendly substitute for petroleum).
Inquire at the local restaurants near you if they participate in this kind of recycling program. There are several waste management initiatives and government aids that support leftover cooking oil recycling. Get rid of the grease and save nature!
Zero Waste Wardrobe
#8 Stop impulse buying. How often do you pass by a store and say to yourself – ‘I want that’ – and buy the outfit right away but end up never wearing it? You’re not alone. We all have lived with that guilt more than once in our lifetime. This guilt will weigh even more once you realize that the clothes you buy account for 3% of the total greenhouse gas emissions.
So, how to control that sudden urge to own an impractical piece of clothing?
Lindsay Miles, a waste-free living advocate, suggests to ask yourself these questions before making a hasty decision:
Do I actually need it?
Will I wear it 30 times?
Is it made to last?
What will happen to it afterward?
Follow this mantra to avoid clothing clutter and contribute your bit in saving the planet.
#9 Go thrift shopping. The surge in fast-fashion has fueled clothing waste in America. A staggering 25 billion pounds of clothing material is tossed away every year. It’s about time we change our shopping habits.
Second-hand shopping might sound overwhelming but you can get a killer wardrobe by shopping at thrift stores. However, do not enter a thrift store without planning else you’ll end up buying unnecessary items.
First off, take a closer look into your closet and make a list of stuff you need to buy so you don’t fall into one of those shopping traps. Next, set a budget. Decide how much are you willing to pay for a particular item or for the entire shopping day and spend accordingly. Make sure you dig through all the racks and score the best stuff. Before leaving, take a walk through the store again to ensure you don’t miss out on anything. Carry a burlap bag on the shopping day to avoid plastic or paper bags offered by sellers.
Zero Waste Office
#10 Ditch the disposables. The morning cup of coffee, a quick break at the water cooler, overtime coffee fuels, quick lunch: our world is filled with disposable paper cups and single-use plastic. In fact, Americans use more than 58 billion disposable cups annually.
Become an eco-minded employee and cut the footprint of your 9 to 5 to half. Always carry a reusable water bottle or cup at work. Bring your own lunch in reusable containers. If cooking is not your strong suit, request your to-go meal to be packed in reusable containers.
These eco-friendly alternatives will help you save big bucks and the earth.
#11 Say hello to digitization. An average American employee uses 10,000 sheets of copy paper every year! Imagine the number of trees chopped down to serve 4 million copy paper annually solely in the U.S.
Cut back on paper and use emails and presentations to share important documents and information with your co-workers.
Keeping track of all your projects and priority tasks can get nasty without paper notes. However, you can switch to the digital version of it – Sticky notes and Post-it applications for desktops and smartphones. If you’re a vintage who craves pen and paper, try using a whiteboard to jot down notes and erase them later.
#12 Precycle before recycle. That’s probably a zero-waste version of the proverb – “Prevention is better than cure”.
Precycling refers to choosing office supplies that are easily recyclable or can be reused with the aim to curb non-recyclable waste generation.
Start off with these tips:
- Replace staples with paper clips.
- Before throwing away folders and media boxes, try to use them for as long as possible.
- Replace plastic tape dispenser with a reusable metal alternative.
- Switch from disposable ballpoint pens to eco-friendly plantable seed pen or refillable fountain pen.
#13 Green your commute. Save the driving for road trips and weekend getaways. By driving 10% less, you can reduce 440 to 1763 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions per year. Try carpooling with your co-workers few times a week. It is both pocket-friendly and eco-friendly! Moreover, you get to bond with your colleagues which you couldn’t otherwise. If your workplace is close to where you live, try walking or cycling. It is a healthy exercise for your body and the environment.
What’s your zero waste mantra? Have an interesting lifestyle tip to share? Let us know in the comments section below.