I’m sure you’ve seen this phrase floating around the internet. It seems extreme, impossible, and only for the craziest of hippie freaks. It sounds like something far more time-consuming and expensive than any of us have the resources to explore.Well, don’t let the name overwhelm you – going zero-waste, or making zero-waste choices is awesome.
What is Zero Waste?
Why Zero Waste?
For me, it’s the environment. Please don’t take my word for it – do your research! Look up “Trash in nature” or “trash in the oceans” in Google Images. Check out THIS video by National Geographic. Read a lot and make your own decisions. Personally, while I believe in a sovereign God, I also believe that He lets us make our own choices and allows us to live with the consequences of those choices. When I’m 75 years old, I want to croak my way to a clean and beautiful beach with my grandchildren to watch them swim in the waves – but what if it’s so filled with garbage and waste that it’s un-swimmable? What if trips to the beach become a thing of the past because we’ve filled the oceans and beaches with our garbage? How many animals are going to go extinct because of our poor choices? “Oh I remember when there were dolphins…” We have a responsibility as residents of this planet to take care of it as best as we can – and one of the ways I’m choosing to do that is to make zero-waste decisions in my life. And believe me, I’m not a purist! I don’t keep all my trash in a jar like Laura Singer from Trash is for Tossers, I don’t buy everything in bulk and I definitely don’t use reusable feminine products. I make a couple simple easy substitutions – and if we all made those small, easy substitutions we, as a collective, would make a huge difference on the amount of trash in our world.
Another good thing about zero-waste, it goes hand-in-hand with a couple other Pillars of the natural lifestyle: healthy chemical free products, living on a budget and minimalism. Without zero-waste you go to Ulta and buy a bunch of chemical laden make-up, lotion and hair products. This is costing you quite a bit of money (even if you’re cheap, like me!), it’s bad for your skin and it takes up a lot of space in your cabinets. What if you exchanged it for the zero-waste option? Bulk Dr. Bronners soap in the shower, a jar or two of homemade make up (or Lush products which are fabulous), and a pretty glass spray bottle of homemade salty spray hair texturizer. Zero-waste, minimalist, healthy, non-toxic and, for the most part, budget friendly.
What I Do
- Take a look at your trash. I just want you to start thinking about how much trash your putting out each day, each week. Make a mental note when you take the trash to the dumpster – when was the last time you took it out? What’s in the bag? Lots of things that could be composted or recycled? Assess and evaluate so you know where you can adjust.
- Use reusable grocery bags. Keep a few reusable tote bags in your purse or the trunk of your car and simply use those over and over again. The key here is remembering to use them, and seriously I’ve forgotten so many times. But that’s ok! Just do your best. One less grocery bag dancing in the wind is a win in my book! You can buy some really pretty reusable tote bags and produce bags online, but I bought mine at the thrift store for like 25 cents each, after a thorough washing they are perfect and ready to go. I also have an amazing compact bag that fits in even my smallest purses and carries a lot when it’s open. (P.S. one more tip if you do forget to use your cloth bags – ask your grocer to fill up the plastic bags as much as possible so as to use less of them, or ask for paper bags and use them for wrapping paper)
- Say “No” to paper towels and paper napkins. Get a bunch of old towels at the thrift store to use for your messiest household needs. Use cloth napkins instead of disposable ones. I haven’t had paper napkins at my house for like two years and seriously, we’ve been totally fine without them.
- Get a reusable water bottle. The plastic disposable ones are seriously littered everywhere and also, hello! made of crud plastic. Get a cute reusable one! I had a gorgeous glass water bottle for a while, metal will also work, but my favorite so far is my Nalgene. Yes, it’s plastic, but it’s BPA free (MAKE SURE YOURS IS BPA FREE). This is also a much cheaper alternative because, guess what’s free?? Tap water! If you’re a water snob (no judgement here) get a water filter.
- Choose the thrift store. This is my favorite tip. Thrift stores are sustainable, fair trade and really really fun (see my post HERE on thrift store tips). Take your old stuff to the thrift store, then turn around and buy what you need. Everything doesn’t need to be new! And if your coat button falls off, for heaven sakes just sew it back on. Make do and mend.
- Choose something besides plastic. I’m looking around my house right now and happily, not seeing much plastic. Instead I’m surrounded by smooth wood tables, glass and ceramic decor, metal dining chairs, stainless steel appliances. Choose metal, glass or other strong, recyclable materials.
What if we all did a couple of these things? Imagine the impact! I promise, I’m not a conspiracy theorist or a crazed environmentalist – but I truly believe that if we all just make a few intentional choices in the way we do life that we can truly make this world a cleaner and more beautiful place.
If you want more on Zero-Waste, here are some of my favorite places to look:
Zero Waste Home – this woman, Bea Johnson, is a pioneer of the zero-waste sustainable movement. And I love her tips! Doesn’t she make this lifestyle sound minimalistic and beautiful?
Trash is for Tossers – Laura Singer, lots of great tips and resources on her website. She’s a big name in the zero-waste world.
Going Zero Waste – This girl has so much information! Lots of good stuff.
The Picture of Mary – Lots of great videos. This girl is more “normal girl” to me then a lot of zero-wasters and I appreciate that a lot.
Let me know what you think! Have you adopted any sustainable zero-waster lifestyle choices?