By Hannah Moskowitz
If you’re researching ways of living a clean, green, healthy life, you must have stumbled upon the term ‘zero-waste movement’ online. After all, it has gotten extremely popular over the past decade or so, and with good reason. Humans seem to be producing enormous amounts of waste across the globe. And if we don’t do something, those numbers will only increase in the following years.
But as a newcomer, you might find all zero-waste habits a bit challenging. So, how exactly can you start things off when aiming to be zero waste? Well, the tips listed in this article will provide a good starting point for you.
List of Steps for Zero-Waste Beginners
Changing Your Food Habits
An average American family throws away a whopping $1,500 worth of food each year. That’s millions of dollars that go into the food that could feed the hungry and the downtrodden. Not to mention that it’s a huge sum of money that literally ends up in a landfill somewhere.
So, in order to cut down on food waste, try changing a few of your regular consumption habits. For example, only prepare as much as you’re willing to eat. In addition, research the factors at which certain foods spoil. That way, you won’t have to worry about throwing rotten or moldy food away.
Changing Your Shopping Habits
Lots of everyday shoppers tend to do some of the following:
- Buy tons of items packed in cheap, disposable plastic
- Order food that comes in non-biodegradable styrofoam containers
- Buy single-use items packed individually
- Use disposable shopping bags.
Every single one of those habits produces waste. Therefore, aim to change a few of them. For starters, buy all your disposable products in bulk. In addition, try to get items that come in recyclable or degradable packages. Finally, make good use of a tote bag.
Changing Your Transportation Habits
Reducing carbon emissions is definitely a part of living zero waste. With that in mind, try to rely on your car as little as possible. Some of the options include:
- Planning your shopping and obligations so that you can drive as little as possible
- Using a bicycle, a Segway, or a scooter
- Walking as much as possible.
Donating What You Don’t Need
Let’s face it, we all have tons of items in our homes that we do not use. But instead of simply throwing your stuff away, consider donating them to the people who need them. Organizations such as the Salvation Armyand Goodwill could surely use some of your old clothes, furniture, and even some appliances. As long as they are in a decent condition, some other family could definitely benefit from having them.
Upcycling What You Can
Upcycling has become a bit of a fad among modern homeowners. After all, if you can repurpose an old item into something useful or creative (or both), why not do it?
You can breathe a whole new life into your home by taking a broken or useless item and transforming it. In fact, there are so many upcycling ideas out there that it leaves the viewer in awe. If you get good enough, you might even find yourself making interesting upcycle art pieces, which you can later sell or even exhibit in an art gallery. The sky’s the limit!
Lots of people want to recycle but don’t know how. For example, they end up putting their waste in the wrong receptacle, which gives the recycling companies extra work. However, don’t let that scare you. In order to recycle properly, all you need to do is do some basic research. Luckily, there are plenty of excellent sources on the topic of proper recycling, which are easy for any beginner to understand.
New clothes look awesome, but a lot of unsold items simply end up in landfills. Other times, they get resold to small retailers who can’t seem to get rid of them. So, in order to reduce clothing waste and get yourself some new threads, consider buying second-hand merch.
Thrift stores tend to have a decent variety of items that can cater to anyone’s tastes. In fact, you might even find certain clothes that are no longer available in regular retail. Plus, it’s a bit of an adventure—you get to explore many different stores searching for exciting and comfortable new clothes that will look stunning on you.
Avoiding Single-Use Items
As stated earlier, lots of products come in plastic packages that you simply discard once you’ve unpacked the item. But the term ‘single-use’ encompasses a wide variety of other items, too. Things such as toothpicks, cotton swabs, paper towels, plastic cups, plates, and cutlery are all going to end up in a landfill sooner or later.
If you can, get yourself some products that you’re able to reuse. For example, package all of your food in glass jars, washable plastic containers, or metal canisters. Furthermore, when you can, get a set of reusable utensilsmade of wood. As long as you’re able to use the item more than once over a period of years, you’re good to go.
Bills, receipts, invoices, etc., all come printed, which is a huge waste of paper. After all, most people simply throw those documents away because they do not need them. If possible, try to arrange your life in such a way that your bills and receipts come in a digital format. Having lots of PDF files with readable QR codes is much more efficient and environmentally friendly than a stack of papers that ends up wasted.
Support Eco-Friendly Businesses
When you find the time, do a bit of research into all retailers, restaurants, and other companies with a zero-waste business model. By supporting them over huge store chains that produce a ton of waste, you’ll be helping with spreading the cause further. More importantly, you’ll be helping a local business grow and expand, which is always a plus.
Zero-Waste Living Summarized
It’s never easy to try something new. As a beginner, you can do much for the zero-waste movement, however small you might start. So, even with this list, don’t try to go overboard. Instead, try one or two of these steps. The more you ease yourself into a zero-waste lifestyle, the more effective it will be. And before you know it, you’ll become an expert on all things green and waste-free.
Hannah Moskowitz is the Sustainability Director for RTS and Zero Waste, and has been advancing clients’ sustainability initiatives since January 2020. She is responsible for ensuring quality data, implementing new and refining existing processes, and overseeing the hiring, training, and managing of our data analysis team. Hannah has served as our Sustainability Director since January 2022 and built her expertise of RTS’s technology and approach through her prior role as Sustainability and Sales Operations Manager.
Hannah holds a B.A. in Environmental Studies and Political Science and an M.A. in Environmental Resource Policy from George Washington University, and participated in The Green Program at the Iceland School of Energy at Reykjavik University. She is also LEED AP O+M accredited and TRUE Advisor certified.