A few months ago I was taking out the trash and I all of a sudden remembered an experiment I did in high school. I was in an AP Environmental Science class and our professor gave extra credit if we lugged around all the trash we created for a week. I remember being shocked by people’s trash bags (including mine) and thinking that we all can’t possible produce this much waste, but we do.
So, as I took the trash out, I started thinking that I really need to cut back on the waste. I had heard the buzz about Zero Waste living but never really looked into it. That night I ended up on Bea Johnson’s website (zerwastehome) for hours. Then found @stevieyaaaay on Instagram and of course that spiraled into endless research on zero waste living until 2 am.
What I learned is that “Zero Waste” living can be done by anyone and you don’t have to be perfect. There are also some grey areas like with composting and recycling. The point of doing “Zero Waste” is to produce as little waste as possible. Refuse packaging that you don’t need, recycle everything you can, reuse what you can and compost the rest. The basic concept is to avoid having to send anything to a landfill. Recycling is ok, but most plastics can only be recycled or rather “down cycled” once and then they also have to go to the landfill.
This started my journey in what I call Less Waste living. I began by throwing some things out, and buying some jars. I also got reusable produce bags. I repacked all my spices into reusable jars so I can just refill them from the bulk station and bought jars for the rest of my dry goods. I minimized the packaging and bought things that came with no packaging. Just taking these steps cut our trash in half. We went a little further and started buying our dogs treats in bulk, choosing only recyclable packaging and started composting! Now we barely produce any trash!
I know that cutting back and bringing bags and jars everywhere isn’t everyones cup of tea, but if I can do it, you can do it. So I figured I would put together a list of things that I did that helped me cut back on waste. I am not Zero Waste by any means but I am close. Here’s what I did to get there and all my top tips!
Top 10 Tips for “Less Waste” Living
1. Start Composting: This saved us a huge amount of trash because all our food and dog’s food can be composted. Also things like napkins, which I still can completely give up.
2. Stop using paper towels : Paper towels… so convenient yet so unnecessary. We switched to towels. I now have hand towels everywhere and a dish rag to wipe up messes. I only use paper towels for the really dirty tasks like cleaning toilets.
3. Use reusable produce bags and grocery totes : Plastic bags are usually not recyclable and end up in the garbage. Switch to reusable bags for your produce, they don’t take up much space and can actually keep your fruits and veggies fresher than plastic because they breathe. Hang your grocery tote on the door handle or keep it in the car and you’ll never forget them.
4. Put your dry goods in jars: I switched out all my dry stuff from the packaging to jars with no packaging. When I run out, I just refill the jars from the bulk section. This creates zero waste and its usually cheaper!
5. Bring a mason jar, bottle and bags everywhere : Mason jars are great for stocking up in the bulk section and can double as a coffee mug. Bring a bottle for water with you to avoid buying bottled water. You can also ask the meat department to put meat in your own container, they usually can do it. Lastly, don’t forget your bags!
6. Buy items with less packaging or choose recyclable packaging : This is really hard because almost everything comes with packaging now. Try to buy fruits and veggies with no extra plastic. Choose the glass jars over plastic or at least choose recyclable plastic over non-recyclable.
7. Use reusable storage containers not plastic bags/wrap: Invest in a good set of “tupperware” food storage containers. Try to find glass ones over plastic because glass can be recycled infinitely. This cuts down on the use of plastic bags and wrap.
8. Ask for your food/coffee “for here” or put it into your own reusable cup: Refuse the straws, cups and sleeves, they are all wasteful. Bring your cup with you, it’ll stay warm for longer. Or eat/drink your food there!
9. Buy things like flour and nuts in bulk: Bring your own jar to put them in. This avoids that clear plastic bag packaging that is not recyclable. Don’t forget to weight your jars though, you can ask the grocery people to “tare” them for you or just do it yourself and then write the tare on the jar along with the bin number. This makes checkout much easier and faster.
10. Think/choose wisely and support local: Sometimes a little extra thought can go a long way. Think before you leave the house, do you need a cup? Bags? Maybe a container for takeout later? Also go to your local farmer’s markets, they have items that come package free and appreciate the business.
I hope these tips have been helpful and inspire you to produce less waste!
Until next post 😉