Happy new year! It always feels like we’re off to the races again as soon as the holidays are over – do you feel the same? I’m intentionally starting off this year slowly and easing back into things. It’s helping me focus more on what matters instead of getting bogged down with non-essential tasks and general ‘busyness’.
One of the things I’m focusing on is my resolutions. I have ten (!) for this year, which might seem like a lot – but these are things that I’ve already been striving towards for a while, and want to continue to progress in. One of my resolutions is doing more to become zero waste in 2019.
Going zero waste can be daunting if you don’t know where to start. It wasn’t until my sister gifted me some re-usable food wraps that I finally got my head into it, and found it was actually really easy to make that switch. Sometimes, all you need is a simple starting place to open up the door. So, here are 10 simple ways I’ve introduced zero waste into my own life. I hope these tips give you some ideas and inspiration for your own life as well!
1. Bring re-usable shopping bags
This one is super easy, and probably something you’re already doing! If so, give yourself a pat on the back because you’re already contributing to a more sustainable future. Wasn’t that easy? If not, bringing a re-usable cloth or mesh bag on grocery trips or errands is a great way to skip the plastic bags and always have something on-hand to carry whatever you pick up. I keep one bag in our apartment to take on errands and the rest are in the car for our grocery trips. Get in the habit of doing this and you’ll wonder why plastic bags were even a thing in the first place!
2. Ditch straws
Let’s be honest – straws really aren’t necessary. I was at a restaurant recently where they’ve introduced a no-straw policy, and the server apologized to me when she brought me my drink, because we’re so used to having these things with a straw. But being used to something isn’t the same as needing it – it’s just a matter of switching your mindset and habits.
If you really feel you need a straw, especially for certain drinks like smoothies, invest in a good set of metal straws or opt for biodegradable paper straws – at least that way, the plastic isn’t piling up in landfills and in our oceans.
3. Bring a travel mug
Okay, this one’s a little harder to get into the habit of doing. Sometimes you’re out and about, and just feel like a hot drink – so what do you do? There’s always the option to drink it at the cafe (many offer proper cups and saucers if you’re staying in), but what if you’re on the go? If you have a travel mug on hand, you can always ask them to use that instead of a cup.
Travel mugs are a little bulky to carry, I admit. Mine doesn’t fit in my small everyday bag, so I’ve gotten in the habit of making my coffee and tea at home first and bringing it with me. And, if I’m out and don’t have my mug with me, I just refuse to purchase a drink – it’s the best way to encourage myself to remember it next time!
4. Buy re-usable food wraps
It’s great that there are so many options out there when it comes to zero waste solutions. One of the best ones I’ve come across as I mentioned before is re-usable food wraps. Mine have beeswax and I have a set of about nine in different sizes. They’ve absolutely replaced plastic wrap for me now, which not only saves me money from having to buy it all the time, but also saves the planet. The beeswax wraps work just as well for me, and I’ll never go back to plastic wrap or tin foil again!
5. Don’t bag your produce
This one is another one of those things I got used to but never really questioned until now why I did it. When grocery shopping, instead of bagging my produce in those little plastic bags, I always just stick it straight into my cart. I know some people might think this is gross or unsanitary, but think about how the produce was just sitting on the open shelf beforehand anyway. I’ve literally seen a supermarket clerk stocking the shelves sneeze all over a bunch of kale. You need to wash your produce thoroughly when you get it home in any case, so why not skip the plastic bag in the process? Give it a try one day and you’ll see that those little bags really aren’t needed. Alternatively, you can also buy some re-usable produce bags and use those instead – just remember to bring them with you!
6. Re-use containers
The longer you can get use out of something, the longer it stays out of a landfill. I like to save containers from things I’ve purchased to use for leftovers, or other projects like DIY household cleaners and beauty products. Things like glass jars and spray bottles are items I always hold on to for a future use. They come in super handy and help me be a little more self-sufficient at home. Another tip is to save any plastic containers from takeout food or from groceries, and use these to send home leftovers with friends and family from dinner parties. My partner’s parents always do this, and that way they’re never missing any of their regular tupperware.
7. Use bar soap
Again, we’re so used to having hand soap that comes out of a plastic pump. But again, it’s really not necessary. There are a lot of wonderful companies out there producing natural soap products that skip the plastic, and you can get everything from hand soap and body wash to shampoo and conditioner bars. I’ve linked a couple down below if you’d like to give this a try!
8. Use a menstrual cup
This one’s for us ladies! I purchased my first cup from OrganiCup about a year ago, and haven’t looked at a tampon since. Once you get past the initial hurdle of figuring out exactly how to use it, it’s absolutely wonderful and I couldn’t recommend it enough. There are also period panties out there which I haven’t tried, but if a menstrual cup isn’t your thing, you could give those a go as well. The biggest incentive here is knowing how expensive tampons are – this literally takes that expense out of your budget while saving the planet, a total win-win.
9. Shop in the bulk section or at a bulk store
Shopping bulk is not only easier on your wallet, but if you can skip the normal packaging that comes with shopping in other aisles, it’s also easier on the planet. The catch is that you need to bring your own containers to make it zero waste, because using the little plastic baggies obviously doesn’t count. Where I live there is an actual bulk store called Bulk Barn where you can bring your own containers and have them weighed so you can re-use them and the weight doesn’t count towards the cost of what you fill them with. It’s a great solution! Bonus – your pantry will never have looked so instagrammable once it’s stocked up with all of those little mason jars.
10. Use re-usable cotton rounds
My last and final tip is to either make or buy some re-usable cotton rounds for removing makeup and general skincare. I’ve tried making my own from cotton fabric using my mom’s sewing machine, and they turned out okay. I might see if I can find a better option online and give those a try – I really feel like the right fabric and absorbency is key. Once you’ve used them, you can pop them in a washing bag and run them through the laundry. You’ll never have to buy cotton rounds again, and you won’t feel guilty if you need to use them multiple times to remove your makeup or for all of the steps in your skin care process!
Those are my top ten simple ways to start living a more sustainable, zero waste lifestyle. In case you’re interested in trying any of these or finding even more ways to be zero waste, I have list of products and solutions that could help you here.
I hope you enjoyed reading this post and found it helpful! What are some of the ways you’ve switched over to a more zero waste lifestyle? Let me know in the comments below. Thanks for reading!
Until next time,
Wow. Great tips! They are very realistic. While I’m by no means zero waste I too am interested in reducing the amount of plastic I throw away and damn, it’s a lot.
Great ideas, Emily!