Reducing your waste doesn't have to be daunting.
Here are some simple tips that you can implement into your life right away.
photo credit: Kleen Kanteen
1. Choose a reusable water bottle... and never leave home without it.
If you are in need of a new bottle, my personal favorite is by Kleen Kanteen. It is lightweight,
durable, and recyclable at the end of life.
2. When eating out, choose low-waste restaurants...
...(preferably one with real plates and silverware, or compostable packaging that is actually composted)
3. Carry a fork and spoon with you to avoid single-use plastics.
I use a pencil holder in my purse to keep these items organized.
4. Shop with a canvas bag, a basket, or even a cardboard box.
There is no shame in using what you already have. If you are in the market for new bags, though, opt for ones that are made from biodegradable materials like cotton or hemp.
5. If you forget your bag, refuse the disposable bag anyway!
Most times it is not really needed. Create a habit of refusing the bag every time you check out.
6. Considering trying a silicone menstrual cup and cloth liners.
Your body and the environment will thank you. Not to mention your wallet.
7. Cancel catalog subscriptions and junk mail, and switch to paperless billing.
Paper Karma is an app that can help.
Check with your local waste removal service to see if you can add compostables to your yard waste bin or request a dedicated compost bin. All food scraps, soiled paper products, hair trimmings, and other biodegradable materials can be composted, greatly reducing your waste output and returning those valuable nutrients to the earth where they belong. Alternatively, there are many options for setting up at composting system in your own backyard.
9. Give gifts of experience
Tickets to a play, a hike to your favorite location, or a bonfire on the beach with family - gifts of experience create memories that last a lifetime.
10. Wash your dishes with a dishcloth or a biodegradable tampico brush...
...rather than those bacteria-riddled, disposable sponges.
I use a Japanese tawashi brush.
They are surprisingly tough (but gentle on dishes) and have lasted many years.
11. Purchase one quality item that will last a lifetime -
versus several of lesser quality.
Bonus points if the item is sustainably made.
12. Consider the "end of life" for every purchase...
...(no matter how small). Products made with natural materials, like this bamboo toothbrush, will eventually biodegrade. Always ask yourself this vital question: “What will happen to this product at the end of its useful life?” If your answer is landfill, be open to considering alternatives.
13. Shop secondhand
It's better for your wallet and the environment.
14. Pass on the plastic produce bags.
It's ok to have potatoes and apples rolling around your cart, but if you prefer more organization, invest in some inexpensive cotton produce bags. I use cotton "shoe bags", which can be found here.
15. Opt for a shampoo bar rather than buying it in a plastic bottle.
My personal favorite is J.R. Liggets brand moisturizing shampoo bar.
16. Use bars of soap, rather than liquid, which require a plastic pump.
I buy it for my family in a box of 100 (once per year) to simplify my shopping trips. We use the same soap for washing dishes, hands, and bodies (even for shaving - although my husband uses another shave soap for his face.)
17. Buy a large box of powdered laundry detergent...
...rather than liquid detergent in a plastic bottle.
You can also find recipes online for making your own.
18. Ditch the toxic dryer sheets...
...and use wool dryer balls instead.
These ones are made in Connecticut from ethically-sourced wool.
19. Switch to a metal safety razor...
...rather that those horrendously overpriced disposable ones.
Astra brand razors last months and are fully recyclable.
20. Use coconut oil...
...for makeup removal and moisturizing. I purchase the gallon-sized jar (glass) from Azure Standard. We use it for making toothpaste, deodorant, moisturizer, as well as for cooking and baking.
21. Pass along items you no longer use.
Donating or selling your unneeded items allows that valuable resource to be put into use by another person. It also frees up your living space and is one less item you will need to care for.
22. Skip the straw.
You will need to be proactive about this one, and make "no straw" a part of your ordering process at restaurants. If using a straw is important to you, carry your own. There are many stainless steel and glass options available.
23. Refuse “to go” containers.
Keep containers with you for these occasions. Planning ahead is an huge part of reducing unnecessary waste.
24. Always carry a nutritious snack.
A piece of fruit or container of nuts - this will save you from unplanned trips through the drive-thru.
It'll also save you money... and your health.
25. Make use of your local library.
I used to buy new books off of Amazon on a regular basis. Now, I request them from my local library and pick them up weekly. It has become a regular part of our routine.
26. Instead of plastic wrap on a bowl, top it with a plate.
When you stop reaching for plastic wrap as an option, you will find that you come up with all kinds of solutions!
27. Swap paper towels for cloth rags.
Flour sack towels, or repurposed, worn-out t-shirts are good solutions.
28. Purchase toilet paper wrapped in paper instead of plastic.
We order this brand to be delivered to our door every five weeks.
It's nice to have one less item that I need to shop for.
If you are super-committed to zero-waste, more power to you! Google “family cloth”.
29. Use your own containers to purchase items from grocery store bulk bins.
Mark the tare weight (or empty bag weight) onto your bag or container so the cashier can take that weight off the total. That way you are only paying for what's inside. If the store will not allow you to use your own bag, make use of the paper bags that are found near the mushrooms. Or bring along your own, small paper bags.
30. Shop for items that are sold without packaging.
31. Use vinegar and water to clean - instead of harmful chemical products.
I like to use 1/3 vinegar to 2/3 water and add essential oils for fragrance and/or extra cleaning power. Try lemon, grapefruit, or geranium. Glass spray bottles can be found here.
32. Grow Food...
...no matter how small your outdoor space is. Start with an herb garden, or quickly-growing greens. It'll save you money, contribute to your health, and reduce the distance your food has to travel to your plate.
This, by no means, is an exhaustive list. I'll be sharing so much more in future posts -
so be sure to subscribe!
And remember, the best option is always to work with what you have. I have included Amazon items in this post as an option if you are unable to find items locally. I do receive a small fraction of the sale, and I certainly appreciate your support!
Becoming more waste-conscious doesn’t mean that you aren’t going to produce waste (and that you have failed if you do). To me, it is a different mindset that steers you toward sustainability when you consider your options.
Let’s all live less out of habit, and more out of intent.