by Cassandra Rosas
It seems like there’s not a day without bad news in regards to the environment. The reality is that we are facing huge environmental problems, and it’s not very encouraging to hear these kinds of news every day. But there is always a little something we all can do to help reduce the footprint that we leave on our planet. A great option is to embrace the zero-waste lifestyle at home and in every part of our life.
What is the Zero Waste Lifestyle?
In the modern world we live in, we often see the waste of resources, sometimes in the form of excessive packaging, food spoilage and the overuse of plastic, and non-renewable energies being used instead of turning into the greener options, like solar.
Adopting a zero-waste lifestyle means that you will try to change every aspect of your everyday life into a more sustainable one. At first, it can seem like what you are doing is not much, but you are moving forward to a more significant impact with every little step you take.
What is Required
The zero-waste approach can be considered as a project, that should never stop and should always continue to improve, and grow. But that doesn’t mean that it has to interfere with your current way of living in a significant way. We have come up with the essential first steps that will be the basis to a long term commitment to this lifestyle and have a tremendous impact on your carbon footprint.
– Use Recycled Glass Jars
You can reuse every marmalade, mayo, pickles jar or any other jar, instead of throwing them in the trash knowing that they will end up in a landfill. These are excellent options to store any dried or even wet goods, either in the pantry or in the fridge, and they look prettier than the regular single-use zip-top bags.
– Use Reusable Grocery Tote Bags
The best option for grocery shopping is to use tote bags, either homemade from old clothes or store-bought, to reduce the use of plastic bags that will end up discarded in the trash. You can wash them and reuse them hundreds of times, and they can even last for years.
-Prefer Reusable Everyday Items
Use metal or bamboo drinking straws to replace disposable ones. By switching to reusable equivalents, you can replace single-use items to reduce plastic pollution. Get yourself a good quality water bottle, instead of buying bottled water knowing that it will end up in the garbage bin.
Go vintage style and always keep a handkerchief in your pocket or purse, that you can wash and reuse instead of buying disposable paper tissues. Make your cleaning rags with old clothes or sheets instead of using paper towels. As you can see, with a little effort and creativity, there are millions of options to ban single-use items from your home.
Start Using the 5 Rs
Recap of EcoLiving's principals
Using the 3 Rs (Reduce, Reuse and Recycle) concept that was introduced in the 1970s, Bea Johnson added another 2 Rs for Refuse and Rot. By adopting this method, you start going to a higher level of the zero-waste lifestyle, and you are making sure that the carbon footprint you’re leaving behind goes to the minimum.
The first step is to start refusing to accept any unnecessary items that are given to you every time you walk on the street or in a shopping mall, all those promotional flyers, magazines and freebies that are often used as advertisement are completely needless, since most people barely look at them before throwing them in the trash, so you don’t have to accept every single item you are being offered just because is free unless you really are interested in the information that is provided.
Do not accept any item that you know will end up in the trash. If there is a reusable option or an alternative for packaging, always go for the readily available option without plastic wrapping to avoid letting waste enter your home and life from the very beginning.
A great strategy to start reducing the number of resources that we need for living is always to plan for the week’s groceries, make a menu ahead and have a list of the things you will honestly use. Avoid buying things out of habit, things that may end up going to waste, or even worse, going bad in your fridge in the case of perishable foods.
In the case of household items, be very honest with yourself every time you are tempted to buy something, ask yourself if the purchase will be of use, if that is the case, always go for the best quality option that will last longer than the cheap version.
Instead of throwing stuff in the trash when it’s not needed, try to find another way to put it to use, re-purpose all the glass jars, as soon as they’re empty, you can remove the stickers around and fill them with dried cereals, nuts or any other pantry stuff that came without packaging. Also, if an appliance is broken, try to get it fixed instead of buying a new one, it may have some good years of use ahead, or in case the item is unwanted or not needed anymore, try to find a charity or a place to donate it, so others may give it use.
Most of the stuff you find in the grocery shop nowadays comes in a recyclable container. Still, not everything, always look for the recyclable sing in the packaging and go for that option, then separate the trash and bring it to a recycling centre. The more we prefer the recyclable choice, more manufacturers will go green in that matter.
The last R refers to composting fruits and vegetable leftovers. If you have the required space to build a compost, almost all food scraps from your kitchen can be rotted down, except for meat and dairy, which could lead to pests and disease.
If you don't have enough space or a backyard to place a compost, you can probably find a waste management centre in your city, where they can use it to produce other things instead of sending it to a landfill.
More Everyday Zero Waste Tips
We have put together a list of simple things that you can do in your daily life to nail the zero-waste lifestyle and go garbage-free.
–When grocery shopping, bring your own net bags to put your fruits and veggies in, go for the loose veggies section, avoid buying the bagged versions of broccoli, spinach or carrots.
– Go for unprocessed foods as much as you can, to reduce the carbon footprint left with the production of these goods and the unnecessary packaging.
– Always reuse scraps of onions, carrots, tomatoes and other veggies, for making vegetable broth that later can be used for cooking other dishes.
–Completely ban plastic packaging from your home, start by buying in bulk as much as possible, find a store where you can bring your containers (all those glass jars we talked about before) and have them filled with cereals, nuts, seeds, grains and oils. Also, avoid buying in stores that disregard the environment and still give away and overuse plastic bags.
–Instead of buying cleaning products, make your own with simple materials you have at home like white vinegar, baking soda and essential oils. For example, mix equal parts of water and vinegar, add a few drops of tea tree oil and use it as a surface disinfectant.
–Get yourself a good eco-friendly bamboo toothbrush instead of the regular plastic kind, the bamboo’s antibacterial properties allow it to be cultivated without toxic materials and are biodegradable, which makes it easy to deteriorate.
–Make your own organic toothpaste combining coconut oil, baking powder and a few drops of peppermint oil.
–Keep small containers at home and get them refilled with shampoo, conditioner and shower gel at bulk shops.
–Use organic homemade skincare and personal care products instead of buying expensive brands. For example, make your hydrating cream mixing coconut oil, raw honey and a few drops of extra virgin olive oil, this will leave your skin perfectly moisturised and save you tons of money.
–Use washable cloths made from old t-shirts instead of buying single-use disposable wipes.
–Always prefer recycled toilet paper over the regular toilet paper options.
3) Laundry and Cleaning:
–Just like the personal care products, you can keep containers at home and refill them with laundry detergent from bulk stores, instead of buying and tossing every time its empty.
–Avoid buying chemical cleaning products, instead, make a mixture of one-part vinegar and eight-parts water, and use it as a surface and window cleaner, and you can add a few drops of lavender or lemon oil for a touch of smell.
– To remove stains or dirt, use a mixture of water with white vinegar in four parts to one ration, one tablespoon of baking soda and a few lemon juice drops.
4) Bedroom and Closet:
– Instead of buying new clothes every month, try to mix and match your already existing outfits. If you feel like you really need an extra piece of clothing, look for a second-hand store and make a list with the necessary items, when you go shopping, look exactly for what you need. Avoid buying anything that is not on the list.
– Consider decluttering your closet and donating all the pieces that are still in good shape to a church, charity or even to a second-hand store that can give new life to those garments.
5) Dining and Social Gatherings:
– Always use regular glass, bamboo or metal plates and cutlery for your social reunions, buy fabric napkins or make your own with a lovely looking fabric so that you can wash and reuse!
– Remember to have glass or even plastic containers at home, and bring them to the bulk store to be refilled with drinks. If you must buy bottled beverages, always go for glass bottle options that later can be reused for storing goods or even to make lovely eco-friendly decorations for your home.
– For the not so formal meetings with friends and family, try to choose dishes that can be cut into small parts, and serve them in a big ceramic, glass or bamboo plate as snacks, that way the plates can be washed and stored for your next gathering!
– If you have a medication that needs to be refilled every specific time, ask your pharmacist if you can bring the old bottle to be refilled periodically (this is not legal in every state, but you can ask your pharmacist, it’s worth to ask).
–Do not buy extra-large bottles of medications or supplements that will expire before you can finish the bottle. For the first time, buying in bulk is not the best idea.
– For a regular cold, throat pain or stomach pain, try to go for the natural alternatives that herbs can provide, they are just as good as the commercial pills and syrups.
– Grow a herbal, fruit and vegetable garden at home, that way you will always have fresh produce and won’t need to look for it at the supermarket.
– If you go for the composting system at home, use the result to nurture your veggie garden’s soil to return some of the nutrition needed for the plants to grow.
– Whenever possible, try to collect rainwater and use it for your daily needs, like watering your garden or plant pots, flushing the toilet or cleaning the floors.
– Nowadays, everything can be digital, instead of printing stuff in paper, creating electronic documents, and sign digitally is a great option. Store your data in your computer or cloud, and share via email to avoid paper waste.
–Use old printed paper of no use to make note pads.
–Turn to refillable ink pens rather than disposable plastic pens.
– Bring your shredded documents to a recycling centre instead of throwing them in the trash.
All these are just a few ideas on how to eliminate a great deal of waste from your life. Still, there are hundreds of other ways to reduce waste and our carbon footprint; every little thing we can do is a crucial step to help the environment.
Become an example for your family, friends and neighbours, I’m sure you can be an inspiration to all of them, and soon many will follow.
About the Author:
by Cassandra Rosas is content writer at Porch.com
Brother and Sister, Anne and Olivier have created this blog to inspire you to care for the planet. They believe it is possible to be closer to nature and still live in a modern world.