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The first step towards going zero waste is know what zero waste is. In my What is Zero Waste post I go over what zero waste is to me and the basics I follow. In this post I will be discussing simple ways to start being zero waste. Contrary to popular belief, you do not have to buy a single thing in order to start your zero waste journey. The majority of these tips do not require you to purchase anything, but do require you to change your frame of mind and to think proactively. One way to get zero waste gear though is by asking for these products for your birthday and other holidays.
1. Say no to straws at restaurants.
Do not feel bad if you forget to tell your waiter that you do not need a straw. Most of the time they will sit straws on the table before I have a chance to say anything. I typically move the straw to the back of the table by the condiments. Stainless steel straws are an option if you need a straw.
2. Eat take out/fast food less.
When you get take out food everything comes in plastic and styrofoam. I’m not saying you should completely stop eating out. If eating out every now and then brings you joy then do it, but possibly make eating out a special event.
3. Dine in more.
This ties in with #2. When you dine in at restaurants there is a lot less waste. It could even be possible to have a zero waste dinner if you use cloth napkins, say no to the straw, and eat all of your food.
4. Bring your own container for leftovers.
If you know that you do not usually finish your meal while eating out you can bring your own container to put your leftovers in. This way you avoid having to get a styrofoam or plastic take out container. I love these glass containers.
5. Share meals.
My husband and I like to share meals, especially if we know that the restaurant offers large portions. We typically have no leftovers and we are not left hungry.
6. Try Fasting.
Fasting is abstaining from all or some kinds of foods and drinks. Many diets include it though you do not have to be on any kind of diet to fast. I would eat dinner around 7pm and then I would not eat again until roughly 10am-11am the next morning. That is roughly 15 hours. I still had water even though I was not eating. Water can help you feel full. I realize this is not for everyone and that is perfectly okay! If you are looking for a simple diet, this is the cheapest way to lose weight. I suggest doing research first.
7. Meal Plan
A meal plan can really help with avoiding food waste and last minute eating out, especially when you plan lunch and dinner. It can also help cut back on grocery cost because you have a plan and a list when you grocery shop.
8. Take your lunch.
Use the meal plan to make sure you have a daily lunch and avoid eating out.
9. Bring your own utensils.
Make sure to bring utensils from home for your lunch so you do not have to grab a plastic one. If you do forget, maybe you can rinse of the plastic one and reuse it. Bamboo utensils are perfect for keeping in your bag to always have on hand.
10. Stop buying plastic water bottles.
People buy 1,000,000 plastic bottles per minute in total. Fact check.
By using a reusable water bottle you can cut out 156 plastic bottles annually. If you do not already have one, thrift stores have plenty for under $5. Many people like to buy the aluminum water bottles.
11. Eat more whole foods, stop buying processed foods.
Processed foods are not good for you. They are typically packed with sugar, sodium, and a lot of extra ingredients. In addition to that, all processed foods come prepackaged. By eating more whole foods you can cut back on waste and have a healthier diet.
12. Buy produce not wrapped in plastic.
There are usually plastic free options for produce at most grocery stores. If there aren’t do not feel bad. The way companies package their produce is not something you can control.
13. Go to the Farmer’s Market.
If grocery stores in your area do not offer plastic free produce, your local farmers market will. I like to take reusable produce bags or a wicker basket to hold all of my goodies.
14. Grow your own vegetables.
Many vegetables are easier to grow that you would think. You can grow plants in containers on a balcony or if you have the space you can till up the ground and plant a garden.
15. Bring reusable produce bags and shopping bags.
This is a super easy way to avoid plastic. You can easily use bags you already own or make your own from old t-shirts. If neither of these is an option for you, you can check the thrift store and see if there is anything you can use from there. Amazon has many choices for reusable produce bags.
16. Compost kitchen scraps.
This is a very easy thing to do, even if you live in an apartment. If you aren’t into composting in an apartment, you can ask friends if they have a compost you can dump scraps in. There are many ways to compost while urban living. There are indoor compost,if you are interested.
17. Make coffee at home or bring your own cup.
Making coffee at home is a very easy way to save money, but if you absolutely have your heart set on Starbucks you can take your own cup in. They will give you a $.10 discount for bringing your own cup and you avoid the plastic waste.
18. Buy less.
We live in a world where ads make us feel like we constantly need to buy more. I no longer want to be part of the crowd craze feeling like I need to buy things to be happy.
19. Shop at thrift stores.
If you do need to buy something, check out the thrift store before buying new. 9 times out of 10 they have something you can use without buying brand new.
20. Barter and borrow.
Again, instead of buying something brand new try to barter with friends and neighbors, or if it is for a temporary use just ask to borrow it. The most important thing to remember is if you borrow something ALWAYS take care of it and return it in the same condition.
21. Donate/sell unwanted items.
When you are ready, go through your belongings and see if there are things you can sell or donate. I like to clear things out every 6 months. If I haven’t used or worn something in 6 months, I will most likely not use it in the future. Seasonal items are different. I have canning equipment that I only use during the summer when fresh fruits and veggies are abundant.
22. Visit the library for books, movies, and other things.
Each public library is different. The public library in my city offers a crafters area where you can use a 3D printer, a Cricut, and a sign making machine. Even if your library doesn’t offer these things, you can check out books instead of buying new. You avoid clutter from so many books and you save money.
23. Use up all of an item before purchasing more.
This can go for craft supplies, make up, food, beauty supplies, etc. If you wait to buy something until you are out then you are saving money by buying only what you need. I use to have TONS of lotions. Every time I went to Bath and Body Works I had to buy more, but I eventually realized I had an issue and now I only buy lotion when I need it.
24. Use bar soap.
Bar soap is much cheaper than body wash, it last longer, and you can still get the brands you love. You also avoid plastic bottles when buying bar soap. Dr. Bronner’s is a great, all around brand.
25. Take shorter showers or shower less.
An easy way to avoid water waste is by simply taking shorter showers or less showers. I have been very guilty of just standing in the shower for a good 10 minutes letting the hot water run over me. Though if you jump in the shower and wash quickly without lollygagging, you can be in and out of the shower much quicker. Another thing to think about is we do not need to shower every single day, unless you have a labor intensive job. If you work in an office and you aren’t sweating daily you can go 2-3 days without a shower or at least 2-3 days without washing your hair. Bonus: hang your towel up to dry and reuse it! It’s not dirty after drying your freshly showered body.
26. Swap paper towels for cloth rags.
Swapping paper towels for cloth rags is known as unpaper towels. You can use hand towels you already have or cut up old towels to make your own rags. Walmart has packs of rags for under $5. Flour sack towels also make a great swap.
27. Cut out commercial cleaners and use vinegar.
Vinegar is a miracle worker. It has so many uses around your house and garden. I make natural cleaners to use around my home. I really enjoy knowing that I am avoiding chemicals and plastic waste by making my own.
28. Say No to freebies.
People hand out a lot of things for advertising. It may be samples, coupons, or flyers. Simply saying no to all of these things can avoid extra waste.
29. Gift experiences or homemade items.
Instead of buying things that do not have real meaning for gifts, try gifting a trip to the zoo, park, or other fun area. My son loves going to trampoline parks and bouncy house parks. Homemade items can be cherished and are more sentimental due to the time and effort that went into making them.
30. Avoid gas station purchases.
Any time I stop for gas I refuse to go into the store. If we are on a road trip we try to pack our own drinks and snacks. You can save a good bit of money this way and avoid excess waste.