Once you open your eyes to the amount of unnecessary packaging you buy, you’ll never go back. Many products are priced three or four times more purely for the brand and the packaging, which is almost always plastic. Even when you’re out and about, you receive food in non-recyclable and non-compostable containers and you collect plastic bags. Most of this packaging can be easily avoid by being prepared. Try to buy foods in glass. Bring your own coffee cup or takeout container. Stay no to straws or bring your own glass or metal straw. Invest in bamboo utensils to bring with you. Just look around and notice all of the items you can easily switch out or stop using. This first step is instrumental in starting your zero waste journey.
Composting is a huge way to immediately start cutting your waste. If you have the space, make your own compost bin. If you live in an apartment (like me) or you prefer to outsource your compost, sign up for a pickup compost service! I use Recycled City in Phoenix and love that I’m able to compost while being in an apartment. Recycled City has different pickup schedules (I chose monthly) and their fees are low (I pay $15/month). I also have the opportunity to get back nutrient rich soil once a year. Composting has been one of the largest waste-cutters for our kitchen and I now have my roommate hooked!
Make your own cleaning products
This may be one of the biggest eye-openers for me since going zero waste. We have been marketed that we need a different cleaning product for every item in our bathrooms, kitchens, etc. In reality, you only need a handful at most. Currently I use one all-purpose cleaning spray (recipe coming soon!) and then use baking soda, vinegar and essential oils for anything else. Cutting out harmful chemicals and only using ingredients that you know makes for a healthier home.
Invest in reusable produce bags
When I decide I wanted to go zero waste, I looked up blog articles (just like this!) and saw a few that mentioned reusable produce bags – AND IT WAS LIFE-CHANGING. I know, pretty dramatic over bags, but it’s true! I realized how many produce bags I used every time I went to the grocery store. We tried to reuse them as dog poop bags, but honestly they had started to pile up. Even if you don’t eat a vegetable-heavy diet like me, you may use around five bags every time you go to the grocery store. Then you go to the grocery store once a week. That’s over 250 produce bags a year that are being thrown into landfills by one person. That number can go down to zero. I purchased my produce bags and never looked back. I also use mine as snack bags as well.
Make your own toothpaste
While this may not necessarily be something you can start today (see note at the end), this is definitely something to keep in mind. Once my toothpaste ran out, I made a simple mixture of coconut oil, baking soda and essential oil. I put the mixture in a old glass baby food jar and have been loving it! My teeth honestly feel cleaner, plus it’s zero waste and costs cents to make.
Start buying in bulk
With those produce bags I mentioned above, and with handy dandy glass jars, start buying items in the bulk section. Find stores in your area that sell food in bulk. In Phoenix, I’ve found Sprouts and Whole Foods to be helpful, but if you live in an area with an entire bulk store then go and use that zero waste paradise! Buying in bulk means spending less money on packaging and branding. Plus, it usually means eating healthier foods. You may also be able to find bulk stores that have items such as oils, shampoos, conditioners, and cleaning supplies available.
Visit thrift stores
Whether you’re donating unneeded clothes or looking for an item you need, stop by a thrift store first. As a plus-size woman, I don’t have the best of luck in thrift stores as far as clothes go, but it’s great for looking for things you may need around the house at the fraction of the price. I also accidentally stumbled onto the discovery that some thrift stores have half-off on certain days! Anyway, try out thrift stores instead of buying everything brand new.
Switch to reusable period products
Over 50% of the world’s population menstruates. In the United States we’ve been programmed to only buy disposable pads or tampons. Using reusable pads and menstruation cups are a huge way to cut down on period waste. First off, you save so much money by switching to a reusable method. Second, disposable pads and tampons are bleached to be white and some have dyes. Using natural fibers for your private parts is better for your reproductive health. At first you might be a bit squeamish, but quite honestly it’s just blood and mucus.
Always have reusable bags
Have a reusable bag in your car. In your purse. At your workplace. Just always have a reusable bag. This helps you to avoid using plastic bags and can just in general be helpful to have on hand!
Put your money where your mouth is
Become a conscious consumer by buying sustainable, eco-friendly brands that share the values you cherish. This takes research, but is well worth the effort when you know your money is going to companies you truly want to support. Also, when possible, buy local to support your community.
DON’T THROW EVERYTHING AWAY IMMEDIATELY TO BECOME ZERO WASTE! Use what you have first; otherwise you’re defeating the purpose of your overall goal. Finish the products you have and then once they are gone switch them out for a zero waste alternative. I know how tempting it is to want to start with a clean slate, but be patience. Also, zero waste is a journey. It’s not going to happen overnight, but it IS a great lifestyle to learn.