5 Accessible Steps Towards a Zero Waste Lifestyle
Be better, not perfect, make one change tomorrow not all of them!
I watched a video recently about the amount of plastic in the ocean, how the fish are eating it and then how we are eating the fish. I felt both distraught at the state of our environment, uncomfortable with the idea of eating fish with plastic in them but more wondering how people could use that much plastic! Then, I walked into my kitchen cupboard where we keep the recycling and I saw all of the plastic just sitting there, waiting to cause more damage.And I felt like a fraud. I mean - I run an ecologically responsible business, focusing on lessening our ecological footprint and I’m still a plastic-aholic. I put all of this energy into building a business that will not impact the planet by spending hours research papers, inks, and packaging that can be recycled or better yet composted but I wasn’t doing it in my personal life. Not to the level I was trying to achieve with my business.We all want to do better, and we all have those moments of guilt and not being good enough about our own lifestyles - especially when we see eco-warriors going a year without producing more waste than will fill a tiny jar - but we don’t need to strive for perfection.
A non-disposable life doesn’t need to be perfect to be a success. It just needs to be better than it was yesterday.
So let’s dip our toes in the non-disposable or zero waste life together. We aren’t going to try to do the all our trash in one jar right way, because seriously...who can actually do that while sustaining a normal life?We’ll try to ease into it because it’s a habit we are creating, which as well all know doesn’t happen overnight. Also? Let’s not beat ourselves up if we don’t remember to do these things every time. Every little bit helps and not giving up matters more than striving for perfection.
So here are a few everyday household ways you can start the process of shifting toward a less disposable life:
1 ) Bring reusable mesh bags for fruits and veggies, and glass jars for bulk foods to the grocery store or farmers market. If the bags get dirty, just wash and air dry. Don’t throw them away! I found my mesh bags at the bakers shop in town; you should be able to find some at a local cooking or baking shop near you.
2) Bring jars or glass pyrex when getting food to-go. Just ask the restaurant to leave your to-go food in covered dishes till you arrive to pick it up in your own dishes. They may think it’s strange, at first, but hey it's a great way to have a conversation about zero waste and a non-disposable life, while you’re forking your curry into your own dish.
3) Bring a coffee or tea to-go mug with you and leave one in your car or at work for those afternoon gotta have them cups (because we all know the office is kept cold and us women need something to heat up our hands with). I always had a mug at work that I would heat up and pour my cup of coffee into. That way, I got the best of both worlds: no waste and warm hands!
4) Compost! Keep a bin on the counter or under the sink. The ones with charcoal filters inside the lid help mask the stink if you forget to empty every week. You don’t have to have a compost pile in your yard to be able to do compost either. Sorry! You can’t use that as an excuse anymore. Some towns have a community compost pile at the community gardens (freeze your compost to make it easier to transport to the community gardens), other towns let you add it to the green yard waste bin.
If those aren’t options for you, ask around to your neighbors to see if anyone has a compost pile you can contribute to. If none of those work, learn how to start an in-home compost with worms. There are tons of resources online and in your community. I promise, it’s not that hard.
5) Buy a bamboo or wooden toothbrush with replaceable bristles. This is my next thing to try. Every 3 months we are supposed to replace our toothbrush and get a new one. That’s a lot of plastic toothbrushes in the landfill! Try a toothbrush where you only have to throw away the bristle!
And here’s one last bonus-tip that I like to do and you can easily try:
Seek out local, handmade, eco-friendly products when purchasing - because although you may be buying a product that needs shipping or uses packaging, your footprint can still be less than it would be had you bought from a company with a much larger transportation or production footprint.
One seriously last bonus-bonus tip that I want to add, just because:
If there are things that you regularly use that are not zero waste and you can’t imagine giving them up (or you would love to still use them if they changed their production or packaging), consider talking to the company and voicing your opinion to them. This action could have an exponential impact! When a business hears often enough that their customers really want something from them, they often will move in that direction. A great company to suggest who does sustainable packaging is Ecoenclose! I use them for all my packaging needs and LOVE the way they work.You don’t need to do everything on this list at once. Start small, and move forward. I started with a to-go cup for my coffee and then added the mesh bags and others really quickly after that because it wasn’t hard at all to get in the habit of the changes, once I started.Which tip are you going to try to turn into a habit in your household first? Do you know anyone who could use one of these tips in their homes? Share with them and try it together.I share my own adventures and mishaps as I work toward a non-disposable life on my Instagram feed. You can share yours with me too here or via email alyssa (at) drawntoecology.comSee you next time,Alyssa