If you follow me on social media, then you noticed that my family and I started getting serious about our zero-waste lifestyle. I spent months planning, strategizing, and thinking of ways that we could live while creating less waste. At first it seemed pretty daunting, especially with a 9-month old. Like most things in life, the anticipation was much worse than reality.
To ease your transition, I thought that I would share some tips along with what I call “my starter kit”.
So here are the first strategies that we implemented:
- We dedicated to the 5 R’s by Bea Johnson who pioneered the zero-waste movement.
- I canceled my prime membership. GASP! I did this because the membership enabled my need for instant gratification. I found myself ordering one thing from Amazon every few days. That resulted in a lot of packaging from shipping those items. I also saved $99 a year. If you spend $49 then your shipping is free–as long as you can live with standard shipping, that is. Once a month, at most, I place an Amazon order. I spend all month adding things to my shopping cart. This way I have time to really think about those items before I buy them. I also have time to look for those items second-hand. Amazon offers the option to purchase things used, so I try to use that whenever possible. By purchasing used items, I can contact the seller and ask for all paper packaging. I can also ask for items to be grouped together in as few packages as possible.
- If it is a natural non-protein material, then compost it. I was used to recycling paper, but one rule of zero-waste is to recycle as a last resort. Be careful of wax paper or coated paper. It does not compost and not all facilities can recycle them. Check here to see what your area can recycle. I have two composts. One outside that is for rot only. That one is the larger compost. The second is my kitchen composter (DIY post coming soon) that is for kitchen scraps that I don’t plan to save for making broth. The kitchen composter is full of worms!
- We started fighting junk mail. It’s not easy, but start a file of junk mail offers that come to your home. After the first month, start calling these companies and ask to be removed from the list. Here is a great resource to help with this. While you are at it, if you have not signed up for paperless statements yet then go ahead and do that. Eliminate as much paper from the mailbox as possible. You can cut out the plastic window from the sender and compost the original envelope. Reuse the return envelopes that come with any bills.
- I found local sources for food and items besides the store. Now I love Whole Food’s, but it isn’t the most sustainable place to get what you need. I found local farms, farmer’s markets, and even facebook groups that make, sell and trade things. From elderberry syrup and soap to mama cloth and jewelry. I found someone who could make these locally while supporting small businesses.
- Buying in bulk. Find out if there are stores in your area that allow you to buy your dry goods- rice, beans, coffee etc. in bulk. I use either canvas bags or glass jars. The store can pre-weigh the jars so that you are not charged extra. We buy our toilet paper in bulk from a restaurant supply store so that it is wrapped in paper. Liquid Castille soap is another bulk purchase. We use it to make dish soap, shampoo, and hand soap. Also, stop paying for your Costco membership. If you do need to shop at Costco then buy a gift card, they will let you in the store without paying for a monthly membership. Keep in mind though that most areas cannot recycle plastic cards so reload the same one.
- You only need four things to clean your entire home. Vinegar, baking soda, water, peroxide, and sometimes essential oils. Buy these in bulk too so that you get more product and less packaging. Look here for DIY recipes.
- We make our own as much as possible. You can DIY make-up, shampoo, broth, sauces, seasoning mixes, nut butter and milk, etc. Pinterest is full of tutorials and recipes. I’ll share my favorites soon.
- Reusable and compostable instead of disposable. I simply thought to myself, “What did people do before this was invented?” Try using cloth diapers and wipes, old rags and cloth napkins, handkerchiefs, glass jars for to-go cups, glass or stainless steel food storage containers or again, jars.
- Ask the manager first. When I do need to buy something from the store like meat from the meat counter, I ask to speak with the manager first. That way the employees won’t fuss if you ask them to fill your half gallon mason jar with ground beef or chicken breast. Just tell them, “I spoke with (manager’s name) and s/he said it was ok.”
My Starter Kit
I thought about options of how to acquire what I needed to start our waste-free life. At the same time, I wanted to minimize my carbon footprint while maximizing our budget. I already had some items on this list, but what I did need I decided to order from Amazon all at once. See #2 above.
Reusable Grocery Bags. Don’t get stuck bringing home hundreds of plastic bags a year. Simply bring your own.
Glass Jars. These are half gallon jars so that I could put a good amount of food in them. I already had quart size all the way down to half pint size. Buy what you need.
Canvas Bags. These are great for buying bulk dry goods such as rice or beans. You can also make your own from old sheets or pillow cases.
Mesh Produce Bags. You may or may not need these, but they do come in handy.
Cloth Napkins. These are polyester–I’d much rather have cotton, but I was able to find these used so that was a plus.
Handkerchiefs. I bought 2 dozen so that I would have enough to put around the house in the same places you would have a tissue box.
Reusable Straws. You can either buy stainless steel or glass, or go strawless.
Bulk Liquid Castille Soap. Buying more means less packaging per product. We use this to make so many things.
Natural Scouring pads. This does come with a small amount of coated paper packaging but the pads themselves are made from walnut shells and can be composted.
Natural Dish Brush. All but the small amount of metal on this brush can be composted when you are done with it.
Sustainable dishwasher detergent. This isn’t necessary for everyone. If you can, hand wash everything but if you can’t, these are shipped and stored in the same box. No plastic.
Mama Cloth. If you don’t want to make your own or can’t find them locally, then these are a good option. Also, a menstrual cup could work for you.
Bottle Brush. If you have a baby, I recommend using glass bottles and a natural bottle brush that can be composted when you are done using it.
Drying Rack. This can be used for all dishes but we use it most for drying baby bottles.
Do you do anything to reduce your waste? Do you have any tips to share? Leave me a comment, and let me know.