Originally published in the Summer + Fall 2020 issue.
As the summer months begin to bless us with sunshine and the great outdoors, it’s the perfect time to re-evaluate our impacts on the environment and how we can reduce our overall waste consumption. Did you know the average American produces four and a half pounds of waste daily? That’s over 1,600 pounds a year for one person alone.
For the past six years, I have been living a zero-waste lifestyle and love sharing my passion for waste reduction with anyone willing to learn. Below is a list of eight ways you can begin the zero-waste journey. This isn’t your typical list of things to buy, but, better yet, adoptable habits to reduce your overall waste consumption.
1. INVENTORY YOUR WASTE
Organize it into categories (plastic, paper, recycling, glass, etc.). What are the most significant contributors? What is reusable verse single-use?
2. LIST THREE THINGS TO ELIMINATE
Now that you understand your waste, what are three things you can immediately avoid using? For instance, plastic toothbrushes, zip-lock bags and grapes that come in a plastic bag.
3. LIST THREE THINGS TO REDUCE
Having trouble eliminating certain products immediately? Try reducing them instead. Buying five cups of yogurt a week? Aim for two next week. Or better yet, switch to the big yogurt containers that you can then reuse for bulk food shopping or food storage.
4. SWAP IT OUT
Once you use what you have, swap for sustainable purchases. Start in the bathroom and work your way towards the kitchen. What can you easily swap out for more sustainable options?
• Plastic toothbrush ➔ compostable toothbrush
• Plastic wrap ➔ Bee’s Wrap
• Paper napkins ➔ cotton hanky
• Plastic soap container ➔ bar of soap or refill
• Zip-lock bags ➔ silicon Stasher bags
5. COLLECT YOUR WASTE
Now that you have reduced your waste, it is time to start collecting it. Be sure to keep track of the type of garbage you are producing. I personally started with single-use plastic and collected all products in a mason jar for a month. Now I collect all my waste for the year in one mason jar!
6. INTRODUCE COMPOST
This can be implemented at any time throughout the process. There are numerous ways to compost, depending on where you are located — drop off compost facilities, compost collection services, backyard composting, tumbler composting, worm composting, etc.
7. REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE
Start practicing in order — Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Reduce your purchasing, reuse what you already have and recycle when you need to.
8. ZERO-WASTE PACKS
Having a zero-waste pack is essential for when you are out and about. But, sometimes you don’t want to carry a backpack or purse with you. That’s why I have two different zero-waste packs to have on me at all times for waste reduction.
• Backpack: Water bottle, stainless steel container for food, full utensil set, fullsize Stasher bags, hanky, reusable bulk bag and tote.
• Pocket-sized: In one small Stasher bag, I put a collapsible straw and spork, hanky, and Bee’s Wrap to wrap up any leftover food I may have.