Unless you plan on creating way more waste upfront and squeezing every penny from your wallet, transitioning to a zero-waste lifestyle takes some planning and is, at the end of the day, a bit of a process if you want to do it in a sustainable way. That said, with the right information, tools, and resources, making the swap can be simple, fun, and invigorating! After all, who doesn’t love using eco-friendly products that are not only better for the planet but for your body and home as well?
Take inventory of your home and what is typically replaced on a regular basis.
So that this doesn’t immediately get overwhelming, you can start room by room. For instance, the bathroom would consist of your usual bathroom products, toothbrushes, loofas, etc. Your kitchen list would have dry goods, refrigerated goods, paper towels, and perhaps cleaning products.
As each item is used up, consider the following before discarding:
Can I reuse this item’s packaging myself? And if not, can this be recycled?
How can I replace this with a sustainable alternative? What are the alternatives and where can I buy them?
Not everything you already own will be reusable or recyclable, obviously. Discard what you need to as responsibly as you can after you’ve used it all, and commit to replacing it with an eco-friendly option.
Replace single-use paper towels with reusable ones and toilet paper with “tree-free” TP
If you already have three rolls of paper towels to go through, it doesn’t make sense to toss them in the garbage. Instead, you can either continue to use them until they’re all used up, or you can store them for various future needs and purchase reusable paper towels. Considering how pricey a pack of paper towels can be, this one move pays for itself really quickly and saves you tons of cash in the long run.
And while toilet paper isn’t really the kind of item you’d want to reuse, there are way better options than what you find on the average market shelf. Tree-free TP exists, and it’s far less damaging to our forests. Use up what you have, and then buy responsibly!
Search for second-hand options before purchasing brand new.
While purchasing something second-hand may not always be an option, for many household and office electronics, books, clothing, and furniture, it is! Thrifting, estate sales, yard sales, etc. can be fun ways to find what you need without all the wasteful packaging, shipping, and high price tags. You’re reducing your own waste and carbon footprint by doing so, and you’re helping someone else reduce theirs.
Bring reusable grocery totes and cloth bags to your local bulk or farmer’s market
If shopping at a bulk goods store or farmer’s market is an option in your area, go for it. For those who can’t, you can still bring your own bags to your grocery store, skip the plastic or paper bag option, and skip all the tiny plastic baggies you place your produce in. Many grocery stores now have a section where you can purchase nuts, cereals, etc. in bulk, as well.
While it may take you a few weeks or months to get this all going, there are many things you can do immediately. So be patient with yourself as you transition, and in the meantime, here are ten quick changes you can make today that’ll inspire you on your journey to living zero-waste:
Purchase a steel straw and don’t leave home without it.
Same for a reusable water bottle, travel utensils, and coffee mug!
Get a library card or audiobook membership.
Turn the water off while brushing your teeth.
Walk whenever possible instead of driving.
Purchase rechargeable batteries instead of single-use ones.
Wash your clothes in cold water when you can.
Go paperless for all your bills.
Avoid receipts while out and opt for emailed versions whenever possible.
Only wash clothes when necessary, not just because you wore it for a little bit.
It can be overwhelming at first, but you aren’t alone on your journey to living a far more sustainable lifestyle. There are countless blogs and resources out there to help you along the way, and more and more people are joining in on the efforts as information spreads. Stay informed, stay committed, and know you’re doing what you can to keep your community safe and healthy.