We all know who started the zero-waste movement all those years ago, and we know they had a noble goal to reach. Right now, in 2022, people like you are the ones who will continue to fight the good fight for a clean, green, waste-free planet by adopting a zero-waste lifestyle.

But as eager as you are to begin, you shouldn’t rush into this new lifestyle. Yes, the planet has a massive problem with waste that needs direct action. But you’re still just one person, and you can’t really change the world overnight with nothing but your own two hands. The zero-waste movement is one where you help in small but meaningful ways through small but effective lifestyle changes.

So, how does that work? How can you, a complete newcomer, start to live your life the zero-waste way? Well, this article is here to help you get started. Remember, shifting lifestyles is a huge change, and you have to do it step-by-step and do it right.

A Quick Beginner’s Guide on adopting a Zero-Waste lifestyle

Take Stock and Plan Ahead

Zero-Waste Lifestyle
Image: Nareeta Martin/Unsplash

The crucial first step is to take stock of all the waste you make. Take about a month and measure the amount of waste that ends up in your bin. Next, categorize it into groups such as plastic, organic, wood, etc. That way, you can take a look at your record at the end of the month and see just how much you throw away.

This step is also important if you want to determine how much money you’re actually wasting by not recycling or using a product to its full capacity.

Buy Reusable Packaging

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Let’s get one thing straight. Reusable packaging is not the perfect option for the storage of perishables. However, it’s still the best alternative to single-use plastic boxes and bags.

A single reusable package is one you can wash and clean after use, meaning you can store new items in it once it’s cleaned. In addition, it is durable and sturdy, so it will take a while before it gets damaged. And depending on the type of packaging, it can keep your food fresh for a long time.

Canvas Bags Are a Must

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Today, we use more than 100 billion plastic bags a year, a huge number by any standards. The vast majority of those bags will end up in the ocean or a landfill. But more alarmingly, not even a fraction of that number will be recycled properly.

So, to avoid getting plastic bags when you do your grocery shopping, get a canvas bag instead. Also known as tote bags or just totes, these items are perfect for any shopping occasion. After all, they are durable, stylish, easy to carry, and quite light in weight. No matter where you go or what you buy, a tote will definitely be a tool worth using.

But it doesn’t stop there. While a tote bag won’t be too biodegradable, you can still recycle it. In fact, lots of totes are actually made from 100% recycled material, another green solution to add to your zero-waste list.  

Avoid Plastic Packaging

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When you go grocery shopping, try to get your fruit and vegetables ‘naked’, i.e., without any kind of package. It might be tempting to buy that cherry tomato bundle, but if it comes in a plastic cup, just say no.

One way to avoid buying packaged vegetables is to visit the farmers’ market. You can find a wide variety of fruits and vegetables on display without being wrapped in plastic or inside plastic mesh bags. Granted, you can always reuse a mesh bag in interesting ways, but the goal is to reduce waste of any kind as much as possible.

Organic Toiletries

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Should you ever try organic toothpaste? How about giving a sustainable toothbrush a shot? And can natural bathroom products really help you maintain a zero-waste lifestyle?

The answer to all of those questions ought to be a resounding Yes.

By buying organic and eco-friendly toiletries, you reduce the number of empty plastic bottles and packages you normally send to a landfill. Organic toothpaste and shampoo use no harmful chemicals and don’t harm the environment when you discard them. And once you use up that bamboo toothbrush, you can always bury it in your backyard, and it will decompose naturally over time.

Use Up, Recycle, and Upcycle What You Can

Before you decide to throw stuff away, take a look at your fridge, your freezer, and your cupboard. Then ask yourself the following questions:

             What can I keep in there for a little longer?

             If I can’t keep a food item, can I eat it or give it to a pet?

             If it’s spoiled, can I compost it?

             Are there any food recycling centres nearby?

             Is my stuff in a single-use container, and can I recycle that container somewhere?

By thinking strategically about your home, you can get rid of unwanted items in eco-friendly ways. One cool method is to take an old article and upcycle it into something interesting. In fact, some people get quite creative with their own upcycling endeavours.

Shop in Bulk

A lot of shoppers simply buy one or two items they need for the day and leave it at that. And let’s be clear, that’s perfectly fine. After all, you won’t need 50 copies of the same item all the time. Sadly, this practice does come with one massive issue. As they buy those single items, the users discard the packaging. If they buy seven single items a week, that means at least seven more empty packages that will end up cluttering a landfill somewhere.

So, if and when possible, always buy your products in bulk. That way, you help the environment in several ways:

             You don’t toss away dozens and dozens of empty packages

             Your inventory will be full for a long time, eliminating your need to shop often

             You’ll save money by not going to the store all the time

             You save fuel by not driving to and from the store.

Zero-Waste in a Nutshell

Image: Volodymyr Hryshchenko/Unsplash

As we stated earlier, don’t rush too fast into becoming a zero-waste adopter – it’s a lifestyle you have to ease yourself into. Give it a year, maybe 15 months, and in no time flat, you’ll be employing lots of zero-waste practices effectively. In fact, even if you do half of what we’ve listed in this article, you’re already doing more than enough to keep the planet garbage-free.

(Main image and featured image: Hello I’m Nik/Unsplash)

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