Zero Waste Home Tips Part 1
Hi there! My name is Cassidy.
Full disclosure - I am the Co-Founder and Director of Sustainability at Impact Earth (a zero waste consultancy). I try to practice what I preach but sometimes I’m not perfect. I’m not here to tell you what to do. But I do want to try and share some useful information in a digestible manner. This blog is part 1 of 2, so please, if you like this one, I highly suggest you read my next one as well :)
TL:DR - Zero Waste is an evolution, it doesn’t happen overnight, so it’s important to educate yourself and prepare for your transition time. Also, patience is key to success.
So you want to go zero waste
Maybe you’ve considered trying some zero waste tactics yourself. Maybe you started bringing your reusable coffee mug or water bottle when you’re out and about. Maybe you keep all your trash in a mason jar. Or maybe you have no idea what zero waste is and are unsure of the purpose of it. Well, I think, no matter where you are in your zero waste journey - we should start out with all the same information. I’m lucky enough that I’m surrounded by folks that are leading the zero waste movement and I often get the opportunity to learn more about the origin of zero waste, waste management in general, and what other communities are doing to reduce their waste going to the landfill.
So let’s start with this:
My main principles of zero waste are:
1. Reducing the amount solid waste produced (by people, by companies, by manufacturing..),
2. Keep all (or as much as possible) waste products out of the landfill and not incinerated,
3. Function through a hierarchy of ways to manage waste, starting with not creating waste period, and ending with sending waste to a landfill,
4. Utilize my actions as a tool for zero waste in the form of: Refuse - Reduce - Reuse - Refurbish - Recycle - Compost.
Why does zero waste matter?
I’ll defer to my friend, colleague, and coworker at Impact Earth (Sarah Quirk) who wrote so eloquently, “Why does zero waste matter? Because it helps us be better stewards of our resources and planet.” Zero waste also matters to me because my local landfill is set to close down in the next 10 years and no one really knows that this is happening.
Zero waste is about being mindful of your actions, about what products you buy, about what companies you support, and about how we utilize and preserve our natural resources that the Earth has given us so that our future generations can have an Earth to live on.
The hardest part of the zero waste home movement is the transition. And I personally think that this is part of the movement that we don’t emphasize or educate ourselves on enough. Think about it - no one wakes up one day with no possessions, no half-used shampoo bottles under their bathroom sink, no extra old canned food in their pantry... and is able to start their zero waste lifestyle from square one. One of the biggest challenges I find myself faced with when considering zero waste home transitions is all the potential waste just to make the leap into a zero waste lifestyle. What do I do with my old toothbrushes? What do I do with all the plastic sandwich baggies in my pantry? What I’m trying to say here is that there is a transition period with zero waste movements, and that we need to consider all the waste that could be created if we don’t have the forethought and mindfulness of using what we’ve already got.
The Transition - Some Tips
Now I’m not the first person to write about the zero waste home or transitioning into cultivating and sustaining a zero waste home. So I’m going to share with you some awesome resources that already exist.
Going Zero Waste created the 10 steps to going zero waste. All 10 of these steps are crucial to making your transition work. I’m only going to go into a few of them but the rest are seen here in this infographic that was shared on their blog.
Step 1. Awareness and Education:
The first step is being aware of the problem. The better you educate yourself, the easier it becomes to make decisions that support your zero waste lifestyle goal. There’s lots of resources to learn more about what a huge problem we really have and I’ve linked a couple here.
Step 2. Phase Out:
This is a crucial step. If you’re going to go zero waste, you need to remember that the first part includes using what you already have. Don’t throw anything away, use those plastic sandwich baggies, finish all your cosmetic and beauty care products, finish using the extra paper products like napkins and paper towels before you buy anything else. Once you’ve used something up, that’s when you start to use your zero waste principles to thoughtfully purchase new items.
Step 3. Simple Swaps:
While you’re phasing out and getting ready to purchase new things, consider these simple swaps.
1 - buy a reusable mug for your coffee (I have this one). This way you ditch the single use cups you get at the coffee shop, and you can carry your drink with you around all day. Don’t want to buy a new mug? You can use a mason jar with a lid, or just use a mason jar (I use one at my desk instead of a plastic cup).
2 - refuse single use plastic bags while you’re shopping (groceries and retail!). After you refuse, purchase or reuse other bags to carry your things. Reusable bags come in all different types of materials and styles, my favorite being cloth or canvas bags. Better yet, you can make your own reusable bags from old t-shirts. Instructions here.
3 - refuse single use plastic straws. Please, I promise you don’t need a straw. Say you still insist on needing one or just love that mouth feel? - You can get yourself a reusable straw (bamboo, metal, plastic, glass, there’s tons of options) to use instead.
4 - if the mason jar or reusable mug isn’t enough, get yourself a nice reusable water bottle (I have this one and this one for all my beer/cider/kombucha needs). Metal or glass are preferred materials in the zero waste movement, but plastic works too as you’re starting your journey. Having a reusable water bottle also helps you remember to drink more water - which will help you stay hydrated throughout the day!
The most important thing here, when you do buy new items to help support your zero waste lifestyle changes, make sure you purchase items that are going to last. Buy quality items so that you know that three years from now you won’t need to replace it. There are a lot of great options out there. The Package Free Shop seems to be a popular choice by many folks.
Step 4. Patience:
This is the last step I’m going to go in depth about because it’s important. You won’t go zero waste overnight. I do this for a living every day and I feel like I live, eat, and breathe zero waste and I’m not 100% zero waste yet. I wouldn’t even say I’m 85% zero waste - just because of my current life situation. One day, I’ll get there, it’s an evolution, and having patience is critical to the success of a great zero waste lifestyle change.
Transition is difficult and sometimes is the hardest part of making changes.
So hang in there and I promise that it’ll get easier.
So this ends the first half of this zero waste home blog. Stay tuned for my second half next week which will include some tips on how to set up zero waste processes in your house and how to encourage zero waste with your kids.
Thanks for reading!
- Cassidy Putney, Director of Sustainability and Communications at Impact Earth