Use containers instead of plastic wrap/tinfoil to store food./Use beeswax wraps.
Instead of using those disposable options, make the switch to reusable containers. They’ll last for years. If you need to save up for that, you can always cover with another plate or bowl as a cover. Home cooking is helpful when going zero waste, but cooking often means leftovers. If you use tin foil or plastic wrap to save those leftovers, you know how quickly you can run through a roll.
If you prefer something that will act like plastic wrap, consider making the investment into beeswax wraps. They’re naturally anti-microbial thanks to the beeswax and jojoba oil included in the coating.
Use rags instead of paper towels/Paperless Towels
Paper towels were one of the first things that I stopped using when I started to reduce my waste. I couldn’t stand having to go out again and again to buy something just so I would throw it in the trash.
I cut up a bunch of my old athletic t-shirts and made them into rags for our cleaning. Now we just keep them in a bin in the kitchen and have a hanging bag for collecting them as we use them.
If you are firmly entrenched in the habit of using paper towels, or you have a partner/roommate who is resistant to switching, consider investing in paperless towels. They are easy to roll up onto an old paper towel rod and put anywhere that your regular paper towels would go. They are also made of 100% cotton flannel, which means that they’ll stick to one another, so when you “rip” one of them off, you don’t need to worry about the rest of the roll coming with it.
Composting is a great option for those who can. There are several options for composting, (here’s a more in-depth article, if you want to dive in deeper) depending on where you live/what your state regulations are.
Your state may have a municipal set-up for composting. If so, that’s great. You just need to worry about getting your scraps to the drop-off point, wherever that is.
If you’re in an apartment, there is the bokashi method, as well as the worm bin. This is something that will have a bit of a learning curve, but it’s something that will also serve you in the long run. Bokashi essentially ferments your food scraps, one positive is that you can put anything in here, including meat scraps and bones, which is not the case with the other compost methods. Worm bins have become increasingly popular, since the red wigglers that live in these bins are excellent composters and give off “worm castings” (fancy word for poop) that serve as excellent fertilizers for any houseplants you may have.
Outside methods consist of making a square bin or using a compost tumbler. Additionally, you could go the low energy route of dropping things into a pile and letting nature take its course (my current way). It’ll definitely take longer, but it’s low effort.
Reorganize your fridge into specific compartments so you know what to eat first to avoid food waste
One way that you can combat food waste is to organize your fridge so that things have homes in there. Have a place for leftovers so you know what needs to be eaten up before it goes bad. Make sure that you practice food rotation, so you’re always using up the older items first. And most importantly, learn how to store food so that it doesn’t go bad.
Use up what you have before going out to buy more “eco-friendly” options.
Make sure that you do an audit of what you have and use up what you have before you go out and buy a more eco friendly option. The most eco-friendly thing is the thing that you already own. It’s already part of the waste stream, so you want to make sure that you’re using everything up completely before you go buy. This goes for consumables, as well as the more long-lived pieces in our house, like water bottles.
Accept that you will never be zero waste, but that some movement is better than none.
These last few are more mindset shifts and can be a little harder to implement than the ones before. Zero Waste is a mythical thing. Not in that the movement doesn’t exist, but that ideal of truly producing no waste ever is just not possible in our current economic structure. We are built for a linear-style economy, which means that resources are used to make something, it’s sold, it’s used, then it goes into the trash.
Second, third, forever uses are simply not the norm to think of when companies create products and packaging. If you beat yourself up over producing waste, it’s not going to do anything. Even though producing no waste is as attainable as running a marathon in thirty minutes, that doesn’t mean that we need to despair and give up. The changes you’re making are important, even if it you’re not making as much progress as you hoped you would.
Hone your “make-it-do” attitude.
Truly, one of the hardest things of zero waste is breaking the consumer instinct that is instilled in us (Americans, at least) from birth. We are being marketed to from our earliest memories, and American culture encourages buying as much as you can to “keep up with the Joneses.” This is super damaging, not only to the environment, but to your own well-being. With this imperative to “buy, buy, buy,” soon we’re surrounded by stuff that we don’t necessarily love, but “need” to keep because everyone else has one. Instead of running out to buy something as soon as a new situation arises, look around and see if there’s something you could Macgyver into serving your needs. Knowing and learning how to do this will really help you on your journey to zero waste.
Second-hand shopping is my favorite. It may be trite, but things really are not made how they used to be. This is something that is true all over, from furniture to appliances to clothing. One way to increase quality while saving a ton of money in the process is to shop secondhand. I started doing this because I was frugal and paying full price for something just killed me. I learned this from my mom. I remember yard-saling was an event in my house. We would all load up into the car and go to yard sales all over our area. It was an adventure, never knowing what we’d find. That thrill is still there when I go into second hand shops or yard sales now, at 27 years old. These things are already in the waste stream, so buying what you need second hand is one way to reduce your carbon footprint.
Identify your “enough” and stick to it.
This is something that I learned from one of my favorite podcasters, Jenna Kutcher. She regularly talks about finding your enough. This could apply in many different ways, but when we apply it to Zero Waste, look at your habits and see what you could switch. Start small and work your way up. If you start trying to go whole hog into this, it can become really overwhelming. Find a habit or two (maybe ones I’ve talked about here) and work on them until they’re just part of your daily life. Then, move on to new ones. It’ll feel a lot more manageable.
Switch out your paper coffee filters for reusable ones.
Paper filters are so common that you can google and find tons of crafts to do with them, since it’s assumed you likely already have them in the house. You can make an easy switch to cloth coffee filters that are reusable for months to years and save the trash from your morning cup of coffee.