Starting to have a more sustainable lifestyle is of great importance nowadays, especially considering all the environmental problems that we are facing due to the lack of consciousness regarding the impact that our habits have on our planet’s health.
There is an imperative need to change the way that we live, even the smallest actions have a great impact on the carbon footprint that we leave behind, but some of us have no idea where to start or how to switch to a more sustainable way of living, so we asked the experts their best tips and advice on how to start transitioning into a zero-waste lifestyle, keep reading to know what they said.
Q: What is the zero-waste movement and why is it important for more people to adopt this lifestyle?
A: Zero waste is about eliminating waste and overconsumption. It is about stopping the production and consumption of single-use products that end up as waste. With Climate Change being our biggest issue, adopting a zero-waste lifestyle is probably one of the most important steps we can all make to minimize our impact on the environment. Most of the damage to the planet happens in the extraction and production phase so using the waste hierarchy is critical. The top-level of that is prevention: don’t create waste in the first place. If we are going to move towards a zero-waste, we need to start today. To achieve zero waste, we need a clear target. We need local and central governments to work together to set a date and a target goal of zero. Our motto in the movement is: If we cannot reuse it, if we cannot recycle it, if we cannot compost it, we simply shouldn’t be making it, a quote from Dr. Paul Connett.”
By Marty Hoffart, Chair at Zero Waste Network Aotearoa
Q: Which tips can you give us to start going zero waste at home?
A: I actually don’t love the term “zero-waste” because it implies the need for perfection, getting your waste down to zero, which can be so intimidating that it stops some people from taking any action. At Plaine Products we prefer “progress, not perfection” as a mantra. To reduce waste in your life we suggest starting with small manageable changes and expanding from there. And be opportunistic, it doesn’t help the waste problem to throw everything plastic away and start fresh. As you replace, take the time to make more sustainable choices and move your household in a zero-waste direction.
A few suggestions for the kitchen:
The next time you run out of saran wrap try wax wraps which can be rinsed and reused over and over again. You can purchase them or make them on your own.
As you purchase new cooking utensils, switch away from plastic to bamboo or stainless steel.
Cooking at home is a great way to avoid single-use plastic. No takeout containers or plastic utensils. Eating at home means you can avoid to-go food packaging, plastic doggy bags, straws, and more. Challenge yourself to cook a version of your favorite takeout!
In the bathroom:
Replace your worn-out plastic toothbrush with a bamboo one! Bamboo is a more sustainable material and toothbrushes can be composted when you’re done using them. In the realm of tooth hygiene, you can also check out dental lace, a non-plastic version of dental floss, and toothpaste bites or tooth powder instead of traditional tube toothpaste. More and more options are becoming available.
Try out shampoo and conditioner bars or refillable personal care options like Plaine Products.
According to the EPA, nearly 2 billion plastic disposable razors are thrown away each year! Safety razors are made of stainless steel and the blades are fully recyclable. They are a bit more of an investment up front but will save you money in the long run.
Carry reusable shopping bags, including smaller bags for produce, or you can skip the produce bags altogether since you’ll be washing your fruit and vegetables before using them anyway.
Now many foods from tea to rice, flours to nuts, and chocolate chips to olive oil are available in bulk. Shopping in bulk can reduce packaging waste and may even save you some money. It can also reduce food waste because you can get just the amount you need. Gather up your mason jars, cloth bags, and reusable containers and choose to shop in bulk.
Consider the packaging when you make a purchase. Metal is a material that is infinitely recyclable, it never needs to be thrown away. Glass and paper are the materials that are next on the list as far as ease and the number of times they can be recycled. Plastic is more challenging to recycle because there are so many types and much of the products are made from mixed plastic. However, even the plastic that is the easiest to recycle can only be reused once or twice before it becomes unusable and ends up in a landfill.
By Lindsey McCoy, CEO at Plaine Products
Q: What are the first steps we can take to start being more eco-conscious and lower our household waste as much as possible?
A: Get informed. Read, watch documentaries and search for information about the environmental impacts of your diet, water usage, energy consumption, and energy sources. Remember, each country and region has different challenges regarding these aspects – the energy mix and water problems depend on the country you live in.
Think in systems. Read about the life cycle analysis of products before you buy them. Sometimes we think a certain product is better for the environment but when we analyze the carbon footprint of its entire life cycle, we might find surprises. Information is power!
Start making small changes:
Take less time showering.
Close the tap when you are rinsing the dishes or washing your teeth.
If you eat meat and dairy regularly, you can find ways to reduce your consumption. Eat more veggies, try to eat vegetarian or vegan meals once every week. If possible, buy meat and dairy that are produced locally with regenerative practices.
Only buy things you really need: food, clothing, electronic devices, etc. Embrace a minimalist lifestyle: it is easier for you and good for the planet!
Reduce your waste: shop with a bag you already own, buy your food in a farmer’s market, try to avoid package meals, do not use disposable utensils if not needed.
Compost your organic waste, and give your cardboard, paper, plastic, glass, and metal waste to your local recycler.
Share these practices with your neighbors, family, and friends. It is easier if you have an accountability partner! Join the #30Days4theClimate campaign to find more tips to lower your household environmental impact!
By Valentina Mondragón Pérez, Alliance Coordinator at Low Carbon City
Q: What changes can we do in our kitchen to start reducing our household waste as much as possible?
A: Fantastic question! The biggest thing to remember when you are starting out is to go slow- there is so much plastic in your kitchen and you don’t even realize it sometimes. Going cold turkey can have a similar effect as quitting smoking cold turkey- it’s a shock to the system and there’s a very good chance of relapse.
Also throwing out, for example, an entire roll of plastic wrap is in itself wasteful, as opposed to using it up and just simply not buying more and exploring alternatives after it’s gone.
The next few points are under the above assumption that you are slowly transitioning your kitchen to be plastics free and you’re not doing everything all at once.
Mason jars will be your best friend. You’ll want all shapes and sizes and with large openings. I like to get mine at thrift stores when I can, they are usually well priced plus the benefit of them not being wrapped in plastic. Unfortunately purchasing new mason jars at the grocery store will come wrapped in packaging.
Dried goods are one of the easiest things to transition to zero waste – you can purchase them at bulk food stores (Bulk Barn) or zero waste shops (The Tare Shop here in Nova Scotia) that will allow you to bring your own jars.
If your nearest bulk food store is a trek away (so your emissions from your vehicle sorta outweigh the benefit of buying package-free goods) you can buy in large quantities. Grab that big 20KG bag of flour! It’ll last forever and you’re only bringing one piece of packaging into your home.
If you have the time; make things yourself. I have fallen in love with my homemade mayonnaise. It’s delicious, easy to make, and removes multiple single-use packages from my kitchen because the mayo can also be used for caesar salad dressing, tartar sauce, coleslaw dressing, and so on.
I could go on for paragraphs about the things I choose to make myself- it brings me both joy and satisfaction!
Sourcing locally made food is a great way to transition the packaging in your home to something more sustainable and/ or recyclable. For example, I don’t like making my own mustard- it STINKS up my kitchen for days so I’ve found a local company based out of PEI that makes traditional mustard seed mustard, their operations are powered by solar and the mustard comes in a glass jar. Sometimes I’ll save the glass jars when they are empty or I will clean and recycle them knowing that products like glass and aluminum are more likely to be properly recycled. It’s also a plus that I’m supporting a small business.
Get a bread box! That way you can either make your own, or get a loaf of bread from your local bakery that maybe just came in a small brown bag (or if you’re lucky maybe no bag, and you can plop it into your cotton tote and bring it home) and keep it fresh without needing plastic.
Use stale bread to make croutons and bread crumbs and store them in your handy mason jars.
Get reusable produce bags to eliminate needing to use those little plastic bags at the stores.
Use reusable shopping bags.
Keep both those things in your car so you don’t forget them! I keep the produce bags and 1 compact reusable bag in my purse at all times.
Eliminate the need for paper towels by using rags. I have a few microfibre cloths plus an old hoodie that I’ve cut up into manageable sized pieces to use for cleaning up.
It’s still nice to have some paper towels for emergencies so I keep a pack of paper towels under the sink made from 100% post-consumer paper products.
Replace using ziplock bags and plastic wrap with various sizes of tupperware (glass or ceramic preferred but plastic is still ok when it’s reusable), reusable silicone bags, and beeswax wraps.
You can purchase beeswax wraps or make them yourself.
My last piece of advice: If it is possible, buy as much as you can at your local farmer’s markets, butchers or deli before going to a grocery store. A lot of the time packaging will be minimal (meat coming in compostable butcher paper as opposed to a styrofoam tray wrapped in plastic wrap) or flexible (grabbing that loaf of bread before it goes in a bag), you are reducing the carbon emissions from products being transported (something just as crucial as removing our reliance from plastics and other packaging) and on top of that, you are supporting your local economy and keeping your money in your community.
By Nicole Hubley from Creating With Nicole
Q: How can we build a zero-waste pantry and what kind of cleaning products should we use to reduce waste?
A: Zero-Waste Pantry
Building a zero-waste pantry that is worthy of the best Instagram photo, might not be something that everyone can achieve overnight. But it is for sure worth a try and the great news is you do not have to break the bank to set it up. You can also start small and maybe select a few items that you want to start with or maybe even a specific shelf in your pantry that you want to have zero-waste. Here are a few of my favourite zero-waste pantry tips.
Food in the pantry
Before you purchase anything new for the pantry, take stock of what you have and finish your existing pantry items before purchasing something new.
Find a bulk food store near you. It does not always have to be a package-free store. There are many supermarkets that have their own bulk sections, but you might just have to check how their system works and if you can pre-weight your containers or if they tare each jar and fill it up.
Always go to the store with a shopping list and stick to purchasing only what is on the list. I go grocery shopping weekly and would also then have a quick look at the pantry to see if there are items that are running low.
Try to shop local wherever possible. Farmers’ markets and independent stores are often more likely to provide you package-free options.
Storage containers in the pantry. You do not need to purchase an entirely new glass jar collection, to be zero-waste. Have a look at what you already have in your kitchen and also what type of jars would you prefer to use. My personal preference is to have only a few different types of containers, which makes looking for lids a lot easier. I love clear glass jars as this makes it easier to see the contents as well as the stock levels. You can also write the names with a chalk pen that is easy to remove. Take it one step at a time and one pantry item at a time and celebrate the little wins. Living a zero-waste lifestyle is a journey and not a race.
Buying new containers for me is the last resort. Here are a few tips for free or super cheap containers:
Purchasing products in reusable glass jars. You can over time build up a great collection.
Keep an eye on your local buy nothing group or reach out and ask if someone in the group has a few extra containers. Someone might have just what you need.
Visit your local op shops. This can be hit and miss, but I have picked up the majority of my pyrex collection from our local op shop.
If you have tried all the free solutions, look at good quality containers that will last and have the option to purchase replacement lids. I love using silicone or plastic lids in the fridge and freezer as some of the steel lids tend to get a bit rusty with time if frequently used in the fridge or freezer.
Cleaning products to use to reduce waste
I have not set foot in the cleaning product aisle of our supermarket for some time. Not only does a lot of the mainstream cleaning products heavily packaged, but it also contains a lot of water and some often harsh chemicals. It was a no brainer for me to switch to an eco-friendly zero-waste solution. There are many amazing brands and stores around the world that makes cleaning products with zero or very little waste. I love to support organizations that are trying to make a difference, but I also like to make a few cleaning products myself as well.
There are many refillable options available. You can purchase concentrated products, that can either be in a liquid, powder, sheet, or tablet form and add water at home. You can also refill with ready to use products that are already diluted for you.
If you have never made cleaning products, I would highly recommend giving them a go, there are some great recipes and the majority of them are made from items that you might already have in your pantry or could easily purchase in bulk. Making your own definitely works out a lot cheaper and gives you the peace of mind to know you do not have any nasty chemicals that could cause your family and furry friends harm.
By Mariska Nell from Mama Earth Talk
Q: Which changes can we make in our bathroom to go zero waste?
A: There’s so much we can do in the bathroom to go zero waste and the good news is this doesn’t mean giving up a lot nor spending more money, in fact, you will quickly save money! If you haven’t done so already, repurpose three small bins from around the house for your primary bathroom and label them “Recycle”, “Compost”, and “Trash”. (One day soon you should hopefully be able to get rid of the Trash bin!) Notice what goes into the bins and think about how to switch to non-disposable alternatives.
A few of the biggest switches you can think about making are shampoo and conditioner bars, a homemade or Recyclable toothpaste option, reusable beauty swabs and cloth tissues.
I am not a big fan of online ordering so look around at your local zero waste or health food shops for shampoo and conditioner bars, and stock up!! Not all bars are created equally so test out a few and settle on the ones you like the best.
At the same shops, look for toothpaste tablets or toothpaste in metal pouches. Most toothpaste tubes are not recyclable meaning that billions of them are sent to landfills and incinerators and into the natural environment as pollution around the world, every year. Check out our Zero Waste blog at ThinkZero LLC.com for my tried and true toothpaste recipe that I use and takes 5 minutes to make with a few simple ingredients.
Disposable Ear swabs represent another opportunity to make a fun switch- we recommend the LastSwab’s reusable ear and beauty swabs but there are a couple of other knock-offs available on the market now.
Most households use a tremendous amount of tissue and toilet paper, most of which translates to millions of trees being cut down every year- but it doesn’t have to be this way! Invest in a set of organic cotton or flannel facial wipes, and washable, reusable cloth “paper” towels, use them and toss them into your regular wash. Our organic flannel wipes have stood the test of time, 8 years, and still going strong 💪!
These are a couple of fun, money-saving zero waste bathroom switches we recommend starting with- enjoy!
By Sarah Currie-Halpern, Co-Founder & Partner at Think Zero LLC
Q: How can we change our personal care products to their more sustainable alternatives embracing a zero-waste lifestyle?
A: What made the most sense to me, was looking at sustainable alternatives to my care products, once I was done with them and had to replace them anyway. I definitely think that option is more sustainable than throwing products away, just to buy new, that’s not the point of zero waste.
I quickly started to look at solid versions of care and beauty products that I would previously have bought in liquid form. Buying a solid version means less packaging, and also less product waste inside the container. Solid shampoo and conditioner bars are at this point becoming more and more available, and it’s a really good place to start.
I can also recommend sustainable toothpaste options, like tooth tabs. You chew them like a mint, wet your toothbrush, and brush your teeth with the paste created by the tooth tab, pretty neat.
Another thing I want to highlight is using one product to do many things, rather than investing in tons of different specialized products, this saves waste, packaging, and resources. This can for instance be makeup products, lotions, etc.
By Gittemarie Johansen, Lecturer, author, and content creator at Gittemary
Q: What advice can you give us to make our period more eco-friendly and avoid generating sanitary waste?
A: Menstruating people go through billions of pads and tampons every year, which makes it a perfect area to target when it comes to sustainable and eco-friendly living. The truth is, we don’t need disposable products like tampons and pads to support us on our period. And in fact, there are much comfier, eco-friendly ways to manage your period and they all focus on reusable products. My personal favorite are period undies because they feel like you’re not wearing anything at all. They come in many different sizes and cuts to accommodate all body types and shapes. And they collect your period just like a pad except it’s embedded right into the underwear. Simply throw the period undie into the laundry with the rest of your clothes and use it again and again. There are also reusable cloth pads that you can use instead of the traditional disposable pads, but I feel like the period undies are the most seamless and comfortable to wear. My go-to brand for eco-friendly period products is Thinx. I’ve been a longtime supporter of them and I’m also an ambassador, helping them to educate people about menstrual health.
For my tampon users, a menstrual cup is most in alignment with your current period routine. A menstrual is a cup made out of medical grade silicone that can be used for up to 10 years. You insert it just as you would a tampon and it collects your period. Simply remove, empty, and wash the cup, and you can use it again and again. Some people like using a combination of period undies and menstrual cups. But at the end of the day, it all comes down to what makes you feel most comfortable in your body.
Since I switched to reusable period products several years ago, I have not sent one pad, panty liner, or tampon to the landfill, and it’s as simple as upgrading your period routine to an eco-friendly (much comfier and less chafing option!).
By Shannon Kenny from Mama Eco
Q: How can we replace single-use plastic around the home?
A: Here are some tips on how to reduce single-use plastics and lead a life with less waste.
Drink from a reusable water bottle. Instead of buying your drinks in single-use plastics, invest in a good quality reusable bottle and start enjoying your favorite beverages zero-waste.
Bring your own bags to the grocery store. When shopping for groceries, bring your own cotton shopper, or reuse a sturdy plastic one. A lot of supermarkets now offer reusable bags for loose produce such as fruit and vegetables. If you’re a DIY master, you could also sew reusable bags from old curtains and cotton sheets.
Buy food in bulk. Whenever possible, opt for buying food in bulk instead of reaching for the items packed in single-use plastics. This one can be tricky, but many supermarkets are starting to offer more and more zero-waste options. Whenever possible, buy food at the farmer’s market. It’s fresh, locally produced, and usually doesn’t come packed in plastic.
Say no to single-use drinking straws. It takes about 200 years for a plastic drinking straw to decompose. Next time you’re out ordering drinks, ask the waiter to skip the straw or use a more sustainable alternative, such as wooden or metal straw.
Use sustainable tableware at social events. Ban Plastic cutlery, glasses, and plates, which we use on average for just about 12 to 15 minutes, and end up in a pile of trash at the end of the day, instead, you can use regular tableware and wash it afterward. Another option is to use sustainable tableware that is easy to carry around and can be perfect for an outdoor date or a picnic with friends by the river.
Plan ahead. You can always carry a reusable bag with you or store it somewhere handy in your car. All the coffee-to-go lovers out there, remember to bring a reusable coffee cup with you, as the single-use cups cannot be recycled. When ordering food delivery, refuse the plastic utensils that come with it. Bring a reusable container to a restaurant to store any leftovers and enjoy them the next day.
Reuse plastic items you already have. When embarking on a sustainable lifestyle journey, there’s no need to throw away all the plastic items you still possess. It is far more environmentally friendly to take good care of the things you already have and use them as many times as possible. Plastic bags can be washed with some warm water and detergent, air-dried and voilà, you can use them again and again and again.
Q: What strategies can we implement to completely ban plastic from our homes?
A: You might not realize quite how many items in your home are made of plastic – from the obvious items like toiletries, cleaning products, and packaging, to the less obvious like furniture and appliances. It is very difficult to completely eliminate plastic from your home. And just because plastic is bad when it gets into the environment, that doesn’t mean you need to get rid of it altogether. Plastic can be an extremely useful material and has many applications. Therefore, we should be aiming for a mindset and behavior shift around the way we use and dispose of plastic.
There are many strategies you can implement to minimize disposable plastic items from your home, just a few options are outlined below.
Bedroom. You may not think you have much plastic in your bedroom, but take a look at the labels on your clothes and you will notice that almost all of them will contain polyester, nylon, acrylic and polyamide (amongst others). These fabrics shed tiny fibres called microplastics when you wear them. This also happens when your clothes are washed, eventually making their way into the ocean. To eliminate plastic from your wardrobe, you can opt for natural fabrics. Things like wool, organic cotton, hemp, and linen are all great materials that do not shed plastic microfibres. You can also reduce the amount of microplastics coming from plastic clothing you own, by washing less and using shorter, cooler washes. And why not try a Guppyfriend bag to catch any fibres before they go down the drain!
Household & Kitchen. One of the biggest sources of plastic in your kitchen will be the food you buy. Nowadays, even fresh fruit and vegetables are covered in layers of plastic. The biggest way to avoid this is to purchase your fruit and veg from a local market or greengrocer, and taking your own bags with you. Buy direct from butchers, fishmongers, and delicatessens or equivalent counters in supermarkets, and ask the server to put your item into a container you’ve brought from home. Bulk food stores are also popping up around the world, allowing you to purchase dry goods like cereals, baking ingredients, and spices with zero packaging. Making your own meals and snacks from scratch will also go a long way in eliminating plastic from your home. But if you need to buy processed or plastic packaged items, buying in bulk can help reduce your plastic footprint. Choose a large share bag of crisps, rather than multipacks!
Bathroom. It’s pretty commonplace for toiletries to be packaged in plastic, but that doesn’t mean alternatives aren’t out there! More and more brands are realising that customers don’t want wasteful and unnecessary plastic. Switch single-use items for reusable – a metal safety razor can last a lifetime, and save you money. You can switch your bottles of shampoo, conditioner, cleanser, and moisturiser for bars, which come in fully recyclable and plastic-free packaging. Companies like Beauty Kitchen have even implemented refill and return schemes for their products, allowing the same aluminum bottles to be used again and again. Look for products which come packaging-free, wrapped in paper or cardboard, or packaged in glass or aluminum.
It is important to remember though, that you do not need to buy new plastic-free items just to replace plastic products that are still fully functioning. If your plastic hairbrush is still doing its job, you don’t need to throw it away and buy a bamboo one.
Other items which have long lifespans and are not ‘single-use’ (such as a TV, games and toys, furniture) can be kept in the house without posing much risk to the environment. If you do choose to remove them, make sure to donate them to a charity shop, sell them or give them away online (Facebook marketplace, GumTree, and Freecycle are all great!). A quick search online for many items will tell you where is in most need of them. Have some old stationery? Give it to a local school. Upgrading your office equipment? Donate it to a charity or non-profit.
By Rebecca Daniel, Marine Biologist and Director of The Marine Diaries
Q: Which eco-friendly product swaps would you recommend doing at home for more sustainable zero waste alternatives?
Here are three suggestions:
We can all make small changes to lead a more sustainable lifestyle. While you may not think your individual efforts matter, think again. If billions of people across the planet make changes, it will make a huge impact, says Neil Rhein, founder and executive director of Keep Massachusetts Beautiful. Here are three ways you can make a difference.
Choose bamboo paper towels and toilet paper. We throw away a lot of paper towels—13 billion pounds of them per year to be exact, according to oceanconservancy.org, and they’re not recyclable. As for toilet paper, America uses the most toilet paper of any country.
As an alternative, consider using paper towels and toilet paper made from bamboo. Bamboo grows quickly, doesn’t require pesticides, and uses way less water than the trees paper towels, and toilet paper are made from.
Substitute beeswax wrap for plastic wrap or aluminum foil. This eco-friendly and sustainable wrap takes the place of plastic wrap. Use it as a cover for containers or wrap it directly around food. It’s washable, reusable, and compostable.
Add reusable straws to your purse or backpack. If you love straws and can’t live without them, it’s time to invest in stainless steel or bamboo reusable ones. Plastic straws are difficult to recycle because of their weight—they’re so light, they fall out of recycling sorters and often end up in our oceans where they break down into dangerous microplastics. So, save our oceans and marine life by ditching plastic straws and investing in eco-friendly reusable straws.
By Neil Rhein, Founder & Executive Director at Keep Massachusetts Beautiful
Q: Which actions can we take to go plastic-free at home?
A: Plastic has become a constant element in our lives and it’s everywhere. Over 500 million tonnes of plastic are produced worldwide, and in 2020, we generated 900% more plastic than in 1980. This means that by 2050, the oceans could potentially contain more plastic than fish! It is up to us to try and change that.
At TreeEra, we understand that becoming completely eco-friendly and sustainable can seem intimidating at first, but small steps can have a huge impact! Here are 5 ways you can start to reduce plastic in your home:
Replace your plastic Tupperware with glass containers or invest in reusable beeswax food wraps.
Invest in reusable cloth bags to take with you to the grocery store.
Buy your food in bulk and purchase fewer packaged products.
Carry metal or silicone reusable straws with you to use at restaurants.
Instead of buying single-use water bottles, invest in a reusable water bottle you can refill throughout the day.
TreeEra wants to help individuals and businesses reduce their carbon footprint by community-funding the planting of trees. Aside from tree planting, TreeEra believes that reducing your everyday plastic use is an easy and efficient way to take action against climate change.
By Mairyn Chorney from Tree Era
Q: How can we reduce waste using the 10 R’s method for ethical decluttering?
A: Have you ever considered the environmental impact clutter has on our planet and your health and well-being? Ethical decluttering helps slow down mindless consumption and reconnect us with what we truly need and want in our lives. Everything we buy comes with a carbon footprint, precious trees, the lungs of our planet are cut down to make paper and furniture- oil is extracted to make plastics- coal to run factories and homes.
By switching to mindful consumption, we reduce waste/clutter and together we help push back Earth Overshoot Day.
The 10R’s© eco organize our future:
Rethink. Before clicking on the mouse or adding something to the cart, stop and pause for 3 seconds, allowing for our emotions to catch up with our rational thoughts. And rethink, Do I need it? Will it add value to my life? Is there an equivalent with less packaging? Is the product reusable or single-use? What is the recycled content, and, where can I recycle it at the end of life? When we shop with intention, not on a whim, we practice mindful consumption, reducing our carbon footprint.
When it comes to ethical decluttering, it’s important to look and feel each item and rethink again. Do I need it? Will it add value to my life? Do I have similar?
Responsible. Through small lifestyle changes, we can responsibly dispose of unwanted items and reduce waste.
Check your local government, ask what can and can’t be recycled
Donate quality items to a local charity
Use what you have
Buy what you need
Refuse. It is ok to say “no thank you” and refuse things that add clutter/waste to your life, for example: buy one get one free, gift and promotion bags, excess packaging, single-use products, and greenwashing, rethink, do I have similar already?
Repurpose. When something is deemed clutter, consider repurposing and reusing, before buying more.
Reorganize. Our homes don’t come with elastic side walls, when they become stuffed, they become uncomfortable, building bigger and bigger homes to accommodate clutter does not make environmental or financial sense. Try ethically decluttering and reorganizing your home so it functions and flows for you.
Repair. In a world of designed obsolescence, conditioned to throw things away, reach out to your local Repair Cafes and learn how to repair things before landfill.
Reduce. Have you ever heard of anyone lying on their death bed saying? “I wish I got to the half yearly sales” you are more likely to hear “I wish I spent more time with my family and friends”. Why bring things into your life that do not add value?
Reuse. We are awash with reusable options -coffee cups, menstrual cups, shopping bags, and water bottles just to name a few, consider joining your local Tool Library for the ultimate in reusing experience.
Recycle. It takes energy to recycle so it’s important to recycle right. Packaging- Check labels for local recycling information. Food Waste-Compost food waste, start a worm farm, check EPA Food Waste Programs. Textiles-Look for a textile recycling company near you. E-Waste- Recycle cell phones and computers near you.
Reward. When we reduce clutter and waste, we are rewarded with more time, space, energy and money. When we reduce waste, we reduce our carbon footprint and that rewards us all.
By Tanya Lewis ~The Eco Organiser® Australia’s leading clutter free lifestyle coach
Q: What is the most eco-friendly way to get rid of the organic waste we generate at home?
1.- Prevent food waste. Eat as much of the foods you purchase as possible. Cook creatively. Use parts of the food you consider scraps. Roast your kale stems and eat fruit and vegetable peels. Freeze fruits that are over-ripe until you can use them in cooking or baking. And when it comes to healthy delicious, but perishable foods, buy just enough and shop more frequently. Leafy greens are key to a healthy diet, but they spoil within a few days in the refrigerator.
2.- Compost your food waste. Some organic waste is inevitable – the inedible parts of foods like melon rinds and bones or that last bit of takeout ramen that got pushed to the back of the fridge. If food can not be eaten by people or animals the next best use is compost for growing nutritious, delicious foods.
Composting is the natural process of recycling organic matter, such as leaves and food scraps, into a valuable soil amendment. Compost requires both “greens” (food) for nitrogen and “browns” (wood chips, yard debris) for carbon. Cities like San Francisco, Seattle, Boulder, and both Portlands provide residential compost collection.
New York’s curbside collection program will start back up this fall. Some communities have compost drop off options, such as farmers markets, farms, public parks, and local waste transfer stations.
If there is no local solution and you have a garden or know gardeners who would use your compost, dig in and become a home composter. There are many compost equipment options from a simple wire bin (a perfect DIY option) or a faster working tumbling composter. And if you don’t have outdoor space, you can actually compost with earthworms in your house with no smells and a lot of fun. There are multiple worm bin options. The Worm Farm Composter is on the fancier side, but great to use with kids.
Eliminating food waste is one of the top interventions for reversing Climate Change. More than 30% of the food grown around the world is wasted from farm to plate. Most of it ends up in landfills where, due to a lack of oxygen, it generates methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. Methane is around 25 times more powerful than CO2, and it ends up in our environment every time we throw food waste in the trash as opposed to composting it. So compost all the leftovers and scraps you can’t eat!
By Christina Grace, CEO at Foodprint Group
Q: Which are the best water conservation tips you can give us to save water at home and in the garden?
A: For the garden
Remove grass or let the lawn go brown
Add lots of compost to the soil
Add mulch around the plants
Water during the cooler part of the day, usually evenings
Use greywater and harvest rainwater
For the home
Use a dishwashing machine instead of hand washing—One thing that I learned — which surprised me — is that you actually save more water by using a dishwasher instead of washing dishes by hand.
Install a low flow shower head: it costs only about $5 but can save about 2 gallons of water per minute. Compared to a standard shower head, a family of four can save approximately 20,000 gallons of water per year.
Turn off water while washing hands and brushing teeth—According to the EPA, you can save up to 8 gallons of water every day if you just turn off water while brushing your teeth. That adds up to at least 200 gallons a month.
Skip soda and beer—I know I’m talking about reducing our water usage, but drinking only water is still a better option compared to drinking beer and soda: 20 gallons of water go into making one pint of beer, and roughly two glasses of water go into that glass of soda.
Say “no” to water in restaurants unless you plan to drink it all.
By Fredrika Syren from Zero Waste Family
Q: What is the best advice you can give us to avoid wasting food at home?
A: My favorite “First Thing’s First” advice is to buy less food to begin with! Most families end up throwing away almost 20% of what they bring home from the grocery store. We’re conditioned to think we need a huge abundance and variety at all times, but we could do with less. Try writing out a menu plan for the week and using those meal ideas to make a grocery list. Make a quick list of snacks, fruit, cheeses, and veggies you’ll buy – then see if you can cross off a few ideas and buy those next week instead. Also, before you shop, physically check in your pantry to see what you have so you don’t overbuy. Taking these free and easy steps will actually save you money, they will save you time because you’ll be buying and putting away less, and you will naturally be more likely to eat what you have and thus reduce wasted food at home.
By Alison Mountford from Ends+Stems Meal Plans to Reduce Food Waste
Q: How can we achieve to be zero waste while traveling?
A: I believe that the best way to be zero waste while traveling is to put together your own zero waste travel kit.
When I travel, the first things I put in my kit are my shampoo bar, body wash bar, toothpaste tablets, and mouthwash tablets. This way, I know I’ll never have to use those wasteful little bottles at hotels. Next, since we’re often eating out when we’re traveling, I add my reusable utensil set. This set includes a fork, spoon, knife, straw, and napkin all conveniently stored together in a small linen bag.
Since fast food restaurants are notoriously wasteful (and unhealthy!). We try to stop by grocery stores to get our meals. It’s even better if we can find grocery stores that allow you to use your own reusable containers. For shorter trips, we’ll even pack food from home so we don’t have to worry about throwing away any type of packaging or containers.
Finally, since I know we’ll be purchasing things on our trip, I always bring about 5 or 6 reusable shopping bags so we don’t have to use the plastic bags at stores.
By Kristen from Earth Friendly Tips
Q: What advice can you give us to have sustainable zero waste holidays?
A: The golden rule for avoiding waste at holiday time is planning in advance.
Our 5 Top Tips Sustainable Holidays:
Think about gifts ahead of time – don’t panic shop at the last minute! It’s all too easy to leave it to the last minute and dash to the shops in a frantic search for presents. But with some advance planning you could make something, find something vintage or second-hand, maybe you have a skill to share or want to give to charity on someone else’s behalf. But if all that simply won’t wash with some friends or family there are many things you can buy that won’t cost the earth.
Plan meals and shop for food accordingly is a surefire way to avoid loads of wasted food. Food waste at home accounts for 50% of all food waste in the UK . And in the holiday season, we go into overdrive! We throw out a third of food we buy over Christmas, that’s 230,000 tonnes of food thrown away this festive period, including 9,300 tonnes of Brussels sprouts! We’re all guilty of overdoing it at this time of year, but a little prior meal planning can help cut down on food waste.
Wrap gifts in fabric or uncoated paper. Fabric wrapping gives a beautiful handmade touch and uncoated wrapping paper cuts out to
Decorate your house with handmade and natural decorations. This can be as simple as bringing in greenery from the garden or you can go all out with making your own decorations with all the family that you can use year after year.
And finally, think about what the holiday means to you, what traditions do you want to create in your family. No need to play by the rules of excess and obligation if you don’t want to. After all, the planet needs more change…
By Liz from Elephant Box
Q: Which tips can you give us to go zero waste in social gatherings?
A: As a zero waste business owner and advocate, the single biggest waste in America is food. According to the USDA roughly 40% of all food is wasted which equals about $160 billion a year. For this reason, I always focus on food waste first when hosting a social gathering. Here are a few tips on how to execute a plan of action if you’re hosting any type of gathering or event.
Provide guests with labeled bins for compost, recyclables and trash.
Provide a clear and simple list of what is allowed in each bin.
As a party favor, provide guests with bamboo utensils that they can use at the event and then take home to reuse.
Diverting food waste from trash not only saves natural resources and energy, reduces greenhouse gas emissions but also inspires positive change in guests!
By Emily Mauri from Jar Zero Waste
Q: Which tips can you give us to create a zero-waste beauty routine?
A: Zero-waste beauty routine is all about finding what you can reduce, or replace with a better option. And just like any zero-waste action, think about reduce, reuse, and recycle.
Creating a zero-waste beauty routine can be very personal because skincare and beauty products can work very differently depending on the user. So it is important to find what suits you the best at the same time is a low waste option.
Here are a few tips for those of you that want to have a zero-waste beauty routine. They are in no particular order and start with the one that works best for you.
Switch out those single-use makeup removing wipes and other single-use products with reusable options, such as reusable makeup removers, reusable cotton pads, etc.
Simplify your routine, find products that your can use for multiple purpose, ie. cream blush that can also be eyeshadow and lipsticks.
Instead of buying based on impulse, know what you need and buy the replacement once you are almost done with your current product.
Get sample size products to test on your skin before buying to ensure it matches your skin so as to not waste the product. If it doesn’t work for you, if possible, do not throw it away, but offer it to someone who might use or need it. Depending on the products, some you might be able to donate. Please keep in mind that not all products can be given to others, so please proceed with caution.
Look for brands with simple packaging or even zero packaging.
Opt for products that are recyclable, best ones are glass, metal, aluminum and then paper. If plastic, make sure that it is something that can be taken apart and recycled appropriately. Please keep in mind that not all plastics are recyclable and if not cleaned properly there’s a chance it won’t be recycled too.
Use products you know you can reuse the container, for example, glass containers can become storage for other things.
Try out brands that recollect their empty containers.
If refill is an option, choose products with refills instead of buying new ones every time.
By Monica Chang from Ethical Choice
Q: How can we go eco-friendly and zero-waste with our skincare and makeup products?
A: “Greening” your skincare and makeup is a great way to reduce your impact on the planet. Finding products with low-waste packaging and healthy ingredients is a great place to start, but as larger chains often don’t carry these options it can feel overwhelming to figure out how to find them. Here are five tips to help you find low-waste skincare and make-up products:
Zero Waste Stores. Look for zero waste stores in your neighbourhood that carry skin care and makeup products. In Vancouver, Canada, our store, Jarr, offers face oils, powdered facial cleansers, and face masks from local company Schmear— completely package-free using our returnable jars.
Maker Markets. Check out local markets and meet the makers of locally made skincare and makeup brands. Many local brands will offer refills if you ask!
Low Waste Makeup Brands. Whenever you shop for makeup, look for products with low-waste packaging. Elate is a company that specifically focuses on low-waste cosmetics options, including refillable bamboo palettes for your pressed powders. Other companies such as Axiology offer paper packaging instead of plastic on their Lip-to-Lid Balmies. Buy these products online, or ask your favourite local retailer to carry them.
Bar Soap Over Liquids. Cleansers offered in bars (for body or hair) tend to have the least amount of packaging compared to their liquid counterparts. You can often buy a bar soap completely naked, or with a small amount of paper packaging, compared to plastic or glass bottles that may or may not get recycled.
Make Your Own. While it might not be on everyone’s “reasonable” to-do list, making your own skincare products is a great way to reduce your impact on the environment. Whether you make your own deodorant, dry shampoo, or moisturizer, a quick internet search will pull up an incredible list of recipes to get you started.
By Emily Sproule, Founder & Owner of Jarr
Q: How can we reduce our waste generation when ordering takeout or delivery orders?
A: The best ways to reduce waste for takeout and delivery follow the core principles of zero waste – use what you already have and only ask for what you need:
Skip the utensils and use your reusable silverware from home
Ask for only the napkins and condiments you need
Check if the restaurant will let you use your own reusable container or cup (some places will even give you a discount!)
Request sauce on your salad rather than on the side
If you have the time, think about dining in instead of getting takeout or delivery
Leave a sustainability review of your experience on the PlasticScore app. You can also use the PlasticScore app to find restaurants working to reduce waste. Plus, for each sustainability review you leave on the app, we’ll recover a takeout order’s worth of plastic waste!
By Mladen Gajic from Plastic Score
Q: Which tips can you give us to live zero waste with a dog?
A: DIYing, buying secondhand, and donating dog accessories to animal shelters or other pet parents all count toward your zero-waste efforts.
Creating puzzle toys from used toilet paper rolls and repurposing stained linens into a new dog bed are just two ways you can DIY “new” accessories from stuff you already have.
If you’re short on DIY-worthy materials, chances are someone in your neighborhood has what you need. Put out a call on social media — you might be surprised at the response you get!
If you do need to replace an item that’s in relatively good condition, consider buying a secondhand replacement. You can also donate the item to an animal shelter instead of throwing it out. Many shelters are in constant need of blankets and dog bedding. Contact the shelter first to find out whether special rules apply to donations.
Swapping dog toys is a terrific way to give your dog something new to chew on. Set up a group chat with other pet parents in your area and ask if they’d be down to swap toys temporarily. This works especially well for toys that your woofer doesn’t “pawticularly” like.
3 things to consider when reducing your pup’s carbon pawprint
Cost. Eco-friendly pet accessories are built to last, but they typically cost more upfront.
Your pup’s behavior. Make sure you choose accessories that can withstand destructive habits like chewing, digging, and scratching.
Allergies and sensitivities. Many dog shampoo bars use essential oils that are safe for dogs. However, they can still irritate your pup’s skin and sensitive nose.
For more tips, check out Wag!’s guide on living zero-waste with a dog. We’ve sniffed out tips on everything from zero-waste dog grooming to treats and food.
By Mel, Editor for the Content Team at Wag!
Q: How can we incorporate the zero-waste movement into the office?
You can incorporate the zero waste lifestyle into the office by reducing waste in your operations.
Limit the use of paper by digitizing your business.
Reuse old papers as notepapers or company memos.
Change your old light bulbs to LED lights to conserve energy.
And the most zero waste thing you can do, even if you are not in a leading role, is to push for a mess hall wherein people can just get food in refillable containers and reduce food waste by ensuring that everything gets eaten.
By Jenny from Zero Waste Lifestyle System
Q: Which actions can we take for a more sustainable office and achieve zero waste?
A: Here are our five top tips.
TIP 1. Sustainable Purchases. Starting at the very beginning, embedding sustainability into any purchasing-based decision takes time, however, the impact can be significant. It is simple logic, by buying less waste, particularly waste not easily recycled, the need to manage it at the other end reduces. Soft Plastic is a great place to start! We are obviously passionate about our Compost-A-Pak bins liners, replacing plastic for waste corn. They are just as convenient to use, so it’s a simple purchasing change which can have a huge impact on plastic consumption. Purchasing a few reusable containers rather than cling wrap, swapping to recycled paper, ordering items in bulk to reduce packaging, and embracing reusable cups rather than single use disposables… the list goes on and on…
TIP 2. Rethink Single Use Before Recycling. There is the dream of a paperless office, and then the reality of offices such as ours in which adjusted packing slips and used distribution maps gather for recycling. Whilst we always purchase 100% Recycled Paper (not just Recyclable), and always place the confidential paper into our MultiSort Confidential Paper Bin, we also extend the life of paper by collecting for notebooks. A really simple system, all single sided pages are collected in our paper recycling box. Once full, the A4 pages are cut in half, hole punched, and bound. The team then uses these for notebooks, reducing our need to purchase.
In the same way, even our milk bottles are upcycled to use as watering cans, or envelopes cut up and stamped to be used to bound folds of liners for online orders. We also partner with a local Fruit and Vegetable Wholesaler, during some of our large council programs. Our oversupply of cartons during these periods are perfect for their customer’s distribution cartons, resulting in a win-win situation for both businesses. This is a chance to think creatively, and partner with others.
TIP 3. Centralised Recycling Systems. Centralised Recycling Systems such as the MultiSort stations are without doubt the best solution for office recycling. They are not restricted in footprint in the same way as under desk bins, and so the stations can have more streams, such as Glass or Soft Plastics. The more recovery streams can be separated into single bulk clean material, the more economically recycling becomes, a critical consideration if we want to boost recycling in Australia.
Centralised Stations also have the benefit of visibility. Studies show people are much more likely to take time to ‘do the right thing’ if others can see them recycling. Visible stations reduce contamination. The great news is that if you need to pitch a new centralised bin system to secure the budget, this solution reduces the number of bins you need to purchase, line, empty and clean, and so the FINANCIAL BENEFITS add up quite quickly! Plus the MultiSort Base is actually made of recycled content, so you will be contributing towards Australia’s circular economy even with your purchase.
TIP 4. Recycling Extra Items. Best practice recycling programs are always customised, as both the type of waste and recycling technology available varies from office to office. The best way to assess how to make the biggest impact at your site is to per (carefully) into your Landfill bin for inspiration. Once the large-scale separation of recoverable and organics is working successfully, often the Landfill bin contains site specific items which can be separately collected.
After adding Soft Plastics to our kitchen bins (which can be taken to programs such as Redcycle) we then use transparent Recycling Tubes for smaller items, which have the added benefit of reducing contamination. Stationery and Batteries are our key items remaining, so we collect these and return them back to Officeworks to be recycled as part of their recycling program. We are big believers in manufacturers taking responsibility for the waste they generate, and by supporting programs like this, it helps support responsible companies, and encourages businesses to review their entire manufacturing process to identify ways to minimise packaging and the end of life waste they generate.
TIP 5. Welcome Nature In. OK, so this is not directly a recycling tip, however what better way to remind your team to be more sustainable and help protect the beauty of nature than by bringing it indoors. Our office is teeming with plants, in fact so much so that it’s impossible to get to the photocopier without feeling a gentle tap from the overhanging plants. Selected well, plants only require a brief once a week water and chat (if you want them to grow well of course!). It’s an enjoyable break on a Friday afternoon, to water them all and think about the priorities for next week. Plus, there are so many benefits, with studies showing indoor plants not only improve the air quality but improve productivity. With an ever-growing forest of pot plants encroaching into our office space, it’s obviously one of the reasons we have such a fabulous productive team at Source Separation Systems. 😊
By Melanie Barstow from Source Separation Systems
As you can see, transitioning to a more eco-conscious way of living is not difficult if you have the advice from the experts, start to put into practice some of these valuable tips, and move forward with more and more changes in every area of your life, you’ll see that it gets easier as you get used to your new zero-waste lifestyle.