The zero in “zero waste” makes it sound scary and hard to achieve. It’s actually not as hard as it seems, and it’s as simple as following the five R’s, IN ORDER. I have used this golden rule for our household with great success:
- Refuse what you do not need,
- Reduce what you do need,
- Reuse by using reusables,
- Recycle what you cannot refuse, reduce, or reuse,
- Rot (compost) the rest.
2. Turn down freebies from conferences, fairs, and parties. Every time you take one, you create a demand to make more. Do you really need another “free” pen?
3. Declutter your home, and donate to your local thrift shop. You’ll lighten your load and make precious resources available to those looking to buy secondhand.
4. Reduce your number of shopping trips and keep a shopping list. The less you bring home, the less waste you’ll have to deal with.
5. Swap disposables for reusables (for example, adopt handkerchiefs, refillable bottles, shopping totes, cloth napkins, rags, and such). You’ll find that you won’t miss your paper towels, but rather enjoy the savings.
6. Avoid grocery-shopping waste: Bring reusable totes, cloth bags (for the bulk aisles), and jars (for wet items like cheese and deli) to the store and farmer’s market.
7. Know your city’s recycling policies and locations, and think of recycling as a last resort. Have you refused, reduced, or reused first? Question the need and life cycle of your purchases. Shopping is voting.
8. Buy primarily in bulk or secondhand, but if you must buy new, choose glass, metal, or cardboard, and avoid plastic: Much of it gets shipped across the world for recycling and often ends up in the landfill (or worse yet, in the ocean).
9. Find a compost system that works for your home, and get to know what it will digest (for instance, dryer lint, hair, and nails are all compostable).
10. Turn your home kitchen trash can into one large compost receptacle. The bigger the compost receptacle, the more likely you’ll be to use it freely.
Good Luck! And remember: You’re not alone. Visit zerowastehome.blogspot.com for support and tips from a like-minded community!
Bea Johnson and her family strive to live a zero-waste lifestyle. Through her blog, she shares waste-reducing tips and inspires readers to take a stance on needless waste. She is a 2011 grand-prize winner of The Green Awards contest.