10 Easy Ways to Become
a Zero-Waste Household

by guest blogger Bea Johnson, of The Zero Waste Home

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.


1. Fight junk mail; it’s not just a waste of resources, but also of our time. Register now at: dmachoice.org and catalogchoice.org, or pay 41pounds.org to get it done.

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.


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31 Responses to 10 Easy Ways to Become
a Zero-Waste Household

  1. Mike Lieberman January 24, 2012 at 12:41 pm #

    I’m currently working on figuring out an indoor composting system that will work in my apartment. That would be huge.

  2. Bret @ Green Global Travel January 24, 2012 at 3:20 pm #

    @Mike- There was a really cool looking one posted on Inhabitat not that long ago. We meant to look into covering that one for our “Green Gear” section, but completely forgot until we saw Maria’s great tips! If you do a search for in-home composting systems on their site, I’m sure you’ll find it.

  3. Rob January 24, 2012 at 8:30 pm #

    I first heard Bea’s advice on “More Hip than Hippie”. Since then I have added Refuse to the top of the list. Taking little steps everyday to do better!

  4. Deb February 2, 2012 at 3:56 am #

    This list is better than the normal 3, but there’s still something missing.

    I like to head my list with repair. I’ve found when I think about fixing things, I buy better quality to begin with. It will need less repair and usually be more repairable than some items of less quality. And why buy something new if I can fix what I’ve already paid for?

  5. sherrie hatch October 17, 2012 at 10:09 am #

    I first heard Bea’s advice on “More Hip than Hippie”. Since then I have added Refuse to the top of the list. Taking little steps everyday to do better!

  6. Ruby Welch October 17, 2012 at 3:25 pm #


  7. Ruby Welch October 17, 2012 at 3:26 pm #

    I recycle daily

  8. Carol Troia October 17, 2012 at 7:06 pm #


  9. Eileen Boyce October 17, 2012 at 7:59 pm #


  10. manuel montoya October 17, 2012 at 11:51 pm #

    sustain with recycling

  11. manuel montoya October 17, 2012 at 11:52 pm #


  12. Mary R Rude October 18, 2012 at 3:51 pm #

    save the planet- recycle

  13. Donna Lovett October 18, 2012 at 7:44 pm #

    I recycle

  14. Carol Troia October 18, 2012 at 8:47 pm #

    Always recycle

  15. Mary R Rude October 19, 2012 at 6:06 pm #

    all naturl is best

  16. Patty Boutin October 20, 2012 at 1:08 pm #

    nice prize

  17. Mary R Rude October 20, 2012 at 4:13 pm #

    Think before you throw out

  18. Ruby Welch October 20, 2012 at 4:31 pm #

    Hast makes waste – make sure that it cannot be recycled before

  19. Donna Lovett October 20, 2012 at 6:37 pm #


  20. Ronald Gustafson October 21, 2012 at 4:13 pm #

    earn money by recycling

  21. Kathleen Hanna October 22, 2012 at 10:13 am #

    I try to buy products in recyclable packaging.

  22. manuel montoya October 25, 2012 at 12:04 am #

    recycle for life.

  23. Ruby Welch October 25, 2012 at 3:38 pm #

    Recycling is good for the environment – Do it daily!

  24. Carol Troia October 25, 2012 at 10:27 pm #

    Organic is great

  25. Michael Cremin October 26, 2012 at 2:31 pm #

    Go hug a tree.

  26. manuel montoya October 26, 2012 at 9:16 pm #

    recycle it every day.

  27. manuel montoya October 29, 2012 at 12:23 pm #

    love organic…

  28. Jacqueline Nikolish October 29, 2012 at 9:13 pm #

    Recycle and buy products in “green” packaging whenever possible

  29. Bob Edland November 1, 2012 at 11:49 am #

    I recycle everything I can. Very little garbage each week in the can.

  30. Ruby Welch November 3, 2012 at 5:03 pm #

    Recycling makes you environmentally correct

  31. Christine Shank November 4, 2012 at 8:10 pm #

    I try to reuse everything I can.

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