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.


Which of these do you find easiest to do in your home?

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

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

  2. @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 says:

    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 says:

    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. 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 says:


  7. Ruby Welch says:

    I recycle daily

  8. Carol Troia says:


  9. Eileen Boyce says:


  10. manuel montoya says:

    sustain with recycling

  11. manuel montoya says:


  12. Mary R Rude says:

    save the planet- recycle

  13. Donna Lovett says:

    I recycle

  14. Carol Troia says:

    Always recycle

  15. Mary R Rude says:

    all naturl is best

  16. Patty Boutin says:

    nice prize

  17. Mary R Rude says:

    Think before you throw out

  18. Ruby Welch says:

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

  19. Donna Lovett says:


  20. Ronald Gustafson says:

    earn money by recycling

  21. Kathleen Hanna says:

    I try to buy products in recyclable packaging.

  22. manuel montoya says:

    recycle for life.

  23. Ruby Welch says:

    Recycling is good for the environment – Do it daily!

  24. Carol Troia says:

    Organic is great

  25. Michael Cremin says:

    Go hug a tree.

  26. manuel montoya says:

    recycle it every day.

  27. manuel montoya says:

    love organic…

  28. Jacqueline Nikolish says:

    Recycle and buy products in “green” packaging whenever possible

  29. Bob Edland says:

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

  30. Ruby Welch says:

    Recycling makes you environmentally correct

  31. Christine Shank says:

    I try to reuse everything I can.

  32. rita kringle says:

    Recycling has become easy because I have been doing it for so many years. I am working at the others.

  33. Thank you for offering this. I’ve been trying to find something similar to this particular. Amazing information I will return pertaining to information about diets.

  34. Beth gardener says:

    I fuckin hate reciclying it’s a waste of my fuckin time okay so fuck off

  35. Beth gardener says:

    I fuckin hate reciclying it’s a waste of my fuckin time okay so fuck off and kiokio school sucks balls so suck a doldo okay and u put a fanny because I’m lessi okay and I love cheriee and blaice

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