Is it possible to live Zero Waste without sacrificing your quality of life? Is it possible to adopt Zero Waste without needing to overhaul your consumption habits? The short answer to both questions is, Yes!
Use up everything you have first. Once an item is used up or nearing the end of its useful life, evaluate whether or not the product is essential. If it is essential ask yourself:
Can I make this item myself?
Can I source a more sustainable version than the one I previously purchased?
Our Personal Mottos
Avoid single-use plastics
As plastic permeates almost every aspect of our lives, this is perhaps the greatest challenge to Zero Waste. To make this doable perhaps make a Top Ten list of items, packaged in plastic, that you’re not yet prepared to live without. This list also makes decision making easy: if it is not on the list, but contains single-use plastic, we do not buy it.
Always search second-hand first
Aside from your Top Ten list try to source all other items source second-hand. We have been successful with: clothing, coats, shoes, furniture, sporting goods and even household paint.
Avoid excess/single-use packaging
This is achieved mostly by shopping the bulk section at the grocery store, bringing our own containers to the meat and cheese counter and by selecting produce that is free of packaging. This extends to pre-packaged food items and paper coffee cups when eating out. If food or drink items come in single-use containers (which nearly always become garbage after use), we avoid it.
Use the extended version of the 3 R’s
Refuse – everything you do not need
Reduce – what you do need
Reuse – everything you can
Recycle – what you cannot refuse, reduce, or reuse
Rot/compost – the rest
Our families still struggle with some of these mottos. We are far from perfect. Over the Christmas holidays my husband brought home a plastic Star Wars drink cup and when his eyes met my death star, he replied, “It’s for Phoenix, it’s fun…. we can reuse it”! As I continued to eyeball him, my four-year-old son piped up in the background…. “Papa, it’s plastic, we don’t use plastic!”
Adopt small changes into your routine
Make your own household cleaner
We have replaced ALL household cleaners with citrus vinegar cleaner and baking soda.
Create a “to-go kit”
Include: grocery totes, bulk bags, cloth napkins, reusable coffee cup, water bottle (mason jar), utensils, stainless steel container and bamboo or stainless steel straws. This will help to avoid unnecessary single-use items.
Bring your own containers
This can be a daunting notion! What if they say no? All it takes is a few wins to build your confidence and you will never hesitate to ask again.
Eat less meat
Add additional vegetarian and vegan meals into your weekly rotations. Animal agriculture creates more greenhouse gases than all modes of transportation combined.
Try to fix items & clothing before replacing
Adopt the attitude of fix it first before replacing something that is broken. A new trend emerging are these fantastic “pop-up” fix it cafes that typically take over a venue for half a day on one weekend each month. We have seen these in Victoria, San Francisco and Vancouver. They typically run on a donation basis and will even teach you how to fix items yourself.
Buy second-hand clothes
Tara and I were frightened of this part of Zero Waste as we both love clothes. But making the commitment to shop second hand has done two things for us;
1) It forced us to think about our selections and to choose quality pieces that we love versus falling into our old habits of impulse shopping or making selections based solely on the sale price; and
2) We save time and money as we shop more intentionally, meaning we are looking for specific items. No more shopping for the sake of shopping… well, at least we are on this path!
Swap out disposable items in the kitchen and bathroom
Items in your kitchen such as:
paper napkins for cloth.
single-use chopsticks for stainless steel.
plastic straws for bamboo, stainless steel or glass straws.
plastic wrap and tinfoil for containers and reusable beeswax wraps.
Items in your bathroom such as:
tampons and pads for reusable menstrual pads/cups.
plastic toothbrushes for bamboo.
packaged toothpaste for homemade. Our recipe here.
disposable razors for a safety razor.
packaged deodorant for homemade.