How to Be Less Wasteful at Home with the Five Principles of Zero-Waste

box, string and apple with reduce, reuse, recycle sign - how to be less wasteful at home with zero-waste

Have you ever heard of the zero-waste lifestyle? If you haven’t, this lifestyle consists of making efforts to live sustainably while drastically reducing trash output. This lifestyle might seem unattainable but it indeed is very possible with a little mindfulness and effort.

Because being less wasteful is a lifestyle change, consider taking baby steps in your approach by starting practicing less wasteful habits at home first. If you’re going to try this, it’s definitely best to get your footing for it at home because there’s no judgment there… only you and your efforts to do better. But if you’re going to start to make efforts, following the Five Principles of Zero-Waste is going to help get you off to the right start.

The Five Principles of Zero-Waste (The Five R’s)


  1. Refuse. The goal here is to not even let the potential of waste enter your home by refusing the things you don’t need. With this principle, prevention is key.
  2. Reduce. This is when you have to hone in on the things you actually do need and reduce your need for them. Some things you can’t just do without, but there’s such a thing as overindulging, even with necessities.
  3. Reuse. Reusing is all about swapping out “throw away” items for items you can use over and over again. This can come in the form of glass cups, metal straws, and cloth napkins.
  4. Recycle. Recycling is for when you have items that you can’t refuse, reduce, or reuse, ultimately making it the “last resort” in your efforts to live a zero-waste lifestyle. And this isn’t a bad last resort either because recycling is wonderful for the environment. But before you recycle anything, just make sure you’ve exhausted the first three principles first.
  5. Rot. “After you’ve given it all that you’ve got, let it rot”… To be more precise, we mean compost it. Simply create your own composting bin or find a local green bin program to handle any type of organic waste you may have.

After learning a little more about the Five Principles of Zero-Waste, that should make you feel a little more comfortable in taking steps to minimize your own household waste. If you’re ready, take a look at these simple yet effective ways to be less wasteful in your daily life at home. Be sure to keep the Five Principles in mind.

Ways You Can Be Less Wasteful at Home


glass of water saying hey drink more water - how to be less wasteful at home

Cut Out Bottled Water and Drink Tap Water

Now, before you start making those “gag” faces or start turning your nose up, let’s be clear in the fact that while in some places, tap water can be quite gross, bottled water is very damaging to the environment. So what’s the happy medium between refusing bottled water and drinking clean, filtered water? Filtering your home’s tap water.

There are filtration systems that can attach directly to your faucet, and then there are reusable water pitchers with filtration systems inside where you simply fill the top with tap water, and as the water drips to the bottom of the pitcher, it gets filtered, allowing for crisp, clean, filtered tap water.

Conserve Your Energy Usage

This particular aspect is one that will be much harder for some than others simply because a lot of us don’t realize just how much electricity we use at home. As far as the Five Principles go, this would fall under reduce.

We need electricity in our lives but we can reduce how much of it we use. For instance, you can be more mindful about turning off lights in rooms not being occupied, unplugging electronics when they’re not in use and avoiding setting your thermostat at unnecessary temperatures. 

And to give yourself an even bigger pat on the back, you can completely ditch your traditional power company (which could be using non-renewable resources to generate electricity) and compare prices of providers that offer electricity generated by renewable resources. 

Eliminate Food Waste

Wasting food is one of the biggest and most impactful wasteful acts you can do at home, from an ethical standpoint. Statistics and studies have shown that there are 26 million Americans without enough food to eat right now. So, for so many households to take perfectly good food and throw it in the trash because they’re tired of eating the leftovers is downright shameful.

It’s understandable that when you’ve eaten a meal for a few days in a row you might grow tired of it, but to throw it away without exhausting all efforts to salvage it is when household waste gets out of hand. When it comes to food and the Zero Waste Principles, the reuse, recycle, and rot principles come into play.

  • Reuse that meal by freezing it and saving it for another time.
  • Recycle that meal by taking the food to homeless shelters or offering it to your elderly neighbor who doesn’t cook too often.
  • As a last resort, rot the food out and use it as compost when it’s gone past its refrigerated shelf life.

With food, there really is no reason for it to enter any type of trash bin because it can be used in a positive and sustainable way, whether it’s still good or gone bad.

You now know about the Five Principles of Zero-Waste and the steps you can take to be less wasteful at home. If you can consistently follow these principles, they’ll eventually become a part of your life without putting much thought or effort into it.

Feature image: Anete Lusina; Image 1: Cats Coming

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