The zero waste movement has been going strong for more than a few decades now. After all, there are so many benefits to living zero-waste that everyone, from the typical homeowner to a huge corporation, wants to try their hand at this lifestyle. And while we all love a good “corporation gives back to the planet” story every now and again, we should focus on the average person. In other words, we should focus on the proverbial typical homeowner like you.
So you want to live in a zero-waste home. That’s admirable, of course, but it isn’t easy, and you can’t do it overnight. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t start, though. In fact, you can contribute to a greener future even in small ways. And as homeowners ourselves, we’ve decided to help you get started. This article will contain a list of 7 easy steps towards living a zero-waste life in a dream green home.
The 7 Steps to Going Zero-Waste
Set Realistic Goals
Here’s a sentiment we will reiterate at the end of this article: do not expect to be a perfect zero-waste homeowner from Day One. In fact, don’t expect to be a perfect zero-waste homeowner, period. The biggest mistake new zero-waste enthusiasts make is that they set unrealistic goals for themselves. Instead, try to systematize your zero-waste journey step by step.
Here are a couple of good examples of setting realistic goals. Do you eat a lot of takeout food? If so, maybe you need a modified version of a food diary. Try to eat home-cooked meals for a month and take note of every single meal. That way, you have a tangible result when the next month rolls over.
You can make diaries like these for other zero-waste activities, such as the amount of garbage you throw out, the number of miles you drive, etc. The key is to make the goal achievable, but meaningful. And zero-waste, of course.
Make a Personal Zero-Waste Kit
Yes, there is in fact such a thing as a zero-waste kit. It varies from person to person, but it will always contain the essentials for living a green, waste-free life. For example, your own zero-waste starter kit can contain the following:
- A canvas bag you can reuse while shopping
- Travel mugs or water bottles
- A multipurpose eating utensil
- Sustainable straws (usually made from metal, hard wood or thick, durable plastic)
- A cloth handkerchief or a napkin
- An eco lunchbox
- Bamboo flatware (in case you can’t find a multipurpose eating utensil)
- Containers for bulk bin shopping
As you progress on your zero-waste journey, you will add and remove more and more items to this kit. The golden rule is that the items need to be reusable, biodegradable, easy to recycle or some combination of the three.
Do a Trash Audit
Trash audits sound complicated, but in reality, they are quite easy to conduct. It all comes down to tracking what goes into your waste bin and in what quantity. By taking notes, you can have a decent look into what you throw away and how it affects your lifestyle before your zero-waste process begins.
Here are a few ideas on performing a decent trash audit:
- Track everything at first and see if you can separate recyclable items from your food waste
- Note the items that go into your trash (takeout boxes, plastic cups, toothpicks, straws, chopsticks, etc.)
- Jot down totals for each item; you can also measure your waste and compare weights after each week
- Try reducing a few items at first (e.g. reduce only the plastic containers for about two weeks)
- Commit to each trash audit for a short period at first, like a week or 15 days.
While you audit your trash, do a bit of research and find decent composting or recycling facilities in your town or city. And speaking of recycling…
Reuse, Recycle, Upcycle
These terms are quite broad, so let’s just sum them up when it comes to homeowners. In the briefest terms possible, you might want to try the following:
- Reuse as many items as you can around the house (old dishes and silverware, old furniture, worn clothing, etc.) and steer clear of single-use items
- Recycle most of your waste (as we stated earlier, you can find a local recycling center or composting facility; you can even compost at home)
- Upcycle old items and breathe new life into them (e.g. you can upcycle your old clothes, furniture, or cutlery in fun and interesting ways).
Reduce Daily Energy Waste
We waste a lot of energy driving around and performing our daily errands, so, the obvious solution is to choose an alternative, like walking or riding a bicycle. Some people, however, simply need to use a car.
If you’re in the same boat (or rather, the same motor vehicle), then try to bundle all of your errands into one drive, two at most. That way you will not waste fuel going back and forth from your home to the town.
Naturally, you can reduce energy waste in other ways around the home. For instance, switch from incandescent to LED light bulbs. In addition, instead of maintaining your lawn with noisy and wasteful equipment, use low-tech tools such as a push lawnmower, rakes, clippers, scythes, etc.
Buy Sustainable Products
If you need to equip your bathroom or kitchen, try buying sustainable products such as zero-waste soap, dishwasher, toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, etc. These products contain natural, biodegradable materials that you can either reuse or recycle, depending on the item.
Also, if you need to buy products that are single-use, try buying in bulk. That way you will reduce the amount of package waste you throw away with each purchase.
Sustainable shopping also applies to other items, such as clothes. Nowadays, you can find many different brands that invest in green, zero-waste fashion. In fact, you might even go beyond that and purchase (or create) some zero-waste furniture.
Join a Local Zero-Waste Community
This step is fairly straightforward; all you have to do is research the local online registries and find a community of like-minded zero-waste individuals. Most of the time, these individuals have Facebook groups or even use local neighborhood apps to keep in touch.
You might even try your hand at forming such a community yourself. However, don’t expect too many members at once. It takes weeks, if not months, for such a group to reach a solid number of members. But if you stay diligent and dedicated, you will soon have a clique of zero-waste enthusiasts that can help each other advance and grow.
Zero-Waste Homes, the Bottom Line
Once again, we will stress that these are merely the easiest steps you can take towards living in a zero-waste home. Don’t try to do all of them at once, and try to set your goals as realistically as possible.
The point isn’t to achieve everything in one month but to grow and learn as you try a new step every time. And even if you fail once or twice, don’t feel down. Everyone makes mistakes, so the best thing you can do is keep it up and learn from it. Remember, you should carve out a zero-waste lifestyle that you will enjoy at your own pace.