Go Zero Waste!

The zero waste lifestyle and mentality isn’t just about eliminating the physical trash you make – it requires a shift in thinking, too. Mental waste is just as important as material waste, too. It’s saying NO to the frantic life of a corporate consumer, saying NO to keeping up with the Joneses, saying NO to needless complexity in our lives… and knowing that our trash bins will probably reflect that. Doing this gives us more breathing room over the course of our day to relax, pursue other interests, and get involved in our communities.

The irony, though, is that going zero waste and minimal can sound overwhelming in itself, so hopefully this list can give you an idea of where changes can be made in your life that don’t require jumping through hoops. (A transition phase is par for the course, though. Give each change a few weeks or months, and it’ll probably become habit faster than you think.)

These lists assume a few things – chiefly, that you don’t already do them out of necessity. It also sometimes assumes that you have access to organic food or bulk bins, that you can afford subscriptions to media like magazines or Netflix, or that you have the luxury of owning more things than are useful to you. Basically, it assumes that you are a financially stable, conveniently located American not living in poverty. (Not that I didn’t wish I’d known of some of these tricks during the periods when I’ve had less than $20 in the bank.)

Now with that in mind:

Light Changes

  • Make use of reusable bags when shopping
  • Use a stainless steel or glass bottle for water
  • Avoid shrink-wrapped fruits and veggies
  • Fight junk mail
  • Donate clothes that haven’t been worn in a few years
  • Do one outdoor activity a week that doesn’t require a car, or take up bicycling
  • Replace basic household cleaners with homemade ones
  • Cull clutter around the house for a more peaceful space that’s easier to clean
  • Look into herbal alternatives to OTC medications – like licorice root for sore throats or post-nasal drip, for example
  • Recycle religiously
  • Buy organic or local produce whenevver feasible
  • Switch to using a safety razor instead of disposables

Moderate Changes

  • Use a reusable mug or cup for coffee and other drinks
  • Use reusable napkins or “unpaper” towels
  • Patronize farmer’s markets and avoid packaged goods
  • Donate clothes that haven’t been worn in 1-2 years; learn to mend clothes instead of getting rid of them
  • Replace plastic tupperware with glass or stainless steel
  • Bike, walk, or take mass transit to routine destinations when possible
  • Refuse styrofoam containers from restaurants
  • Buy dry goods in bulk
  • Limit clothing and accessory purchases to certain stores, certain situations (sale racks), or certain times (once a month)
  • Print on both sides of sheets of paper
  • Buy milk and cream in glass, returnable bottles, or make your own nut milk
  • Pay bills and get statements online
  • Start composting
  • Buy local dairy and organic, non-GMO dry goods
  • Replace incandescent bulbs
  • Downsize TV
  • Streamline your computer use and downsize your machine to a greener version
  • Buy only used electronics, recycle them at the end of their life

Extreme Changes

These are just some ideas on how to get started and how to progress should you want to. If you’re curious to learn more, keep reading the blog, check out my links, and don’t hesitate to ask questions.

Remember, though, that these are lifestyle changes. Many people cannot afford to make this kind of shift in their lives, even if they wanted to. Also remember that residential waste only counts for a small percentage of what ends up in landfills; the same goes for energy and water usage. Find out who the REAL hogs and wasters in your area are, and get involved in holding them accountable.

For more blog posts that build on the above lists, or are things that I’ve begun to do in my life, check out my How To ZW tag.

One thought on “Go Zero Waste!

  1. Pingback: My Experiment with One Week of Zero Waste | The Nature of Cities

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