First things first, don’t let the idea of zero waste intimidate you. The concept can be more than a little overwhelming when you think about the amount of plastic used on a daily basis. I’m here to warn you: DON’T GO DOWN THAT RABBIT HOLE! You’d be surprised how easy it can be to go zero waste. It’s important to remember that this is a gradual process; there’s no need to go cold turkey. Each item you cut out helps your wallet and the environment. #winning
For the purposes of this blog, I am going to break down our list into two major categories: food waste and essentials. We will briefly cover different ways you can upcycle everyday products and help eliminate the level of waste produced. I will provide helpful how-to links for various crafty projects which will guide you through the zero waste journey.
everyday essentials | should it stay or should it go
1. Keep new purchases to a minimum and use the resources you already own. My favorite example of this is actually inspired by the world of Pinterest. Pinterest has managed to create a movement for more intimate, heart-warming gift giving. You can find pretty much any DIY project you can think of on there. What better way to show your loved ones you care than a thoughtful, home-made gift? And what better way to recycle your scrap old notebooks, magazines, books, markers, etc. than making a thoughtful card? I also love making shadow boxes for others. It perfectly encapsulates memories of our time together and eliminates some clutter from the home. Try to avoid purchasing new items for a few months and challenge yourself to use up the materials you already own.
2. The ever handy to-go mug. Let me begin by saying it is not necessary to own more than one to-go mug, but one really sturdy mug is essential. These will be multi-purpose while you’re going through your hectic day. Carry a mug with you so you can refill with coffee, tea or water on the fly. You may also enjoy another opportunity to upcycle some materials here by making your own DIY to-go mug.
3. Versatile storage jars. We’re only 3 tips in and you’re probably already tired of hearing it, but here’s yet ANOTHER chance to reuse your materials. There’s no need to go out and buy a thousand mason jars to store your food, cleaning chemicals, and other household items in. Simply remove the label, give it a good wash, and reuse those old jars that had mustard, veggies, or coffee in it. You can take it a step further and use them to create interesting items around the home such as candles, planters, or festive magnets. Here are 20 ways to upcycle your everyday jars from Houseful of Handmade.
4. Tackling bathroom products- toner, cotton swabs and shampoo. Not all shampoo bars are created equal. but here’s a small list of recommended brands to get you started. I suggest using them for at least a month to give them a chance. If you find your scalp is dry, consider using a different brand which helps target this. There are also conditioner bars that can be used in conjunction with any shampoo bar. Trust me, this is the simplest way of avoiding plastic in the bathroom and well worth it! Consider making your own cotton swabs out of scraps of old towels. You can cut them into squares or get fancy and stitch the circular swabs. Toner is another easy DIY that greatly reduces waste. Popular ingredients range from apple cider vinegar to green tea. Try so different solutions and see what works best for you! Other ways to reduce in the bathroom are safety razors, bamboo toothbrushes, zero waste toothpaste and deodorant. I don’t wear makeup so I had to outsource here. Check out this article from Gina Caro on her Zero Waste Beauty Routine.
food waste | buying purposefully
1. Storage containers and cling wrap. I am proud of you for saving your Chinese food containers and reusing them, but they really don’t last that long and can be harmful. Instead consider investing in a nice set of glassware you can use for carry-out or refilling at local bulk stores. One common mistake here is immediately purging all your tuberware. They can be excellent for organizing electronics, dry foods or any other miscellaneous items your have around the house. An alternative to cling wrap is wax paper. Admittedly, wax paper can be kind of expense to purchase so consider making them. In the long run, wax paper is cheaper because you can reuse them while saving the Earth!
2. Produce bags & grocery bags. Using plastic grocery bags in your little trashcan does NOT justify skipping this step. In fact, if you follow all these steps eventually you won’t need a little trashcan in every room. Here’s what I suggest. Upcycle your old t-shirts and create your own produce or grocery bags. If you’re like me and can’t sew, have no fear. There is a no sew method for re-purposing your old clothing into reusable grocery bags. So grab that college tee and a pair of scissors and get going! Buying items in bulk, refillable containers will also greatly reduce the amount of waste here. Whatever is left over can be made into vegetable broth, composted or reused. Not sure where in South Jersey you can dispose of compost or shop in bulk? Find the nearest location on litterless.com.
Interested in reducing other elements in your home? Check out our Guide to Minimalism for additional insights on how to eliminate waste from the home.