There are so many ways to live a more zero waste lifestyle that it can sometimes feel overwhelming. But the benefits to your community, environment, and your wallet make the zero waste living journey worth it.
Taking care of your planet isn't just good for the environment or your health—it's also great for your wallet! A healthier environment means a healthier you and the zero waste living practices that go along with taking care of the planet can save you tons of money every year as a bonus.
Many zero waste lifestyle practices create more self-reliant households and communities, which can help strengthen your local economy as well. There are so many benefits that low waste and zero waste living can have for yourself as well as your community.
What is Zero Waste Living?
Zero waste living consists of everyday practices and lifestyle choices that create less waste. Some zero waste pros are even able to reduce the waste they create to zero! But how do they do it?
Being environmentally minded comes in all kinds of ranges. You can strive to live the zero waste lifestyle or you can simply try and live a more low waste lifestyle. Either way can save you hundreds to thousands of dollars every year.
Zero waste living consists of several practices you may have already heard of like composting, recycling, reducing your carbon footprint, and being more eco-friendly.
What is Recycling?
In waste management, there are 2 types of waste disposal—the conventional method, recycling, and composting.
Recycling is a method of waste disposal that takes waste and makes it into other things. Instead of throwing things away, they are used to create new products. Recycling allows materials to continue to have used rather than piling up in landfills.
What is Composting?
Composting is the process used to turn organic waste into usable compost, which can then be used as fertilizer. Composting gathers organic waste together and lets it decompose until it creates a soil conditioner (fertilizer) that is very rich in nutrients. You can then use this for soil as fertilizer to help plants grow better.
Composting is a great thing to do at home for your garden, flower bed, or herb garden. It is just another way you can help your household become more self-sufficient and help your plants and flowers grow more abundantly.
What is a Carbon Footprint?
Your carbon footprint is the amount your lifestyle contributes to greenhouse gases or carbon dioxide. Everyone contributes to emissions, but individuals and corporations can do their part to contribute less harmful emissions.
How to Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle
So you've decided to help save the environment and save money. Where do you start on this eco-friendly consumer journey?
First, you'll want to ask yourself three questions: What can I reduce? What can I reuse? What can I recycle?
Make a list of the ways you personally can reduce, reuse, and recycle as you ask each question, and then make a plan of action for each one. Then you can go about the following basic steps to starting your own zero waste living practices and routines.
Step 1 | Get Recycle Bins
If you don't have them already, then get your house some recycling bins. Having dedicated recycling bins makes recycling much easier.
Use any kind of bin like stainless steel for easy cleaning and durability, or plastic for ease of use. You can also use regular, inexpensive trash bins or go to a home goods store and find actual recycle bins with the recycle symbols and everything.
You want a bin for whatever recyclables your house regularly produces. This can include, glass, plastic, paper, aluminum cans, cardboard, and more. Then just find a recycling center near you and start a new routine of collecting your household recyclables and dropping them off periodically.
At some recycling centers, you can even make some money when you turn in your recyclables.
Step 2 | Start a Garden
Start a garden with the things you eat most regularly in your home. This can really save you money too. Instead of buying produce at the grocery store every week, you can go pick your produce off the vine or the tree or out of the ground. It doesn't get fresher or more inexpensive than that!
Once you have a garden you can also start composting. Composting is a way to gather certain waste together and put it to good use as nutrients for your garden's soil.
Have too much produce growing in your backyard? No problem. Sell whatever surplus you have to your friends, family members, and neighbors and make a little extra income from your garden as well.
Step 3 | Create a Sustainable Kitchen
Renovate your pantry to be a more productive and zero waste space. The pantry and the kitchen are probably one of the biggest waste contributors to your household. Tackle this and you'll greatly increase your percentage of zero waste living.
Get food-safe containers to store all your pantry essentials like flour and sugar. Get bins and baskets to store loose fruits and vegetables. You can also find other useful pantry organizers like can organizers and cereal storage.
You can also set up the rest of your kitchen space with more eco-friendly systems like by getting organization bins for fridge produce.
This will allow you to shop in bulk at zero waste stores and packageless stores. This will also save you money because bulk items and packageless items have lower costs.
Step 4 | Switch from Disposable to Reusable Products
Replace disposable products with reusable ones. Not only can this make your life easier in a lot of ways, but it can also save you a lot of money.
Many items you buy regularly will have a buy-once counterpart. Instead of rebuying the same thing over and over again, you can buy it once and be done!
For example, instead of buying paper towels for the third time this month, you can switch to kitchen towels. Set up a clean towel bin and a dirty towel bin under the kitchen sink and your reusable paper towel system are all set.
Step 5 | Learn Self-Sufficient Hobbies
Hobbies are an important part of being an active and fulfilled human being. Use hobbies to your eco-friendly advantage by taking up hobbies that can also help you make less waste and spend less money.
Learn to make your own repairs to things like your home, clothes, or old furniture. That way instead of having to spend money on new things or professional repairs, you can save money and save the earth.
Learn to make your own things like sewing your own clothes, building your own furniture, or making your own bread. Fit these self-sufficient hobbies into your routine and include family and friends to connect more with your community at the same time.
How to Save Money With Zero Waste Living
You might think of low waste living as something only intensely eco-conscious people do. But there are actually plenty of really simple ways to make less waste and save yourself a ton of money along the way.
Replace frequent, recurring costs for a single purchase, and watch your monthly spending budget grow! Then you can put that extra money to good use elsewhere in your monthly budget.
Here are some zero waste products, reusable products, and other waste-free tips to help get you started:
- Instead of buying plastic water bottles get a reusable water filter and water bottle.
- Shop in bulk.
- Make homemade cleaning products.
- Use reusable grocery bags and shopping bags.
- Skip bagging your groceries and fill baskets in the trunk of your car instead.
- Invest in some reusable plastic or stainless steel straws.
- Install a bidet in your toilet for a better clean and to use less toilet paper.
- Start a compost bin in the backyard.
- Plant a garden and grow your own produce.
- Raise chickens for farm fresh eggs.
- Learn how to make and repair your own clothes.
- Replace paper towels with dish rags.
- Replace paper napkins with cloth napkins.
- Replace paper tissues with cloth handkerchiefs.
- Make food from scratch.
- Eat less meat and eat more greens, vegetables, and fruits.
- Use a food expiration date calendar to avoid wasting fridge and pantry food.
- Buy used instead of new.
- Shop at the local farmers market.
- Reduce utility usage like water and electricity.
- Replace plastic loofahs with longer-lasting wash clothes and scrubbers.
- Invest in some rechargeable batteries.
- Replace wrapping paper with reusable gift bags and cloth gift wraps.
- Replace sponges for longer-lasting brushes.
- Use public transit, walk, or bike.
- Replace hand soap, shampoos, and body washes with packageless bars instead of bottles.
- Get a personal utensils kit for eating out or on the go.
- Replace disposable plastic ziplock bags with reusable ones that can go in the dishwasher.
- Stop rebuying boxes of disposable diapers and invest in a reusable, cloth diaper system.
- Stop rebuying boxes of disposable feminine hygiene products and invest in a reusable alternative.
- Buy the refillable and reusable mugs, cups, and thermos options at your favorite drink stop.
- Get washable mop pads that can be reused over and over again.
- Save mason jars and use them for storage.
- Support local eco-friendly businesses.
Support Local Zero Waste Stores and Package Free Shops
Supporting local businesses is a great way to strengthen your local economy and help your community become stronger and more self-reliant. Finding local eco-friendly businesses is an exceptional way to do all that and more.
By shopping at the local zero-waste stores, package-free shops, and farmer's markets instead of big chain grocery stores, you can support your local farmers, reduce your carbon footprint for how far your groceries need to travel, and save money on more affordable and fresher produce.
Beware of Greenwashing
If you want to do your part to help the environment and your local community thrive then you'll want to beware of greenwashing.
Greenwashing is an advertising tactic meant to make products look organic or eco-friendly when in reality they aren't. If a product or company's eco-friendly claims are really true then they'll usually tell you all about it—providing evidence, certificates, and details.
If their claims are vague or unspecific, then most likely they are greenwashing their product in the hopes it will help it sell better. When making purchases do your research and don't be duped by false eco-friendly claims.
Now that you know all the basics any beginner might need to know about zero waste living, you can start making a personalized plan of attack for how you'll reduce, reuse, recycle, and save!