Reduce waste, help the environment and save money with these easy zero waste lifestyle tips.

Easy & Affordable Zero Waste Lifestyle Changes

Plastic waste is filling our oceans. Science.org estimates that 275 million metric tons of plastic waste was generated in 2010, with 4.8 to 12.7 million metric tons entering the ocean. The EPA stated that the total generation of municipal solid waste was about 4.9 pounds per person per day in 2018. With this in mind, it’s understandable that more and more people are trying to reduce the amount of waste they produce.

Infographic showing that Americans produce 4.9 pounds of trash per person per day.

Zero-waste movement

The zero-waste movement started with a few zero-waste bloggers who fit a year’s worth of trash into small mason jars. Now there are hundreds of zero-waste blogs. Zero-waste restaurants and food stores are also popping up around the world.

Though some zero-waste blogs make going zero-waste look trendy and stylish, the movement means much more than that. Buying newer, more eco-friendly beeswax wraps and bamboo toothbrushes are not the only ways to have a more zero-waste lifestyle.

How can you help?

As long as you’re more conscious of the effects your purchases have on the environment than you were before, you’re on the right track. It’s not possible to be 100% zero waste all of the time, especially for those who are working and raising kids. Your children might still bring home plastic wrapper-filled goodie bags from birthday parties. You may not have time to cook every day and still need to order takeout. Be gentle with yourself and don’t compare your zero-waste journey with other people. It’s not a contest!

Instead, work around your busy schedule and budget with these easy and affordable zero-waste lifestyle changes.

Use what you have

Two females looking though clothes at a thrift store. One is holding up a brown jacket.

The easiest way to be zero-waste is to use what you have.

  • Fix broken appliances, clothing, and toys. For example, sew buttons on old jackets.
  • Borrow from friends.
  • Participate in swaps and exchanges.
  • Thrift for secondhand clothes.

Doing this eliminates excessive buying and give things another life instead of going to the landfill.

Make it at home

The amount of waste that comes from basic household essentials is a lot. But there are ways to avoid these unnecessary plastics:

  • Create laundry detergentdry shampoo, and floor cleaner with simple, natural ingredients such as vinegar and essential oils. Some other ingredients in common cleaning supplies are harmful to the environment and human health.
  • Replace floor cleaner cloths with old socks and shirts.
  • Collect bits of packing here and there for gift wrapping including tissue paper, ribbons, dust bags, boxes, twine, or jars. About 540,000 tonnes of holiday gift wrapping goes to waste every year in Canada. Shiny foil packaging, old artificial garland, and glitter are all considered garbage. Make your wrapping out of the shiny silver insides of potato chip bags. Recycle old newspapers. Collect fallen pine branches for ornaments.
  • Make DIY lip balm.

Not only will these changes help the environment but they will help your wallet!

Ditch the disposables

Female hands hold reusable coffee mug.  Sustainable lifestyle. Eco friendly concept.

Though throwaway items are convenient, but they pile up fast. There are ways to cut out things that make sense for you!

  • Buy cloth diapers instead of disposable diapers. Around 30 to 40 billion disposable diapers are sent to North American landfills annually. Plus, reusable diapers are, on average, half the cost of disposable diapers. After using cloth diapers, shake solids into the toilet, put the used cloth diapers into a bin, then run these through a washer once your bin is full.
  • Carry a reusable coffee cup and water bottle.
  • Purchase takeout from restaurants that exclusively use compostable containers. Bring cutlery with you.
  • Use silicone freezer bags.

It may not be realistic to cut out ALL disposables, but if everyone did that they could it would make a huge difference. 

Switch to a paperless kitchen

Stack of brightly colored dish rags in a bowl in front of a circle tiled back splash.

Making changes to a space like the kitchen can be a hard transition but small changes make a big difference.

  • Have a bin for wet and used rags, then throw these into a clothes washer once full.
  • Pre-soak and trouble clean-ups in hot water and vinegar.

You don’t have to say goodbye to everything, but making changes will help you along the way on your zero-waste journey.

Choose biodegradable or zero-waste products

Sometimes we have no choice but to purchase new items, especially when things fall apart. Finding ways to make zero-waste choices as you need is a great start.

  • Kitchen supplies: silicone cupcake liners and baking mats, french presses, cloth napkins, beeswax wraps, compostable dish scrubbers or wooden scrub brushes.
  • Washroom supplies: bars of soap wrapped in recyclable packaging, compostable earbuds, recycled content toilet paper, plastic-free and refillable dental floss, organic loofahs or bath brushes, makeup with recyclable packaging, reusable feminine hygiene products, razors with replaceable blades, and bamboo toothbrushes
  • Laundry supplies: dryer balls and cloth hankies.
  • Paper Supplies: recycled paper or seed paper for crafts, notetaking, wedding invitations, wedding favors or printed memorial service programs. After use, seed paper is 100% plantable and biodegradable, turning into wildflowers, herbs or vegetables.

When things become ineffective or inefficient, it is the perfect time to swap!

Reduce your food waste

Three meal-prepped containers in a line on a white counter.

In this economy, food waste is not good in all aspects. Environmental or financial. Try these tips to reduce food waste in your life.

  • Move close-to-expiring items to the front of your fridge at the start of every week.
  • Make soup stock out of leftover meat products and veggies
  • Offer to take unfinished food home from group business lunches.
  • Have a composting system in your kitchen.
  • Set up a meal-prepping day to plan what ingredients you’ll use and for what.
  • Freeze your leftovers before they go bad.

Planning ahead is the key!

Bring your jars, containers, and reusable bags to the grocery store

Jars of pasta, and linen bags of nuts on a kitchen counter top.

These are tried and true methods to reduce waste.

  • Visit a zero-waste market in your city with your jars and bags.
  • Bring your produce bags.
  • Bring your small, easy-to-transport carry bags around as much as possible.

Minimizing waste isn’t always easy but using reusable bags and containers is a great first step if other zero-waste replacements don’t fit your lifestyle.

Reduce energy waste

Male commuter or messenger with a bike in urban background. Safe cycling in the city, going to work by bicycle, delivery man image

Being zero-waste is a lifestyle. Here are some other lifestyle changes that will help you on our journey.

  • Setting your home heating on a timer
  • Unplugging unused devices
  • Replacing light bulbs
  • Carpooling or busing
  • Walking or biking

Not everyone will benefit from these changes all the time. Doing what you can, when you can, is what counts!

Being mindful of what you throw away is the first step towards living a zero-waste lifestyle. With a little patience and self-compassion, it is possible to reduce waste and help protect the planet. Take it one step at a time and remind yourself that the zero-waste way of living is a process that isn’t linear.

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