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A Guide to Zero-Waste Living

Updated on February 29, 2016
Green Planet
Green Planet | Source

Why Zero-Waste?

Just look around your home. How much waste do you see that will be tossed out at some point, how about your trash can what is in there, could any of it have been reused or recycled. If you are like most people the answer is yes. According to the EPA, the average person makes close to 3 lbs of trash a day. That means the average family of 4 makes around 14 lbs of landfill-bound trash a day, resulting in more than 6,000 pounds in a year. That all leads to

Landfills and incinerators contaminate our air with harmful chemicals that linked to global warming and health problems

Landfills leak methane, a greenhouse gas. Incinerators release toxic air pollutants such as sulfur dioxide and particulate pollution.

Trucks transporting waste release dangerous diesel exhaust.

Zero-waste living means trying to reduce the waste you make bare minimum. With some trash taking as long as 1,000 years to decompose I feel this is a worthy goal. Think how much cleaner our parks, beaches, cities, and so on would be if everyone would do this. While at this time it might be unreasonable to think everyone would want to jump on board and go all in, but maybe more people will be willing to make some small changes that will lead to less waste and a happy planet,

Zero Waste Foot Print
Zero Waste Foot Print | Source


Getting Started

Zero-Waste Basics

A lot of people think that going zero-waste is expensive, hard, and just not practical in today's world, but I have found the opposite to be true.

Expensive- When you buy items in packaging you pay for that packing. While if you buy that same item in bulk, or just without the package you most of the time will save money. It will also save you money on shopping at a lot of stores will give you a discount if you bring your own bags. You can collect money from any recycling you do, and also if you choose to sell your old clothing or items you no longer need you can earn some money.

Being hard- While it does take up a bit more time, and planning when you go shopping overall it is very easy to do. The like buying a loaf of bread you can go to the bakery of your store and ask them to wrap a loaf of bread in the bag you brought with you. Some stores will even slice it for you if you would like that. While that process does takes a bit longer than normal it is not hard to do and you only spend an extra minute or two.

Practical- Most stores have a bulk section where they have things like dry fruit, nuts, rice, grains, sometimes even candy and chips hanging on the wall for you to fill bags with. Just use the bags you bought and write on, with a washable marker the items and the PEU or number the store uses. I have seen things like this in Walmart, price cutters, and other stores.

When you think about zero waste you more than likely think of reduce, reuse and recycle, but there are two more R's that are needed and often overlooked refuse and rot. Anytime you bring something into your home you should ask yourself if it fits into any of the 5 R's. If not rethink the item and see if you can get it in a way that its dose.

What You Need

Not A Must
Recycling Bin(s)
Home Canner
Kitchen Composter
Mesh Bags
Mason Jars
Reusable Bags
Reusable Water Bottle
Rags and Towels
While not everything here is a must have, they all will make your life easier.

Apartment Composting

Composting Poll

Will you start composting?

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Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Rot

Refuse what you do not need- People always want to give each other stuff, from clothing to food. The idea here is to refuse anything you don't need. While this might seem a bit harsh to some it's really not. It makes no sense to accept a gift or an item that you don't need, these things only just get tossed away. Like the lipstick, your aunt gave you for Christmas that are not your color at all. You can refuse nicely tell them while you thank them it that you can't use it most people will understand. It does not make you a bad person to say no to something. This was the hardest thing for me to learn how to do, but honestly was well worth it.

Reduce what you do need- We all have stuff that is lying around that we don't use like that Dino cake pan we bought 5 years go to make a Dino cake for a birthday party. It's time to go through and get rid of all this stuff that is just cutting your home and your life. You can get rid of it either by selling it or by donating it instead of tossing it away.

Reuse by using reusable- Reuse it so easy. You can buy items in glass or in reusable containers. Like salsa in a glass jar instead of plastic, same with juice, or even some soda. You can reuse old clothing for dish rags pillow case for cloth bags when shopping, the list is endless, just put your creativity to work and you can come up with some really cool ideas.

Recycle what you cannot refuse, reduce or reuse- There will always be items that don't fit into any of the above categories, like junk mail, stickers on fruit and vegetables, price tags, and so on. The only thing you can do here is recycled it. Make sure that you know if it is recyclable or not, not everything is. But the main force of a zero-waste life is Refuse, Reduce, Reuse so tries to stay within that thinking and the recycling you do end up needing to do well is a lot less.

Rot (compost) the rest- Don't that sound pleasant. Composting easy actually really easy, and will not take much of your time during a normal day. Rotting your food scraps, and other composting will not only reduce the amount of waste you make but also make really nice compost for gardens. If you yourself doesn't plan on gardening, you can always donate or even sell your compost to friends and family or local gardeners who would benefit from it. Composting can even be done in a small apartment with a Vermicompost. See the video on the right for more on Vermicompost.

Zero Waste In The Kitchen

Zero-Waste Kitchen


The kitchen is the one room in your house that generates the most waste. If you are looking just to make a few changes in your household to generate less trash this would be the room to start with. Here is a list of few easy changes that you can make now that will have a huge effect on how much waste you are putting out

Ditch Plastic Packaging- Americans generated 32 million tons of plastic waste, 14 million of which are plastic containers and packaging a year. This can easily be changed by switching to glass or stainless steel containers, as well as reusable water bottles and a sandwich or snack bags. Reduce all food packaging by buying dry goods in bulk. Bring your own cloth or mesh bags rather than using the plastic bags provided at most bulk bins linen bags work perfectly for this purpose, and can also replace plastic produce bags.

Avoid Plastic Bags- If you do nothing else, start using big shopping bags made from cloth. You can buy these for about $1 at most supermarkets. You can also use reusable bags for buying and storing produce. There are many ways to eliminate your use of non-recyclable plastic bags: For packing lunches, three small reusable cloth pouches. Jars, or tin lunch boxes

Eliminate Disposable Paper Products- Living without paper towels, napkins, plates, and cups are easier than you might think. Rather than paper towels and napkins, choose reusable cloth versions. You can also use old hand towels, kitchen towels or cloth diapers. You’ll quickly save money over costly disposables. For dishes just gets regular dishes like Correll that will last a long time and not cheap or break easily.

Minimize Food Waste- The normal American family will toss out $1,350 in food waste annually. I don't know about you, but I have a lot I could use an extra $1,300 on. To avoid this, plan your meals before you shop, take into account the rate in which the food will spoil, and go to the store more often if needed to make up the difference. You can also prep and freeze most fruit, and vegetables, eat leftovers, or can or dry foods when you buy them on sale Also try not over fill your plate at meal time you can always go back for more instead of tossing extra into the trash.

Stop Using Single Servings- These things are just costly and make a lot more waste than needed. Take popcorn you can spend $3 on 3 bags of microwave popcorn or you can buy it in bulk for a $1 and have popcorn every day of the month or even longer

Zero Waste Bathroom Tour

Zero-Waste Bathroom

There are certain disposables in the bathroom used dental floss, hygiene products, tissue or toilet paper that simply can’t be reused, recycled or repurposed. But with a little bit of thought, we can reduce the amount of trash our bathrooms make.

Recycled Paper Products- When it comes to toilet paper your best option is to select 100-percent recycled paper, and try to buy them without the plastic wrapper instead look for paper wrapped ones. As for facial tease you an use old cut up t-shirts, towels, sheets, whatever you have on hand, and just wash them when duty.

Reduce Plastic Packaging Waste- with bottles of shampoos, conditioners, face washes, body washes, mouthwash and more, the bathroom is a major source of plastic waste. To fix this you can either buy items that are in glass packaging or just make your own. My own choice is to make my own, not only do I know what is in them, but I think they work better and they are a lot cheaper.

Say no to Air Fresheners- Instead, make your on in a glass spray or pump bottle Put 10 to 20 drops of your favorite essential oil in a glass spray bottle. Fill with water and shake vigorously. Good odor-fighting, antibacterial scents include lavender, lemon, tea tree, peppermint and eucalyptus.

A Smarter Period- Yes ladies I went there. I know the words, reusable and period and be a put off for most but if you think about how unhealthy tampons and pads are for you then you might rethink that. The warnings that come with a box of tampons should be scarier than having to wash something. Reusable options are actually cleaner and smarter than disposables. Menstrual cups such as The Keeper offer 12-hour protection and are a reusable option for people who like tampons, or you could go with reusable cloth pads that when they are dirty you just toss into the washing machine. Both are a lot better than the chemicals, bleaches filled disposable options.

Cleaning Products

Zero-Waste Cleaning

Cleaning products normally come packed up in plastic not to mention they are full of chemicals that are not healthy or safe to have in our homes. Here are a few recipes to get this stuff out of your house and to bring cheaper, and healthy items in.

Multipurpose Cleaner- in a spray bottle, combine 1⁄2 cup white distilled vinegar with 1 cup water and add 10 to 20 drops of tea tree, lavender, lemon or eucalyptus essential oil. Shake well just before using. I like a mix of lavender and lemon.

Homemade Scrub- Thoroughly mixes 1/2 cup baking soda and 1⁄2 cup coarse salt in a stainless-steel or ceramic bowl. For extra whitening power, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of lemon juice. Also, a 1/2 of a lemon with either salt or baking soda on it makes a great quick scrubber.

Wood cleaner- mix 1/2 cup olive oil 10 drops lemon essential oil and 1 cup water in a bottle, shake well and pour on a rag and wrap your wood surfaces.

Window cleaner- mix 1/2 cup vinegar 1/2 cup water in spray bottle.

Homemade Laundry Soap

Last Jug Ever

Zero-Waste Laundry

Detergent- Most people buy detergent every month or two. The kind you buy in the store is filled with all kinds of chemicals, and perfumes and not only that they cost a ton. If you made your own you could make a whole year of laundry soap for half the price of the stuff like gain or tide. If your not up to making your own the Last jug you will ever need is a nice option.

Dryer Sheets- Make your own dryer sheets by cutting up old clean cotton towels or other fabrics into small strips. Scent with 10 or more drops of essential oils such as lavender. You can compost dryer lint, as well as cotton cloths. Use cotton cloths scented with essential oils instead of dryer sheets to make your dryer a compostable only zone.

Thank You

I hope I have given you some ideas on how to reduce the waste you make now, and maybe set you on the path of a zero-waste lifestyle.Thanks for reading and I'll see you next time


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    • CherryBlossomTree profile image


      4 years ago

      A great post, love the way you are writing! Would love to get some feedback myself, am new and need help improving myself.

    • SweaterSpud profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago from Springfield

      I agree :)

    • profile image

      Diana Abrahamson 

      4 years ago

      Thanks for info on living greener. Plastic bags are the worst invention!


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