So you’ve been toying with the idea of zero waste (or at least making your life a little greener) but aren’t really sure where to start.
Well it just so happens I have some major inspiration for you RIGHT HERE IN THIS BLOG POST. (How convenient, eh?) I’ve ruminated on my own steps toward a more zero waste lifestyle and picked out 7 of the simple but effective ideas to get you started as well.
Zero waste isn’t easy, but it’s also not the monumental struggle it may seem.
1: order one of your normal ‘things’ zero waste
Let’s start out simply, shall we?
Get brave and take zero waste outside the house! Head to a coffee shop, cafe, or grocery store and get something you’d normally get, zero-waste style. Forgo straws, disposable containers, plastic bags, and anything else that may slow down your quest towards zero waste!
Simple ideas include:
- order your favorite drink using your own reusable cup* (zero waste friendly places in Indy include Quills Coffee, Thirsty Scholar, and Hubbard & Cravens)
- going out to eat? Order your food on a real plate – don’t forget to refuse the straw, napkin, and disposable cutlery – or even bring your own to-go container! (zero waste friendly places in Indianapolis include Locally Grown Gardens, Public Greens, and General American Donut)
2: do a trash audit
To really reduce your waste, you’ve got to be cognizant of the waste you do create.
No, you don’t have to tear your trash can apart – unless you really want to. What I suggest is keeping a running list of what you toss in the trash for the day (or several days). You’ll probably be surprised at the sheer amount of times you head for the trash can! For an in-depth post about how to conduct a trash audit, head over to this post.
After you’re done, choose one thing you see creating a lot of waste and pledge to not create any trash that way for the whole week.
For example: tons of tissues? Use a hankie!
Scads of K-Cups? Do it the old-fashioned way and compost the grinds!
(Mine was coffee filters!)
3: compile your own zero waste kit
Staying zero waste when you’re out of the house for 10+ hours a day can be tricky, particularly if you work in a place where massive amounts of waste are the norm. Luckily I’ve come to find that packing a good zero waste bag can really mitigate a lot of potential pitfalls.
Before you leave for work or whatever fun out-of-the-house adventures you have planned, arm yourself with some goodies from around your house. By preparing yourself for a zero waste day, you’re much less likely to run into issues.
My suggestions for a zero waste kit?
- a fork
- cloth napkin
- KeepCup* or other small cup/bottle
You can check out my full zero waste essentials kit in this post, but…
Honestly, don’t go too over the top; remember, you’re going to have to carry this around with you all the time!
4: create a space for recycling
This may be easier for some than others. If you have a recycling pick-up curbside, you’re golden! Just make sure everything that can be recycled is making it into your weekly bin. If you’re like me and living somewhere that doesn’t offer easy access to recycling, let’s talk!
One of the best ways to encourage yourself to recycle is by creating an unobtrusive but obvious place in your home to stash recycling while you wait to take it out. I chose the floor of my tiny pantry – I use the pantry every day but the door usually remains closed so I don’t have to look at the piles of glass and paper!
Once you’ve made space in your home, be sure to find out where you can take your recycling to dispose of it properly. I’ve written a whole post about the trials and tribulations of finding a recycling spot in Indianapolis, so be sure to check that out if you’re in the area!
5: identify one or two items to swap for a zero waste alternative (when they’re gone!)
Even if you’re super gung-ho about going totally zero waste, remember: zero waste isn’t about trashing all your old stuff immediately. Instead, focus on making items you have last as long as possible.
That being said, nothing lasts forever so take a look at what you’re about to use up around the house and consider zero waste items to replace them.
My current item to be replaced with a zero waste alternative is a toothbrush. (Any advice on which you prefer would be much appreciated!) I’ve had a stash of plastic ones which I’ve been using up for quite a while. Of course I’d prefer to use a zero waste option, but if these guys are going into the landfill, I may as well get use out of them first.
Other easily replaced items include:
- sponges: consider eco-friendly compostable sponges* or rags
- paper towels: grab some cloth napkins. Less waste, more class.
- shampoo: what about switching to a shampoo bar, instead?
- packaged food: consider buying eggs in a cardboard carton or milk in a glass jar. What can you buy in glass or recyclable paper instead of plastic?
6: find your go-to zero waste snacks
For me, big meals weren’t too much of an issue when going towards low/zero waste. Instead, the biggest problem came at snack time. Think about it: snacks are almost exclusively pre-packaged in plastic to make them easily accessible.
Which is nice but, you know, plastic is killing the environment.
So your day four challenge is to find the perfect zero waste snack. Plenty of amazing zero waste bloggers have some ideas – here, here, and here. My favorites are any nuts or fruit covered in dark chocolate (available in most bulk aisles) or hummus with chopped veggies.
Great places to find bulk snack inspiration here in Indianapolis include Good Earth Indy, Fresh Thyme Market, or Market District.
A full list of zero waste shopping options in Indianapolis here.
7: go one full day without making any trash
This is a tricky one, but I totally believe you can do it! The grand finale to our week of zero waste challenges is going one full day without producing any trash.
NB: I am not counting anything recyclable or compostable – if you compost – as trash!
Tips to help you succeed:
- Consider your wants vs. needs. What items in your daily life feel like needs but may just be the wants, manifesting themselves in your busy, stressful day? A candy bar here, a new item of clothing there… Consider your small item purchases throughout the day and whether they’re really necessary.
- Meal plan like a champ. Zero waste success essentially boils down to being prepared, especially when it comes to food. Make sure you’ve got whatever zero waste meals/snacks you’ll need for the day prepped before you go out the door.
- Keep the momentum going! You’ve gone a whole 7 days doing awesome, zero waste challenges. Why not keep up this one day without trash and turn it into two days… or even three!
Are you ready to join the 7 day zero waste challenge? Be sure to sign up to get a daily reminder of what’s to come, starting April 28th!