Trying to put together a zero waste life is not easy! Between work, personal obligations, and all the other wild things going on in your life, zero waste can feel like the last thing on your mind. To that end, I wanted to challenge you to pick out one or two zero waste challenges to try this weekend.

No-pressure, low-stakes zero waste challenges that won’t take too much time and – more importantly – won’t feel like an insurmountable sacrifice. You ready?

Grab a book

If a sedentary start to your zero waste journey is your style, what better way than by diving into some zero waste ebook inspiration?

The obvious starting point here is Zero Waste Home by Bea Johnson, the mother of the zero waste movement as we know it today. Detrash Your Life in 90 Days is also a great read, being super practical and well-researched by the environmental engineer author. I’d also recommend The Zero-Waste Lifestyle: Live Well by Throwing Away Less as a great starting point!

Make a zero waste meal

Challenge yourself to make a zero waste dinner, ie. with food that has no plastic packaging. (Glass or tin cans are A-OK in my book, at least getting started!) Shop from your own fridge and pantry – be creative! Whether it’s easy or difficult, you’ll definitely be able to see areas within your kitchen that you could improve on.

Be sure to check out my other posts on zero waste grocery shopping to help guide your future shops!

Get rid of paper towels

You’ve got to have a nasty old t-shirt that’s best not worn in polite company rattling around your wardrobe. Or maybe a few old sheets in the closet that never seem to be put to use.

Instead of tossing it, cut it up into small strips and use them instead of paper towels. (Because Americans – per person – use over 45 pounds of paper towels each year. 45 POUNDS!) Keeping a little stack underneath your sink will make you far less likely to reach for the paper alternative!

You can also browse Etsy for plenty of pre-made unpaper towel options.

Create a zero waste “to-go” kit

Creating trash is so much easier when we’re out, rushing around and busy, in the real world. Especially when you’re just starting your zero waste journey and haven’t built good habits, it’s simple to slip up when you’re out of the house. To combat some unnecessary waste in the upcoming work week, create your very own zero waste “to-go” kit to help you stay on track.

Mine includes my ever-trusty KeepCup, a few linen napkins, a reusable produce bag, and more. For even more ideas, check out my zero waste essentials kit.

Start a mini-garden

No matter the season, there’s always an herb happy to grow inside! Think about what kind of food you like to cook, and plan accordingly! Rosemary, basil, and mint are all hearty herbs that are infinitely useful in the kitchen and pretty hard to kill. Try to grow them from seed or pick up a full grown plant for an easy start.

Herbs can also be used to infuse oils, make teas, add to beauty DIYs, decorate the home, and more.

8 small zero waste challenges to try this weekend - Green Indy Blog

Set up a trash audit

A trash audit is sorting through your trash to see what’s being thrown away and whether waste is being properly sorted. Simply put, it’s a way to become much more aware of what’s going in and out of your home. (Yes, it’s kind of scary, but totally worthwhile.)

To actually execute the trash audit, I suggest putting up a piece of paper over your trash can and recording what goes in. Easy-peasy.

Once you’ve done the trash audit, really consider what you can cut down on or replace with more eco-friendly options. For example, if you’re a soda fiend and had lots of plastic bottles, consider switching to recyclable metal cans or investing in a soda maker. (Or making your own ginger beer instead!)

Pick up trash in a nearby park

Get some exercise and do some good for the planet as well! Dedicate an hour or so of your time to cleaning up a local green space – your community will thank you for it! Bring several bags (a great use for reusing plastic garbage bags) to sort the waste into proper categories for easy recycling.

If you’re feeling community oriented, consider hopping onto a zero waste Facebook group and looking for people nearby to participate with you!

Replace something with a zero waste alternative

… once it’s all been used up, of course. Don’t stress yourself (or your wallet) out by switching to all zero waste options right away. Instead, focus on one or two items that can be easily replaced by zero waste alternatives and won’t be missed. Once you feel comfortable with those changes, then you can move on to more changes!

Good choices include toiletries or cleaning products. See my easy zero waste kitchen or bathroom swaps for specific ideas!

Feeling inspired? What mini-project will you take on this weekend to make your home more zero waste friendly? 


Green Indy is a blog about zero waste, minimalism, and generally being less of an a**hole to our Earth (Indianapolis, specifically) by me, Polly Barks. I’m a writer, teacher, and a natural-born researcher/experimenter.


Jasilyn Albert · March 26, 2017 at 4:35 am

I need to try the lotion on. I go through SO MUCH lotion. I’m actually glad you posted this. I’ve been listening to a podcast and they were talking about how we poison ourselves with the stuff we put on our bodies, and I never took the time to actually look at what’s in a bottle of store bought lotion. But I use so much. I probably have a ton of toxic chemicals in me right now.

    Polly · March 26, 2017 at 2:23 pm

    Oh man, I have a lot of thoughts about that re: makeup which, ya know, is slathered all over my face. But also, I have products I love and would rather use them than find non-chemical alternatives, so… it’s a work in progress 🙂

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