Are you one of the Americans helping to create more than 700,000 tons of garbage every day? (FYI, that’s enough to fill about 60,000 trash trucks. DAILY.)
You don’t have to be. Really, I should know. I was one of those people not too long ago, but after tons of internet sleuthing, reading, and thinking, I went zero waste and never looked back.
And while I could talk for days about everything I know (or want to know) about zero waste, there are five essential concepts for zero waste success that I’ve discovered. I’ve used them to turn myself into a not-statistic and only take out my trash rarely. (My not-so-zero-waste husband and I have taken trash to the curb once in four months and that included a major renovation!)
Explore and embrace these five ideas and the rest will follow.
1: find motivation and identify barriers to success
While many people dive into as many zero waste swaps as they can ASAP, I think that’s the perfect recipe for failure. A little bit of planning and thinking at the start can go a long way.
First, you need to look inwards and see why you’re motivated to go zero waste – what will keep pushing you after the initial excitement of getting started goes away. Finding your motivation and incentivizing yourself in small ways can keep you on track.
Once you’ve started your journey, it’s also important to identify two or three barriers. Recognizing them ahead of time helps you succeed when you run up against them. ID the barrier and create a small measurable goal to overcome it. ex. Barrier: my partner doesn’t want to make any changes. Goal: I will encourage them to make one zero waste swap per month. This month it is choosing ___ over ___.
2: get into your zero waste shopping groove
It’s easy to see the biggest trash-maker for almost every household is the kitchen. And once you find your passion for zero waste, it’s time to put in place real practices. Conquer the grocery store trash and see the amount you throw away reduce drastically!
- Say no to plastic bags and bring your own – produce bags too!
- Find and shop unpackaged food as much as possible.
- If you can’t find unpackaged items, go for glass or metal containers.
- Make a list of delicious meals that only use unpackaged foods.
Still, though, don’t forget to set out a non-negotiables list. Everyone starting out should have one or two items they can’t find zero waste and can’t give up. Accept the trash and focus your efforts on other, more achievable goals. For now. Deprivation ain’t sexy and it ain’t the way to succeed.
And speaking of waste in the kitchen, you 100% need to think about…
3: compost your organic waste
I put this as a whole section because it’s so important and so often overlooked. Composting is key because:
- it diverts organic matter from the landfill, where it may not decompose due to lack of oxygen
- it allows you get hands-on with your other trash without the ick factor
- it gives you food for your plants without buying plastic-wrapped fertilizer!
The most important part of composting is finding the option that’s right for you and your space. Whether you have a large backyard or live in an apartment, there’s a composting option that’s right for you. Plus, once it’s ready, you can use it on your garden (or hand it off to the gardener in your life).
4: nudge your friends and family toward eco-friendliness
One of the biggest issues for people going zero waste is that their loved ones are not interested in going zero waste. I get it – it’s tough. I live with a partner who is only willing to make switches if it costs him zero effort. So…
Unfortunately, we can’t force our loved ones to conform to our lofty goals. Fortunately, there are ways to help them transition without the use of force! (Or just a little bit of force.)
Just like you did with yourself, find what motivates your loved ones and use that to your advantage. Craft bargaining tools that appeal to their eco-consciousness/thriftiness/hipsterness and get your friends or family closer to zero waste.
5: find (or create) your zero waste community
Going zero waste by yourself is hard – so don’t do it! Find your tribe, either IRL or online, and get real-time support to achieve your zero waste goals. No one wants to struggle alone, and you shouldn’t have to!
Start by joining zero waste Facebook groups – either general ones or ones specific to your location. Next, consider starting your own group if one doesn’t already exist. Even if you don’t like being the leader, sometimes you have to get the ball rolling yourself!
If you’re feeling super motivated, host a meetup or high-value workshop. You’d be surprised at how many eco-friendly folks are lurking in your community – you just need the right incentive to get them out.
If all this sounds great, but the research involved feels a little overwhelming, have I got something for you!
To walk you through these steps and move towards the zero waste life you’ve been dreaming of, I’ve created Zero Waste 101.
Follow the exact tips I painstakingly researched when getting started on my zero waste journey. They’ve gotten me to a point where I’ve taken trash to the curb ONCE in four months – even during the renovation of my 127-year-old house!
Zero Waste 101 is a 5-week email course packed with long-form emails, worksheets, videos, and more to help you achieve your zero waste goals. An email will arrive in your inbox each Thursday packed full of information you can read through, digest, and implement during the upcoming week.
(Sounds like too much to do in 5 weeks? That’s OK too – at the end of the five weeks you’ll get a PDF version of the entire course that you can easily refer back to whenever you need!)
The Zero Waste 101 course is set up just like the five steps I talked about above – the five areas I struggled with at the start of my journey and the areas others have identified as problem spots too.
Who is this course not for?
If you feel 100% confident in your zero waste habits or have done major research into zero waste, this course is probably not for you. I designed this course for total beginners, near-beginners, and low-intermediate folks who want to save themselves valuable time and heartache!
For those more experienced folks, you may only be interested in the community-building aspect of the course. Please feel free to email me and we’ll work out a way for you to get access to information about building community, hosting workshops, and more higher-level zero waste action.
Set yourself up for success
Think carefully about your zero waste or eco-friendly goals for 2018 – if you need help clarifying them or overcoming barriers to success, Zero Waste 101 is the place for you. I know first-hand how hard it can be to make the jump from wanting to change to actually creating change. I want to be the one that makes your transition a little easier than my own!
Plus, the price is going to go up after the 1st. Just FYI.
If you’ve got any questions, comment below or send me an email and we’ll talk!