Everything we do in our daily lives has an impact on the environment and it is up to us to make it a positive one.
Trying to live sustainably can be tough both when you are already on the journey, and especially if you are just looking into starting out.
It is a common misconception that you need to go out and buy all of these sustainable reusable items, just to start becoming more sustainable. While it is great that eco-friendly items are becoming more available, the most sustainable option, of course, is to make use of the resources that you already have!
This blog post is here as a first stepping stone in helping you become more aware, and to provide you with some actionable tips to get you started on your zero waste journey.
1. Take a shopping break
First thing’s first. You’ve made the decision to create less waste in 2020, and you have no idea where to start. But you see how everyone is promoting all these fancy ‘zero-waste’ items that will 'help' you create less waste.
We are here to tell you that you don’t need to buy more to actually make less waste. Crazy idea huh. Living a low waste or zero waste lifestyle ultimately comes down to effort, habits and using what is available around you to create less waste.
If you have the fanciest produce bags and you never take them with you, then you just have another unused item that clutters up your home. Plus think of all the money you'll save not shopping online!
Therefore, do not bring anything new into your home until you have a clear understanding of your wasteful habits. Once you know your bad habits it's easier to find solutions on how to improve them. All leading to you having a better impact on the environment!
Questions to ask yourself:
- Do I keep forgetting to bring a shopping bag with me?
- Do I always grab a coffee on the go?
- Am I exhausted at the end of the day and always find myself ordering take away food?
2. Keep a waste audit
For a couple of weeks be mindful of the kind of waste that you produce. Write it down, keep it or take pictures of it like the @goxuboys over here. Do whatever works for you.
The important part is that you get to see and understand the kind of waste that you produce so that you are able to make better and more informed decisions moving forward.
Maybe you waste 1 coffee cup a day, or you always end up with a new plastic bag, or you have tons of chocolate wrappers because you have a sweet tooth. For everyone, the obstacles to living a low waste lifestyle are going to be different.
This is why it is important that you understand your own wasteful habits and put them into context!
3. Shop your own cupboards
If we take the coffee cup example, then if you have a coffee with your co-workers every day during your break for the week. That's 5 cups per week and 260 cups per year (if you work every week of the year - which we hope you don’t!) that have only been used once and ended up in landfills. And that is only the waste of 1 person!
Once you understand what kind of waste you produce most of, it’s time to go through your own cupboards to see what items you already own. This can also help you reduce your packaging waste. It can also be a fun and creative process, finding new uses for items that may have been sitting unused in your home for a while.
Some ideas include
- You can reuse old jars to refill items from bulk stores (if those are available to you) and you can even use them to get your coffee to go. Just create a little make-shift cup sleeve with a piece of cloth or rubber bands that may be lying around. It’s a great conversation starter when you grab your next coffee!
- Find old unused bags to carry your groceries in.
- Use old take-out containers and set a set of cutlery to take your food on the go. You don’t need to buy fancy stainless steel containers if you don’t first try to create the habit of bringing your own old plastic containers when you eat your leftovers!
Before you know it your pantry could end up looking like this!
4. Repair and repurpose
The next time something breaks or needs mending change your mind-set into finding a way to fix it, rather than buying new.
If you have a hole in your clothes, try to fix it yourself (there are tons of tutorials online that can help you). Or if you are not a handy person, then ask help from someone.
If something cannot be fixed, use your creativity and repurpose the item to prolong the use of the materials. You can easily turn old clothes into napkins or cleaning cloths and containers, or boxes into organisation boxes.
5. Simplify your life
Sometimes it’s easier to create less waste when we simplify our routines and lives.
The fewer items we have to maintain and look after, the easier it becomes to see which items truly bring value to our lives. And to use these to their full potential.
By conserving what we have, from taking shorter showers, using fewer products in our daily routine, using residual heat when cooking and wearing more layers when it is cold. We already have a much greater positive impact on your environment and its resources.
Start thinking about everything you do and where the resources come from and how simplifying your routines and using less of everything can change your environmental footprint.
6. Take alternative routes
Once you have a better understanding of what you enjoy using to help you on your zero waste journey, it’s time to go back out and maybe take some alternative routes. This could be changing up your regular grocery store or finding some different shops that may have more package-free options available.
Opting for loose fruit and vegetables can be an easy way to start to avoid plastic packaging. Visiting your local bakery every now and again can save you packaging waste too.
By bringing your own little produce bags you can carry and package these items easily and avoid the single-use plastic that is provided in supermarkets.
7. Keep going and celebrate little wins
Starting out on any new journey is going to bring up obstacles that you didn’t anticipate and that’s okay!
Celebrate the little wins you make along the way. Like when you remember taking your reusable bags with you to the store or maybe you prepared your food at home to avoid grabbing lunch during the week.
Overall, remember that what you are doing is making a difference! Over time you will increase your sustainable and low waste habits and you will slowly see the trash that you are creating becomes smaller and smaller - until it reaches zero!
If you're looking for some more inspiration, we recommend checking out Lauren Singer from Trash Is For Tossers.
Whilst we are all on a different journey, if we all try our best to create better habits, collectively we will leave a better impact on the environment.
Trying to live waste free is a long journey, but hopefully, these tips help you in becoming more aware that we don’t need to buy things to become more eco-friendly, but rather make use of the things that are already available to us.
We'd love to hear about your low waste or zero waste journey's! Leave a comment to let us know what the most difficult part has been for you.
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