We are halfway through Zero Waste week. I hate that I did not realize that this was Zero Waste Week until the first day. Thankfully I was quick enough to at least participate in my home! We have been working on making little changes in our home to produce less waste and this week I am focusing on WHAT we are throwing away so we can look into reducing that type of waste.
I have come to learn Zero Waste seems to mean different things to different people. Clearly it still means removing trash from your life but everyone has their own standards and ideals. It’s all good because it all helps!
What are your Zero Waste goals?
It does not matter if you are a veteran or just starting to learn something new it never hurts to think about your end goal! Keep in mind you can always change your goals.
My goal is to be more sustainable over all. To me this means making/growing what we can, buying recycled, and reusing what we can. If we really can not reuse it, I’d like to be able to compost or recycle it.
As you see Zero Waste fits right in.
Start small, Think Big!
Zero waste is not about tossing all your plastic containers and buying Mason Jars. People do seem to like the Mason Jars. I have a few, but I tend to just reuse Jelly Jars.
Here are some things to think about:
- What do I already have that can help me to reduce waste in my home?
Almost everyone have reusable containers. Some of us save the containers that food comes in. (Butter bowls, coffee cans, Big yogurt containers etc) Most of the time these are not made for long term use, but they can be reused. We use them for freezing stuff, left overs, and storing non food items like craft supplies. If it does seem weak or gets a crack, we recycle it after getting as much life out of it as we can.
- Buy foods in glass containers.
This has many good things! It shows companies you would rather have glass over plastic. Vote with your dollars! This also gives you great reuseable containers that can last for years! Zero Waste stores and Bulk item store options are increasing! You need to store all that stuff somewhere! There is no reason to go buy Mason Jars when you buy spaghetti sauce in a wide mouth jar! I use old jelly jars for my work lunches (oatmeal or home made cup of noodles)
Send your kids to school with a healthy homemade lunch. Bring your own lunch too! Use reusable containers, and pack a drink in a reusable bottle. I send my kids to school with tea, and once that is gone, they can refill at the water fountains.
- Always have a water bottle or cup.
Not just a water bottle but carry a reusable straw, and keep an empty food container, just in case. I like to have a handkerchief, a reusable shopping bag (Austin has a plastic bag ban so this is extra important.), something to drink out of (coffee cup and water bottle most of the time), metal fork and spoon, and a non perishable snack. (dried fruit or cereal in a jar.) I keep this all in my backpack when I go anywhere. I don’t drive, so this is easy to take on the bus or when walking. If I will be in the car with people I have an oversized tote I use and I tend to pack extra snacks to share. (I’m awesome on a car trip!)
- Pay attention to what you throw away.
Trash audits are a thing! At first I thought that sounded so gross, but it make so much sense! How can you reduce trash if you do not even know what you are throwing away? Here is a great Printable Trash Audit from Zero Waste Week. Once you get an idea what you throw away the most you can think about what habits you need to change.
Food waste is so sad! It honestly upsets me. You are letting money rot! I have a big family. We make big meals and buy so much in bulk and need break it down for easier use. We have to do things that way. With 3 teens we almost have no left overs, but sometimes it does happen. If that were to go bad, I would be honestly upset. True most of the time that can go in the compost, but it’s better to use it. In our home left overs become lunches. Most of the time for me. I make the kid’s lunches for the whole week on Sunday. If the rare time happens that we have an abundance of left overs, we do not cook until that is gone. Never let your Veggies go to the compost because they went bad! Buy less more often, and freeze what you can not use! My daughter LOVES fruit. We buy in bulk when it is on sale, wash it, set some out for her, and freeze the rest! We also make “smoothie prep.” When our fruits and spinach look like they might not last longer we portion it out for single serving smoothies! While still frozen toss it in the blender with juice and yogurt and you have a healthy snack!
Out to eat with friends? On the go and forgot your food? We are human, and sometimes we just want to go out, or crave a Pizza. You should go out! Have fun! It’s best to go to a place with reusable plates, cups, etc. When you order your drink, ask for no straw. If you get one anyways, give it back so someone else can use it. In the drivethru? You can still ask for no straw, and drink from the cup.
I know I JUST said you should go out, but not everyday! Limit it to special outings and when you spaced your packed lunch. Cooking at home saves money, reduces waste, and you might get left overs! We can feed a family of 5 for less than $10 a day, but if we eat out it can average $10 a person.
- Buy second hand and look for freecycle and buy nothing groups.
One way of reducing waste is to reuse things. Give them second life! Shop at thrift stores, and look for local groups that resell and give things away. My daughter likes to find old clothing from friends and thrift stores and resew them into something new. Looking for a waffle iron or slow cooker? Trust me someone has one they don’t want! That goes two ways! Keep an eye out for things you can gift too! Gave up on a hobby? Found out you don’t need a dehydrator as much as you thought? Gift or sell for small profit! This declutters and helps someone else!
- Don’t forget, things can be fixed!
Vacuum not doing great? Maybe it needs cleaned, or a new belt. No need to get a whole new vacuum. Maintain an appliance is always best but if it does fail you, see if youo can fix it first. Sew a hole in clothing, darn a sock, or mend a hem!
- Act local, think global! Don’t forget small business!
Support your local industries! Shop farmers markets, and at small local grocers. Not everyone can shop farmers markets but you can shop at stores that support local farms or buy items online from home businesses. Have babies, can’t sew? Buy cloth dippers from Etsy. Need a cake, but can’t bake? Look for a local cottage baker. Many times this cost a little extra but you are support a family and tend to get better quality! One of my favorite things is to buy handmade soaps! OMG I have been known to spend WAY too much for a local made bar of soap! (bonus if no packaging!)
I sew, and crochet. I also cook, bake, and mix my own cleaners! I make what I can (I wish I could make soap!) to reduce packaging and it saves money! There are many things I will not DIY but I do love cuddling up in my crochet afghan I made!