How To Live A Zero Waste Lifestyle: 11 Steps To Get Started Image by Sustainable Jungle #zerowastelifestyle #zerowasteliving #livingzerowaste #howtolivezerowaste #zerowastetips #howtolifeazerowastelifestyle #sustainablejungle
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How To Live A Zero Waste Lifestyle: 11 Steps To Get Started

The zero waste movement is growing. Pre-loved clothing is in, bulk stores are blossoming, and reusable items are all the rage. 

Still, knowing how to begin a zero waste lifestyle can be tricky. 

Where should you focus your efforts? How do you handle shopping? Can you just recycle things, instead? 

If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed and need help creating a zero waste action plan, read on for our beginner’s guide to zero waste living.

Above all, it’s important to remember that an absolute NO-waste lifestyle is impossible. 

If you live totally off-grid on a completely self-sufficient homestead, you might get pretty close, but otherwise, think of going zero waste as a journey rather than a destination—and one that’s certainly not one-size-fits-all.

1. Get Inspired!

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Image by Sustainable Jungle

If you’re wondering what living zero waste actually looks like, we recommend startting with some blogs for tips, tricks, “how-tos” and real-life zero waste lifestyle examples. 

Our favorite zero waste blogs include Bea Johnson’s Zero Waste Home, Lauren Singer’s Trash Is For Tossers, and Anne-Marie Bonneau’s The Zero Waste Chef for kitchen and foodie inspo. 

Or, if you’re more of a watcher, grab some (zero waste) snacks, cozy up, and get ready for some inspirational and educational viewing. 

Our favorite zero waste documentaries include The Story Of Stuff (2007), The Clean Bin Project (2010), and No Impact Man (2009). 

There’s also a wealth of films covering the plastic problem—including A Plastic Ocean (2016), Plastic Paradise (2014), Tapped (2009), and Bag It (2011)—and food waste, like Just Eat It (2015) and Wasted (2017). 

We also highly recommend David Attenborough’s documentary Blue Planet II for a reminder of how beautiful our Earth is and why it’s important to care for it.

2. Take Stock

Ready to dive in? 

Start by taking stock of your current lifestyle, purchasing, and waste management choices. 

Keeping a diary for a week or two is a great way to assess your current waste levels.

Yes, it may shock you, but you’ll also feel incredibly satisfied in a few weeks when you look back on how much trash you’ve been able to wipe out! 

Note down answers to the following: 

  • What are you bringing home each day?
  • What are you throwing in the trash?
  • What are you chucking in the recycling bin?
  • What are you considering buying? Do you really need it, or do you already have something you can use?

Once you have these answers, you can start thinking about to cut back in all of these areas. The most famous and useful framework for zero waste living was created by Bea Johnson of Zero Waste Home. Her ‘5 Rs’ lay out the order in which to reduce waste. 

  • Refuse what you do not need (e.g., plastic grocery bags and junk mail). 
  • Reduce what you do need (e.g., simplify, minimalize, and reduce unnecessary waste)
  • Reuse by using reusable items and repurposing (e.g., plastic-free water bottles)
  • Rot (compost) the rest (e.g., all those food scraps don’t need to go into the trash)
  • Recycle what you cannot refuse, reduce, or reuse (e.g., pesky toothpaste tubes)

Note that recycling is a last resort. It’s a fine way to manage waste you haven’t managed to reduce or reuse, but the priority for low waste living is eliminating it in the first place. 

3. Start With Simple Switches

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There are loads of easy zero waste swaps you can make that will immediately reduce the trash you create as well as your pile of recycling. 

Switching involves small habit changes and, most likely, a handful of (well-considered) purchases.

Remember, if you can avoid buying new, do it! If you already own a version of these things, use them; if you’re crafty, make them and, where sensible, look for secondhand options. 

If you’re starting from scratch, consider investing in a zero waste kit.

  • Reusable shopping bags: These replace plastic bags from supermarkets and shops. Pop them in your handbag or pocket so you don’t forget to take them with you. 
  • Cotton/mesh produce bags: We’ve found these most helpful at farmer’s markets for things like spinach and kale, which are more difficult to throw loose into your shopping bag.
Food & Drink Eating / Storage
  • Coffee cup/flask: Replace takeaway coffee cups with reusable mugs or flasks. (You can also save money by making your own coffee at home and taking it out with you.)
  • Coffee itself: Replace coffee pods and single-use coffee bags with a simple coffee press or stovetop espresso maker. 
  • Cutlery kit: This replaces takeaway cutlery. You can find eco-friendly cutlery sets that are so compact you’ll hardly notice them in your bag. 
  • Food wraps: These replace Glad wrap and plastic Ziploc bags. Beeswax wraps (and their vegan alternatives) have become iconic zero waste must-haves.
  • Cloth napkins: These replace disposable serviettes and wet wipes. Pop a washable hanky or napkin in your bag to wipe those grubby hands when out and about.
Personal Care, Cooking, & Cleaning
  • Reusable face wipes: These replace cotton balls, disposable face wipes, and cotton pads for makeup removal. Options include reusable cotton rounds, linen wipes, or just ordinary facecloths.
  • Cleaning cloths: Like face wipes, reusable paper towels (or better yet, old clothes cut into cloths) are a simple solution but have a big impact.

4. Go Bulk

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This is one of our top zero waste tips, as it’s a great way to cut down on unnecessary packaging. 

Bulk shopping is typically used to buy dry goods, oils, honey, syrups, and home care products in bulk from a store that lets you bring your own zero waste containers. 

In terms of how a zero waste lifestyle can save you money, buying in bulk is huge. 

Start by investigating local bulk food stores and farmer’s markets (which are perfect for filling reusable produce bags with fresh, local produce sans plastic, stickers, and ties). If local options are limited, there are now many online bulk stores to choose from.

While you’re at it, start building your upcycled jar collection (saving them anytime you finish, say, a jar of pasta sauce). Glass jars are a zero waster’s best friend and useful for all kinds of food storage, such as rice, pasta, flour, oils, and sauces.

Before shopping, write your shopping list to match your jars and weigh your jars BEFORE filling them so the cashier can easily subtract the ‘tare weight’ at checkout. We like to keep the empty weight written on bottom of each one.

5. Green Your Cleaning Routine

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Cleaning products typically come in plastic and are often packed with harsh chemicals. 

The good news is that it’s super easy to make your own with just a few simple ingredients: vinegar (which you can buy in bulk), bicarbonate of soda, lemon, essential oils, and castile soap.

If making your own feels like too much of a stretch right now, you can use plain white vinegar (dilute 50/50 with water in a spray bottle) or go straight for refillable cleaning products from brands like Blueland, Common Good, and Greatfill.

6. Go Plastic Free For Beauty & Personal Care

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The most ethical and sustainable beauty products keep the planet clean and beautiful, too. 

Here are some of our recommended zero waste bathroom essentials: 

  • Hair care: The best zero waste shampoo and conditioners come in bar form, or you can often find liquid refills at bulk stores (don’t forget to take along your old bottles!).
  • Body wash: You can’t beat a good old-fashioned soap bar (either unpackaged or in compostable cardboard), but if you prefer a liquid soap, you can find body wash refills available in some bulk stores or from brands like Plaine Products that take back your empty bottles. 
  • Deodorant: Ditch those plastic deodorant tubes and keep your pits smelling sweet with zero waste deodorants that don’t stink up the planet. 
  • Shaving: Zero waste razors are must-have items for anyone who shaves and wants to s(h)ave the planet at the same time. 
  • Toilet paper: Yes, zero waste toilet paper is a thing! While the real hardcore folks out there would opt for reusable bum cloths (we’re not quite there yet), many brands offer tree-free or recycled options. 

7. Repair Before Replacing

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If an item breaks, rips, or (in the case of appliances) mysteriously stops working, consider repair before replacing it. 

Learning some basic sewing skills can help you repair clothes and home textiles like cushion covers, bed linen, and curtains instead of throwing them out.

For more complicated repairs, consider online clothes repair services

Likewise, some basic carpentry skills can give a broken chair or table a new lease of life.

For other items such as phones, computers, and home appliances, there are heaps of online DIY repair tutorials on YouTube and iFixit.

Don’t forget the old saying, “A stitch in time saves nine,” and look after items to keep them in good condition.

Learn how to read clothing labels so you can take better care of them and read the manuals for appliances and electronics to check for cleaning and maintenance instructions.

8. Up Your Upcycling Game

Before you get rid of something, consider if you can find another use for it. 

Upcycling clothes is a great way to refresh your wardrobe and can be as simple or more advanced as you prefer. Think: iron-on patches, turning old jeans into shorts, and using interesting cuts and ties to restyle your t-shirts.

But don’t stop at just clothing. Old pillows can be used to plump up accent cushion covers, create a pet bed, or become filling for craft projects.

While you’re at it, embrace a sustainable interior design ethos for all your home furnishings and decor and use what you have already. Update existing pieces with a fresh coat of paint and switch items between rooms for an instant new look. 

Taking your upcycling outside, You can also repurpose all manner of things with creative gardening recycling ideas. Skip plastic pots and create your own instead from metal food cans, coffee tins, upcycled kitchenware (like old mugs and teapots), old boots, or even quirky recycled jean planters.

9. Prioritize Pre-Loved

Pre-loved clothing is one of the best ways to avoid fast fashion and the garbage truck’s worth of clothing burned or incinerated each second.

There are many options, too, from clothes swaps with friends and popping tags at local thrift stores to browsing the virtual rails of online second hand stores.

If you have garments in good condition that you no longer wear, consider selling used clothing online via platforms such as thredUP, Depop, and Poshmark.

As with upcycling, buying second hand is not just for clothing, of course. Prioritize secondhand options for all of your purchases, from appliances to home decor.

10. Research Recycling Options

If you can’t refuse, reduce, or reuse it, it’s time to look at recycling.Your options for recycling will depend on where you live, and you may need to do a little research. Here are some places to start:

  • Local City/District Council Website: You should be able to find details here on what can and can’t be recycled via curbside collection and any rules regarding how items should be separated. 
  • Recycling Centers: For items that you can’t recycle curbside, look to see whether local recycling centers will take them. Often, local centers will accept old electronics, like kitchen appliances and computers, as well as building materials, garden waste, and textiles, but it’s best to call ahead first to check. In the UK, Recycle Now has a recycling locator to help you find local services.
  • TerraCycle is a specialist recycling company in the US, UK and Australia that recycles almost everything! You can join free recycling programs where you print off a pre-paid label and send in your products, search for local drop-off points, start your own public drop-off point, or order one of their Zero Waste Boxes for home/school/office use. 
  • Community Centers: Community centers often provide a drop-off point for recycling, and if they have a community garden, they may also accept food waste for composting.
  • Facebook Groups: If you’re struggling with a particular issue (like “what the heck do I do with old X-rays?”), you may be able to get some helpful advice from a local zero waste or upcycling Facebook group. 
  • Supermarkets: An increasing number of supermarkets offer a drop-off point for recycling things like old batteries and soft plastics. 

11. Go Compost Crazy

How To Live A Zero Waste Lifestyle: 11 Steps To Get Started Image by Sustainable Jungle #zerowastelifestyle #zerowasteliving #livingzerowaste #howtolivezerowaste #zerowastetips #howtolifeazerowastelifestyle #sustainablejungle
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It’s no secret that we’re crazy about the benefits of composting.

The best thing? 

Anyone can do it! Even if you don’t have a yard or a balcony, you can try your hand at apartment composting thanks to clever indoor compost bins

Start by learning what’s compostable versus what’s not compostable, and in no time, you’ll have started your own mini circular economy! 

Use your finished compost to grow some herbs and veggies and marvel at the simple pleasures of a zero waste life

If you’re keen to collect and compost your food waste but can’t do this at home, check to see if your local council offers a food waste collection service. 

The Sharewaste app is also useful to check for people in your area who are happy to receive your food waste for composting.

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1 thought on “How To Live A Zero Waste Lifestyle: 11 Steps To Get Started”

  1. It is really interesting area. as human being, we need to care about the rights of other human beings and animals to live peacefully, without any hazards around them.
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