How to Go Zero Waste for Beginners (Quick and Easy Tips)
I've been 'zero waste' for almost 2 years as of right now, and I've learned a LOT. If I could leave you with one thing to remember, it's that going zero waste for beginners is about learning as you progress throughout your journey.
When I was first starting the zero waste lifestyle, I managed to fit a month’s worth of my trash into a small mason jar. That was a big accomplishment for me, however it wasn't as good as you might think.
At the time, I was so focused on not buying any groceries with plastic, that I was eating extremely unhealthy. I don't want that to happen to you, so if you want to know what I learned about zero waste grocery shopping, I wrote a blog post about it.
Where to start when going zero waste
This is probably the question I get asked most frequently, and I always have the same answer...
When you first start to go zero waste, you should focus on two things. The first thing you should focus on is to use every product until you can't anymore - try to make everything last a lifetime, and only buy to replace things you can't use anymore. Your second focus point should be on how much food you catch yourself tossing out.
This zero waste guide for beginners will be a quick and easy shortcut to reducing waste. Please keep in mind that your home will not be zero waste through and through after this guide.
However, your trash bag will be a lot lighter than before. I guarantee you will notice a HUGE difference in how much waste you produce.
I thought the fastest way to help you reduce waste is to make a checklist. This zero waste checklist will cover grocery shopping, and products needed for your kitchen and bathroom.
But before we get into the checklist, let's take a look at what living zero waste as a beginner is really all about with this awesome infographic!
Zero waste tips for beginners
When you start following this checklist, try to challenge yourself! Start with the goal of fitting a week’s worth of garbage (per person) in a mason jar. If you don’t succeed, you can just go through your trash jar and see where you slipped up, then avoid that mistake next week!
Alright, I’m sure you’re anxious to get started, so let’s get right into this zero waste checklist.
Zero waste shopping for beginners
1. Reusable Shopping Bags:
It's SUPER easy to forget your reusable shopping bags, and it's also SUPER annoying when you do! To prevent this, I usually just keep one or two reusable shopping bags in the trunk of my car.
If you do forget your reusable shopping bags and you're already at the grocery store, here's a quick tip. Don't buy more products than you can carry. This way, you can politely say "no thank you" when the cashier asks if you would like a bag.
2. Bulk Food Shopping:
This is how you're going to be reducing a lot of plastic waste. Ever since I went zero waste, this has never been more clear to me. If you look around at the grocery store checkout, take a look at what people are buying, you'll see what I mean.
I know, I know, that sounds a little weird.
But I guarantee you'll see what I do, that most people are addicted to plastic. It seems like everything people buy will be wrapped in plastic packaging.
To avoid this, try shopping at a bulk food store near you. If you don't live near a bulk food store, a lot of grocery stores have a packaging-free bulk food section.
In this area, you'll be able to pick up rice, pasta, oats, and more.
3. Only Purchase Naked Produce (with a Produce Bag):
This tip is fairly self-explanatory, and super easy for zero waste beginners. When you're at a grocery store or market, you'll usually see the store offers produce with plastic packaging and without plastic packaging.
Just pick up the naked produce and avoid the plastic packaged produce.
It doesn't really make sense to me why people choose the produce that's wrapped in plastic. Because more often than not, the naked produce is right next to the plastic packaged produce!
4. Eat Less or No Meat:
If you're not familiar with the idea of how eating less meat helps the environment, you might be a bit confused. But...
Eating less or no meat is one of the most effective things you can do to reduce your carbon footprint and help the environment.
So how does eating less or no meat help the environment?
Well the simple version is this:
The agriculture industry cuts forests down for cattle. The cattle (especially cows) then release methane via belches and flatulence. Methane is arguably more harmful to the earth can carbon dioxide.
Although methane's lifespan is shorter, when it's in the atmosphere, the impact of methane is 25 times greater than carbon dioxide.
5. Look for Recyclable Packaging:
Sometimes you just can't find a certain food in bulk, and that's okay! Or maybe you want pasta sauce, you know you can make it from scratch, but you're starving and can't wait that long!
That's why this beginner zero waste tip is so good, it opens up your food options! Just look for food in cans, glass, cardboard, or paper packaging.
Just make sure this is your last resort, try really hard to buy or make food without packaging first.
Reducing waste in the kitchen
6. Refill Dish Soap at a Zero Waste Shop:
That's the beauty of zero waste shops! You can just fill up used up containers and be on your way.
There's so much more you can refill at a zero waste shop, just take a look around! My local zero waste shop has hand soap, olive oil, shampoo, conditioner, and pretty much all of the liquids I use daily!
If you don't live near a zero waste shop, don't worry! When you're ready to up your zero waste game, maybe try making it from scratch. But for now, as a beginner, you should probably just stick to the basics and get used to the lifestyle before going all in.
You don't want to overwhelm yourself!
7. Use Rags and Tea Towels:
This is another super easy swap you can make to help you fit a month's worth of garbage in a small mason jar.
All you need to do is:
- Use a cloth rag or tea towel instead of paper towel.
- You're done!
That wasn't so hard was it?
8. Reusable Containers:
I have so many reusable containers, and sometimes I find myself wanting even more! I use them for bulk food shopping, storing left-overs, and for storing the food I bought while bulk shopping. This leads to me using about six - if not more - reusable containers at a time.
So pretty much what I'm getting at is that you should stock up on reusable containers. But only buy more once you know you need more!
I recommend getting mason jars and pyrex reusable containers. They're really aesthetically pleasing when filled up with bulk food. but more importantly, glass is really easy to recycle, but you won't need to recycle it because it'll last you a lifetime!
Easy Zero Waste Bathroom
9. Bamboo Toothbrush:
According to National Geographic, "a billion toothbrushes will be thrown away in the U.S. this year, most of them plastic."
If you get a bamboo toothbrush (once you've used up your plastic toothbrushes), you'll be able to take the bristles out of the brush and compost it once it's used up.
If you didn't know already, you can get a biodegradable bamboo toothbrush from my online zero waste shop! All orders come in plastic free packaging, and all orders' shipping emissions are offset!
If you like gardening, you can also reuse your bamboo toothbrush as a name tag for your plants!
10. Zero Waste Toothpaste:
As a beginner, this should be another fairly easy transition. Just go to a zero waste shop, take a look at their toothpaste options, and pick one! If you don't live near a zero waste shop you can get zero waste toothpaste online, or even make it yourself!
11. Soap Bar for Shower and Sink:
If you live near a zero waste shop and already have a plastic soap dispenser bottle, you can just fill it up at the shop!
If you don't have a plastic soap dispenser bottle or zero waste shop near you, then this will be a very easy swap for you.
Just look for soap bars that come in either paper, or no packaging.
Yup, that's all there is to this tip - I told you it'd be easy! You'll be able to find soap bars like this at your local grocery store, bulk store, or zero waste shop.
12. Shampoo and Conditioner Bars:
The last zero waste tip for beginners is to get yourself a shampoo or conditioner bar! These reduce the amount of packaging you have to discard. If you let them dry between uses and set them on a soap lift or put them in a soap saver, they'll last you a long time!
If you live near a ZW shop, you can just refill your old plastic shampoo/conditioner dispenser bottles.
Now that you have this quick and easy guide to the zero waste lifestyle, the only thing left to do is get out there and do it! Let me know what your favourite tip is in the comment section below! If you learned something, share this blog post with your friends and family on social media!