21 Zero Waste Tips You’ve Never Heard Before
I was in line at the grocery store, staring at my reusable tote bag and started thinking; what are some unique zero waste tips? I think you can agree with me that most of the tips you’ll find are all the same.
“Use a reusable bag, take a reusable drink bottle with you, say no to straws.”
Well that’s boring, we’ve all heard that a million times before. So I decided to put a list together of the top 21 unique tips to help you go zero waste.
I asked a group with 104k experienced zero waste enthusiasts what zero waste tips they would’ve wanted to know when first living a zero waste lifestyle. Every response could be broken down to this. Get some gloves and take a thorough look through your garbage. You will see exactly what you’re wasting, so you’ll know where your problem areas are and what to fix. Let’s look into what some common problem areas are, and what you need to do about it.
What are some common problems people have when living a low impact lifestyle
I find the best part about going zero waste is that I'm not alone. There's so many other people out there trying to do the same thing as me; reduce my day-to-day waste. This is great because a lot of the struggles that I have are usually not unique to me, other people have had those problems too. I found that some of the most common problems are buying plastic packaging when grocery shopping, buying things that I didn't necessarily need or already had, and not realizing I can reuse some of the things I thought were disposable.
Read Eco Friendly Way to Remove Nail Polish
I totally get how the zero waste lifestyle can seem extremely overwhelming at times. One of the zero waste tips I was given by the group of 104,000 zero wasters, was to take things slow and make small changes every day. There's no need to rush into things and start from scratch by throwing everything out, then buying all of the “green” products that you see advertised.
One of the zero waste tips I was given by a group of pro zero wasters, was to take things slow and make small changes every day. There's no need to rush into things and start from scratch by throwing everything out, then buying all of the “eco” products that you see advertised.Click to Tweet!
Why are these problems so common for everyone trying to live zero waste
So why are these problems so common? Everyone's trying to achieve the same thing within the zero-waste niche. These problems are so common because we all have to do some of the same activities like grocery shopping for example.
This really gives us a huge opportunity to learn from others’ mistakes and how they avoided some of the problems when first living zero waste. So that's what we're going to do, let's jump into it with these 21 unique zero waste tips and learn how to solve these common problems.
How you can solve those problems with 21 zero waste tips
- Buy electronics second-hand to avoid the plastic packaging
I would really only recommend this tip if you’re okay with no warranty. On some electronics that should be okay. If you needed a new speaker for example, you could avoid the plastic packaging by buying a used speaker off of craigslist. However if you needed a new phone, you could definitely still buy a second-hand phone but the warranty is a little more important for that.
- Always find ways to reuse or upcycle
Before you buy something, make it a habit to ask yourself if you’re able to make that product from something you own to serve the same purpose. A good example of this is when I was looking to buy rags for my new place. I realized that I still have old work clothes that are too small, so I cut them up into squares and voilà! I had my rags.
- Look for bars over bottles
If you need soap or shampoo, get bars of soap and shampoo bars. This is a super easy way to avoid using a plastic bottle each time. If you already have a bottle of shampoo or soap dispenser bottle, use it up then get a bar next time. If you’re feeling crafty, you can clean the bottles out use them to dispense the perfect portion of oil onto your pan for cooking.
- Refill your fabric conditioner bottles at a zero waste shop
One of the zero waste enthusiasts told me she ran out of her fabric conditioner, kept the bottle, then refilled it at a local zero waste store. She said it was even cheaper than buying a new bottle from the supermarket! This tip doesn’t just apply to fabric conditioner. You can also use this same concept with cooking oil bottles, laundry detergent, and really anything that you can refill at a bulk food store or zero waste shop.
- Swap baby wipes for an old piece of clothing
Most of the time baby wipes will come in plastic packaging, so when a product only comes in plastic, it’s best to find a plastic-free alternative. To cut down on using baby wipes, you can find an old piece of clothing that maybe doesn’t fit anymore, or you don’t use. Once you have your clothing of choice, cut it into 5x5 inch squares, and you can wipe kids’ faces and hands after meals. Make sure the piece of clothing is cleaned and comfortable. Because if you wipe your kid's face with rough denim, it may not go over well.
- Home cook as much food as you can
This will help you avoid the tempting snacks that only come in disposable plastic, like chip bags for example. This is actually one of my favourite things to do while cooking; make way more dinner than you can eat, store it, then portion it into snacks for the week. We can call that snack prepping, and it’s perfect for when you or kids are feeling snacky.
- Reuse the bag your frozen burritos came in
If you have a bag of frozen burritos in your freezer and it came in a plastic bag, you can reuse that! It doesn’t have to be frozen burritos, but that’s just what was in my freezer so I thought I’d use that as an example. Once you’re done eating the frozen food, wash the plastic bag out really well. You can use that bag to freeze berries for smoothies, or bananas to make banana bread. This works really well because once you’ve eaten all of the berries, or made the banana bread, you can just clean the bag and use it again!
- Do an honest inventory of your pantry
You may have loved cooking years ago. Or maybe you wanted to get into baking more but just don’t have time for it right now. Take a hard look at your pantry and write down everything that you can cut down on. During my second year of university I had to do this. I wanted to get into making hummus from scratch on the weekends, so now I have numerous cans of chickpeas in my cupboard from various sales. I had to make a note of that and realize that I was just too occupied with school to be taking the weekend to make all of that hummus. So my hummus dreams have been put on pause, and I’m saving a lot of waste by realizing that, and to stop buying so many damned cans of chickpeas (seriously, there’s too many).
- When ordering take-out food, bring a reusable bag to pick it up
Sometimes you just need an easy meal so you don’t have to stress about dinner, I know I do! I find that if you ask the restaurant to just have the packaged meals ready (no napkins, plastic cutlery etc.) so you can pick it up with a reusable bag, they’ll let you do that no problem. It’s a bonus if you find a restaurant that packs their food in compostable containers!
- Look for glass pasta sauce jars
This doesn’t have to be specifically for pasta sauce, but that’s just what came to mind when thinking about my own shopping. If you just switch your pasta sauce purchases from plastic jars to glass jars, you’ll be able to reuse the jar and reduce plastic waste. Once you’ve used up all of the sauce, you can clean the glass jar and store pasta, peanuts, spices, homemade toothpaste, and really anything you want into it. And of course you could just make pasta sauce from scratch and fill your glass jar with that.
- Reuse your Ziploc bags
A lot of the people I know have a massive supply of ziploc bags in their kitchen. Although I do recommend using pyrex reusable containers; if you already have plastic ziploc bags, you might as well put them to use and reuse them! Never had I actually thought about doing this until my roommate showed me. I walked into the kitchen and he had about seven empty Ziploc bags hanging around the kitchen drying out. I didn’t quite agree with that new interior design for the kitchen. So I asked what he was doing. He then explained that you can store snacks, sandwiches, or anything you’d normally put in the Ziploc bag. After you’re done with it, fill the bag with warm soapy water and clean it out. He hung the Ziploc bags up around the kitchen to dry them out, not to bring a unique style to the kitchen.
- Get over-the-counter food put into your reusable container
You know how in markets they have the premade stuffed portobello mushrooms? Well maybe not exactly that, those are just my favourite. But with over-the-counter food, they usually wrap it in wax paper or something similar. You could save them the hassle of wrapping it by giving them your reusable container to put the food in. They will still need to put the sticker on the container so the cashier can scan it, but other than that you’re preventing some unnecessary waste!
- Swap plastic for cloth when buying flowers
You know when you’re buying a custom bouquet of flowers from a florist or grocery store and they wrap it in that thin single-use plastic? Just bring a larger piece of cloth with you in your purse or reusable bag, and ask them to wrap the flowers in the cloth.
- Wash your used tinfoil and reuse it, then recycle it
This is kind of similar to reusing the ziploc bags. Again, I didn’t really think about doing this until I came across a video from @1milllionwomen on Instagram. It was completely new to me that I could simply wash the tin foil and reuse it again and again. All you have to do is scrub the tinfoil down with a dish brush; use hot water and dish soap, then use it again. Tinfoil can also be recycled too, but only if it’s clean and has no food remnants on it. So make sure you wash it good!
- Take a look at zero waste dish soap
If you go to a grocery store or supermarket and look at the dish soap, you’ll see that most - if not all - of the dish soaps come in plastic packaging. So how can we avoid this? I did a quick google search and immediately saw that Etsy has a lot of shops that sell zero waste dish soap. They even pack and ship it in mason jars. You can also buy dish soap at a zero waste shop, just make sure you bring a good container to store it in. Another option you have is to make your own dish soap.
Time needed: 5 minutes.
Here's a super simple way David Suzuki teaches to make DIY zero waste dish soap:
One handful soap nuts (a.k.a. soapberries)
1 L (4 cups) tap water
Add ingredients to a glass jar with a tight lid. Shake before each use. When you get bubbles, pour about 125 ml (½ cup) of the solution into your sink.
Refill the jar with water. Use the solution until the soap nuts stop making suds or smell bad. Then throw them in the compost and start a new batch.
Personalize this recipe by altering ingredient ratios for desired results. Success will depend on the hardness of your water and dish grime. You can even add the solution to a pump soap dispenser.
- Get all the to-go food you can into reusable containers
If you want food to go, try to get it in a reusable container. The tip for this one is to have your container ready, say "I'd like (insert food here) to go please" while handing over your reusable container and smiling. As Kathryn Kellogg says, asking gives them all of the power. When you don't ask, you hold the power.
- Reuse your toilet paper
Just kidding! Seriously, please don't do that... What you can do is get recycled toilet paper that's wrapped in paper. You should be able to find this at your local supermarket or zero waste shop. If not, Amazon always has your back.
- Make a list of weekly, monthly, and yearly zero waste goals
This has personally helped me a whole lot. If you want to succeed in something, you need to have a goal to work towards. A good idea to start out is to set a $100 budget for excess spending (not necessities like bills, food, etc.) for month one. The next month cut it down to $75, then eventually down to $0. This isn't necessarily to save money, but to help stop making impulse purchases that could hurt your goal of a zero waste lifestyle.
- Write down what you throw out
Whether it's food, plastic packaging, old clothes, or anything else. Just jot down the things you throw out in your notes on your phone. At the end of the week, you'll have a thorough list of what you need to work on to reduce waste.
- If you're taking a course, check to see if there's an online textbook
If you're in university or just taking a course to learn something new, that's awesome! As I'm sure you know, the textbooks are crazy expensive and are usually super big. It wastes so much paper, especially because a lot of the time you don't even end up using the whole book for the course. I found that with a lot of the courses that I've taken, there's usually an online version. The e-textbooks cost way less, and are sometimes free, which is a great price!
- Keep the brown paper from package deliveries for your kids to draw on
You know when you order something and they stuff the box with brown paper to protect your order? Keep it! You can smooth the paper out, then give it to your kids to draw on so they can get their art on the fridge. Depending on the size of the paper, you could even make a zero waste banner for birthday parties with the packaging paper.
As I said earlier, the key takeaway from all of these zero waste tips is to go through your trash. You need to know what to cut down on before you can reduce waste. Is there anything on this list you would've liked to see? Let me know in the comments! If you enjoyed this post, please consider sharing it on Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter or more. It lets me know how much you enjoy these posts :)