For those who want to lower their environmental impact, a zero-waste home is often the highest goal. For some this goal may seem a little too high if they are unfamiliar with the steps needed to accomplish this task.
The idea of a home that is truly “zero-waste,” with no unnecessary refuse whatsoever, may seem almost unattainable when you look at the changes you would need to make. Changing the way you shop, the way you cook and the way you clean your home can help you reach zero-waste in 2019.
The start of the new year often fuels many people’s efforts to change the way they live and the attitude they have toward their household waste. Using this energy to bolster your efforts helps you make alterations to your lifestyle, though trying to do everything at once is often overwhelming. By making one change at a time, create a gradual transition into a zero-waste home.
One of the quickest ways to reduce a significant portion of your waste is to focus on obtaining reusable packaging options.
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Throwing away plastic boxes and bags, disposable cups and other one-use items helps to eliminate a large part of your unnecessary waste. Try some of the following alternatives:
- A reusable travel mug for takeout coffee
- A lunch box for food taken to school or work
- A refillable water bottle for daily use
- Cloth bags for loose produce when shopping
- Large reusable bags to pack groceries or other items
A plant-based diet reduces your waste in several ways. You can generally find loose fruits and vegetables when shopping for groceries, as well as dried goods such as legumes, allowing you to use your own bags instead of plastic packaging.
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When you are creating a plant-based diet, focus on purchasing local and seasonal produce. This means the carbon footprint of the items you purchase is significantly lower than imported items. You may find the leftovers are easier to deal with as well when you are solely purchasing these types of products. Set aside the waste from these items as compost as this diverts it from landfills.
Buying in Bulk
Start looking for ways to begin buying in bulk. This is a big change if you operate on a tight, short-term budget, as bulk items initially means paying a higher grocery bill. Purchasing goods in this way does allow you to save money in the long run as you are not paying for the same items repeatedly throughout the month.
Buy non-perishable food items in bulk, such as grains or dried goods, with your own reusable bags. Bulk cleaning products are a great way to cut down on excess packaging as you can decant the products into smaller containers as you require them.
Cooking at Home
Buying pre-made food means you have a disposable package to throw away once the food has been eaten. One meal or food item at a time, try swapping your purchases for items made from scratch.
Start making lunch at home instead of buying takeout at work. For those who are savvy in the kitchen, start making your own bread or your own yogurt to reduce waste and stretch your budget each month.
Paying closer attention to the food you buy and eat helps cut down on the amount of food waste you generate. Creating a meal plan with specific ingredients ensures you do not buy any items you may not end up using. Make sure to store items properly, freezing or composting leftovers as needed.
The plastic bottles and packages used to transport cleaning products accounts for much of the waste accumulated in a home. The next time you clean your living space, consider all the products you use to do so as you may use one product for more than one purpose.
To reduce your waste even further, start making your own cleaning products. Try making a simple all-purpose cleaner with ingredients such as vinegar, salt, baking soda or liquid soap.
Sorting Your Waste
Sorting your garbage is an easy way to address the waste currently going out of your home. Sort the waste into recyclable materials, compostable materials and actual waste. The recycling can be further sorted and dealt with as needed. Compost can be used in your garden or collected as separate waste.
Once you have determined what is waste, look at what you are throwing away more critically. Measure how much you are discarding every week and set a goal to reduce this amount by the next week or month. As a reminder, try purchasing a smaller garbage can.
What to Avoid
If possible, always avoid items designed for single use such as plastic straws. If a long-lasting or reusable item is not available when you are shopping, take a moment to consider whether you could wait and look somewhere else before buying a more wasteful alternative.
Try to avoid bringing additional items into your home, whether packaging or items adding to your home’s clutter. Being mindful of what you allow into your space helps you to stay focused on your zero-waste goals. Make sure to take yourself off any junk mail lists and do not accept handouts and free items you know you are not going to use.
Be aware of the temptation to purchase something because it is recyclable. These items still have an added carbon footprint as soon as you throw them away. Reusing and reducing is always the better option.
Take Your Time
Taking the time to plan your zero-waste transition is the key to its success. Small, measurable steps are important. Budgeting is important as well, especially if you plan to start buying in bulk or if you need to purchase reusable containers and bags. The first step in your zero-waste plan could simply be saving for these items.
Trying to make huge changes all at once without thinking through how you are going to maintain your new lifestyle could result in a failed first attempt. It is important to accept the difficulties you may face in achieving this change. If you do not keep one of the resolutions you have made, resist any urge to give up altogether.
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