Zero Waste: How To Get Started

I recently shared with a few sweet friends of mine (hi, h & a!) that I live without making trash, save for a few tiny odds and ends here and there (the plastic seal surrounding a bottle of vitamins, a stray produce sticker). They promptly started quizzing me on the particulars (Food? Bought in bulk, in my own containers. Toothbrushes? Bamboo, compostable. Paper towels? Replaced with cloth).

The conversation helped me realize that living zero waste can seem really challenging, crazy, unattainable. Though it's taken me some time to get to this point, it has actually been pretty easy. To that end, I thought I’d give a few tips to get you started on the path to making less trash, if you'd like - even if you aren't ready to go completely zero waste, even taking small steps in that direction can make such a difference. So, here are three simple ways to get started:

1. Compost. Food waste isn’t garbage – given the chance to decompose, it will become rich soil that we can use to grow even more food. In a landfill, food doesn’t decompose, so composting is the clear winner here. Once you start composting, you’ll notice the amount of trash you make dropping rapidly. Food scraps, wood, cotton, linen, and lots of other materials can go straight into the compost. If you’re able to, you can set up a simple backyard composting system. Or, check to see if there’s a compost pickup service in your area using my national composting resource guide, here.

2. Shop smarter. By bringing your own cotton bags to the grocery store or farmers’ market to use instead of those clingy plastic produce bags, you’ll be able to buy fruits and veggies without making waste. Many stores also offer a bulk foods aisle, where you can decant unpackaged pantry staples (such as whole grains, snacks, and spices) into jars and bags you’ve brought from home. If you’re new to the bulk aisle, I’ve put together a how-to guide to get you started (it’s easy!). And, to find a store near you that offers bulk, unpackaged food that you can purchase in your own containers, click here.

3. Think twice. Part of living more simply and sustainably is figuring out what we need to live and thrive, and what we don’t. Though my instinct used to be that “more is better,” I’ve slowly been retraining myself to say no to the things I don’t need. The grocery store sample in a plastic cup, the free pen, the item on sale. Simply put, the less I bring in to my house, the less that needs to go out as trash.

Have you thought about going zero waste? What do you do around the home to live more simply and sustainably? Would love to hear!

Photo of my boyfriend holding his reusable thermos, to replace paper coffee cups - another small step towards everyday sustainability.