How to Start Your Zero-Waste Journey

Updated: May 3, 2020

For many, the thought of going zero-waste seems unattainable. It feels like you have to give up too much, and that’s why so few people seem to try. Still, there is a growing zero-waste community ready to support newcomers and provide helpful daily solutions.

Disclaimer: I am not fully zero-waste. I move closer to being zero-waste every day but I am still learning about when and how to make the switch in some areas. Plus, moving to zero-waste is a process. It doesn’t happen overnight! I don’t believe that zero-waste will solve our addiction to trash, but I see it as a great opportunity to start shifting our mindset and moving towards a bigger change.

With most major lifestyle changes, only a few of us can make the switch all at once. For many, it isn’t practical or accessible and for the rest of us, some habits are hard to break so it is better to ease into it to make sure the new ones stick.

What’s Your ‘Why’?

To start, I find it best to identify why it is you want to go zero-waste or even just cut back on your waste. We live in a consumerist society. We were raised to be wasteful. Things are so accessible it is easy to grab and go. Our instant gratification usually gets the best of us. We are breaking the habits we’ve learned since we were children. That’s not always easy to do.

So, to move towards a zero-waste lifestyle, there has to be a change in our thought processes surrounding consumption. To do this we can identify ways that waste impacts us directly. It could be that you enjoy hiking and have had to pick up trash every time you go. Maybe you have children and you’re worried about climate change impacting their future.

No matter the reason, it is important to understand exactly what is driving you to make a change. When you can identify how your actions are affecting the environment and every being that lives on Earth, you’re far more likely to continue on the journey.

Looking for some inspiration? Check out this TEDx video from a few years ago with the environmental activist Lauren Singer.

Assess Your Current Amount of Waste

When we look at our life and break down how much we throw away on a given day, it can be overwhelming. I highly recommend taking a critical look at areas of high waste and then moving down the line.

If it helps, you can even choose a location to associate with your waste. One part of our life that produces the most waste is usually the kitchen. What we eat and what we drink almost always comes in a container of some kind.

Maybe you start in the kitchen and work your way to making that a zero-waste zone, and then you move to your bathroom. As you begin to prioritize your areas of waste, it will be far more achievable to potentially become zero-waste completely.

By visualizing and prioritizing our personal waste, it becomes clear that just one person can divert a substantial amount of trash from the landfill.

Use What You Have and Go From There

There is a common misconception about going zero-waste that you have to go out and buy a bunch of things to join the movement. I hate to break it to you, but consumerism is what we are trying to boycott so hit the brakes and take a step back.

For starters, you probably have plenty of containers around your house. If you want to start buying food in bulk, take a look at what you have and see if that can work. Maybe you don’t have enough or you don’t have a container the right size for what you need. That is when you consider buying something. BUT another part of a zero-waste lifestyle is avoiding buying new. Make thrifting your best friend. If you don’t already have it, see if you can make it and if you can’t make it, thrift it.

Not only does this process cut down on waste, but it usually saves you money too.

As you start to run out of items or have the need to replace them, then you can start to look at new solutions. One great resource that a friend of mine showed me recently is EarthHero. They have some amazing solutions to replace everyday single-use items. What I like about them is that many of their items are also vegan friendly and their supply chain speaks to their mission.

One aspect of zero-waste that I have started to take a deeper look at is cleaning supplies and soap. We throw out a crazy amount of containers for cleaning, hand soap, and dish soap. Probably even more so right now because of COVID-19.

As you run out of hand soap, think about alternatives to cut back on containers. Consider getting the largest bottle you can find to refill bottles you have left. Or find a more sustainable solution. For instance, I recently discovered the company Blueland and now use their soap and cleaning products. Now, it will be years before I might need a new soap bottle instead of a few weeks.

**Blueland is not a sponsor and I am not an affiliate. I just genuinely like their products.

When you start to invest in new products and containers, also think about their longevity. For example, I try to avoid plastic containers for Tupperware and only invest in glass ones. They last longer and are easier to clean.

Remember that this is a journey. Do not expect to be perfect at it right away. The best thing you can do is to get started and you’ll figure it out from there.

Other Zero-Waste Tips

When you start to make lifestyle changes like going zero-waste or going vegan, you have started to question things, see a bigger picture, and research better alternatives. You are trying to turn your impact into a positive one.

There is a ton of content online to learn more about going zero-waste and it will not be a major topic on my blog. I decided to write this post as a starting point to encourage others to shift their way of thinking. I want others to see zero-waste as a way to start questioning what we buy and if our habits are helping or hurting the world around us.

As you start on your zero-waste journey, look for resources, and find a community. There are tons of groups on social media that share tips and tricks. There are some amazing YouTubers that give sound advice. Plus, there are bloggers like GoingZeroWaste that give beginners a perfect launching pad.

And remember, going zero-waste in your personal life should not be an end-all solution. It is a great way to bring to light the amount of personal waste you produce and the overall waste stream. Yet, a lot of trash is produced by companies along the supply chain, not just after we've consumed something.

Looking for more ways you can make your impact a positive one? Check out these 5 Ways Individuals Can Help the Environment.

How have you started to cut back on your waste? Let me know in the comments below!

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