It’s a journey, not a race.
In implementing The 5 Rules of Zero Waste with Bea Johnson from last week, I found myself challenged in more ways than I expected. But glimpses of exciting life-long change inspired me to push on. Fortunately for me, there is an awesome community of zero wasters out there who have conquered the many challenges I’m going through. So as I reached out, I was amazed at the beautiful people who were willing to grab hold.
30 Day Zero Waste Challenge (Part 2)
To help kickstart my zero waste journey, I got some help from Kathryn Kellog, founder of goingzerowaste.com. In over a year of wasting zero, we talk through her thoughtfully crafted Top 10 Tips for a zero waste lifestyle. I had such a blast with her and learned so much! Enjoy our conversation below.
My Top 10 Tips for Going Zero Waste
After applying Kathryn’s tips and digging through my trash, I noticed common items destined for the landfill that could be avoided with a few lifestyle adjustments. I was also reminded that each person needs to figure out what works best for themselves. So with our combined top tips, perhaps you can find some overlap in your own life and these can be helpful with your interested in living a life that sends less trash to a landfill.
1. Challenge what’s convenient.
My biggest realization so far in my zero waste journey (it’s already evolved from a challenge) is that my reliance on what’s convenient has been my biggest factor in producing waste. What’s convenient takes little effort. It appears society has evolved to make single-use items and pre-packaged goods easily accessible because we’re willing to pay top dollar for convenience. I often don’t’ think twice because there’s no direct correlation to the waste this convenience contributes to. It reminds me of my vegan challenge in the fact that if slaughterhouses had glass walls, we’d all be vegans.
We engineered activity out of our lives in the name of convenience. We created foods that put fried, fatty, sweet, and salty ahead of fresh, natural, and healthy. We quickly sacrifice sleep to work longer hours in pursuit of the American Dream. Even when we do these things with good intentions, they have life-threatening consequences. – Tom Rath
2. Invest in a super dope reusable bottle.
Investing in a reusable water bottle was the trigger for many of my zero waste adjustments. My bottle has come to embody the joys that come with a less wasteful life. It’s a symbol for the simple life. It says that I appreciate quality over quantity. And even puts emphasis on appreciating experiences.
Here are a few other reasons to consider investing in a super dope bottle:
- You’ll drink more water.
- You’ll become more disciplined by ensuring you have it when you need it.
- You’ll save money; never buying water bottles or anything available from a tap.
- You’ll get discounts at cafe’s for bringing your own cup.
- You’ll inspire others who see your dope bottle that reusable containers are hip.
- You’ll experience why less is more.
- You’ll be offsetting the landfill damage of our fragile environment; cheers.
3. Keep a utensil handy.
Americans toss out enough plastic cups, forks and spoons every year to circle the equator 300 times. It wasn’t until I decided to go zero waste that I realized how much our society has become so reliant on single-use plastics. The bummer is after it’s 5 minutes of glory, it’s tossed never to be used again. Keeping a fork handy has been critical in not relying on the convenience of single-use plastics that litter our environment. Watch this video to better understand the impact single-use plastics and how keeping a fork handy can help achieve balance in our fragile environment.
4. Get some reusable bags.
These serve the same purpose as your reusable bottle and utensil. Only instead of holding your liquids, your bags holds your solids.
I have three small mesh bags, three medium cotton bags, and one large tote bag. In restocking my empty kitchen, I haven’t needed anything else. With the exception of mason jars for butters. Here’s a quick video of me going shopping with my bags zero-waste style!
5. Store food & knick-knacks in glass jars.
Putting all my food in mason jars was a game changer. Visibly seeing everything I have saves me time in the kitchen and more efficient when shopping. It has helped balance my diet because I make more of effort to have a variety of foods available.
The creative uses for mason jars never end. From storing/cooking food to home decor to organizing junk drawers, a simple mason jar can replace your the need for any other container and you’ll get to take advantage of all the useful mason jar add-ons people are inventing.
6. Replace paper towels with cloth.
Paper towels are convenient, yes. But in the words of Bea Johnson, “Every time you throw something away, you’re throwing away your money.” I’ve yet to experience an instance when a reusable cloth can’t be used in place of a rag.
Need to dry your hands? Why not wipe them on your pants? You’re wearing cloth will dry in just a few minutes. Save some time by giving your butt a squeeze and eliminate the wasteful practice of using paper towels from public restrooms.
And if you must keep those fancy pants dry, you can apply this great trick by Joe Smith who perfected the paper towel technique.
7. Go paperless.
Unsubscribe from physical mail and opt-in for paperless billing for your financial accounts. I see no reason why a physical copy of my account summary needs to be mailed to me when a digital version can be accessed in minutes. This is the digital age after all. As a bonus, most companies will offer you a discount when you opt to go paperless because it saves them the cost of printing and shipping it to you.
8. Get rid of your trash can.
This was the single best thing I did to generate more trash awareness. Knowing there’s nowhere to put trash I avoided accumulating it at all costs. The last thing I want is to leave trash on my counter because there’s nowhere else to put it.
9. Invest wisely.
As you may have noticed, half of those zero waste lifestyle tips involved buying something (ie. a dope bottle, reusable bags, utensil, mason jars, etc.). For me, the upfront cost for my Zero Waste Challenge cost close to $100. That said, all these items are reusable and have no need (unless they break) to be throw away or replaced. So be don’t be cheap. The more picky you are with your bottle, bags, etc. the better chances you’ll appreciate them more and ideally, they’ll be with you for life!
10. Share what you’ve learned.
Friends will challenge you more than your worst enemy when it comes to strange lifestyle changes they’re not familiar with. Who wants to lose a dear friend to some strange waste cult. That said, bouncing your zero waste concerns and practices makes my top ten list for two reasons:
- It makes me vulnerable. I’ve noticed it’s the things I’m not willing to boldly communicate that need to be further analyzed.
- To strengthen my values . Those things that I have found to be true makes for constructive conversations that inspire others.
What about you?
Why not get started towards your interest in producing less waste and implement tip 10 in the comments below ;) If there’s anything specific you’re curious about, let me know and I’ll be sure to share you my two cents.