The zero waste movement is one we’ve all heard of but probably brushed aside because it sounded like something too out there or difficult to achieve.
When you consider how many tons of waste are created just in our country alone each year, this notion of reducing your waste starts to sound like something you should take seriously.
How do you create a zero waste home?
There are simple things you can do like following the famous Rs of reduce, reuse, recycle, but more importantly, it’s about learning to refuse.
Changing your mindset to zero waste takes time and effort, but ultimately it’ll save you money and make you feel really good about reducing your impact on the environment.
There’s a common misconception that living a zero waste lifestyle means you’re depriving yourself of things, being boring, or spending way too much time doing so.
Although it might appear that way to people who’ve never attempted to reduce or cut their household waste, it couldn’t be further from the truth.
Not only is living a zero waste life easy for everyone to achieve, no matter your age or background, but it’s something that requires very little thought once you get into it.
Whether your goal is to go 100 percent zero waste and dedicate your life to the movement or just to overhaul your thinking and make permanent and positive changes to how much waste your household creates, we’ve got everything you need to get started.
- 1 Can a Home Really Be Zero Waste?
- 2 The Steps of Zero Waste Living
- 3 The Difference Between Self Sufficient Living and Zero Waste
- 4 Benefits of A Living Zero Waste Lifestyle
- 5 The Zero Waste Heroes to Follow
- 6 Changing Your State of Mind to Zero Waste
- 7 Zero Waste Cooking
- 8 Zero Waste Home Construction and Design
- 9 Tips for Living Zero Waste Without a Hassle
- 10 Making Zero Waste Your Own
- 11 Related Questions
Can a Home Really Be Zero Waste?
The idea of a zero waste home doesn’t have to mean your home creates no waste at all, as this is a task that even the icons of the movement will tell you is impossible.
For those who take this seriously, and devote their lives to living zero waste, they’re able to reduce their trash output to just a mason jar full of waste every year, and do so even with large families.
However, just because some people can compact their waste to just a glass jar full, that doesn’t mean you have to.
Zero waste is not an all or nothing kind of deal and any changes you can make are going to be for the right reasons, even if it only cuts your waste by a fraction at first.
The beauty of the zero waste movement is that it can be adapted to fit your lifestyle, so even just taking on some of the lessons and applying them at home is a good start.
You’re not expected to eradicate all of your waste overnight, but rather make small changes to how you live and reposition your thinking about what’s really necessary, and how you can do your part to reduce waste output on the world.
There will always be things that end up in the trash, and that can’t be avoided, but the point of living zero waste is to make sure you eliminate all other options first.
Considering that Americans create around 234lbs of plastic waste each year, and only recycle 34 percent of their municipal solid waste, there’s never been a better time to stop this way of living to reduce the footprint you leave on the earth.
The Steps of Zero Waste Living
The zero waste movement is a lot like other conservation messages in that it follows the famous Rs to minimize the was your household creates.
Becoming zero waste is a journey and one that takes time, but by keeping these rules in mind you’ll be following the right path.
This step is crucial to the zero waste process and requires a hard and honest look at yourself and other members of your household.
Go through each room of the house, look inside pantries, closets, boxes, and drawers to assess the type of home you have. Are you overrun with junk and unwanted items?
Do you seem to stockpile certain things? Do you have very little to start with and want to take this modesty even further? Make a note of your current situation and be brutally honest about where you stand.
Learning how to refuse is the single most important step in zero waste as this is the one that stops the waste from entering your home in the first place, but it’s also the hardest.
Saying “no” in a way that’s gentle and polite isn’t as easy as it sounds and it’s a form of willpower that needs to be strengthened.
You need to learn to say no to waste including single-use bags, straws, cups, and cutlery, as well as other short-lived items like junk mail, cheap plastic toys, promotional gear, and other freebies.
When you assess your home for waste, these are the areas you’ll note that you can reduce. Reduce means exactly that, to critically assess everything and see if you actually need it rather than just want it.
Do you buy clothing based on fast fashion choices? Do you purchase items that are wrapped in single-use, individual packaging? Do you have too many cosmetics that don’t get used? Do your kids have an overabundance of toys and gadgets that don’t get played with?
Get real with yourself about where you can reduce your consumption and stop buying things that you don’t need.
The reuse step is all about getting rid of single-use and disposable products and switching them for reusable ones.
You should cut out plastic water bottles, disposable diapers, takeaway coffee cups, tissues, plastic wrap, paper towels, and all the things that get limited use before they’re thrown away.
Swap them for reusable items like glass jars, a stainless steel straw, handkerchief, and biodegradable, washable dishcloths.
Before you throw something out consider whether it can be reused in your home, repaired and made new again, or refashioned to serve another purpose.
Although most people think of recycling as the key to reducing waste, it’s actually one of the last steps you should take.
Recycling means putting anything you can’t reuse into the recycling bin, but the issue with this is that it doesn’t all make its way to a recycling facility.
For some, this is the hardest mental change to make, but it’s about reducing the amount of stuff you recycle before it gets to this point.
This step is the easiest to implement and all it takes is starting a compost pile.
Rather than throwing scraps in the trash, you’ll throw them into the compost, and it includes things like fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, tea bags, brown paper, hair and nail clippings, and nut and eggshells.
It’s amazing how much you can put into the compost that would’ve otherwise been diverted to a landfill.
The Difference Between Self Sufficient Living and Zero Waste
Another popular green movement that’s been gaining traction in recent years is the self-sufficient way of living.
Although they have similar ideas behind them, they’re actually quite different, but both of them can be hugely beneficial for the environment and personally enriching for you as well.
Compared to a zero-waste lifestyle, the self-sufficient way of life is about reducing your reliance on the earth, and it requires a lot of effort and patience to achieve.
These people grow their own food, work from home or on their farm, and even create their own energy. These are just some of the things that self-sufficient living is all about and how it compares to living zero waste:
- Reduce costs and live frugally: Rent DVDs, books, and magazines from the library and get your clothing from swap meets, clothing swaps, and second-hand stores.
- Grown your own food: Have a fully functioning chicken farm, grown seasonal fruits and vegetables, and make your own butters, milks, and pastes.
- Live long term: Choose a place of residence and plan to be there for good. Plant long term crops and transform your home into a sustainable place to live with specific renovations and upgrades that do just that.
- Use natural energy: Use fire for heat, solar panels for energy, and consider options like thermal heat pumps and wind turbines.
- Get back to basics: This way of living requires frugality and simplicity, so you can say goodbye to lattes, the latest electronics, and fast fashion choices.
This type of life can have a dramatic impact on not just waste, but your carbon footprint altogether.
It’s not the easiest thing to adapt and requires a shift in how you live, but for those who want to take their conservation to the next level, self-sufficient living might be the way to do it.
Benefits of A Living Zero Waste Lifestyle
Making the choice to live zero waste is a fantastic thing to do for the earth, but what are you getting out of it as well?
If you’ve been considering making the changes that will dramatically decrease your waste output, these are some of the economical, personal, and environmental benefits you’ll be able to reap.
Going zero waste means not only saying no to a lot of things you’d usually buy but buying things in bulk and direct from the source.
In doing that, you can save hundreds from your monthly food shopping, as well as reducing costs on cleaning products, useless toys, and gadgets, and buying cheaply made clothing that you purchase on a whim.
Think about how much time you spend shopping at the mall or the grocery store, almost in automatic mode as you buy things.
By carefully planning what you need you’ll reduce the amount of time spent at the store so you’ll have more time to spend on more important things like learning a new hobby, catching up with friends, or being with your family.
There’s no greater feeling than knowing you’ve achieved your goals with going zero waste, even just starting with small steps. Noticing that you’re creating less waste or refusing plastic packaging will give you a sense of satisfaction that’s not possible from anything else.
Getting rid of the clutter in your home and reducing how much waste you bring into it will result in a cleaner home overall. Without bringing home junk that you don’t need you’ll notice less mess, and by developing a cleaning system using your own products, you’ll have a succinct routine in place and very little to tidy.
Better quality products
When you start to give more thought to what you’re purchasing, you’ll notice this equates to buying better quality products as well.
Rather than choosing fast fashion for yourself or plastic toys for your kids, you’ll instead choose well made and high-quality garments and sustainable, long-lasting toys for your kids.
Reduces climate impact
By reducing, reusing, and recycling, we’re able to make a great impact on also reducing carbon emissions.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, around 42 percent of these emissions are made producing things like food packaging and products.
The earth only has a finite amount of resources for us to use, and living a zero waste lifestyle can help conserve them.
The way we process and create products today for mass consumption is unsustainable, so learning to live this way will give you a good head start on what’s required in the future.
The Zero Waste Heroes to Follow
The zero waste movement has exploded thanks to the world wide web and with its growth, it’s seen some leaders emerge.
If you’re looking for inspiration on how to make your home zero-waste or just want to know what’s possible when you adopt this lifestyle, check out some of these famous zero waste influencers to be truly amazed at what they’ve achieved.
Considered the queen of zero waste, this mother of two from California is known as the guru who started this movement in the US. Her famous book, Zero Waste Home: The Ultimate Guide to Reducing Your Waste, is a must-read for anyone who wants to adopt the lifestyle.
Johnson is a minimalist at heart, creating just a 16oz jar of trash a year with her entire family, and has even influenced some of the largest corporations to minimize their plastic use.
Kathryn is a young woman living in California who, along with her husband, completely transformed the way she lived with the zero waste movement.
Her claim to fame is turning her usual annual trash pile into a tiny amount that would fill only half a 16-ounce jar.
Kellog saves at least $5,000 a year just on food by living this way and has a blog, published book, online store, and social media presence, with loads of fans who follow her closely.
Celia is a 24-year-old zero waste blogger with a difference, in that she doesn’t take it to the extremes like some others.
Celia also doesn’t track how much waste she makes each year because she feels it’s not an accurate representation, especially considered manufacturing processes.
Through her social media and blogs, she shows everyday families how to reduce their waste in practical ways that are also enjoyable to implement.
Changing Your State of Mind to Zero Waste
To get into the right frame of mind to start your zero waste journey, think of the world’s trash output and your place within it.
The world creates around 3.5 million tons of solid waste and plastic every single day, a figure that is 10 times the amount it was 100 years ago, and this number grows annually.
Each person in the US creates 4.4 pounds of trash every single day, contributing to the country’s disgraceful 250 million tons a year of solid waste.
Imagine this huge amount of waste and then imagine everyone making a conscious effort to reduce their pile by just a fifth.
By doing this, we’d save 50 million tons a year of trash from ending up in landfill, and without doing very much at all. To get to this point though, you need to make gradual changes to the way you think, with the most important step being refuse.
Refuse is the start of the zero waste movement and the single most important step.
To refuse something from even entering the home is to save you from having to implement the other steps, and it’s the easiest way to change your mindset without having to put in much extra effort at all.
Getting on board with the other things like repairing ripped clothing or swapping out single-use plastics for glass jars and beeswax wrap will come easy, so long as we implement them one thing at a time.
By being critical of our purchases and actions at home, we’ll slowly develop the zero-waste frame of mind that is essential to this way of living.
Zero Waste Cooking
Food waste is a huge part of the problem when it comes to the average household, but it’s also the area that can be tackled the easiest.
There are some tips you can follow in cooking and meal planning that will reduce your household waste and also end up saving you a lot of money.
- Look at the portion size and consider reducing this if possible, or switch to smaller plates to help with serving sizes.
- Have a set meal plan for the week or month and create menus that utilize all of the ingredients rather than just some.
- Only purchase small quantities of fresh foods to reduce waste and leave bulk purchases to longer-lasting items.
- Choose ingredients that don’t have a lot of packaging or find ways of refusing packaging, if allowed.
- Make large batches of meals and freeze them in eco-friendly containers to save money, use ingredients, and reserve energy.
Zero Waste Home Construction and Design
The concept of zero waste doesn’t just have to be confined to our homes and retail choices, as it also extends much further.
Home construction and design are two areas that are also making the switch to zero waste to dramatically reduce their output into the world.
Zero waste home construction isn’t just about sending as little materials into landfills as possible.
Businesses with this goal also make smarter use of storage space, look at the flow of waste in the design and construction process, and also invest in sustainable and eco-friendly materials that are recycled or less harmful to cultivate.
For those living a zero waste lifestyle, this also means implementing some changes in their own homes.
You might consider growing your own vegetables, having chickens on-site for free eggs, using solar power or other natural sources of energy, and building a compost heap.
All aspects of life can be transformed with the zero waste way of thinking, and your home is a great place to start.
Tips for Living Zero Waste Without a Hassle
We know by now that zero waste is something that must be achieved slowly, so implementing small changes at a time will usually deliver the best results.
With that in mind, we’ve got some helpful tips to share about how to go zero waste and unique ways to reduce your household’s output.
- Never leave the house without your reusable items, because you never know when you’ll need them. A reusable water bottle, stainless steel straw, travel mug, and produce bag should be with you at all times to minimize waste.
- Rather than throwing things out, donate anything that’s in good condition to charity or a second-hand store. Likewise, consider what you can purchase second hand rather than buying new, and choose this option when you can.
- Get the whole family to sign up at the library and make it a regular outing. You can hire books, magazines, DVDs, and games, rather than purchasing them new and having them collect dust around the house.
- Don’t buy anything impulsively and give yourself a 48-hour cooling-off period before making big purchases. If you feel like shopping to treat a negative feeling, get outside and go for a brisk walk first to clear your head.
- Before buying large items like camping chairs or video game consoles, consider asking a friend to borrow theirs instead. If you have things you can swap with friends and family to use for a week, it can provide loads of entertainment without needing to purchase anything new, and save a lot of money.
- Go through your child’s room and put half of their toys away into a storage box. After a few months, swap these toys out with the ones left in their room. It’ll be like getting brand new toys to play with and without having to purchase more stuff.
Making Zero Waste Your Own
Living the zero waste lifestyle is a long term commitment, and it takes a lot of mental change and patience to put things into practice slowly.
Nobody can transform the way they live overnight and switch their trash bag for a glass jar like some of the movement leaders do, but by following just five simple steps you can slowly transform the way you think and ultimately how much waste you create.
There are so many benefits to be found from reducing out waste output and even if you don’t manage to consolidate your annual trash pile to a handful, that doesn’t mean you aren’t doing your part.
Making conscious choices is the first step and one that will easily rub off onto others, so start within your own home to think about what you can do to reduce your waste.
The zero waste movement has grown in popularity in recent years, but making these changes in your own life can sometimes be hard to do.
With that in mind, we’ve answered some common questions that are asked in the zero waste community to give you a rundown on how it can help.
What Countries Have Zero Waste?
At this point, there are no countries that are completely zero waste, but many are dedicated to achieving it in the future.
In Sweden, the government unveiled plans to be waste-free by 2020 with a range of initiatives and managed to exceed the targets they set out for their citizens.
What Household Products Make the Most Waste?
If you want to focus on just some parts of the home to reduce waste, the best place to look is the kitchen. Plastic packaging is common in most types of food and often unnecessary.
By taking along your own jars or reusable containers and purchasing in bulk, you can cut down on plastic use dramatically with just your weekly grocery shop.