10 Simple Ways to Go Zero Waste. By Ellin Park from Zero Waste Bulk.
10 Simple Ways to Go Zero Waste
The zero waste movement is about minimizing your waste and living as sustainably as practically possible. We live in a disposable society where wastefulness has become normalized, but it doesn’t have to be that way. There are many simple swaps and habits you can adopt to vastly cut down on household garbage. You may want to start by doing a trash audit of your garbage bin to become aware of where your trash is coming from.
Here are ten simple ways you can reduce the amount of trash you produce:
1. Bring your own bag. Say no to single-use plastic bags, and bring your own reusable grocery bags and cloth produce bags when grocery shopping. I leave a set of reusable bags in my car and one in my purse. Upon returning from a grocery trip, we hang the reusable bags on the door handle so we remember to take them back to the car (of course, when you can, take the bus, bike, or walk instead of driving a car).
2. Bring your own cup. Say no to disposable cups, and bring your own reusable mug if you plan on grabbing a coffee or other drink to go. If you plan to enjoy your drink in a cafe, always specify that you want your drink “for here” in a ceramic mug or glass. Often, cafes will have ceramic mugs but will make your drink in a disposable cup if you don’t explicitly ask for the mug.
3. Bring your own containers for leftovers. Say no to disposable takeaway containers and make it a habit to bring your own reusable containers when you go out to eat. You may feel a little weird the first time you pull out your own containers to put your leftovers in, but I’ve only had positive reactions from other people who have noticed.
4. Bring your own cutlery. Say no to disposable plastic cutlery, and be prepared with your own cutlery kit. We all have our own cutlery already - to create plastic cutlery to toss after a single use is an enormous waste.
5. Say no to straws. If you enjoy ordering cold drinks, carry around your own reusable straw made of stainless steel, glass, or bamboo, or reject drinking with a straw entirely. I keep a stainless steel straw along with a straw cleaning brush in my to-go cutlery kit. I usually rinse it immediately after use, and I have had no problems keeping it clean.
6. Use a bamboo toothbrush. Instead of using a plastic toothbrush, use a bamboo toothbrush. I keep my bamboo toothbrush in a jar by the bathroom sink and roughly pat it dry with a towel after every use to prevent mold from developing. At the end of its life, you can either repurpose it or pull out the bristles using pliers and compost the handle.
7. Use a safety razor. Instead of using a plastic disposable razor, invest in a stainless steel safety razor with replaceable blades. While safety razors have a higher upfront cost, they should last you a lifetime. And like many of the sustainable alternatives, they look beautiful, so you can feel classy while shaving!
8. Use cloth towels. Instead of using single-use paper towels, use cloth towels. I still use paper towels for the occasional pet accident, but now my paper towel rolls last forever since switching to a cloth towel for a majority of uses. If you switch over completely to cloth towels, you also save on space needed to stock up on rolls of paper towels.
9. Use a menstrual cup or cloth pads. If you are someone who menstruates, try using a menstrual cup or cloth pads instead of tampons and disposable pads. A menstrual cup can look intimidating to use and does have a slight learning curve, but it cuts down on so much waste and saves money in the long run.
10. Buy package-free foods. If you live near a bulk foods store, such as Bulk Barn, take advantage of this and use your own containers (or bags) to fill up on package-free bulk foods. Many grocery stores also have bulk sections, but make sure to ask first if you can use your own containers and if they are able to deduct the tare weight of your containers upon checkout so that you aren’t paying for the weight of your containers. For produce, see if there are any farmers’ markets near you to get fresh, local, and package-free produce. So much of our garbage comes from food packaging, so avoiding food packaging will leave your garbage bin a lot lighter.
Much of this list comes down to being prepared and saying no to disposables. Yes, disposables are often more convenient and don’t require us to be mindful, but they come at a cost to our environment. The good news is that being prepared with your zero waste alternatives can become an automatic habit after the initial struggles with remembering to bring your own. It’s normal to start out with good intentions to bring your own bags when grocery shopping, for example, but you may remember your reusable bags only once you get to the cash register. This is okay and normal. Just keep trying to incorporate such changes into your routine, and it will eventually become weird to not be prepared.
About the Author
Ellin Park is the founder of Zero Waste Bulk, a zero-waste grocery store opening in Kitchener-Waterloo in 2018. In 2016, she adopted a vegan zero waste lifestyle when she realized her everyday consumption choices were harmful to the environment. As she tried to minimize her waste, she was frustrated with having to make scattered grocery trips to find package-free foods and zero waste essentials. This led her to envision a one-stop zero waste shop, and after a year of dreaming about it, she decided it was time to turn it into reality. Learn more about her up and coming business here! Zero Waste Bulk is also on Instagram & Facebook @zerowastebulk