5 Steps Toward a Zero Waste Lifestyle
5 Steps Toward a Zero Waste Lifestyle
5 Steps Toward a
Zero Waste Lifestyle
Simple, sustainable changes to make in your home and on the go
By Jodi Helmer
From paper towels we grab for throughout the day to spoiled leftovers we forget at the back of the fridge, many of us create more waste than we realize. In fact, the average American produces 4.5 pounds of garbage every single day, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Concerns about the impact this waste has on the environment have spawned a new cultural phenomenon: The zero waste movement. It’s about strategically consuming less, creating less garbage, and, in the process, saving time and money.
Zero waste lifestyle
For many of us, it would be unrealistic to live a completely zero waste lifestyle. The good news is even small changes to your everyday routine can generate less waste, improve your sustainability, and make an impact.
GroundWork
GroundWork
Read these five easy, effective ways to waste less, reuse more, and help the environment.
1.
Inspect Your Trash
Garbage and recycling bins
Start by assessing the contents of your garbage and recycling bins. No need to rummage through the garbage; simply take note of what exactly you’re throwing away every time you open your bins. The key here is to identify what you’re throwing out most often and determine whether you can generate that waste less frequently or find more eco-friendly ways to dispose of it. Whether it’s food, plastics, paper products, or something else, knowing what’s taking up the most space in your trash will tell you where to focus first on your journey to zero waste.
2.
Adopt More Sustainable
Practices in Your Kitchen
Adopt More Sustainable Practices in Your Kitchen
Prioritize Meal Planning:
The EPA estimates one-third of the food we buy goes straight to landfills. Meal planning is very popular these days, and with good reason: Along with simplifying cooking throughout the week, meal planning can significantly help prevent food waste.

Take one day a week to map out your household’s food needs, taking into account any meals you plan to have out or order in, and how quickly you’ll be able to get through fresh foods like produce and meat. Make your grocery list, and only buy fresh foods that you know you’ll get through in the week ahead.

Meal planning
Cloth Napkins
Be Mindful of Paper Products:
How often do you use paper napkins and paper towels? Think about every time you grab one to clean up a spill, wipe down a counter, or dry washed fruit. Rather than always reaching for single-use paper items, try swapping them out for cloth napkins, dish towels, and cleaning rags. Once they’re soiled, toss them in the laundry and hang-dry them.
Be Mindful of Paper Products:
How often do you use paper napkins and paper towels? Think about every time you grab one to clean up a spill, wipe down a counter, or dry washed fruit. Rather than always reaching for single-use paper items, try swapping them out for cloth napkins, dish towels, and cleaning rags. Once they’re soiled, toss them in the laundry and hang-dry them.
Cloth Napkins
Rethink Food Storage:
Examine how much you package food in single-use items like plastic wrap, plastic bags, and aluminum foil. Instead, opt for resuable storage vessels, such as glass containers with lids, mason jars (these are ideal for sauces, dressings, and other liquids), and silicone food storage bags.
Food Storage
3.
Minimize Waste
Around Your Home
Minimize Waste Around Your Home
Pare Down Packaging:
Everyday household products often come with a lot of packaging. One of the best ways to limit the amount of excess plastic wrappings, cardboard boxes, and paperboard is to buy goods in bulk. Products ranging from dish soap and bath products to groceries and pet food are often available in larger or refillable containers. As an added bonus, buying in bulk often means fewer trips to the store and cost savings.
Don’t Forget Your Pets:
Certain everyday pet items, like dog waste bags and cat litter, can be made from biodegradable materials. And you can find toys made from recycled items and chews made with sustainable, natural ingredients.

You can also make your own pet toys from items that would otherwise be trashed. For example, braid together strips of fabric from old towels and clothing to make tug-of-war dog toys.

Absorbent Product
4.
Go Earth-Friendly in
Your Garden
Go Earth-Friendly in Your Garden
Compost piles at home
Consider Composting:
From coffee grounds and baked goods to paper towels and yard waste, a lot of our everyday household trash can be composted. If you have extra space on your land and are ready to invest the time and effort, consider starting compost piles at home.

Alternatively, you can look into local composting collection services in your area. Some will drop off and pick up compost buckets at your home.

Get Creative with Containers:
Get crafty and put would-be garbage to use in your garden. Rubber tires and weathered metal can work as garden beds and planters, while yogurt containers and milk jugs can be used as nursery pots.
5.
Avoid Creating Waste
When You’re Out and About
Avoid Creating Waste When You’re Out and About
Just like with paper products, single-use plastic can be found at every turn, from cups and straws to takeout containers and plastic bags. Whether you’re heading out for a few hours or a full day, take a few moments before you leave to think about the single-use paper and plastics you’ll come across, and the potential alternatives you can plan to use. Here are some to consider:
Reusable water bottle
Carry a reusable water bottle to avoid disposable ones.
Hankerchiefs
Invest in a few machine-washable hankerchiefs.
Plastic utensils
If you’re packing a lunch or snacks, don’t forget utensils. Camping utility sets are great for meals on the go.
Ready to try a zero waste lifestyle? Head to your local Tractor Supply, where a friendly associate would be happy help you select all the supplies and tools you’ll need.
About the Writer
Jodi Helmer writes about food, farming, and the environment from her homestead in rural North Carolina.

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