Have you ever wondered how to start your journey to zero waste? How is it even possible? Well, there are a few simple things you can do to get started and some tips on how to replace your disposable plastic products with ones that will last and biodegrade when you are done with them.
- Go find all your reusable grocery bags. (I know you have some hidden away somewhere….everyone does)
- Don’t throw out your plastic bags right away. The point of zero waste is not to make your house a zero waste zone right away and just throw out everything disposable, but to start by using up the disposable items you already have (cling wrap, ziplock bags, plastic grocery bags, plastic toothbrushes, individually packaged dishwasher detergent etc.) Just use it all up and instead of replacing it with what you would normally buy, look for a sustainable option. (the best part is, sustainable options are almost always cheaper, especially in the long run.)
- I don’t know about you, but when I started to live more sustainably, I didn’t have the money to go out and purchase a bunch of new glass and metal containers for food, laundry detergent and shampoo. I had some mason jars and a few nice glass jars. If you want to get rid of all your plastic tupperware and make money at the same time, host a yard sale (or garage sale if it is still cold out) and sell all the plastic items you no longer want to make money for the sustainable items that you do want. You kill two birds with one stone.
- Start making things for yourself instead of buying them. (toothpaste, laundry soap, spaghetti sauce, pasta noodles, reusable bags, dish detergent, shampoo bars, deodorant, baby powder and household cleaners) There are hundreds of recipes for each of these items on Pinterest. I want to start with laundry soap as soon as my last bit of store-bought detergent is used up.
- Plant a garden. This is the best way to get your own fresh produce but if you don’t have the space, farmers markets are the next best option. Grocery stores put plastic zip ties on lettuce and stickers on fruit so this contributes to your waste.
- Start composting. Find a metal container with a lid to keep your compost in. About once a week you can empty it into a large compost bin in your yard. My husband built ours out of scrap wood from renovating our house, but you can just dig a hole and start putting it in there or purchase a compost bin from a garden store.
- Install a wood stove. This is the best alternative heat source because it does not rely on fossil fuels or electricity (and with the way electricity rates are soaring in Canada, you might have to find a replacement.) This works best if you live where wood is cheap (or free if you have your own bush). It does release carbon dioxide into the air but carbon dioxide does the ozone layer much less harm than its cousin carbon monoxide which is what is produced from natural gas and trees are a sustainable resource. If you don’t feel good about cutting down trees (even dead ones) just think about how the forest also needs to regenerate. If all the trees are large old ones, they will eventually perish and younger ones will need to take their place, but in large old forests, there is not enough sunlight for the small trees near the ground to grow. You are doing the forest a favour by cutting down a few trees to heat your home each year.
- Purchase in bulk. If you have nowhere to buy unpackaged bulk food items that you can store in your own containers, check out the largest grocery store near you. They often have a bulk food section which, though small, is better than nothing. Look for foods that come in paper or cardboard packaging rather than plastic and if you can’t find an alternative to a plastic wrapped item, buy it in larger amounts because that will use less packaging. We use the junk mail and cardboard packaging from the products we buy to start fires in our wood stove.
- Unsubscribe from junk mail. This will create less waste if you have no fire in which to burn your junk mail.
- Stop accepting disposable packaging from anyone. Bring your own container to restraints to bring home your leftovers. If you go to a family reunion where you know people will give you gifts or leftovers, bring your own reusable bags and containers.
- Tell other people about the zero waste movement. They will think you’re crazy at first but eventually the idea will rub off on them.
- Go to your library and check out books on sustainability, homesteading and zero waste. a few of my favourites are: Plastic Free by Beth Terry, Zero Waste Home by Bea Johnson (She has also done several TED talks on living zero waste) and Homesteading in the 21st Century by George Nash and Jane Waterman. You can also check out podcasts right from your phone. I have a few favourites: Cohesive Home Podcast and The Sustainable Living Podcast.
So get started today and don’t push it off. I made the decision one night and I have not regretted a moment of it. Do you have a favourite book or podcast pertaining to zero waste, sustainability or homesteading?