5 Powerful Things Every Zero Waste Newbie Should Dig Into Before Starting a Zero Waste Lifestyle

Filling a counter top compost bin with strawberry tops and onion peels

Thinking of going zero-waste? You're in the right place! Read on for 5 practical tips to find success in this beginner’s guide for living zero waste lifestyle.

Estimated Read Time: 7 minutes

Edited March 2023

So, you’re interested in joining the ever-growing zero waste movement but unsure how to get started?

Don’t worry, we’ve all been there! As the world becomes increasingly environmentally conscious and the demand for greener products and practices continues to grow stronger, the more options there will be to practice sustainable living.

But before you begin to create a more zero waste lifestyle, read (or scan) through this post and take the time to figure out why you want to start this journey and what your plan will be.

Set your future self up for success!

5 Things To Know Before Starting a Zero Waste Lifestyle

1. Know Your “Why”

The fact that you are reading this blog right now says that something has compelled you to join the zero waste movement. Take a second right now to ask yourself why.

  • Could it be that you are passionate about preserving a clean planet for future generations to enjoy?
  • Are you trying to avoid the harmful toxins in plastics that can leach into your food and water?
  • Perhaps you realize living sustainably can help save you money?

Whatever your reason, understanding your motivation for your new lifestyle, and staying connected with it, is an all-important first step in your zero waste journey.

Knowing your ‘why’ extends beyond living a zero waste lifestyle. You can apply it to any kind of new practice, habit, or journey! But zero waste is what we do best and we’ve found there are a few reasons knowing your ‘why’ can help you along your journey.

  • It brings clarity to your purpose and makes your zero-waste decisions more meaningful.
  • It helps you stay focused at times when you need motivation.
  • It shapes your values that guide your decisions and define your goals.
  • It makes you feel passionate about achieving your goals.
  • It holds you accountable for your actions and allows you to live a zero-waste life with integrity.

Knowing why you want to go zero waste is the key to living a sustainable life with a sense of purpose, and will make your zero waste transition much easier.

2. Know Your Waste

 Throwing crumpled paper into trash bin

Did you know the average American creates roughly 4.5 lbs of garbage every day?

We can all do much better than this.

When you’re ready to start living a more zero waste lifestyle, take a week to observe yourself to make note of how much waste you actually create. You may not think you create a lot of waste but you’ll be surprised to see just how much every small item you toss away eventually starts to really add up.

You can even pay attention to the organic materials that you trash, as they might be better placed in a compost bin instead of a garbage bin.

What’s the point of paying attention to your waste other than knowing how much it is?

Once you are able to identify the items you find yourself reaching for the most, you can begin to start ridding your life of them!

The easiest way to start is by eliminating single-use items such as plastic straws, paper towels, plastic ware, and water bottles that you can swap for sustainable replacements.

Just about any single-use item you can find in your home has a plastic-free, reusable alternative that will greatly reduce your footprint.

3. Know What You Have

mismatched glass jars on a white shelf

Now that you’ve decided to make a change you’re probably excited to get going and fill your online shopping cart with some cool new zero-waste products!

Start making a list of the items you think you want but be sure to finish reading! How many times have you started a new hobby or project, and jumped right in with both feet, only to be looking at all the materials you bought years later with absolutely no desire to use them?

Yeah, us either…

Going through this list sets you up for success! Rather than spending money on things you don’t need (yet), trust the process, go slowly, and set yourself up for a lifetime of success.

Step 3: Have a look around your house and take inventory of sustainable items you may not even know that you already have lying around.

  • Empty glass jars are perfect for storing leftovers, dry bulk food, or even as a coffee mug in a pinch.
  • Old cotton t-shirts and leggings can be cut up to be used as cleaning rags, napkins, or handkerchiefs.
  • Instead of tossing out your shower curtain, use it as a tablecloth for outdoor gatherings.
  • Large containers such as body soap, hand soap, and maybe even laundry detergent jugs can be reused for refillable bulk shopping.
  • An old BPA-free water bottle is just as effective as an unnecessary new one.

Getting creative and finding innovative ways to repurpose the items you already own is really fun and can turn your zero waste journey into a zero waste adventure!

4. Know How to Buy

Woman choosing better products at grocery store

Impulse buying is a difficult habit to break. Especially with the relentless barrage of advertisements that flash in front of your eyes every day on Instagram, TikTok, Google, Billboards, and more telling you about all the things that you “need,” in your life.

But going zero waste is a transformation from a consumerist lifestyle into a minimalist one. That is to say, you will need to learn how to purchase less and purchase better.

Your (end) goal is to only buy items you actually need. Using a sustainable alternative to swap for a disposable, single-use item is a great start, but to be a critical-thinking consumer that buys less and buys well, often requires a little creativity and a lot of discipline.

Get into the habit of asking yourself a series of questions, before making a purchase:

  • Do I really need this item?
  • Do I already own something that can functionally replace it?
  • How often can I imagine myself really using it, and for how long?
  • Have I asked my friends and family if they have a spare?

To be even more certain that your purchase is the right decision, you can simply just….wait!

Write it down, save it to a list, make a bookmark, whatever you do, take a few days (or longer) away from the item, then come back and ask yourself the same series of questions. This can a long way in helping you avoid impulse purchases.

And of course, when you do buy, try to make sure you’re purchasing environmentally friendly, zero waste products whenever possible!

5. It Takes 21(+) Days

scrolling through a monthly calendar on an ipad with a pen and open notebook

It’s a common understanding that it takes about 21 days to make or break a habit. Turns out that’s only partially true. It takes a minimum of 21 days to create a habit, the average amount of time hovers around 66 days, but it can vary from 18-200+ days.

This number clearly varies from person to person, but the important thing to know is that transitioning to a zero waste lifestyle doesn’t happen overnight.

It is a gradual process that may involve behavioral changes that require a certain level of commitment and dedication to a bigger purpose. This will involve breaking yourself from old wasteful habits, as well as adopting new sustainable ones.

As you embark on the exciting new challenges of sustainable living, it’s important to allow yourself the patience to accomplish your goals, and the compassion to forgive yourself when you slip up from time to time.

Remember that living a literally “ZERO” waste lifestyle is virtually impossible. So whether it takes you 18 days or 250 days, let this be a continual reminder that the goal is not about achieving perfection, it’s about making better choices.

Wherever you are in your zero waste journey, welcome! Know that you’ve found a friend and a supporter in ZeroWasteStore. While we offer an amazing range of sustainable and zero waste products, we’re also here to help you. Guide you. Educate you and be here for you.

None of us are perfect, but by starting your zero waste journey with these 5 steps, you’re setting yourself up to live a fulfilling and wonderful imperfectly zero waste lifestyle.

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