Starting a Zero Waste Lifestyle: A Beginners Guide to Going Zero Waste
Zero Waste is a lifestyle that's focused on reducing, reusing, and recycling waste. Here are our 10 tips to going zero waste we wish we knew when we started!
Estimated Read Time: 7 minutes
So you're ready to start a zero waste lifestyle.
You’ve seen the turtles eating plastic bags, David Attenborough has made you cry, and you’re ready to fit all your monthly trash in a sandwich baggie.
Okay, Kidding! Going zero waste is a lot harder than it looks — trust us we’ve tried it and we know how hard (dare we say discouraging) it can be. And because we’ve gone through the journey ourselves, we’re here to help you get started!
Like any major decision it’s important to educate yourself and move at a pace that works best for you. We hope you enjoy these 10 tips to help you start a zero waste lifestyle.
We’re so excited for you to join us in our mission to save the planet!
How to Start a Zero Waste Lifestyle: 10 Tips to Going Zero Waste
1. Know Your ‘Why’
Photo by Liz Martin on Unsplash
Obviously your ‘why’ is to save the planet. We know that much. But take a minute to look a little closer for the deeper reason you want to reduce your waste.
- Is it for future generations?
- Do you want to see a cleaner planet during your lifetime?
- Is it for health reasons?
- Are you trying to save money?
Knowing the reason behind your journey gives you a point to start at and a point to come back to. It helps you move through your zero waste journey with a purpose and stay true to that purpose.
Photo by Kenny Eliason on Unsplash
Before you get started overhauling your life, take a couple weeks or months and just observe your habits and the habits of the people around you.
- How much food waste do you see/make?
- How much single use plastic do you use?
- How much waste do you produce?
Take a mental or physical note of the things that stand out to you and what you want to work towards reducing later in your journey. Observing can also help you make the mental transition. Instead of feeling overwhelmed with all the choices, this period acts as a warmup. Take in information, do some research, find companies you like, etc. When it’s passed, you’ll feel mentally ready and excited to start your journey!
3. Follow + Community
Having a sense of community is going to go a long way in your zero waste journey. This can be done starting at the same time or overlapping with step 2.
Start by following influencers in the space — there’s no need to reinvent the wheel! See what kind of zero waste community you can find locally then follow some trusted names in the space. Follow and engage with us on Instagram as we post new products plus sustainable tips and tricks. We love our community and want to hear from you!
Check out a previous post for our favorite bloggers and influencers in the industry. Some additional favorites include:
4. Start With 1
Incorporating more sustainable and zero waste products into your life is exciting! BUT, there is so much greenwashing and information overload that you can easily get burnt out and overwhelmed. So start small and start with one thing at a time: one concern, one room.
To start you could choose to prioritize a concern:
- Cutting out plastic grocery bags
- Cutting out single use plastic
- Cutting out plastic food packaging
- Cutting back on food waste
- Reducing how much you drive
- Using more renewable energy
You could also choose to prioritize a room. Choose a room in your house then slowly replace items with zero waste alternatives as they run out or need to be updated. When that room has been sustainified, move on to the next.
If you start to feel overwhelmed, go back to your initial ‘why’ and take a moment to reset and remember why you’re doing this.
5. Use What You Have
Photo by Irene Strong on Unsplash
When you think of a zero waste household you probably think of wicker baskets, wood, glass, aluminum, and absolutely no plastic anywhere. But the reality is that’s just a vibe and not necessarily true. Instagram is such a good resource, however, living a zero waste lifestyle means you’re reducing the amount of waste you create and choosing products that do not harm the planet. NOT picking products that match or fit a certain color scheme.
We would go so far as to save being zero waste is kind of messy! The most sustainable thing you can use is something you already have — even if it’s ugly. Plus, this helps save money and overtime you can slowly incorporate pieces that match your vibe (if you want).
6. Buy Second Hand
Photo by chrissie kremer on Unsplash
You could go to Whole Foods or Target and buy brand new sealable glass jars OR you could head to your local second hand store and give some products that already exist a second life (for a lower cost). Shopping second hand is also great if you need something to hold you over while you’re doing research or saving up to buy something (pots and pans, furniture, a coat).
Consider looking around the thrift stores for:
- Glass Storage Jars
- Cast Iron Pans
- Tea Towels
- Canning Jars
- And more!
7. Go Local
Photo by Ish de loyola on Unsplash
Take a closer look around your city and see what local sustainable businesses you can support.
Try to prioritize:
- Farmer’s Markets
- Farm to Table Restaurants
- Grocery Stores That Support Local Farms
- Local Breweries/Distilleries
Also consider getting involved in the community.
- Join a sustainable committee
- Join a trash pickup
- Join a beach cleanup group
- Start a trash or beach cleanup group
These are great ways to not only help your city and local community but meet people who care about the same thing as you!
8. Budget Accordingly
Photo by Diane Helentjaris on Unsplash
Zero waste products are generally built to last a long time. While their initial investment can be higher, over time their value will add up. Incorporate these higher priced items slowly as you can but also be aware how long it will take for them to start paying off and figure out how much they’ll save you in the future.
- One menstrual cup costs roughly the same as 1 year of tampons but a cup will last 5-10+ years.1
- One safety razor costs roughly the same as 6-12 months of razors/blades but a safety razor can last a lifetime and replacement blades are cheap.2
- 4 sponge cloths run $24 while a 3 pack of plastic sponges cost $4. But each sponge cloth can last 12+ months vs. the 3 weeks you’re supposed to keep a sponge.3
9. Know How to Buy
Learn how to buy less, and buy more of what you need. It’s hard to resist the ads and great copywriting that tells you how much a product will change your life. But when starting and living a zero waste lifestyle, your goal is to buy only what you need. You don’t have to be a minimalist, but avoid overconsumption and do some serious evaluating on your spending habits (a good thing to pay attention to in step 2). You might even find yourself saving money!
10. Embrace the Messy
Photo by Sven Brandsma on Unsplash
Finally, embrace the mess. Embrace the un-aesthetically pleasing stuff you already have and the mistakes. Don’t get down because you forgot your water bottle and had to buy a plastic one. Don’t give up because you flew somewhere and didn’t offset your emissions.
Just know that this is not a linear journey, it’s a zig zag. Some days will be better than others, some months better than other months. All that matters is that you’re trying and you’re learning.
There’s so much more to starting a zero waste lifestyle than fitting your trash in a sandwich baggie or getting all your food from the farmer’s market. If you can do it, cool, but it’s simply not attainable for the vast majority of us. So it’s okay if you never get to that point! You’re still a winner in our book.
We’re firm believers in doing what you can, when you can because we’d rather have a million people practicing zero waste imperfectly than a hundred people doing it perfectly.
Written by Lauren Plug, freelance content creator for ZeroWasteStore
- Based on the calculation of a person using 2 regular tampons for 5 days a month at $7.99 for a box of 36.
- Based on the calculation of a $10/month subscription for a razor and its blades. Safety razor replacements can be found for $12/50 which is more than a year's worth per person.
- Based on the price of a 3 pack of ScotchBrite sponges found on Amazon with the manufacturer recommending a replacement every 3 weeks.