14 easy zero-waste habits you can start today
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Trying to figure how to adopt a zero waste lifestyle can seem incredibly overwhelming. As someone who is still in the process of reducing my waste at home, I’ve learnt that the best way to start is just to start.
If you’re anything like me, you’re after easy things you can do right now to get the ball rolling on your zero-waste journey. In this post I share some of the basic but impactful eco-friendly habits I’ve developed over the past few months.
Before we dive in, let’s get the two of the big ones out of the way: take a good quality drink bottle with you everywhere, and remember your reusable shopping bags. If you do nothing else, this is a good start! But there are plenty of simple and cheap zero waste and eco-friendly habits you can build into your daily routine.
How to create zero-waste habits that work for you
Before adopting any of the habits listed below, it’s important to work on your mindset – if you constantly tell yourself it’s going to be hard, it will be! Be open and curious to exploring what changes you can make, rather than seeing it as a ‘chore’. Here are a few tips for making eco-friendly habits that stick.
- Makes changes in chunks. Pick one part of your day, or one room in the house and start from there. For example, choose to adopt some of the habits listed below that relate to the kitchen, or perhaps revamp your morning routine first.
- Focus on what you can control.
- A great tip by The Good Trade is to centre a habit around something you love or feel connected to. For example, if you love cooking, you might be drawn to reduce food waste or commit to shopping at the farmer’s market every week. If you like the outdoors, you might aim to ride your bike to work at least three days a week. Whatever it is, make sure it matters to you and feels like a natural extension of your lifestyle, otherwise the habit will quickly burn out.
the 5 R’s of Zero Waste Living
As a general guideline, I like referring to Bea Johnson’s 5 R’s of zero-waste living.
- Refuse what you do not need
- Reduce what you do need; reconsider just how much stuff you actually need
- Reuse by repurposing stuff, or by using reusable objects like metal straws
- Recycle what you cannot refuse, reduce or reuse
- Rot (compost) the rest
14 easy zero-waste habits you can start today
Whatever it is, make sure it matters to you and feels like a natural extension of your lifestyle, otherwise the habit will quickly burn out.THe Good Trade
- Be as digital as possible. Opt out of paper subscriptions or mail services and use email instead, and ask yourself, “do I really need to print this?”.
- Start composting or have a designated bin for food scraps. Did you know that 35% of the average household bin is food waste? Eeep. If you don’t have the resources or room to compost, put a food scraps small bin on your kitchen counter and empty it into your ‘green’ bin. If you have chickens, rabbits or any other veggie-loving pets, all the better!
- Following on from the last tip, a great habit to reduce waste is to use up what you have before buying more. Challenge yourself to make a meal out of what you have left in the pantry or fridge before going food shopping.
- Make your own cleaning products like this all-purpose cleaner. Dr Bronner’s Castile soap is a great all-rounder as well.
- Use old and worn-out clothing to make dusting rags and cleaning cloths. You avoid using paper towels and you’ll add another level of usefulness to worn-out clothing.
- Replace your old products with zero waste alternatives when you finish them. No more the cling wrap left? Replace with a packet of reusable food wrappers. Out of shampoo? Opt for a shampoo block. Making a bunch of zero-waste swaps at once can be overwhelming, so I found a more gradual process easy to accomplish. Here are six essential zero-waste swaps to get you started.
- Buy in bulk when possible. Buy your rice, quinoa, beans, and grains from bulk food stores, and store them in metal bins and glass jars at home (hello Instagrammable cupboard).
- Remember to put your reusable shopping bags back in the car or backpack as soon as you’ve unpacked the food shopping so they are ready for next time. For smaller items like Brussels sprouts or mushrooms either invest in a reusable mesh produce bag or use a paper bag (which you can compost in your compost bin!)
- For clothing, make a habit of heading to the thrift store, Facebook Marketplace or other second hand outlets first. Not only will you save money, but you can find high-quality one-off pieces and prevent extra textiles from going to the landfill. Popular online thrift stores include ThredUp, Depop, and (for the Aussies) The Closet.
- For the tea lovers out there, buy loose-leaf tea in bulk instead of tea bags, many of which contain polymers. I find taking the extra time to brew loose-leaf tea makes the experience even more intentional and relaxing. Same goes for coffee – opt for loose beans from the bulk store.
- Ask for an email or SMS receipt when possible.
out and about
- .Pack your own lunch and snacks for the day and package them in glass jars or bento boxes instead of single-use plastic. This one requires more preparation – identify 2-3 lunches and snack variations you can make during the week and food shop accordingly. Most Sunday’s I set aside 1-2 hours, stick on a Netflix episode and cook away!
- Say ‘no thanks’ to freebies, collectables or flyers. Do you really need that fluffy keyring or neon stress ball? If you really want to remember the information on a flyer, take a photo on your phone.
- Remember your reusable coffee mug – it can double as a mini container for leftovers, soup or any, really! My favs are glass KeepCups and ceramic mugs like these.
- If you’re worried about whether or not some packaging is recyclable or compostable, simply avoid purchasing it in the first place! Eliminating certain wasteful purchases from my every day life significantly lowered my decision fatigue (and my wallet is loving it).
Living a Less wasteful life – one step at a time
While the above zero-waste habits are simple and relatively low cost, it doesn’t mean you have to try them all at once. Start with one or two, and add more are they become second nature.
It takes time to develop sustainable habits so don’t beat yourself up about it. Pick just one of the above behaviours and focus on it intentionally until it becomes a habit.
If the process seems annoyingly slow, just imagine how many eco-friendly habits you’ll have 6-12 months from now!
What about you? What zero-waste habits are you working on at the moment? Share them in the comments?