Taking The First Steps Into Zero Waste
Updated: Apr 2
For at least a couple of weeks after deciding this was something I really wanted to do, I spent time reading and learning more about it. I kept telling myself that I could finally go zero waste once I finished the disposable products I owned... Once I was finished moving... Once I bought these typical zero waste items. It wasn't until I stepped back and realized that while I may not have been living completely zero waste, I already made the first couple of steps long ago.
1. The Decision
The first thing you can do is make the decision to start living a more zero waste lifestyle. Maybe you found someone on Youtube who inspired you, or maybe you have a friend who told you about it, or maybe you just realized the impact your waste has on the planet and realized you needed to make a change. Whatever that first hit of reality was, it has brought you here. Step one. But what now? You know you want to live more sustainably, but how? How do you lessen your footprint when your home is full of disposable items? Don't stress, I will get to that. For now, just worry about step two.
Alright so you've made the decision to live a more sustainable life, congrats! Quite honestly, you can start that in more simple terms right away. But on a much bigger scale, you may find yourself here. If you're anything like me, you like to learn everything you can about something when you get committed to it. While learning everything may never happen, some basic accumulation of knowledge can help you in the beginning. Here are some of the most basic ways to learn more about zero waste:
Blogs (like this one!)
Pinterest (Yes that's right, I said it)
Alright so now you may be asking yourself, that's all great but where do I find these documentaries? What about the blogs? Which Youtube channels? As for the documentaries, Netflix has a great assortment if you've got that subscription. Whether you have Netflix or not, Before The Flood is a great one to start you off. This will show you more on how to lessen your carbon footprint, as the film is mainly about climate change. It is directed by Fisher Stevens, featuring Leonardo DiCaprio as he speaks to people around the world about the world's climate change. Another great one is Minimalism: A Documentary About The Important things, directed by Matt D'Avella. This one focuses on two men who became spokespeople on minimalism and travel the country telling their experience. I will be making a future post that goes more in depth on these documentaries and more, but for now these are a great start.
As for the Pinterest, I added that because it helped me find anything in general. Whether that be tips, products (to buy or DIY), books, articles, etc. It helped me to compile everything I have found into one place.
Now that you have learned a bit more about this movement, its time to sit back and take count of everything you regularly use (food, disposable items, gas, beauty products, take out, etc.) and figure out what you can swap out. Heading to the grocery store? Opt for the produce that is not wrapped in plastic, see if you can find a bulk store near you and fill jars with dry goods (This app is great for finding bulk stores near you). Are you able to safely bike or walk to your destination? Do it! Make a list of all of the things you want to either switch out for a sustainable alternative, or use less frequently (such as gas) and track your progress. Remember that this won't be achieved in a day, it is a process. So don't be hard on yourself if you slip up.
4. Keep Control
I know the feeling, you decide to go zero waste and suddenly want to throw out all of your plastic containers and get new glass ones. DO NOT DO THIS! It not only defeats the purpose of going zero waste, it also is expensive. If you still have plastic Tupperware, use it until its life has been fulfilled. Then when you need more, buy a more sustainable option. The same goes for toiletries, beauty products, and anything else that may accumulate waste, but can still be used up.
5. It Is Not All or Nothing
Remember that this is a lifestyle, and you should enjoy it. Do you like to collect Vinyls that you actively use and listen to? That is fine. Are you a book lover (like me)? Awesome, try buying books second hand (Thrift stores are great. There are many online book stores as well such as Thrift Books and Book Outlet). This is about living sustainably, so make sure you still enjoy the life you live while remaining environmentally conscious.
6. Tell Others
Telling the people in your life about your new lifestyle not only keeps them informed, but it also holds you accountable. If your friends know you are living more zero waste, they may take that into consideration when deciding on a place for dinner or what kind of gift to get for you. It also may inspire them to try this lifestyle as well, the more the merrier!
7. Be Realistic
Be honest with yourself on things you just cannot do. For instance; shopping second hand is a big part of living sustainably. It not only pulls you out of the toxic fast fashion trend, but it also keeps you from supporting the abuse workers in sweatshops undergo. That being said, if you are in a small town or simply are unable to buy anything apart from new brands, do not put yourself down about it. Instead, be more conscious on how often you shop. Go for the articles of clothing that may last longer. If you have the means to, shop at more expensive brands that may have better quality clothing. This goes for everything in the zero waste movement. If you don't have access to bulk stores or farmers' markets, then it is okay to buy pre-packaged rice or spices.
8. Unlearn Bad Habits
There are things that even I am still working on unlearning. I used to hate thrift stores, I convinced myself I could never find anything that wasn't covered in stains or way too worn out to be used again. Unlearning the habits you were raised to know, both by the people around you and society, is not an easy task. It takes time, so push through and go into everything with an open mind. Once you find a cute sweater or a dish set second hand, it won't seem so bad the next time you go out.
I hope these couple of tips on starting out has helped you! I can't wait to share even more advice with you in the future and I am so excited you have taken the time to learn more about this lifestyle.
Hunter J Morgan