By Fredrica Syren:
Ok, so you have decided you want to start living zero waste. Congratulations!!!!
Now, you’ve probably started to wonder where you start and how you start and with what.
When we took our initial step towards zero waste, my husband’s first job was to remove our trash can. It seemed radical to me at that time, but it was helpful. At that point, we had no excuse or choice but to practice the 5 Rs: Refuse (don’t bring anything into the home that is waste), Reduce (how much waste we bring home), Recycle (first step in waste reduction is to recycle waste instead of throw it into a landfill) and Reuse (buy only items that could be reused again and again — or rot. Compost any organic waste).
Zero waste is extreme but can also be challenging in a fun way if you make it so. The hardest part is to get started. The first of the Rs is to refuse and reduce waste by bringing your own reusable containers and bags when going to buy anything. In order to be successful, you will need a few reusable items. Below is my list of things you should invest in. The best part is that they do not have to cost tons of money because you might already havelots of them at home.
Lunch Boxes—If you have kids or if you eat lunch at work, you should pack a homemade lunch in a reusable lunch box. I of course love to be plastic-free, so I always use a reusable bento box or thermal soup containersfor my kids’ food and, of course, send water in a reusable metal bottle, as well as provide cutlery and a cloth napkin. If I have to wrap food, I use either a cloth sandwich bagor beeswax wrap to ensure we avoid unwanted waste. I also pack their lunches in either a backpack or an insulated bag that will keep things cool. Since we now live in a warm climate (San Diego), I also will include ice packs.
Reusable Cloth Shopping Bags—In most grocery stores these days, you can buy reusable cloth bags for your groceries instead of carry them home in a paper bag — or worse, in a plastic bag — that will most likely end in either the trash or recycling bin as soon as you’re home. Plastic is a huge polluter of our planet and, since it’s made of durable and harsh chemicals, will take thousands of years to break down.
Reusable Water Bottle—Switch from plastic water bottles to glass or metal reusable ones: Let’s face it: plastic contains lots of bad chemicals that leak into the water, so you don’t want to hydrate this way anyhow. Instead, invest in a cool and very eco-friendly stainless steel or glass water bottle to take with you everywhere you go. Klean Kanteenis my favorite brand. Just another great and easy way to reduce plastic waste.
Cloth Paper Towels and Napkins—I bought cloth “paper” towels, and I use only cloth napkins.
Tampons and Pads—Instead, I use a diva cup and cloth panty liners.
Cloth bags for, Produce, Snacks, Sandwiches and Freezing—I use cloth bags for snacks and bread, even for freezing bread and cookies; and I use large mason jars.
Beeswax Wraps—They are the best invention ever if you ask me because they are a much better option because, not only are they reusable and free of hormone-mimicking chemicals, but they are compostable. So, when broken or old, they simply can be tossed into the compost.
Reusable Coffee Cup—Bring your own coffee cup. If you’re like many people around the world who grab a cup of joe on your way to work, consider bringing your own cup. First, it will keep your coffee warm and fresh. Second, you also will reduce lots of paper cups with plastic tops that would otherwise end up in the trash. And, as a bonus, lots of coffee places will give you a discount for bringing your own cup; so, you can save the environment and money at the same time
Mason Jars—My husband said it perfectly in my YouTube video: When you’re zero waste, you kind of become a hoarder of mason jars. Mason jars are great for so much: food storage, lunch boxes, smoothies, piggy banks (my kids’), candle holders, vases, containers (instead of bags) when buying bulk food, clearly organizing dried foods in the pantry, housing homemade deodorant, and storing homemade household cleaners. Yes, the uses for mason jars are endless, so having lots and lots when going zero waste is the key. Here is the video of my family talking about mason jars.
My advice for anyone going zero waste always is to take one step at a time, to enjoy the process, and to make it a family affair.