50 Ways You Can Go All-In For Zero-Waste

zero waste in the burbs

It’s a new year, and that means people are starting new resolutions, new journeys, new adventures, new challenges, and new ways of living.  If they’re interested in going zero-waste, they’re googling things like, “how to go zero-waste,” or “starting zero-waste,” or “What do I need to go zero-waste?”   They will find blog posts from other zero-waste bloggers like a beginner’s guide to zero-waste, top 10 to get started for zero-waste, 10 ways to adopt a zero waste lifestyle, and 30 days to zero waste.

I love these posts because they capture how easy it is to make small changes that have large impacts.  And the changes they suggest are almost universally applicable.

However, I have yet to discover a post where someone details what it’s like to go all-in, all at once, and make drastic transitions from a traditional consumer and packaged lifestyle to one that is simpler, slower, and unpackaged.

This is what I did.  I went all-in.  Maybe I’m an outlier and that is why I haven’t found much on the topic.

Once I learned about the impact of plastic, especially single-use plastic, on the environment and our personal health, I made the switch.  Once I finished Bea Johnson’s Zero Waste Home, I made the switch.  Once I realized that my life was cluttered with things that I didn’t need, use, or love, I made the switch.

If you’re the kind of person who goes all-in and doesn’t look back, you’re not alone.  It can be done.  This is a post for you, my friends.

If you’re the kind of person who likes to take baby-steps and test the waters before you leap, this is a post where you can choose from a variety of options and try the ones that best suit you, your situation, your location, and your lifestyle.

My Dive Into Zero-Waste

In June 2016, I read Beth Terry’s Plastic Free: How I Kicked the Plastic Habit and How You Can Too.  Then I went on vacation and let the information stew for a month.  When I returned home, I read it again…in one day.

The next day, I downloaded Bea Johnson’s Zero Waste Home on my Kindle app.  I read it in three days.

And that was it. I was hooked.

I felt informed.  I felt empowered.  I felt excited.  I hadn’t been that excited about any idea since the previous spring when I went full-force into growing my own food.

Within a few days, I had taken my sewing machine out of hibernation, watched a few YouTube videos about how to thread it (which I had not done in, like, nine years), cut-up an old sheet destined for the donation station, and sewed my first cloth bulk bags.  This was my first zero-waste switch: upcycled cloth produce bags.

This was the vibration that started the avalanche.

Five Months of Switches

It is now January 2017, and I have been rolling out zero-waste switches for five months.  They are:

  1. cloth produce bags
  2. cloth snack bags
  3. cloth napkins
  4. cloth paper towels
  5. cloth tissues upcycled from spare flannel baby blankets
  6. predominately shopping at the farmer’s market
  7. buying dry goods, pantry items, and spices in the bulk isle
  8. vintage glass refrigerator containers and bowls for food storage
  9. homemade toothpaste
  10. homemade deodorant

    zero waste in the burbs
    An easy switch from disposable razors to a stainless steel safety razor.
  11. shampoo bar
  12. conditioner bar
  13. unpackaged solid soap instead of liquid hand soap
  14. homemade body butter
  15. stainless steel safety razor with steel blades
  16. wooden soap racks to extend the lives of our soap bars
  17. paper-wrapped toilet paper instead of bulk, plastic-wrapped toilet paper (I would have no problem with “family cloth,” but my husband has his limits : )
  18. zero-waste makeup replacements in aluminum tins
  19. upcycled flannel cloth wipes and coconut oil for makeup remover
  20. menstrual cup and cloth pads (TMI, but honest…and fabulous!!!)

    zero waste in the burbs
    Reusable snack bags, a zero-waste staple.
  21. homemade laundry detergent
  22. ceramic plate and bowl, with real cutlery, and a glass cup for work
  23. old T-shirt cloths for my classroom (multipurpose)
  24. glass mason jars
  25. stainless steel plate and cutlery, with a mason jar and napkin, for on-the go trips
  26. bringing our own napkins to dine out…just in case the restaurant uses paper napkins
  27. keeping a coffee mug in my car at all times…you never know when you might need a cup of coffee
  28. stainless steel Thermos for water, hot or cold, on-the-go
  29. loose-leaf tea with a metal mesh infuser
  30. seafood from the meat counter instead of individually wrapped frozen fillets

    zero waste in the burbs
    Farmer’s market fare is the easiest for zero-waste grocery shopping.
  31. cloth baby wipes instead of disposable wipes
  32. cloth snack bags filled with homemade cookies for birthday presents
  33. vintage Christmas presents for the kids
  34. Christmas presents wrapped in fabric or unwrapped
  35. more meals at home with real food and less meals at restaurants
  36. asking for and finding stores that ship without any plastic packaging
  37. refusing straws
  38. requesting real cups instead of plastic, disposable kid’s cups when dining out
  39. refusing gift or product bags with freebies (I did this yesterday when I picked up my new glasses and said no to the plastic bag filled with cleaner solution)
  40. buying any clothing items second-hand from resale and thrift shops

    zero waste in the burbs
    My sewing machine, an indispensable partner in my zero-waste journey.
  41. drastically reducing my personal shopping trips
  42. repairing broken shoe heels on a favorite pair of shoes
  43. using pencil on my blog planner pages so they can be erased and reused
  44. if it creeps into the home, recycling plastic film at the grocery store
  45. submitting my name to the no-contact list for credit card applications (less junk mail)
  46. reusing sticky notes at work until they have no stick left
  47. using dryer lint as a fire-starter for fires in the winter
  48. reusing plastic soil and compost bags to store homemade compost
  49. bringing the rubber bands from my farmer’s market produce to work where they will be used over and over again
  50. postponing any new purchases for at least one day to curb impulse buys

    zero waste in the burbs
    Zero-waste on-the-go at the zoo.
Decide to Make the Switch

Whew!  I didn’t realize just how many changes I have made in such a short time.  Yes, I knew I was going all-in; that’s just the nature of my personality when something strikes a passionate cord in my life.  But no wonder my husband feels overwhelmed.

As President Obama said in his final address this week, “If something needs fixing, lace up your shoes and do some organizing.”

I saw something that needed fixing. I laced up my shoes.  I threaded a sewing machine.  I did some “organizing” through this blog.

So, now that you’ve seen what I have done for me and my family, know that you can do them as well.  I hope this list leaves you empowered to know that you can change as much or as little, as quickly or as slowly, that suits you and the needs of your family.  Comparing yourself to me or others is not the best approach.  Instead, think about the items in this list, consider which ones would be the easiest to switch based on your life, and then go from there.  It doesn’t have to be five, or 10, or 20.  It can be as few or as many as you want at your own pace.  Find your own vibration to start your own avalanche.

Remember, be part of the solution, not part of the problem.

#zerowasteintheburbs

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More about Shannon

Hi! My name is Shannon, and I'm on a mission to reduce the amount of waste my family creates, live a little slower, and embrace all that life has to offer. I'm glad you're here because that means you're interested in reducing waste and slowing down as well. I hope you find some inspiration in these posts that inspire you to make changes in your own life and community. Be part of the solution, not part of the problem.

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