Baby steps. That’s all it takes to live a zero waste lifestyle. Here are 10 no-to-low cost zero waste changes you can start today!

  1. JUST SAY NOno to plastic straws, no to disposable napkins, no to plastic utensils and bags. Saying no is free, boosts your confidence, and prevents tons and tons of waste!
  2. Say bye to new clothing. Buying new clothing can be incredibly wasteful and environmentally detrimental. Over 25 billion pounds of clothes go to waste every year in the U.S. alone. Using the clothing that you already have in your wardrobe, try switching around where they are in your closet, or invite a friend over to help coordinate new outfits. It’s a great way to recycle pieces you forgot you had and make them new again. Any clothing that you don’t want or don’t wear anymore can be sold at consignment stores for some extra $$$. 
  3. Make your coffee and meals at home. Bring out that inner chef and explore new recipes. Making food and drink at home is a great way to reduce using wasteful takeout containers, and it also ensures that you can eat with real dishes and utensils, can compost any scraps and save the leftovers. More delicious, more healthy, more budget-friendly AND zero waste! 
  4. Do a book trade with your friends. If you’re a big reader, always buying new books can be cost-heavy and wasteful. Get a couple of like-minded friends together and trade books you’ve already read. New reads, zero waste and zero cost.
  5. Avoid plastic grocery bags. Stick some cloth bags in your car or bag, or store them right by your door so you don’t forget them when you hit up the grocery store. 
  6. Forget about paper towels. An easy swap? Your dish rags and dish towels can double as reusable napkins or rags to wipe down messes. Have white washcloths that you used for makeup that are full of mascara? Use them for cleaning and compost them after (if they’re 100% cotton), or send them to textile recycling. Or use old t-shirts that are either too stained or ripped for reselling or donating, cut them up and use them as rags as well. 
  7. Skip plastic water bottles. Staying hydrated is important, so if you don’t have a reusable water bottle, you can easily use empty watertight peanut butter jars, coconut oil jars, etc. that are lying around and use that to bring water and other beverages with you. 
  8. Go au naturale or simplify your beauty routine. Too many times we impulsively buy cheap makeup with plastic packaging, use it a few times, then throw it out because it’s the wrong shade. Imagine the time AND money you would save if you skipped wearing makeup a few days a week, or simply cut some items out of your daily routine. Or try sustainable, natural alternatives like using coconut oil for makeup remover, lotion and lip gloss.
  9. Make your own cleaning products. You probably have very effective cleaning products in your pantry and you don’t even know it! Apple cider or distilled white vinegar, citrus and baking soda all work beautifully to clean your home, saving you a trip to the store. Here’s a great recipe for a homemade all-purpose cleaner
  10. Become one with your trash. Get to know exactly what you’re throwing away. You may find that a lot of what you throw away is compostable or recyclable. From there you can start to be mindful of the waste you can easily swap for sustainable choices.

No matter how much money you make, we can all make simple changes to help the environment. I’d love to hear some no-cost changes you’ve made to live more sustainably!

 

 

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  1. Hi! I have a question in response to #10.

    I took an AP Environmental Science class senior year of high school. We learned that, although tou can recycle [most types of] plastic and paper, you can’t recycle them if they’re contaminated. Ex, paper drenched in water, plastic containers that have food/drink residue, cardboard that held a greasy pizza, etc.

    I think I know the obvious answer to this, but is that true? And if so, how would you go about curving around it?

    Thank you!

    1. For things like cans or milk cardboards I wash them before recycling them. For cardborads or papel.. well.. it’s better to recycle them but if they’re contaminated it’s not that bad because they biodegrade easily and they can even go to compost; Something you can’t do with contaminated plastic, which can last in the earth for centuries without descomposing. That’s why it’s so important to avoid plastic food packaging at all costs.

  2. In Toronto, there is an app and Facebook groups called Bunz Trading Zone. Basically people post items that they would like to get rid of, and items they would like to trade for. It’s a great way to reduce waste and save $$ !

  3. What do you use for cleaning really gross things like the toilet? I am all down for using cloth rags for everything else, but I always find myself grabbing for paper towels when it comes to really gross things (like cat regurgitation…sorry if that’s TMI). Any advice?

    1. I divided out my rags and washcloths by rooms and their purpose. In the kitchen I have a drawer full of dish rags only for dish washing and wiping off the table and the other set is for ickier things like spills on the floor or explosions in the microwave.
      Same for my bathroom, I have a set of rags that I use for the bathroom sink and tub and an old t-shirt I ripped up specifically for the toilet only. By the end of the week, only the icky rags and towels are being washed together, that way there’s some peace of mind that even though they will be washed, you’re not wiping down the table with a washcloth you had cleaned the toilet with last week.

    2. Even if you don’t have a kid, you can look up wash routines for cloth diapers to reassure yourself that even the icky-ist cloth can be washed. Obviously, icky laundry gets its own load.

  4. Ladt week i went to grocery. İ carry empty reusable bags with me. Bought some bananas and said i dont need pladtic bag, i brought with me my bag. The old woman there said welldone to me. ( actualy i did explanation because that old woman had bought different fruits in small quantities and got big plastic bags for each 🙁 i suggested the grocer at least using small sized bags for small shoppings like few apples small bags. Underlined its importance for environment but he unfortunatly doesnt seem to care much 🙁

  5. Last week i went to grocery. İ carry empty reusable bags with me. Bought some bananas and said i dont need plastic bag, i brought with me my bag. The old woman there said welldone to me. ( actualy i did explanation because that old woman had bought different fruits in small quantities and got big plastic bags for each 🙁 i suggested the grocer at least using small sized bags for small shoppings like few apples small bags. Underlined its importance for environment but he unfortunatly doesnt seem to care much 🙁

  6. Love this list. I am already doing some of these and will try others this year.

    I finally simplified my beauty routine. I used up all of the cosmetics I no longer wanted to bother with and will not replace them. Now it takes me half the time to get ready and I no longer need a special makeup remover since I gave up long-wearing items that regular soap can’t remove well. (Yes, I know some people use coconut or other oils for makeup removal but that never worked well for me and I always seemed to need a cloth to get it all off, now I can just use my hands.) What I do still use I will now aim for as much minimal/refillable packaging as possible.

  7. I do all of the 10 steps but my husband, dog and I still end up with 1 garbage bag full every 2-3 weeks. We will continue to make more changes to reduce our use and our garbage. I wish more people would attempt even a minor reduction in trash.

    1. Donna, 1 garbage bag every 2-3 weeks is amazing!! I know zero waste is ideal but that would be a HUGE change for me and my family. The amount of garbage we have is making me look into alternatives. It’s alarming!!!

  8. I’m new to this kind of lifestyle. I just told my family and they think I went totally crazy. They made me questions like “who on earth does that?” or “why do you care so much?”. I tried to explain to them but they just can’t understand, and I haven’t even told my friends. What to do about it? Is it that weird? Am I really crazy?

  9. I need a piece of advice. I live in Romania, where we have absolutely no environmental education and going zero waste is a goal of mine. Also, I truly want to spread this lifestyle in my country. Still, I have a question : what about the pharm products that come in plastic and foils? I need those pills quite often, how can I make a revolution when it comes to their packaging?

  10. Great post! I absolutely agree that everyone can make changes and at least start living less waste. I have always hated the amount of plastic I use and tried to reduce it. After reading about zero waste, I am fascinated with the determination that many people have and I am happy to join you guys! I said no to plastic shopping bags, I always have my own cloth bags with me. Yesterday, I was buying 3 loafs of bread and the lady started looking for a plastic bag when I said that I have my own bag and she can put them directly in it. She was very surprised and even a little bit shocked because in my country people are used to using plastic whenever they can. However, I made it! I bought a lot of products and didn’t take any plastic home 🙂

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