1. Take a “no new clothes” pledge.
The US alone throws away 25 billion pounds of clothing every. single. year. Fast-fashion items are poorly-made on purpose to get you running back for more tank tops once your old ones fall apart. It’s a vicious, wasteful cycle, and you have the power to not be a part of it.
Start 2018 off right by going through your wardrobe, donating or selling items you don’t wear or need anymore, and begin making new outfit combinations with what you already have. And if you do find throughout the year that there are holes in your wardrobe, shop for items secondhand.
2. Nix plastic water bottles and single-use coffee cups.
The average American goes through 167 plastic water bottles and about 500 disposable cups annually. That’s a lot of unnecessary trash.
Getting yourself a reusable water bottle and coffee cup is one of the most simple zero waste changes you can make. Plus making coffee at home and taking it in your cup with you, or filling up a bottle of water for free instead of buying a new bottle each time you’re thirsty, will save you lots of money in the long run.
3. Eat less takeout.
Raise your hand if you think Seamless is the best invention since sliced bread?
Falling into the habit of ordering takeout – especially when you can order it in your underwear and it gets delivered right to your door – is easy. But with most takeout comes plastic takeout containers, plastic cutlery, unnecessary single-use napkins, little packets of sauce, etc.
Make an effort in 2018 to cook and eat more at home, or if you do wish to eat from a restaurant, get it to stay and bring your own plastic-free container with you if you end up with leftovers you wish to take home.
4. Revamp your dental hygiene routine.
Over 50 million pounds of plastic toothbrushes end up in landfills in the US each year. So what’s the alternative? Switch to a bamboo toothbrush, which has a compostable handle.
Floss also has its issues. Most plastic floss containers are rarely recyclable or recycled, plus many types of floss are coated with a substance to help it glide more easily through your teeth, but acts as a chemical contaminant (yuck). Switch to a 100% natural floss that comes in a refillable container.
Last up on the dental hygiene list – toothpaste. Toothpaste tubes are mainly non-recyclable, and many toothpastes include ingredients you probably can’t even pronounce. No one wants that in their mouth! Make your own toothpaste (here’s my favorite recipe) and keep it stored in a small glass jar.
5. Learn to grocery shop zero waste.
Grocery shopping package free is easier than you think. It just takes adopting new habits.
When hitting the grocery or farmer’s market, bring reusable bags with you to avoid plastic bags when checking out. Focus on unpackaged items like fresh fruits and vegetables, and skip the plastic produce bags in favor of bringing along your own cloth or net bags. Also, certain items like bananas, oranges or anything with a hard rind or skin truly don’t even need to be put in a bag.
Bring along some mason jars or cotton produce bags for bulk items like pasta, legumes and nuts. And if you do need to get some packaged items, look for items packed in glass and metal, like a jar of pickles, that is 100% recyclable.
Grocery shopping zero waste also might mean making extra trips, like getting your meat from a local butcher that wraps it up in paper rather than buying pre-packaged chicken breasts that come in styrofoam and plastic. But you’ll feel exponentially better knowing that your purchases 1) are supporting a local business and 2) are better for the environment.
6. Get a safety razor.
In the US, 2 billion non-recyclable razors are tossed each year. An easy solution to this is switching to an all-metal safety razor with recyclable blades. Not only do you still get a close, clean shave, the cost for refill blades is a fraction of what you’d pay for plastic razor refills.
7. Vow to never use a plastic bag again.
About 365 plastic bags pass through the hands of a single consumer each year. By switching to only reusable bags, you can make a huge impact.
Stock up on a variety of bags made from natural materials like cotton and canvas and keep them stocked in a basket by your door, in your car, in your work bag – basically make it so you’re never without a bag in case of a last-minute purchase or errand run.
8. Make your own cleaning products.
Have you ever read the back label on your household cleaning products? Many store-bought cleaners are filled with chemicals that we think we need to “kill germs”, when in reality, there are great natural alternatives to store-bought products that aren’t harmful to your body, but kick bacteria’s butt.
Here’s a great recipe for an all-natural, all-purpose cleaner that’s only three ingredients.
Buying your ingredients in bulk, or in the largest containers you can find, mixing them up yourself and filling up a reusable glass spray bottle will also cut down on the amount of plastic spray bottles you’d normally go through by buying products from a store.
9. Stop buying disposable paper towels.
Paper towels are one of those items that most of us have grown accustomed to, but are completely unnecessary. If every American reduced the number of paper towels they use by just one per day, we would divert 571,230,000 pounds of paper waste each year. Now imagine if you got rid of paper towels completely.
Get yourself a stack of reusable and washable rags to do the dirty work. You can even make your own cleaning rags by cutting up old t-shirts or bath towels that are too stained to wear or use for bathing anymore.
If you use paper towels in your bathroom to dry your hands, simply replace it with a hand towel. Easy!
10. Learn to let your fridge go empty.
Have you ever lost track of a piece of fruit or a vegetable in the back of your jam-packed produce drawer and only discovered it a few weeks later due to the rancid rotting smell? Losing track of the perishable food in our refrigerator is a big contributor to our individual food waste.
Here’s a trick, don’t buy new food until you’ve eaten almost everything perishable in your fridge. By letting your fridge go nearly bare, you’ll be able to see exactly what you have and won’t lose track of anything. Rather than thinking about what you want to eat and buying food based off of that, look at what you currently have and figure out what you can make with it that sounds appetizing.
Less trips to the grocery also means less money spent on food.
11. Skip the plastic straw.
Americans go through 1.6 non-recyclable plastic straws per person a day. And here’s the most outrageous part about that – straws, for the most part, are completely unnecessary!
Next time you’re eating at a restaurant, before you order anything, inform your waiter that you’re straw-free table. Or get yourself a reusable bamboo or stainless steel straw if you like to sip from one, or get a cold drink to-go.
12. Make your own beauty products.
The beauty industry is far from perfect in the realm of zero waste. To avoid unnecessary plastic or non-recyclable packaging, or products with funky ingredients, learn to make your own products from all-natural ingredients and store them in glass jars or small stainless steel containers.
13. Learn to say “no”.
One of the easiest ways to join the zero waste movement? Just say “no”.
Say “no” to unnecessary purchases, say “no” to free gifts with purchase that you don’t actually want, say “no” to that piece of plastic-wrapped candy in the snack drawer at work, say “no” to disposable drying towels in the bathroom and shake your hands dry instead. So much of going zero waste is just learning what waste you’re creating through habits you’ve become accustomed to in your life, but don’t actually need.
Feeling inspired? Share your zero waste resolutions by tagging @trashisfortossers in your Instagram posts, and using the hashtag #zerowasteresolutions!