A Beginner’s Guide to Zero Waste Living (Ps, It Doesn’t Happen Overnight)

I’m not living a zero waste life – yet.

Because guess what? It doesn’t happen overnight. And if you try and make that significant of a life change happen immediately, chances are, it won’t stick.

That’s a major misconception about the zero waste lifestyle. We read stories about zero waste rock stars who haven’t produced trash in years (*cough* TIFT founder Lauren *cough*), but that’s just their highlight reel. Everyone who is zero waste had to start somewhere, and I bet they’ll tell you the same thing – it’s a process.

So if you’re any bit interested in living a zero or less waste lifestyle, here are some key things to keep in mind:

 

ESTABLISH YOUR “WHY”

Most everyone who decides to explore the zero waste lifestyle has a “why” behind what they’re doing. Get specific with your “why” so you can return to it on a daily basis as your inner motive.

Are you a surfer who hates seeing plastic wash up on the beach?

Have you experienced a health scare or issue after using a beauty product containing toxins?

Are you tired of spending $6 on a latte every single day?

Are you fed up with our political leaders not giving a damn about climate change?

Write it on your mirror, tattoo it on your bicep – always come back to you WHY.

 

ASSESS YOUR WASTE

Dig through your trash!

Just kidding….kind of.

The easiest place to start is assessing where you’re making a lot of waste and focusing on those areas first. Even if you can’t solve every aspect of that area right away, you can start to prioritize the steps you want to take. Which leads me to my next point…

 

PRIORITIZE

Maybe you realize you’re throwing away a lot of trash by getting to-go coffee and takeout on weekdays. Prioritize making coffee at home and taking it in a reusable mug, and meal prepping and packing your lunch.

Maybe you’re a product junkie and realize you’re throwing away tons of shampoo, lotion and soap bottles. Look into shampoo bars, bulk beauty items and sustainably made products.

Looking at the big picture of all the waste in your life can feel overwhelming, but once you break it down and focus on one area at a time, it becomes so much more doable.

Here are some of my favorite zero waste items broken down by “areas of waste” to show you easy ways to start:

EATING AND DRINKING OUT

PERSONAL HYGIENE

GROCERY SHOPPING AND FOOD WASTE

 

REPLACE ITEMS AS THEY RUN OUT

Where all my budget-conscience friends at?

Repeat after me: I do not need to buy every zero waste alternative at once. Phew, that felt good didn’t it?

If you have the cash, and the desire to do a full overhaul of your life at once, by all means, go for it! 

But what I’d recommend is purchasing zero waste alternatives once your non-zero waste items run out. Because buying something then throwing it out unused is pretty wasteful too, right?

For example: if you just spent an arm and leg on razor refills, use them up. No sense throwing away an unused item. But once they’re out, switch to the zero waste alternative like this safety razor.

And chances are the price of the zero waste item will be on par, if not cheaper, than the non sustainable drug store alternative.

But on the topic of using up your old items….

 

RESEARCH HOW TO PROPERLY RECYLE OLD ITEMS, DONATE, SELL OR UP-CYCLE THEM

Your goal is zero waste, so don’t go throwing your old items in the trash now!

Recycle whatever you can. Compost whenever you can. Find a way to reuse an old item whenever you can. Donate items, or gift them to friends. The goal of zero waste living is to keep matter out of landfills. 

And for everything else, look for a TerraCycle program. They’ve found a way to recycle just about anything. #badass

 

REMEMBER: IT’S A PROCESS!

It won’t happen overnight, and it might even take a year or two to go fully zero waste if that’s your goal. But you know what, you’re awesome for wanting to make this change and for making the effort to do so.

Everyone’s zero waste journey is different. So never compare yourself to other people. Get inspiration from them, communicate with other zero waste-ers in the process when you have questions or concerns, be supported by other people – not intimidated.

I’m just baby steps into the process myself, so what do you say to doing this thing together? 

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DIY Scrub From Old Coffee Grounds

Winter is coming (dun dun dun)! With chillier weather comes many wonderful things – cozy sweaters, pumpkin spice-scented everything, hot coffee. But with the chill and crisp air also comes dry skin. Enter a tried and true DIY scrub recipe that not only keeps your skin silky smooth, but utilizes your old coffee grounds – yeah for up-cycling! Bonus: creating your own beauty products from all-natural and organic ingredients insures that you’re keeping toxins out of your body. Ingredients:

  • 1 cup used, dried coffee grounds
  • 1 cup organic sugar or salt
  • 1/2 cup organic coconut oil

To make:

  1. If not already in liquid form, melt your coconut oil and allow to cool without becoming solid again.
  2. Mix in your used coffee grounds and sugar or salt.
  3. Store in an airtight container.

To use:

  1. While in the shower or tub, rub coffee scrub into skin to exfoliate – *if you’re going to shave, make sure to shave after using the scrub as to not irritate your skin.
  2. Rinse skin clean.
  3. Make sure to moisturize afterwards.
  4. Compost all grounds in your local compost, woods, or plant!

Check out some of our favorite zero waste bath and body products to accompany your scrub and bathing routine.

Featured Image via Frank Bod

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