Transitioning into living a low waste lifestyle is so much easier than you would think. Trust me. I’ve been there and am now at a place where I get genuinely excited to head to my local zero-waste grocery store with my reusable bags and containers.
To begin, let me make one thing clear.
You do not have to buy anything to begin living a lower waste lifestyle.
I know it can be a bit intimidating at first. All of those “aesthetically pleasing” reuseable containers can make it seem like this new low waste journey will be a spendy one. But that is not the case at all. And you shouldn’t let that be an argument for not diving into a lower waste lifestyle, either. You just gotta get started! Little by little.
I know all of the Bamboo and glass and stainless steel goodies look pretty, but they don’t mean zero waste. And you definitely don’t need to have this Instagram perf zero waste aesthetic to get started.
It’s not all or nothing. You aren’t a failure for making trash. It’s okay to get discouraged. Putting in the effort to try and make a difference is the most important. And even if it seems like a small change to you, that’s still a win.
Essentially, we all gotta start somewhere. For me, it was just making more sustainable decisions one by one.
How to Start Living a Low Waste Lifestyle
There is a concept of focusing on the “big four” that I think is a great stepping stone to moving towards living a low waste lifestyle:
- To-go cups
- Plastic straws
- Plastic bags
- Water bottles.
Cutting these are a great first step and relatively easy for most!
After starting with the big four, you might be able to see where else you can cut waste.
My next step was to stop using single-use paper and plastic goods.
Things like paper towels and napkins and plastic silverware. These were all things I had been absentmindedly using forever and after we ran out of our last roll of paper towels I turned to Zack and said I don’t think we should buy anymore. He looked at me like I was crazy. He used paper towels like they were going out of style. When it was wiping down countertops or spill or drying hands or food or bacon grease Costco size paper towel bundles we’re basically made for him.
We started using kitchen towels for any and everything. Yes, including for bacon grease. I have two dedicated towels for grease messes. Some were free gifts with purchase from Grove, most were ones we already had, and several have been gifts. Thrift stores are a great place to find kitchen towels!
Another way to limit waste is switching out paper napkins and paper towels for cloth napkins!
When it comes to storing food, try to limit your plastic food storage and use glass instead. It’s far more versatile and able to be cooked in, as well as being so much easier to clean and they’re great for food. Thrift stores are a great place to look, or you can watch for good sales. But an easy way to start is by cleaning out any glass jars you use up (think spaghetti sauce jars!) and save those for food storage.
A last tip would be to switch your plastic wrap for beeswax when storing leftover food.
Ordering from a delivery service?
Use the notes section! I always tell them “no napkins, no utensils” on each item we order, as well as in the delivery instructions. The success rate is variable, but again any little bit makes a difference.
If you do get napkins while out at a restaurant or when you order food, don’t throw them out. Rather, save them for later. For instance, I keep the ones we get in the center console of our van. When the boys get bloody or runny noses, when there are scrapes and cuts, etc they certainly come in handy.
Packing a lunch.
It may seem silly but think about how often you’re at work and how often you eat lunch at work. Every time you go to that food truck or order from that restaurant you’re getting a bad some type of to-go container that usually has some type of wrapper as well as napkins and plastic utensils and probably a straw if you order to drink. Even if you pack your lunch two days a week that’s two days worth of food packaging waste that you are saving. And as a bonus it usually is far more budget-friendly too.
If you do work in an office consider keeping a mug, bowl, plate, and utensils there to use when you have food on hand. When I was working out of the home we had coffee and tea available in our break room and rather than use the Styrofoam disposable cups I brought my own mug.
Click here for some mouthwatering recipe inspo for your low waste life change.
Go low waste with on-the-go drinks
Bring your own water bottle wherever you go. If you must buy a drink, try to buy it in an aluminum can as they are at least recyclable.
Track how often you take out the trash.
Or if you want to really take it to the next level, do an audit of a trash bag in your kitchen. This will put into perspective how much packaging you likely throw away.
Also along the lines of trash make sure you’re up to date with your local recyclability guidelines. And check to see if your green yard waste bin allows for food waste or not!
Start composting! I promise it’s easier than it seems. Don’t have room? Bring whatever food waste you have to a compost drop-off or a local community garden!
Additional ways to start living a low waste lifestyle:
If you pass by a piece of trash while you’re out, pick it up and throw it away.
Have a baby? Consider cloth diapers or utilizing a cloth diaper service in your area.
Go paperless for bills.
Utilize your local library or apps like Audible and Libby.
Instead of buying new things check out a thrift store or secondhand store first. Also consider searching for your local buy nothing group on Facebook! Shop your own closet before buying at the mall, online, etc. Or look into clothing swaps!
And if you have things in your home you’re “over”? Don’t throw them out! As long as they are still usable, consider posting them in a local buy nothing group or community group on facebook. Donating and selling are options as well.
The biggest tip I can give you to help make your transition to a lower waste lifestyle easier: take time to plan.
It will make all the difference! The more forethought, the lesser your waste. For example:
- Make sure you have bags in your car before you head to the grocery store. After you unload your groceries, immediately put them back in your trunk / back seat / etc.
- Meal plan to prevent food waste.
- Are you going out to eat? Put a container in the car for potential leftovers.
Don’t think you have to make all the changes all at once. Take it one step at a time. And remember habits are easier to maintain than they are to start to make the shift gradually. Tackle one thing at a time and know that every effort counts.