5 Things Every Zero Waste Newbie Should Know
So you’re interested in joining the ever-growing zero waste upcycling movement but don’t know how to get started? Don’t worry, we all have been there. As the world becomes increasingly environmentally conscious and the demand for greener products and practices grow stronger, the more options there will be to practice sustainable living. But before you embark on your new zero waste journey, there are 5 things every newbie should know first.
1. Know Your “Why”
The fact that you are reading this blog right now tells me that something has compelled you to join the movement. Take a second right now to ask yourself why. Could it be that you are passionate about preserving a clean planet for future generations to enjoy? Maybe you’re trying to avoid the harmful toxins in plastics that can leach into your food and drinks. Perhaps you realize living sustainably can help save you money.
Whatever your reason, understanding your motivation for your new lifestyle, and staying connected with it, is an all-important first step in your zero waste journey.
- Knowing your “why” brings clarity to your purpose and makes your zero waste decisions more meaningful
- Knowing your “why” helps you stay focused at times that you need the motivation
- Knowing your “why” shapes your values that guide your decisions and define your goals
- Knowing your “why” makes you feel passionate about achieving your goals
- Knowing your “why” holds you accountable to your actions and allows you to live a zero waste life with integrity
Knowing why you want to go zero waste is the key to living a sustainable life with a sense of purpose, and will make your zero waste transition much easier as it allows you to feel that your eco-conscious decisions are making a difference.
2. Know Your Waste
The average American creates roughly 4.5lbs of garbage every day!
We can all do much better than this. Take a week to observe yourself to make note of how much waste you actually create. I bet you’ll be surprised to see just how much every small item you toss away eventually starts to really add up. You can even pay attention to the organic materials that you trash, as they might be better placed in a compost bin instead of a garbage bin. Once you are able to identify the items you find yourself reaching for the most, you can begin start ridding your life of them. Start by eliminating single-use items such as plastic straws, paper towels, plastic ware, and water bottles that you can swap for sustainable or upcycled replacements. Just about any single-use item you can find in your home has a plastic-free, reusable alternative that will greatly reduce your footprint.
3. Know What You Have
We know you’re probably excited to get going and itching to fill your online shopping cart with some cool new zero waste or upcycled products. But before you start spending away, have look around your house and take inventory of sustainable items you may not even know that you already have just lying around. Try using up products to just get rid of them or see what you can sell. Empty glass mason jars are perfect for storing leftovers, dry bulk food, or even as a coffee mug. Old t-shirts can be cut up to be used as cleaning rags or handkerchiefs. Instead of tossing out your shower curtain, use it as a table cloth for outdoor gatherings. Getting creative and finding innovative ways to re-purpose the items you already own is really fun and can turn your zero waste journey into a zero waste adventure!
4. Know How To Buy
Impulse buying is often a difficult habit to break with the relentless barrage of advertisements that flash in front of your eyes every day telling you about all the things that you “need,” in your life. But going zero waste is a transformation from a consumerist lifestyle into a minimalist one. That is to say, you will need to learn how to purchase less and purchase better. Your goal is to only buy items you actually need. Using sustainable alternatives to swap for upcycled, disposable, single-use item is a great start. But to be a critical-thinking consumer that buys less and buys well, often requires a little creativity and a lot of discipline. Get into the habit of asking yourself a series of questions, before making a purchase:
- Do I really need this item?
- Do I already own something that can functionally replace it?
- How often can I imagine myself really using it, and for how long?
- Have I asked my friends and family if they have a spare?
To be even more certain that your purchase is the right decision, you can simply just….wait! Take a few days (or longer) away from the item, then come back and ask yourself the same series of questions. This can help you to avoid impulse purchases. And of course, when you do buy, try to make sure they are zero waste or upcycled products!
5. Know It Takes 21 Days
It’s a common understanding that it takes about 21 days to make or break a habit.
While this number may vary from person to person, the important thing to know is that transitioning to this type of lifestyle doesn’t happen overnight. It is a gradual process that may involve behavioral changes that require a certain level of commitment and dedication to a bigger purpose. This will involve breaking yourself from old wasteful habits, as well as adopting new sustainable ones. As you embark on the exciting new challenges of sustainable living, it’s important to allow yourself the patience to accomplish your goals, and the compassion to forgive yourself when you slip up from time to time. Remember that living a literally “ZERO” waste lifestyle is virtually impossible. So let that term be a continual reminder that the goal is not about achieving perfection. It’s about making better choices.