Kickstart Your Zero Waste Lifestyle
Guide to help you on your road to Zero Waste
You’re probably on this page because you are interested in, or at least curious about a Zero Waste lifestyle. Lots of people are, and that’s great! But many also become intimidated when they see all the Zero Waste gurus and influencers online who take Zero Waste very serious. Reducing waste to an absolute minimum so it fits in a mason jar, is that really achievable and is this the goal you want to target? Another common worry is that this lifestyle is so limiting that it could reduce the quality of life in a way.
Can you reduce your weekly waste so that it fits in a Mason jar?
Zero Waste gurus such as Bea Johnson or Kathryn Kellogg live this lifestyle in the most extreme form, which takes a lot of time, effort and comes with many challenges. However, anyone can adopt a Zero Waste lifestyle and you can choose how much energy and effort you want to invest in this lifestyle, or maybe even a hobby. Even if you only buy a reusable water bottle or reusable grocery bags, you are already making an effort, because you are reducing waste. And that is the most important thing to remember.
Zero Waste Guide:
- What is a Zero Waste lifestyle? What does it entail?
- Pros and cons of a Zero Waste lifestyle
- What are the benefits of Zero Waste?
- What are the costs involved in living Zero Waste?
- How to start Zero Waste?
- What Zero Waste products should I buy first?
- How to find Zero Waste products?
- Zero Waste starter kits
- Zero Waste influencers and role models
What is a Zero Waste lifestyle and what does it entail?
There are different interpretations of what a Zero Waste lifestyle entails. But one thing is for sure, adopting this lifestyle in any of its extreme forms will not happen overnight.
Zero Waste is a philosophy that encourages the redesign of resource life cycles so that all products are reused.
The Zero Waste philosophy
The concept of Zero Waste revolves around minimizing the waste you produce, or even eliminating it altogether. The ultimate goal of living a Zero Waste lifestyle is to reduce your personal waste production to the point of extinction. However, we believe that any step you take towards this end goal by making an effort to reduce and minimize your waste production is an accomplishment.
The ideal Zero Waste lifestyle
In today’s society, it is impossible to live 100% Zero Waste. If you take a look at the picture of the Waste Hierarchy above, you might notice that the ultimate form of a Zero Waste lifestyle would go above and beyond the hierarchy by reducing waste until there is none.
I realized I that I cared about the environment, but I wasn’t living that way.
Lauren Singer, from Trash Is for Tossers
Even the most invested Zero Waste gurus cannot achieve this. The best anyone has done is fit their weekly waste of multiple years into a Mason jar, and that excludes the waste that they were able to reuse or recycle.
Realistic Zero Waste lifestyle
Knowing now that ideal Zero Waste isn’t easy to be attained, what is then a more realistic Zero Waste lifestyle? This lifestyle can be approached and enjoyed when you limit yourself to the top three levels of the Waste Hierarchy (Reduce, Re-use, and Recycle). In other words, you would make reducing your waste production where ever you can a priority, and whatever cannot be reduced you try to re-use, or if that is not possible you recycle it.
Pros and cons of a Zero Waste lifestyle
Living a Zero Waste lifestyle definitely has its ups and downs. It is a lifestyle that requires dedication, as it can be frustrating and time-consuming at first. It needs to grow on you and you need to adapt to it so you get used to this new way of living. Once you have settled into this new lifestyle it comes with a lot of reward for yourself and nature.
- Every step you take towards Zero Waste has a possitive impact on nature
- Zero Waste foods are healthier as they reduce or eliminate processed foods
- Zero Waste products often look nicer and more stylish
- With Zero Waste you produce less waste
- There is a supportive community around Zero Waste
- The first steps to Zero Waste are easy to achieve, such as replacing disposables for reusables
- It can be more expensive
- Alternative Zero Waste products can be hard to find
- It’s a time-consuming lifestyle
- Going fully Zero Waste requires discipline
- It can be limiting at times
- Difficult to achieve for a large household
- Always need to keep reusables on you
- Shopping online is more difficult, because of wasteful packaging materials
- Not all products have a Zero Waste alternative
Why should you try Zero Waste?
Before anyone changes anything significant in their lives the most common they ask is always “why should I do it”? Or in this case “what are the true benefits of Zero Waste”? While the more prominent benefits of Zero Waste are well known, it is also well known that this lifestyle change is not an easy one and it truly requires backbone.
Zero Waste and the environment
The main motivator for people to adopt a Zero Waste lifestyle is the environment. People are producing more and more waste each and every day. The majority of this waste contains of (single-use) plastics, which does not degrade over time and is, therefore, pilling up on landfills and contaminates oceans and other natural habitats which are also the home of other species. You can read more about plastic and the environment on our reusable grocery bags page.
If you are thinking about going Zero Waste you are ultimately eliminating, or at least significantly reducing the amount of plastic and non-recyclable waste that you and the rest of your household are producing. This will help your generation and future generations live in a cleaner world than they would if we keep producing waste the way we are doing now. Therefore, Zero Waste is not just something that affects you and your immediate surroundings in a positive manner, but it will also affect future generations.
Does Zero Waste really make a difference?
Of course, a Zero Waste lifestyle will have a positive impact on the environment! It makes a difference in your life and a difference in the life of anyone else that you include in the lifestyle (your partner, children and friends). However, Zero Waste could also make a difference for everyone today, tomorrow and 10 years in the future.
The more people get involved in living Zero Waste the bigger the difference will be, and “involved” can be as simple as reducing plastic waste by purchasing and consistently re-using reusable grocery bags and reusable water bottles. So even if you are not willing to commit to fully commit to the cause, at least get involved. The first steps to Zero Waste are easy, so anyone can join!
What are the costs involved in living Zero Waste?
One of the common concerns and possible objections about living Zero Waste are the costs that come with it. Many people assume that dedicating to this lifestyle is expensive because it means avoiding cheap plastic alternatives and buying more expensive versions of single-use products, such as stainless steel water bottles, high-quality grocery bags, or insulated coffee tumblers.
However, it really depends on your approach. For example, Anita Vandyke an author and Zero Waste Instagrammer frequently posts pictures of “investment” and “budget” Zero Waste product alternatives.
“It’s only one straw”, said 8 billion people.
Once you have gotten the hang of the lifestyle and found your Zero Waste product preferences, you can probably even save money with this lifestyle in the long run. Because you can reuse these better quality items over and over again, so you will save money by not re-buying the single-use items. But, it is true that when you first kick-start the transition to a Zero Waste lifestyle you will need to invest money into Zero Waste must-have products.
See it as a true investment in yourself, your new lifestyle and into a better world. Most of these Zero Waste items look beautiful and stylish so these daily items will match your taste of fashion and your type of look. This means that this lifestyle can be seen by others so you inspire other people to join the Zero Waste movement as well.
Buying zero waste products is an eco-friendly and stylish investment that will pay-out in the long run.
This is part of the reason why we recommend a slow transition to Zero Waste rather than an abrupt one. However, once you are well into our transition you will notice that the Zero Waste life becomes much easier and that you are going to earn your starter investments back because they are a one-time investment in which single-use plastics are a consistent investment.
Great that you are interested in reusable products. Step up your game even more by checking out other eco-friendly alternatives to single-use plastics.
How to start Zero Waste?
As we explained above, making the switch to a Zero Waste lifestyle is not something that you can do overnight. Especially if you want to make this change in lifestyle seriously, you need to make changes step by step and invest time, energy and money as well. In the following sections, we give you the instructions and show you the right tools to get started.
You can also start reducing waste at the office. Start a green team with your colleagues and team up to reuse, reduce and recycle at your workplace. Learn more about this on the zero waste office page.
Steps to a realistic Zero Waste lifestyle
Deciding to start a new chapter of your life by making a change in your lifestyle can sometimes feel like staring at a blank Word document on your laptop. You know that you want to start writing in it, but where do you start?
You don’t just become a butterfly overnight… growth is a process.
Before you even start changing anything in your day-to-day life it is helpful to become aware and mindful of the current waste you produce every day. Therefore, step ‘zero’ for starting your Zero Waste lifestyle is to Rethink and keep track of how much waste, what type of waste, and in what areas of your life you produce waste (cleaning, food, personal hygiene, etc.).
Once you have become aware of your waste production and you have educated yourself about the local recycling legislation, only then you can start taking tangible steps to lower your waste production.
- Reorganise – Step one is to get organised and start separating your different types of waste so they can be recycled. Purchasing a dual compartment trash can can you help separate your recyclables from your other waste. As strange as it sounds it is important to keep your waste and recyclables clean, this is where setting up a compost bin or getting a garbage disposal can help, to keep your leftover food separated. Also check out our recycling bins page for more help about source separating.
- Replace – Step two is to start avoiding single-use products and items like single-use plastic bags or single-use plastic bottles and replacing them with reusable products like reusable grocery bags and water bottles. As simple as this step is it can make a huge environmental difference if everyone embraced it. See more reusable plastic alternatives on our Reusables Homepage or our Zero Waste Store.
- Repurpose – Step three of the process requires some creativity and maybe even some crafting. This stage is about repurposing waste in order to reuse it. For example, cleaning out an empty jam jar and reusing it as paperclip container. This creative way of reausing is also known as upcycling.
- Reduce – Step four is about reducing your waste even further by substituting non-recyclable waste products with recyclable products, also known as cradle-to-cradle. For example, substituting your plastic toothbrush and plastic shampoo bottle with a bamboo toothbrush and shampoo soap bar that comes in recyclable paper packaging.
- Refuse – Step five to going Zero Waste is to refuse waste. This means when someone on the street tries to hand you a flyer or when the cashier asks if you want a receipt, you just say “no, thank you”. This means that you start looking for Zero Waste alternatives for products that would usually produce waste. For example, you would start going to the local market or a special supermarket for meat, fruit, and vegetables so you can avoid their usual plastic wrapping.
Finally, it doesn’t matter if you finish the final fifth step or decide that you are satisfied with mastering step two or three, it is important to Remember. Remember that you want to be more eco-friendly and remember that every step you take towards Zero Waste is an accomplishment that makes a difference for the environment, something to be proud of. So remember your success, celebrate it and share it with those around you, for our planet and the next generations to come.
What Zero Waste products should I buy first?
There are few essential items that every Zero Waste enthusiasts or newbie should own, because these essentials facilitate the lifestyle and make the largest difference for the environment. The main purpose of these essentials is the replace single-use items and separate different types of waste from each other. A Zero Waste starter kit is always a good place to start, but you can also purchase the essential separately. These essentials are:
- Reusable grocery bags
- Reusable produce bags
- Reusable water bottle/ tea cup
- Glass jars for food storage
- Dual compartment trash can
- Compost bin
While these essentials are helpful for getting started, as you adopt the Zero Waste lifestyle more and more you will start to look for Zero Waste version for more specific products. These products you may be able to find through our Zero Waste store or you can find them yourself, in which case our tips for finding Zero Waste products below may be helpful.
Stop harming our planet with single-use plastic water bottles, straws and shopping bags.
The most important thing to keep in mind while shopping for Zero Waste products it that the number one type of waste to avoid is the type that cannot be recycled or reused and does not degrade over time. This is also the type of waste our oceans, cities, and landfills are overflowing with.
Every year more than 8 million tons of plastic trash flows into the world’s oceans. Most of this plastic trash comes from discarded single-use disposable plastic products, such as:
- Plastic water / soda bottles
- Plastic straws
- Plastic grocery bags
- Plastic coffee cups
- Plastic lunch bags
- Plastic cigarette lighters
- Plastic toothbrushes
- Plastic safety razors
- Plastic food containers
- Plastic cutlery
How to find Zero Waste products?
The further you get in your Zero Waste journey the more often you will need to start looking for your own alternatives for Zero Waste products. This can be challenging and frustrating, especially since Zero Waste products are not usually labeled as being Zero Waste.
Finding Zero Waste on Amazon
You will probably have picked up your own tips and tricks along the way, but here are a few steps we recommend following when you’re searching for Zero Waste products on Amazon:
- Go to Amazon
- Type in the product you are searching for in the search bar
- Add one of the following words: ‘natural, organic, eco, eco-friendly, plastic-free, zero waste, biodegradable, compostable.’
Besides making sure that the products you are buying at natural and eco-friendly it is important to not forget to keep an eye on the packaging materials of these products. The packaging should preferably be made of paper, cardboard or glass. For example, are the companies using plastic peanuts or perforated cardboard as void packaging material.
Other Zero Waste e-commerce sites
Looking for online shops besides Amazon which specialize in Zero Waste is also a good idea. A lot of Zero Waste gurus and bloggers often have a type of Zero Waste store, similar to ours, on their blog and some also link to external Zero Waste stores that they like and use. Here are a few examples:
- The Zero Waste Store
- Store recommended by Zero Waste Nerd blog
- Store from Going Zero Waste blog
- Store from Zero Waste Home blog
- Store recommended by Trash is for Tossers blog
- EarthHero sustainable essentials
Finding physical Zero Waste stores
Finally, you should not forget your offline Zero Waste shopping options, which are especially useful for grocery shopping. While physical for Zero Waste stores are starting to emerge, they are still quite rare. But there are other options that facilitate Zero Waste shopping more than the usual grocery stores, such as: Eco stores (like Whole Foods), bulk stores, and farmers markets. Finding these types of stores is not always easy, but here are a few tools that could help you:
- Zero Waste near me website
- Litterless’s where to shop guide
- Zero Waste app
- Go Zero Waste app
- Zero Waste collective app
- Zero Waste Home bulk store locater app
Zero Waste starter kits
These starter kits are a great first purchase to start reducing your everyday waste production. For this reason we have awho page about them, so if you want to see more Zero Waste starter kits, follow this link.
EcoBox Zero Waste Starter Kit
Straw Set, Reusable Lunch Box and Water Bottle, Bamboo Tooth Brush with Case, Reusable Grocery Bag, Beeswax Food Wraps
Seeding Green Zero Waste Kit
Bee’s Wraps, Utensil Set with Case, Bamboo Tooth Brush, Reusable Grocery and Produce Bag, Reusable Straw with Cleaning Brush
Bonsai Cove Zero Waste Kit
3 Leak Proof Reusable Airtight Silicone Food Storage Bags (2x Large and 1x Small) and 3-Pack of Beeswax Wraps (Small, Medium, Large)
Zero Waste produce bag set
Large Cotton Swaddle, 3 Cotton Bags (Small, Medium, Large), 3 Mesh Bags (Small, Medium, Large), Large Brushed Cotton Tote
Zero Waste influencers and role models
When going Zero Waste, it can be very helpful to see what other people are doing and how they deal with certain challenges. Below you will find some Zero Waste role models and influencers that we like. Some of them are very well known with others are just starting to blossom. So we invite you to take a look at our section of: Books, YouTubers, Instagrammers, and bloggers.
Zero Waste Books
Zero Waste Home
By Bea Johnson
The Ultimate Guide to Simplifying Your Life by Reducing Your Waste
The Zero-Waste Lifestyle
By Amy Korst
Live Well by Throwing Away Less
By Beth Terry
How I Kicked the Plastic Habit and How You Can Too
Zero Waste Youtubers
My name is Manuela and I have a passion for Sustainability and the Environment. I choose to live my values by living a zero waste, minimal, plant based life with intention.
Vegan Diver Katt
This is Katt’s channel. If you are interested in anything to do with veganism, plastic free living, zero waste lifestyle, scuba diving all with the twist of travelling the world, then this might be the channel for you.
Zero Waste Instagrammers
Anita Vandyke @rocket_science
Anita is a rocket scientist, soon to be doctor, author and mum, but also a Zero Waste enthusiast. On her instagram page she has a special focus on presenting budget Zero Waste alternatives.
Heidi Violet @zerowastechica
Heidi is a young woman from Spain who has embraced the Zero Waste lifestyle. On her Instagram page she posts about her life with creative pictures of her Zero Waste alternatives and products she likes.
Zero Waste Bloggers
Zero Waste Home – Bea Johnson
Bea has become an influential member of the Zero Waste community. She is an author, gives talks, and over time has transformed her blog into a movement. Keep up with her life and find bulk store on her blog.
Going Zero Waste – Kathryn
Kathryn became a Zero Waste enthusiast when health circumstances made her conscious for what she was putting in or on her body. Kathryn blogs about her life and shares helpful content for anyone interested in living Zero Waste.
Trash is for Tossers – Lauren Singer
Lauren is a young women and environmentalist major in New York city. In her blog she shared things such as useful tips and easy changes you can make to reduce waste, as well as other changes you can make that don’t cost anything.
Zero-Waste Chef – Anne Marie
Anne Maria began blogging when she realised the struggle of going Zero Waste in the kitchen. She blogs about quitting plastic, challenges in a Zero Waste kitchen and posts interesting Zero Waste receipts.
Zero Waste Nerd – Megean
Megean is a young woman who has, in the last four years found stress free, money saving ways to reduce plastic, slash trash, and simplify her life. She posts about things from composting in an apartment to reducing energy waste.
The Zero Waste Memoirs – Lauren
Lauren was your average millennial girl before she started her Zero Waste journey. In her blog she writes about Zero Waste in every aspect of her life: household, beauty, wellness, culture… in order to help her readers with this lifestyle.
Step Up: Recycle, Reuse & Reduce
The three arrows of the recycling symbol represent the three main stages of the recycling process: recycling, reusing and reducing. Together the arrows form a closed loop. Step up and implement eco-friendly replacements in your daily life.
By Recycling.com/ 21 April 2020