Most of us by now have heard the phrase “zero-waste,” especially when referring to manufacturing facilities or even restaurants. Zero-waste is a concept that the very idea of waste should be eliminated; instead, any and all products, resources, materials, and leftovers should be returned for further use in the same or in a different capacity. Nothing should be thrown away, ever: there would be no such thing as waste. And while there are many individuals and groups working to make that a reality, it’s a rather difficult achievement because of the way we have set our society up to be one of convenience and disposability rather than reuse.
Thankfully, though, there are some ways you can help turn your home into being (or get it closer to) a Zero-Waste facility. By keeping in mind the entire life-cycle of the products we buy and throw away, we can all do our part to reduce or eliminate waste from our life. Here are some tips to help you get started.
Buy In Bulk
By eliminating all packaging of food supplies, we could substantially cut the amount of packaging trash we throw away each day. Pick up some reusable containers and shop in bulk for everything possible. This could include rice, nuts, soaps, grains, seeds, cereals, peanut butter, etc.
Stop Buying Things In Plastic
Beth from My Plastic Free Life has pretty much eliminated plastic from her life. With careful planning, you can do the same. Plastic takes oil to make and lasts forever in landfills, so buy things that either come without packaging or are in glass or at least metal. Glass or metal can last a lifetime should you wish to reuse either one and are better recycling material than plastic is.
Glass jars make great water bottles at home. Cardboard boxes can be used over and over again before needing to be recycled. Shredded paper can be put in compost piles. Many “broken” items can be recycled into craft projects to do with your children. Chances are, no matter what the material is, you could find another use or three for it.
Everyone on your block doesn’t need their own snowblower, so why not share with a neighbor? This eliminates the need for a manufacturer to build additional machines and also keeps one out of the trash heap once it needs replacing. Sharing also saves money, too – and this is all about being Zero-Waste, right?
Learn Local Recycling Laws
Before you decided to trash something you aren’t sure can be recycled, take the time to learn your town’s recycling rules. Where I live, nearly anything can be recycled. Maybe your town is the same, so there is no sense throwing an item away that could have been turned into something else!
Don’t Waste Food
Cook only the amount you will eat, refrigerate any leftovers, and compost anything else. Buying food you throw away not only costs you money but also produces more waste, from the farmer all the way down to the car ride to the grocery store. Buy (or even better, grow) what you need and stop wasting food.
Keep Electronics Longer
The allure of a new iPhone can be too much for anyone; but what does it do that your current phone doesn’t already do? I am still rocking my 3GS from over 3 years ago! While it is definitely on its last legs and will be replaced later this year, nearly everyone I know has had 2 or 3 new phones in the time I have had this single one. By making electronics last longer, you help to keep toxic chemicals out of our environment both before manufacturing and after.
Bring Lunch From Home
If you make your lunch at home and bring it to work or school in a reusable container, you eliminate all packaging from your daily midday meal. Can’t say the same of a visit to a fast-food joint or a local cafeteria.
Bring A Reusable Bottle Everywhere
I have one for water and one for coffee, and they are almost always with me. You don’t need to contribute to that trash can outside Starbucks overflowing with single-use paper cups, do you?
Get Off Those Junk Mail Lists
I know, you keep meaning to do it but the mail keeps coming. Take a few minutes one day this month and stop it for good. Visit CatalogChoice and OptOutPrescreen and eliminate all that paper waste that keeps coming into your house day after day.
While stopping any and all waste from entering our lives would be an uphill battle, by paying close attention to what we buy we can certainly reduce the amount of trash we throw away each day. The average American generates 1,600 pounds of trash per year; we can do better.
So, have you tried to reduce the waste you generate? What kinds of things have you tried?