I believe that we all need to do whatever we can today to limit our waste. I began my zero waste journey a few years back and it is just that, a journey. It may seem daunting at first, but the truth is that just with a few simple changes, you are already doing a whole lot more for the environment than most.
Waste is an incredibly large issue today. Sea creatures wash up on shores with bodies full of plastic. Turtles get caught in plastic when they’re young and can’t get out and as a result, their bodies grow malformed around the plastic. Birds choke on the plastic. Sea-salt is no longer safe to eat as it contains plastic. Fish and seafood also contain plastic today. Many people are even, which is horrifying to say the least, to terms with this and keep producing waste and keep eating the plastic contaminated animals.
Even when it comes to your own neighbourhood, you can see the problem we have with waste today. People litter everywhere; be it in the woods, in parks or on the street. It is like they are expecting someone else to pick up their mess for them.
Many habits that are considered ‘normal’ are habits that produce unnecessary waste. Such as buying paper to wrap gifts in, only to throw it out as soon as the gift is open. Getting napkins and straws and forks with your takeout even though you have all of that at home. We all know it just ends up in the trash. Takeaway coffee mugs that you may think can be recycled but actually contain a coating on the inside that makes that impossible.
Not to mention the incredible (in the worst sense of the word) food waste that is going on globally. Perfectly good food gets thrown out daily by grocery stores, restaurants, cafes and even by farmers and factories.
I can still to this day remember how some of my classmates in junior high viewed food. They’d go to the lunch room, pick up their food on their trays and then they’d go right away to the bin and throw it all out and walk back out again. When I was hanging out with a classmate at their house, I still remember how they made themselves a snack, took a bite and then said “I don’t feel like eating now” and threw out all of the food, that could easily have been put back into the refrigerator. For many it was a way for them to express how much money their families had. Like “I can afford to throw this out because we can just buy new food, no worries”. I stopped hanging out with them soon after that.
So what can we do to limit our waste? Here is a list of 50 simple things that will make a great difference in your life and in the waste that you produce.
Bring fabric bags when grocery shopping
Say no to plastic bags
Bring a reusable mug when buying takeout coffee (if you absolutely must buy takeout coffee)
Bring produce bags for your vegetables and fruit when grocery shopping
Try dumpster diving
Start bartering with things you don’t need for things you do need
Be mindful of where you go out to eat, where the food comes from, how it was prepared and what waste will be produced
Cook for yourself rather than eating out
Bring your own food containers when ordering takeout
Learn how to make food that is commonly packaged heavily - such as cream cheese (vegan), tofu, tempeh etc
Switch to compostable toothbrushes
Make your own laundry detergent
Make your own cleaning products (so simple and frugal)
Be conscious of the packaging when grocery shopping. Don’t choose the heavily packaged food.
Switch to a menstrual cup or clothpads
Switch from paper towels in the kitchen to cloth
Try using cloth in the bathroom instead of toilet paper
Save brown paper from online orders and use it to wrap presents
Wrap presents in cloth
Stop using teabag-tea, use loose tea instead
Buy food in bulk
Look for a package free shop and bring your own jars and bags there
Make sure you recycle and limit your need to recycle
Make your own juice and plantbased milk
Buy as much as you can second hand
Cook in bulk
Use a wonderbag when cooking. (a non electric slow cooker)
Limit your waste to food waste (banana peel etc) only and use a bokashi to turn it into fertiliser and compost for your soil
Mend your clothes
Never throw something away that can be re-designed, sold or donated
Bring a metal straw and a spork with you everywhere (or chopsticks) to limit need for accepting disposable straws or forks
Keep a pantry with the items you use most purchased in bulk
Quit plastic and use metal and glass in your kitchen
Don’t support fast fashion, support small brands instead
Learn how to sew
Learn how to cook from scratch
Use sustainable cutlery and tableware
Create a capsule wardrobe with sustainable fashion
Always think twice before making a purchase
Make your own makeup
Make your own hygiene products
Use a safety razor and learn how to use it
If you see trash outside, use a glove or a piece of cloth to protect your hands, and pick it up and throw it in the bin
Log your waste and learn how to make use of the waste that you produce
Instead of buying new clothes, re-design old ones
Trade clothes, food, books - anything really - with friends or create a Facebook group and trade large scale. When you are sick of something, trade it for something you want.
Use cloth diapers for your children
Use glass bottles for your babies
Learn how to forage for food and grow food
Good luck and stay sustainable!