I first started looking into zero waste living when a friend sent me a link of an article on Facebook about Trash Is For Tossers blogger Lauren Singer’s unconventional lifestyle, and needlessly to say it blew me the hell away. As someone who went vegan with the planet in mind, it was shocking to learn how much I didn’t know about my other actions that affect the Earth’s health, such as my sick addiction to plastic and nonchalance toward where my garbage ended up. This prompted a huge shift in me and I decided to work my way toward a reduced-trash lifestyle about 6 months ago! Believe me, I am definitely NO expert, especially since I’m still in the learning phases and have missed a couple steps to the process. It’s the journey that’s important too!
Another media source that pushed me over to the dark side was a movie I found on Netflix called Plastic Planet. Now that truly made me wake the fuck up! I won’t say much about it because I want you to view it yourself, but it was definitely an eye-opener that totally repulsed me from using plastic EVER again. Fast-forward to now: I haven’t collected my monthly trash in a cute mason jar like the other zero-wasters, but I can surely say that I’ve significantly reduced my garbage consumption. Though the terms “waste-free” and “zero-waste” describe my overall conscious goal with this lifestyle, I feel much more comfortable claiming myself as a “trash reducer” since I am not guaranteed that all my actions do not produce waste (recyclable products, the waste of manufacturers I support, accidental slip-ups). But since I personally don’t produce trash at home, school, or work, I will use all terms to make my intentions and most actions clear to you.
So how do I do it, you might ask? Well, it’s not as difficult as it seems yet it’s not as easy as you’d want it to be haha. Essentially, you do NOT put anything in your trash can. Our planet is literally one giant garbage disposal, so anymore waste (even the tissue you blew your nose into) sent to the landfill is the waste we absorb. Gross, ain’t it? Plus, most plastics are made out of mineral/industrial oils, extremely toxic chemicals, and are not biodegradable, meaning they don’t naturally or healthfully compost back into the Earth. There’s luck though! We can frequently reuse plastic alternatives like stainless steel, glass, organic cotton, and wood so that we may lessen our impact and also save a few coins in the process.
At this point you must be wondering “how does this benefit me though??”. I can understand that; waste-free living does not sound like a walk in the park, but your conscious effort to do as little harm to your environment as possible will benefit you greatly in the long run! Just think about how many people are on this planet and how awesome it would be for someone (hopefully you) to not toss another plastic bottle into the trash; one less bottle a day will seriously add up, my friend. You will also yield the benefits of saving money from bringing your own reusable gear everywhere, practicing minimalism since excessive buying is wasteful, not having stank ass garbage rotting in your car or home, and many other upsides that you’ll have to see for yourself!
Now onto what I use that swapped out all of my disposables:
No-no: Plastic bottles and the like
Hell yeah: Glass mason jars
No-no: Common plastic shopping bags
Hell yeah: Cotton tote and bulk bags
No-no: Tupperware or styrofoam containers
Hell yeah: Mason jars or stainless steel containers (like an Ecolunchbox)
No-no: Paper towels or napkins
Hell yeah: Cloth napkins and towels
No-no: Plastic utensils
Hell yeah: Reusable bamboo or silver utensils
No-no: Common tampons and pads
Hell yeah: DivaCup if you dare (I haven’t gotten to this stage yet due to my IUD, lameee…)
No-no: Leftover food scraps
Hell yeah: Either save it for later to add it to another meal or compost it if possible
No-no: Packaged or wrapped soaps
Hell yeah: Get loose vegan soap bars at health food stores
With that stuff out the way, here are some tips to utilize it all:
- Buy in bulk at your local health-food store with your reusable cotton shopping/bulk bags! If you do not have access to one near you, see if you can make a day trip with your friends or family to said store and get as much of your chosen bulk item as you can. Rice, beans, pasta, oats, nuts, dried fruit, and so many other tasty plant foods can be found in the bulk section.
- Try your hardest to have your reusable items on your person. I know it’s hard to remember when you really want to buy a water bottle or don’t feel like wrapping your sandwich in cloth, but you’ll get the hang of it! As long as you keep a reminder or carry your items around in your car or purse (or murse?), then you won’t have an excuse to buy or use wasteful materials.
- For the love of the universe, please don’t buy animal products to substitute for other biodegradable items! Most, if not all, zero wasters still use materials like boar hair or silk, and even eat animals and their secretions despite their efforts at living consciously. There is absolutely nothing environmentally-friendly, sustainable, or compassionate about consuming animal products in any way; there is always an easy alternative.
- Think minimally or work with what you have! If you have some old jars lying around the house, wash ’em out and use ’em as a food storer. Or if you can’t find any reusable items in your home, get some at your local thrift shop for super cheap! Also, don’t go on any massive clothing hauls if you don’t have to haha. If need be, make a DIY project out of your old clothes or buy secondhand.
- If possible, make your own food and bring it with you to work or school. I LOVE cooking so this is a treat for me no matter where I go, but this is always a healthier and more sustainable option when stored in either a mason jar or stainless steel container.
I hope all this helps and don’t hesitate to leave me questions!