There is no doubt about it; embracing an eco-conscious lifestyle is difficult. We live in a society that values convenience, which has driven the popularity of single-use products—straining landfill space and natural resources. However, the answer to becoming more eco-conscious and saving the environment may lie with zero waste.
How to Be More Eco-Conscious and Reduce Your Waste Footprint
Zero waste aims to eliminate waste from landfills and the ocean through mindful consumerism and eco practices. While this movement can seem ambitious, no effort to reach the goal is too small. Plus, simply striving for zero waste holds a treasure trove of personal and environmental benefits. Zero waste benefits include reduced greenhouse gases from organic waste and decreased plastic and air pollution. On a more personal note, many who incorporate zero waste into their lifestyle experience reduced spending, improved health and well-being, and a clearer vision on how to reach their environmental goals.
Sound like the type of benefits you could use? Try these 8 easy tips to get started with zero waste living.
1. Conduct a Trash Audit
Becoming more eco-aware starts by identifying your own downfalls when it comes to waste and the environment. Therefore, a trash audit is amazing place to start. This audit involves going through your garbage and taking note of any repeating patterns, which will help you detect problem areas that you should zone in on.
Alternatively, if trash sorting isn’t for you, you may also put a list above the garbage can and write down everything that is thrown out for the week. Don’t forget to also pay attention to the content of the smaller bins in areas like the home office and bathroom as well.
2. Use the Freezer
Food waste in America equates to a staggering 80 billion pounds annually, with each person tossing 219 lbs. This isn’t only an issue because this component takes up 22% of landfill space, but also because it releases the greenhouse gases methane and carbon as it decomposes in a landfill. Luckily, your freezer can play a big role in helping reduce your food waste.
Not only can you freeze full meals for a later date, but you can also preserve fresh herbs in an ice cube tray. To do so, lay the herbs in the empty ice cube trays, fill with olive oil, freeze. Then just pop a cube out for recipes like soups and pastas whenever a pop of fresh flavor is needed.
3. Make Smoothie Kits
Another delicious freezer tip – if you have fruit or vegetables that are on the brink of going bad, chop them up and put them in the freezer to make smoothies at a later date. You can freeze each type of produce separately or upcycle food jars to make smoothie kits with each ingredient already measured out (minus any liquid). That way, all you have to do is dump the container into the blender, add the liquid of your choice, and voila! A fresh and tasty smoothie.
Want to add vegetables to your smoothie? Try cooked sweet potato or cauliflower to create a creamy base. Or, spinach or kale is always a great choice for a boost of Vitamin C.
4. Clean Green
Creating an eco-friendly cleaning routine isn’t just about finding green cleaning products, but also using the right accessories. Two major items to rethink are sponges and paper towels as there are many low waste or wasteless alternatives now on the market. A few that you may want to give a whirl are unpaper towels, bar clothes, and dish rags. Some people also prefer to go the compostable route with Konjac sponges or wood scrub brushes.
5. Rethink Special Occasions
With the decorations and the presents, special occasions like birthdays can quickly get wasteful—but they don’t have to be with a few simple tweaks.
Be more mindful of how you wrap gifts. Most wrapping paper is not recyclable, so you are often better off with an alternative. This may include upcycling magazine pages, using old newspapers or fukoshiki, Japanese fabric wrapping.
Skip the physical gifts altogether and try gifting an experience like tickets to a play or a concert.
Use decorations that you already have instead of balloons and streamers. This may include stringing up some holiday lights you already own for a birthday party. Or, for more traditional decorations, try a rental place.
6. Get Organized
It is easy to overbuy food, beauty products, and other items when you don’t know what you have. That means that advancing your eco journey can be as easy as getting organized. While this tip admittedly isn’t exclusive to zero waste, it will undoubtedly help with the journey.
We highly suggest that you take an itemized approach to this organization session to make it easy to see what you have. For example, to tackle clothing, go through not just your closet but any storage boxes with clothes and the coat closet. Sorting through beauty products? To make it easier to see what you have in the future, try consolidating them in one space. Once these items run out you may want to try swapping to greener alternatives, such as zero waste cosmetics or refilling your bottles at a refillery or bulk store to save on packing.
7. Save Energy
A lot of focus on becoming more eco-friendly is about the waste we produce, but you should also look at your energy usage since it accounts for 33% of the average American’s carbon footprint. You can reduce your energy usage by:
Using a power bar to switch off electronics when not in use to avoid vampire power—energy consumed when electronics are off but still plugged in.
Installing a programmable thermostat to set the temperature lower when you aren’t home.
Sealing doors and windows adequately with caulk and weather strips.
Swapping to LED bulbs, which last longer and consume less energy.
8. Decrease Water Usage
Another way to reduce your energy consumption and save resources is to become mindful of how much water you are using. Changes that can reduce the amount you use include:
- Changing to a low flow showerhead.
- Using water from when the shower is heating up to water plants.
- Adding compost to your plants and garden so that they better retain moisture and require less frequent watering.
- Using a rain barrel to collect rainwater to water your garden.
- Making sure the laundry machine and dishwasher is full before running them.
Be Patient With Yourself… It Takes Time to Live More Sustainably
Becoming more eco-conscious doesn’t happen overnight. However, the more you implement zero waste practices (like those found above), the easier it will be to identify problem areas in your lifestyle, as well as solutions. A few mindful changes made today can help build a greener tomorrow.