5 Tricks for going Zero WasteFebruary 26, 2020 · Aaron Burr
Trash collection is a good thing. It picks up our waste and disposes of it so we don’t have to. But how much trash will never reach the landfill? How much waste actually ends up in habitats like oceans, rivers, or forests? The answer is far too much. In the ocean alone, about a dump truck full of plastic every single minute of every hour of every day.
According to the Ocean Conservancy, the top five beach plastics picked up are:
- Cigarette butts
- Food wrappers
- Plastic bottles & caps
- Grocery bags
With so much trash dumping into the environment how are we supposed to make a dent and have an impact? Where do we start?
The quick answer:
- Ask ourselves, can the thing we are purchasing be avoided or replaced by a reusable item?
- Eat more produce.
- Reusable grocery, produce, and bulk bags.
- A reusable water bottle.
- Give up cotton swabs and tissues.
Now, let's dig into those.
1. Ask ourselves, can the thing we are purchasing be avoided or replaced by a reusable version?
While this is not an actual “thing”, this question has the power to reduce the waste of many. This is number one because of its potential to impact our entire lives. We all live different lives so we’ll need changes that are custom fit to ourselves, not a one size fits all.
We all use different products at different amounts in our lives so no list will ever be perfect for us. What will be truly custom fit is asking ourselves this important question when using a physical good.
How to stick to this habit
Consistency is important when building habits like these. Maybe ask yourself this before you are about to pay for something. This works easier when shopping online but can also work at a grocery store for example. You can always change your mind about purchasing something and or take a mental note for the future.
If we are talking about more in store shopping, maybe a better option could be to ask ourselves before we place the item in our cart. Act like our cart is now a sacred place devoid of waste that we must be cautious about what we bring in. Sounds fun, eh?
2. Eat more produce
Wait, it sounds like we are going on some sort of health food kick. What are we talking about here? Zero waste food is everywhere! A lot of us forget about this amazing option to reduce our waste because of how simple it is. In the world of convenience we have become accustomed to packaged and pre-made or prepared food.
Produce is a zero waste option other than usually a small sticker. It’s also usually cheaper and much healthier too. Not to mention, food wrappers are one of the most common pieces of trash found on the beach.
How to stick with this habit
First things first, never grocery shop while hungry. Most of us, if we are hungry, will turn to the mouth watering prepackaged food and sweets that are oh so tasty and convenient. It takes a strong soul to implement the produce section while hungry.
Once we are full and level headed, always start in the produce section. Try and plan all of your meals in the produce section first so then you end up only getting packaged foods that are necessities. Don’t forget to do #1 above before buying the necessities.
Produce is something we don’t always have to plan in order to make a meal. We could grab an avocado, an orange, and a tomato or bell pepper for a small meal or quick snack. Sorry bell pepper, I couldn’t find an emoji for you.
Just don’t forget to bring your own produce bag, which brings us to the third trick to going zero waste.
3. Reusable grocery, bulk, and produce bags
What’s the point of saving all of the plastic from buying more produce if it’s all going to end up in a single use plastic or paper bag right out the door?
The current grocery system is set up to have a plastic bag for produce which then goes into another plastic bag with other groceries which are also wrapped in plastic. All to be thrown out once we get home.
We can solve this by purchasing reusable bags: bags for all groceries, bags for produce to stay organized, and smaller bags for the bulk section like nuts and dried fruits for example.
A lot of grocery stores sell reusable grocery bags for a pretty fair price if you don’t already have any. Remember, it’s always best if they are made from natural fibers like cotton, hemp, or a sustainable material like silicone from Stasher Bags.
How to stick with this habit
Most of the trouble with using reusable grocery bags is remembering to bring them! If you drive to the grocery store, always put your bags back in your car once done. Before you get in your car, move them to the front seat.
You can even place them over something like your phone or wallet. This will make you physically touch the bags (and hopefully bring them with you) before going into the grocery store.
If you bike or walk to the grocery store, leave one on your bike or in a purse or bag. You can purchase reusable grocery bags which pack very small as well like ones from Chico Bag. This way you always have at least one available when you need it and out of the way when you don’t.
4. A reusable water bottle
Ahhh….water, something no one can live without. It’s no surprise bottles are one of the most popular trash items found in the environment. We humans drink a lot of water, soda, juice, etc. and if all of those come in plastic, metal, or glass bottles then they have potential to end up in natural systems.
For those who don’t already have a water bottle this can be fun. There are so many companies out there making high quality products that are sourced ethically and sustainably. There are bacteria killing and sleek looking bottles like ones from Larq, simple and rugged bottles and mugs from Klean Kanteen, or unique and customized ones from Byta.
Those going from bottled water to a reusable one can save more than $1,000 per year. What would you do with an extra thousand dollars? Not to mention, if we brought our own reusable coffee mug, coffee shops usually offer a discount as well. Free money! Plus, style points.
How to to stick with this habit
Bring. It. Everywhere.
Whenever you can, throw your water bottle in the car. Throw it in your bag.
Bring it to the gym, to work, to school, to a party even! The more you use it the more you will realize how easy it is to get free water anywhere.
Half of the time we usually aren’t drinking enough water so bringing a bottle wherever we go can help tremendously. By making it a point to drink more water and doing it out of a reusable bottle we are forming habits, and rather quickly too.
5. Give up cotton swabs and tissues
Cotton swabs are no strangers to finding themselves on beaches and in the ocean. And tissues cannot escape their terrible footprint due to the deforestation, land use, water use, and energy consumption required.
LastSwab allows us to clean our ears or tend to other beauty needs while not contributing to the over 1 million cotton swabs produced every day.
LastTissue helps take care of messes, runny noses, and everything in between. It’s like the handkerchief, but more cleanly since you are able to separate the dirty tissues from the clean.
How to stick to these habits
Use LastSwab whenever you would normally use cotton swabs. Some may end up carrying one in their purse or bag and also leaving one at home in the bathroom. We sell LastSwab for ear cleaning and also one for beauty touch ups.
As for LastTissue: during the time of this article releasing it is still in production. Once you can get your hands on one it’s best to have them in a bag or somewhere that travels with you often. This way they are always with you once mistakes or messes or allergies happen.
Who knows when you need to wipe your tears on stage while accepting your golden globe or something.
Much like everything else on this list except for number one, everyone will need different things in their lives. Please don’t feel compelled to purchase anything in this article if you don’t feel like you need it.
The most sustainable thing is no “thing” at all. The second best is a reusable, ethical, and sustainably sourced version. Decide what products will best suit your needs and above all else start asking the right questions about your everyday actions.
If we do this we’ll plant the seeds which will grow and grow along our sustainable journeys.