How to go Zero Waste: A 4 Step Beginner’s Guide

With the world’s single-use plastic problem on blast in the media and the impending 12-year timer of doom looming overhead, you may be thinking (hopefully you’re thinking), “it’s time I do something.”
But what?

It’s so easy to get overwhelmed when you think of the scope of the problem. You may even start questioning yourself right away. How do you start? Will you even make a difference being only one person? Can you afford to do this?

Well, let me say, you’ve come to the right place.

This beginner’s guide will give you the confidence you need to start making changes today.

If you are wondering if one person will make a difference, ask Greta Thunberg.

And if you’re worried about the cost, don’t be. We are not going on a bamboo shopping spree.

So let’s begin…

Start by looking at your trash. Your trash proves you bought too much. This leads to step one.

Stop buying so much stuff

If you look at the waste in your bin you’ll probably see a lot of plastic wrap, other disposable items like kitchen roll, nappies if you have babies, and food waste.

This will be the first place to look for changes you can make.
Start asking yourself questions…

          • Do I need this item?
          • Is there a reusable alternative?
          • Do I already own this alternative?
          • Can I buy this item without packaging? (Think food)
          • Can I better plan my food shop so I don’t have food waste?
          • Can I get it second hand?

If I can plan a menu for the week, my family saves money on our food shop and we don’t end up throwing food away.

Some weeks I am better than others. This was a good week. I planned our meals and actually counted how many of each ingredient I would need for the week. This week I needed 3 tomatoes.

Instead of buying a plastic pack of 6 salad tomatoes, I picked 3 from my local farm shop and I didn’t use any kind of bag. The shop gave me a box and packed everything in it loose for me. I used every piece of fruit and veg for under £9 for the week and the only waste was the plastic wrap on the lettuce. (I didn’t get a choice on that one).

Often you won’t have a choice either.

Which leads to step two.

Don’t feel guilty. Imperfect Action is Better Than No Action.

Your goal is to reduce your waste. It’s not going to go away overnight. It may be a fast or slow transition depending on your drive, but you will get there.

Every time you make a good choice, it’s a success for the planet. Don’t beat yourself up when you must buy something because there is no other option.

I didn’t have a choice with my lettuce. There were three types of lettuce. All in plastic. I don’t have the ability to grow my own at this time and have yet to come across unwrapped lettuce in any of my local shops.

It is what it is. I disposed of the plastic so it’s not flying around in the environment and focused on the fact that I only brought one piece of single-use plastic home this week instead of a dozen. I used all my perishables, so no food waste this week either. I’d say I’m still doing more than ok.

If everyone makes an imperfect change, it will still add up to big changes for the planet. So stay positive and do what you can.

Which brings us to the third step.

Start small. Shop smart.

When you are getting ready to shop, look at your list. Or look around your home at what you are running out of.

That’s a good place to start when you are making changes. It’s money you intended to spend anyway, so it won’t cost more. By thinking about alternatives before you get to the shop means you won’t go back to the status quo because you need the item now and settle for what’s available.

The journey to zero-waste takes a bit of planning.

If you are running out of liquid detergent, can you switch to a powder in a cardboard box? Switch your bottle of hand soap to a bar of soap. If you are purchasing deli items, can you bring your own container?

Use plastic items you purchased until they wear out or get used up. Get them in the appropriate bin and then buy an alternative the next time around if it is something you still need.

I found that tea towels and kitchen cloths can do the job of kitchen roll. When I finally ran out of my bulk Costco pack of rolls, I didn’t replace them. Yes, it makes the laundry pile a bit bigger, but I haven’t found I’m doing more laundry because I can add the items to washing loads I’m already doing.

When it comes to bigger items that you want to last, see if you can find it second hand first. Facebook’s Marketplace has just about anything you can imagine, and you may even stumble upon new items.

If you have to buy a new item, try to consciously think about it’s life. Can you repair it if it breaks? Can you repurpose it for something else when it’s worn out?

When it comes to big items like a refrigerator, look at the energy rating and aim for the best you can afford. The more efficient the product, the more you save on your energy bill as well. Double win!

We need to take a page from our grandparents and great grandparents. They got by with what they had. They repaired broken items instead of replacing them. They had no other choice back then.

Unfortunately, we have a choice. Going zero-waste means we must make good ones.

This brings us to the last step.

Remember why we are doing this

It’s easy to get swept up in products advertising their eco-friendliness but remember why we are doing this.

You want to be a part of the solution to the world’s problem. You want to reduce not only single-use plastic, but all waste. Reducing waste leads to a cleaner planet for us. Reducing waste means reducing our use of resources and less manufacturing. All this will lead to less carbon emissions and may help us change the tide on global warming.

It is going to take everyone doing their part no matter how small, so don’t give up. As you get used to your first changes, you will find it gets easier.

When you have a success, brag on social media. Inspire others to make changes, too.

Remember I am on this journey, this lifestyle change with you. If you have any comments or successes to share comment below. You can also find me on Instagram.

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