Let me start by saying that I certainly cannot say that I live a 100% zero-waste lifestyle. I produce trash, but I have tried really hard to cut out any excessive trash production. Prior to working on this initiative, I noticed that at work alone, I used a plastic stirrer for my coffee every morning and plastic utensils for my breakfast and lunch, which were both usually stored in cling wrap or plastic bags...yikes.
So, where to even begin making small steps in the right direction? #1: assess where most of your waste is coming from. For me, it was 100% food consumption. Buying packaged food, cooking it, storing it and consuming the leftovers has probably contributed to 80% of my trash. The other 20% is household products like cleaning supplies, beauty products and clothing.
With that being said, I've taken small and super easy steps to reduce my waste that are not intrusive to my life. You can adapt these practices to reduce your waste too, and if your biggest waste production comes from a different area of your life, I'd love to hear how you have taken small steps to start your zero-waste lifestyle!
Just say no to straws | After two consecutive days of not reaching for a stirrer at work, it became habit and I haven't done it since. It been about three months: five work days a week x twelve weeks = SIXTY plastics straws that I've saved from going to landfill.
Invest in reusables for your desk/car or wherever you spend more of your time | If you can invest some $$ up front, purchase reusable items to replace the one-time-use products that you're used to using. (It will actually pay for itself after a while.) At my desk, I have a mason jar for water, my own coffee cup and a set of utensils wrapped in a cloth napkin. These super easy swaps have weened me off one-use cups, plastic utensils and straws.
Keep reusable bags on hand | My day tote or backpack to and from work always has a net bag and two organic cotton produce bags in it for when I'm spontaneously stopping at the drugstore or Whole Foods to pick something up last minute. (You can keep reusables in your car if you drive, too.) We used to have that infamous 'plastic bag full of plastic bags' under our sink and guess what? It's been empty for weeks!
Take a look around your local grocery store | Since most of the trash I consumed is based on food consumption, I wanted to take a critical look at where it all starts: the grocery store. Even up until this year, we were using plastic bags for things like garlic and avocados... (Why?!) The first easy switch: ditch plastic bags and stray away from packaged goods. Most grocery stores even offer produce like mushrooms, herbs and green beans package free. I'll be honest, this lifestyle takes a liiiittle more effort, (yes, we cut a full watermelon as opposed to buying the pre-chopped version and yes, I pre-plan what I'm going to buy so I can bring the bags that I need) but the result is less waste and a healthier diet! Second step: research what is offered in bulk. Whole Foods offers an awesome bulk section with rice, grains, nuts and beans. Bring a cotton produce bag or mason jar from home (note the PLU number on your phone) and fill up, zero waste!
Overall, I think my biggest tip is to think ahead. Prepare with reusable bags when you go to the grocery store and stock the places you spend time with sustainable items. Then, it's as easy as *that*.
And stay tuned, my next endeavor is into less-waste kitchen and bathroom products. I was highly skeptical at first, but here I go!.....