Let's Talk Vegan

6 Ways to Transition to Zero-Waste Living

Shelf with mason jars

Zero-waste living means you don’t send anything to the landfill, but this movement is much more than just purging as much trash from your household as possible. This lifestyle is about being more environmentally sustainable and taking a minimalistic approach to life.

The Impact of a Zero-Waste lifestyle

Plastic has dominated our market, mainly because it’s light, cheap and versatile. Although, this dependency on plastic has long-term costs that have been grossly overlooked, such as the effects on:

The Scale of the Problem

To get a sense of the problem, plastic is estimated to take 1000 years to break down, and we have some 6.9 billion tons of waste that has been accumulating since the 1950s. Of that waste, 6.3 billion tons never made it to a recycling bin. The solution? Zero-waste living.

According to the EPA, the average American produces about 4.40 pounds of trash per day. So by going zero-waste, you can literally keep 1606 pounds of trash out the landfills and waterways per year. -Mind blowing I know.

Garbage on beach

How to Get Started

1. Apply the 5R’s principle

This thought patteren is a good starting point for decreasing your waste.

  1. First, refuse any products that are needless or wasteful
  2. Then, reduce what you don’t need (minimalistic)
  3. Next, reuse what you already have
  4. As a last resort, recycle what you can’t reuse
  5. Finally, rot (compost) the rest

2. Assess your Waste

Along the way, keep note of the products that you seem to buy regularly that are wasteful, then look for a reusable alternative. You can buy jars that can be reused, buy in bulk, make your own goods (almond milk, ketchup, or tomato sauce), or find a biodegradable version.

3. Disposable to Reusable

Make sure you check out your towns waste management programs, but a surprising number of household products can be composted. This includes natural wine corks, Bamboo skewers, pencil shavings, fruits, vegetables, plants, and 100% cotton balls. Eventually, a lot of these items can be exchanged for a reusable alternative.

When you make the full transition:

  • Use reusable metal skewers instead of one-use ones
  • Collect leftover vegetable trimmings in your freezer to make a broth
  • Repurpose jars into little food storage containers, or use wine bottles to house oils and vinegar
  • Clean out old candle jars to use as planters (I had this cute little square candle and once it was done, I cleaned it out and added a cactus)

4. Look at the Material

When buying a product look at what material is it made from, instead of plastics, stick to woods, stainless steels, and glass.

5. Drop Single-Use Products

Single-use products like straws, plastic produce bags, and coffee cups have a short working life, but stay on the earth for hundreds of thousands of years. And that's If they even break down at all. These items should be avoided and replaced with reusable items. Single-use products have become a norm, so just try to think about the whole life cycle of the product before purchasing it.

6. Minimalism

Create a list of what you NEED, then declutter the rest.

Ask yourself:

  • When was the last time I used this?
  • Do I need it?
  • Is there something else I could use instead (maybe something more environmentally friendly or less wasteful).

I also find putting quality over quantity helpful in keeping my purchases at a minimum, plus they usually last a lot longer.

Good Luck!

In an ideal world, manufacturers would have more responsibility for the non-recyclable packaging and materials they use in their products. We instead live in a society where most of the responsibility falls onto the consumer. Although, since we are the demand we should be able to push for a more sustainable supply of goods. We can do this by using our buying power to create a market of goods and services that are more sustainable.

Overall, the transition to a zero-waste life won't necessarily be easy or happen overnight. But it is an awarding process, one that will most definitely save you money in the long-run.