How To Create Less Waste
How to be Zero Waste Guide
You can view all of our zero waste posts here.
Like many people we became increasingly concerned by the amount of waste we were creating as a family.
For the last few years we’ve been consciously reducing the waste that we send to landfill.
On average, people throw away their body weight in rubbish every seven weeks! In total that’s 31 million tonnes per year!
More worryingly, we’re producing around 3% more waste every single year!
Even our recyclable waste is ending up in landfill, incinerator or waterways.
If you’re keen to stop this unsustainable cycle then keep reading our “how to be zero waste” guide.
What does zero waste mean?
Being an entirely zero waste family in modern society is not easy.
It’s better to see ‘zero waste’ as an aspiration rather than a short-term goal.
It’s something to work towards without getting too hung up on perfection.
Put simply, living zero-waste is about being mindful about what you buy.
Becoming A Zero Waste Household
Here are a few steps that should really help you on your zero waste journey.
1. Take a look at your trash!
The best way to start is to take a look in your rubbish and recycling bins.
Yep sounds gross right! But it is an awesome way of seeing where your packaging problems are.
Jot down your biggest offenders.
The majority of our waste was coming from organic fruit and vegetable packaging and those toddler foods that are as over-priced as they are over-packaged!
Processed foods are often heavily packaged in plastic too.
If you’re a soft drink or capsule coffee drinking family too then that could add significantly to your waste.
So, once you’ve had a good look at all of your rubbish you need to work out what you can do about it.
2. Make a list of your top offenders…
Grocery shopping is a logical place to start as our food is responsible for bringing so much waste into our homes.
With your biggest offenders in mind, write down some ideas that would reduce your pile of trash!
If you’re getting through several bottles of soft drinks a week then your list might look like this:
We’ve had a soda stream for years and it’s great for when we have guests or kids parties.
We even used it at our wedding with some elderflower cordial that my sister made.
If the bulk of your rubbish is a pile of plastic, foam and netting from your fruit and vegetables then your solution will depend on your grocery shopping options.
Which leads me nicely to point 3…
3. Find your best shopping options.
I hear you…online shopping, delivered to your door is soooo much easier than finding the time to go grocery shopping.
However, physically going shopping can really make you more mindful of your purchases.
It’s easy online to get a little click happy but when you see the boxes and bottles stacking up in your trolley it can be enough to stop you reaching for “just one more pack of BOGOF biscuits”.
The facilities that you have available to you will either make your journey to zero waste super easy or really challenging.
Take a look at our zero waste shopping tips here.
Choosing where to shop:
Even if you’ve been living in the area since forever don’t assume that you know about all of your current shopping options.
New places open all the time and existing shops bring out more package free solutions.
There may be farmers markets, farms, grocery stores, supermarkets with bulk aisles, food co-ops (in the UK many schools sell fruit and veg to parents this way), veg box deliveries, milk rounds, a small-holder selling eggs, a gardener with extra produce to sell, village bakeries.
Good old Google is worth a shot too. Try searching for organic, whole-foods, package free, bulk and the name of your town.
It doesn’t matter how you ask but guaranteed that if you don’t know the answer then someone else will!
We found a local bulk store in a new area by asking on social media. It was sitting there all along while we struggled along between the supermarket and local green grocers.
When you choose your stores, you’ll want to make the actual shopping process as easy as possible on yourself.
If you’re having to visit three different shops all in opposite directions then you are going to struggle to keep it up.
Can you visit your bulk store once a month to purchase dried goods like rice and pasta?
Can you book a milk round?
Can you find a veg box that can be delivered?
Think about how you can make sure your zero waste lifestyle is sustainable.
4. Plan for a month
Depending on your current eating habits shopping zero waste might actually mean adjusting your diet a little.
Swapping frozen chips for some home baked potato wedges for example or a pre-packed salad for some seasonal veggies.
A meal plan is absolutely essential when you start this process. Even if it’s just a list of 14 breakfasts, lunches and dinners that you repeat every 2 weeks.
Use your meal plan to write your shopping list (see ours here) so know exactly what you need to find at the shops.
5. Be prepared
If you’ll be shopping at a zero waste store then you’ll have to be prepared.
You will need:
- Glass jars for jams and dry goods;
- Glass bottles for juices, oils and vinegar;
- Reusable cotton bags for fruit, veg or dry goods like pasta
- A basket, box or reusable bags for carrying it all.
- Bottles for shampoo, washing up liquid etc.
- Tupperware or pyrex type boxes with lids for meat, cheese etc.
If you’re shopping in a supermarket or greengrocers then some of the reusables above can still be handy.
Our supermarket has a deli counter where they’ll happily place cheese in our container as opposed to plastic film.
If you eat meat, butchers will often do the same.
Use plastic or glass tubs and jars or reusable silicone bags like these:
6. Choosing produce.
If you’ve found a bulk store then you’re sorted!
If not, then you’re going to have to get creative with your purchases.
- Go for the biggest packs of pasta, flour, nuts etc as they’ll use less packaging.
- Instead of individual items, choose large amounts of produce that that you know you’ll use (like yogurts) or will freeze (like cheese).
- Choose glass over single use plastic if it can be reused of recycled. I freeze soups in old passata jars (just leave some room at the top of the jar).
- Bring your own veg bags so that you don’t have to use the “biodegradable” ones on offer in store for loose veg.
Most importantly, ASK!
If you want an item that’s not available then ask. Write a letter. Send an email.
Use your voice to ask for what’s lacking…demand change!
7.Use your freezer.
Freezers are so handy when your trying to cut the amount of waste you produce. They also run more efficiently when full so it’s better to keep them well stocked.
I tend to bulk cook meals so that I can freeze a family portion or two.
Over the years I’ve collected glass and china bake ware so I can freeze straight in the family size container. Then I just take it out and put it in the oven.
If I have no time to defrost it, then I just put it in the oven from cold so that it doesn’t get too hot too fast and crack.
I also freeze cooked potatoes, home-made pizzas, cheese for cooking, soups, fruits that are past their best for smoothies and pies, crumbles and homemade treats (as they’re less likely to be eaten within 5 minutes).
8. Prepare to fail.
At some point you are likely to come home late from work or have a sick baby and need something quick and easy to cook.
Having just a few meals in the freezer or some vegetables ready chopped for soup can be the difference between calling into the shop for a ready-made lasagne and salad in a bag and enjoying another zero waste meal.
If you do end up with lasagne and salad for dinner don’t beat yourself up about it. We’re all human. Just learn from it and move on.
If you’re anything like me then you will also want snacks, so have a few ready prepped sweet and savoury treats. That way you won’t be tempted to go for packaged crisps and chocolate when you feel the urge!
Popcorn, homemade muffins, flapjacks, nuts, hummus and carrot sticks are all yummy options.
9. Zero Waste around the home
There are so many ways to reduce the amount of waste we produce around the home. So many ways that we can turn rubbish into something useful.
I have loads of posts to write to add to this section!
Here are a few suggestions:
- Toiletries – Toothbrushes, razors, shampoo, conditioner all contribute to a large amount of waste that’s often not recycled. Take a look at this zero waste bathroom post for some really easy swaps.
- Baby stuff – using washable nappies and wipes is so much easier than it sounds.
- Toys, books etc. – buy second hand in eBay, Facebook etc.
- Avoid chemicals and plastic by making your own cleaning products with natural ingredients.
- Electronics – but second-hand. We love our refurbished mobiles from Music Magpie.
- Take a look at this post. It’s full of other few simple zero waste products that you can make.
10. Getting rid of waste and unwanted items
Unwanted or broken items
Inevitably you will produce some waste along the way. It may be a broken glass, a smashed mobile phone or an unplayed with toy that was gifted to your child.
Consider whether the item could be useful to someone else. If so you could:
- Offer it to a friend or family.
- Sell it online.
- Take it to a charity shop.
- Take it to a clothes bank.
- Donate toys to a local playgroup, doctors surgery etc.
- Send electronic devices to be refurbished.
- Create art! There’s a local club near us that creates sculptures with rubbish so that’s handy!
- If you have to thrown it away then recycle what you can first. Terra cycle recycle many awkward items like toothbrushes.
People send a lot of food waste to landfill and you’d think that’d be ok right Landfill is basically a giant compost heap isn’t it?!
Unfortunately, it’s not.
Our food waste isn’t able to break down properly in landfill so it releases a lot of CO2 as it rots.
A simple compost heap in the garden or wormery on your balcony can really help to cut the waste you regularly send to landfill.
I really hope that some of our posts can encourage and inspire you!
So, make the best choices that you can, feel good about the positive changes you’re making and keep inspiring others to do the same.
You can view all of our zero waste posts here.
Do you have any tips to add about how to be zero waste?