Being Zero Waste has become a trend all over the world lately and it’s a way of living for so many people. It started from the necessity of having less environmental impact by reducing waste as much as possible. A Zero Waste lifestyle can be tricky and implies a lot of self-discipline and awareness towards everything you use. However, this doesn’t mean you’ll have to sell everything you own and move into a cave! You will still be able to live with life’s luxuries but you’ll just reduce your environmental impact more.
There are numerous people who adopted this kind of lifestyle and they have reached the performance of fitting their entire yearly waste into a glass jar. Pretty impressive, right?
Oh, and did you know Sweden is aiming to become the first Zero Waste country? Yey, Sweden! We love you!
What is Zero Waste
Zero Waste is a way of living that implies following a set of principles focused on reducing waste as much as possible. The main goal is to send very little or no trash at all to landfills. How can we do that? We wrote an article about becoming zero waste if you want to dig deeper, but a simplified answer would be by reducing all the waste we produce in general to a minimum.
Could all the waste you make in a year fit in a jar like this one?
Benefits of zero waste lifestyle
Aside from a having a low environmental impact, which is very important btw, how does being Zero waste benefit us directly?
It’s a money saver!
Which means no more paying for bin collections, no more trash bags (yes, they don’t cost a fortune but everything adds up!), no more paying for useless packaging (because pretty much everything you buy at the moment comes packaged and you pay good money for that) and the list can go on.
It’s also healthier!
A Zero Waste lifestyle means you get to do so much of your own products but also cooking more often. You’ll be more careful in sourcing your food from local farmers and not just from a supermarket that wraps everything in plastic. (Don’t let me get started with all those fruits and vegetables wrapped in plastic, because this article might turn into a 100 pages long one!)
Saves you time!
Because you will stop spending your free time shopping for hours and use that time for a better purpose. You can spend that free time meeting some friends, go for a walk, read a book, watch a movie or even cleaning (we don’t judge!).
How to live a zero waste lifestyle
Ok, so we covered what Zero Waste is, but how do you live a zero waste lifestyle in general? What does a normal zero waste day look like? How does it apply specifically? How can you swap from your current lifestyle to a zero waste lifestyle? We hope to cover all these questions next.
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Zero Waste at home
Living a Zero Waste lifestyle starts in your home, of course. This is where you will apply most principles and where it’s the easiest to do so. Because it all depends on you and there are less outside factors to keep you out of your chosen path.
Going Zero Waste implies swapping some of your usual products with some that are recyclable, reusable or compostable. You don't have to spend a huge amount of money just for that, because you already have most of them.
Zero waste kitchen swaps
In our article about going zero waste, we talked about how the easiest way to start this lifestyle is to start with your kitchen. There are so many ways you can reduce waste in your kitchen and we’re going to start with storage because your food cupboard probably needs a good review to start with.
Store your food in zero waste containers
You can take your containers when you go shopping as well.
Use beeswax food wraps
Beeswax food wraps are the substitute for cling film, kitchen foil or whatever people normally use to cover food with. Beeswax food wraps are made from materials that you can feel good about, such as (obviously)bee's wax, jojoba oil and tree resin. They can last a year or even more if you take good care of them. Feel free to add them to your compost after they're no longer suitable for good use.
Buying in bulk means buying anything that doesn’t come in plastic bags or it’s wrapped in plastic. This is where your jars and zero waste containers come in handy because you will use them to store your stuff straight after weighing them. Most supermarkets have sections where you can buy bulk items, especially fruits and vegetables. If you have a zero waste grocery store in your area, then you already know how this works. The best way for shopping is to buy directly from farmers markets. In the UK every small town has a weekly farmers market on the high street where you can find great deals and fresh produce.
Of course, there is always the online alternative and subscription boxes. Have a look at this organic online shop. What I love most about Abel&Cole's is that they are mindful of their carbon footprint and schedule deliveries to minimise carbon emissions and food miles.
Reuse food scraps
One way to get rid of your food scraps is to put them to good use and compost them. You can use the compost for growing your own vegetables at home or you can donate your compost to a neighbour or a farmer that could use it. Some people do composting as a side hustle and sell it. All you need is a compost container with a lid to put all your compostable food and cardboard in.
Another way is to re-grow some of the vegetables. You can re-grow everything: onions, avocado, herbs, ginger and even some fruits like pineapple for example.
Some peels and old fruits can be used for making your own cleaning supplies. Start with some citrus peels, put some vinegar on top and leave it for several weeks in a tightly closed container. You can pour the mixture into a spray type bottle after straining out the peels or soak a rag with it straight from the jar and start cleaning!
Make your own drinks
Either you’re a tea or coffee person you can start making your own zero waste coffee and tea at home.
It’s time to say goodbye to coffee pods and start drinking real coffee. A stovetop coffee maker is the greatest thing any coffee lover can have. You’ll notice it will taste so much better than the coffee you would normally get on your way to work. Bialetti is the best one money can buy! And it comes in pretty colours too!
For tea lovers, you can switch your PG Tips with some real loose leaf tea. There are so many variations and types to buy in bulk! Thank me later! With loose leaf tea, you’ll need to use an infuser like this one. Put the leaves in it and place it inside your teapot. Pour some hot water on top and that's it! Used leaves can go into your compost.
With a good blender, you can make your own smoothies, milkshakes and juices. Most blenders come with a book of recipes and once you’ve done a few, you’ll start your own recipes. My favourite thing in the summer is mint lemonade, which is the easiest thing to do ever. I started making these lemonades after I tried one in a local pub in Romania and realised it’s not only the best possible drink I’ve ever had but also the easiest to make!
If you need some ideas, download my free Book of Lemonades here.
Zero Waste bathroom swaps
A zero waste bathroom can be tricky to achieve. But not impossible! While some items are easily replaceable, like skin care products and toothbrushes, others are more challenging. The following are the most common swaps for a zero waste bathroom.
Replace regular toilet paper
Just a quick Fyi: toilet paper is not used everywhere in the world. Countries in South East Asia, for example, prefer the use of water instead. If you’re lucky enough to already have a bidet in your house, you are good!
But most of us would have to replace regular toilet paper with a recyclable option. In order to qualify as zero waste, recyclable toilet paper should also come in a recyclable, non-plastic packaging. Most of the good ones are made of bamboo.
Using wiping cloths can be quite extreme for some and personally, I wouldn’t do it (yeah, a wiping cloth means a cloth that you wash after use and use it again and again).
Zero Waste Toothpaste, toothbrush and dental floss
Changing your regular toothbrush with a bamboo one is one of the easiest things to swap.
Bamboo brushes are very accessible and you can sometimes find them in a regular drugstore, because their popularity has increased lately. The typical bamboo toothbrush is not made entirely of bamboo and as you can imagine, it’s the bristles that are a bit problematic. The vegan and eco-friendly solution seems to be charcoal infused bristles, however, they are still made of a plastic that is easily recyclable.
For electrical toothbrushes, there are companies like this one who take back and recycle your used refills when you buy new ones.
Toothpaste is mostly known as a paste, in a tube, right? Wrong! This one comes in a galss jar and a compostable carboard box. If you don’t trust yourself making your own toothpaste, there are powder and tablets alternatives.
Disposable plastic razors are not widely recyclable especially their cartridges so most people chuck them in a regular waste bin, which, needless to say, can become an environmental hazard. These reusable razors are coming back and can last a lifetime. My grandfather used to have one (guess he was zero waste before it was cool). The good thing about it is they now come in pretty colours as well! Rose gold is so the colour to go for!
Zero Waste Shampoo, Conditioner and shower gel
I’ve seen a lot of recipes of DIY shampoo or conditioners, not to mention hair masks. While it can be a healthier and approachable alternative, some might simply not have the time to make them or haven’t found a good recipe yet. If you find yourself in this category, shampoo and conditioner bars might be the solution. You will have to try a few until you stick to a brand you love, because it really depends on your type of hair or skin.
Zero Waste deodorant
There’s a good range of zero waste deodorants to choose from. Zero waste deodorants can come as a stick, spray, cream or balm. Most of their packaging is compostable or recyclable. There are some companies that offer to take back the packaging and recycle them in a closed cycle program within the company.
Zero Waste period
I know one of my first questions about zero waste self-care was what can I use instead of tampons? I couldn’t imagine using cloths or god knows what they used in other centuries! And as I mentioned earlier in this article, Zero Waste doesn’t mean turning yourself into a cavewoman. There are some good substitutes for regular tampons and they are more 21st century.
One of them are reusable sanitary pads, others are more revolutionary inventions.
Menstrual cup was invented in 1937, but hasn’t been largely used until the early 2000s. There's a lot of debate on this product and I haven't tried it myself yet, so I can't say enough about this. The ideal menstrual cup for zero waste is this eco-friendly menstrual cup.
Zero Waste cleaning products
If you can find the time, please make your own cleaning products. Not only you will save money by using just a few ingredients that you normally buy anyways, but you are being so good to nature! There are tons of recipes out there and you can choose the right ones for your home.
If you simply can’t take the time, there are bulk alternatives. For everything you can think of! And there are even biodegradable toilet brushes!
Zero Waste beauty and skin care
In order to qualify as a zero waste product, a skin care item needs to be made from an ethically sourced ingredient but also to come in a reusable, recyclable or preferably compostable packaging.
This is a list of a few products worth trying and can be a good start into a zero waste skin care routine. We are all different so what works for some, might not work for others.
Zero Waste office
We talked so much about a zero waste home that we almost forgot that most of us probably spend more time in the office than at home, really.
If you have your own business it’s easier to implement the right set of rules to make zero waste happen in your office.
But what if you work in a big company and you share a building with hundreds of people? You won’t be able to turn everyone into a zero waster, trust me! But you can still do your part in reducing waste as much as possible.
Start by bringing your own food and drinks. Maybe if you show off those pretty food tins, your water bottle and that cute reusable coffee mug, others will follow! Lead by example, but don’t oversell it or push others into doing what you do!
Working in a home office makes it easier to make and apply your own set of rules. Try not to print that much, or if you really have to, use an EcoTank printer that has refillable containers instead of cartridges. Switch to electronic correspondence where possible.
Compared to a few years ago, you can now find a wide range of products that can fit with your new lifestyle. Pretty much everything we use can be so easily swapped with a better, more eco-friendly option!
Zero waste lifestyle is only hard in the beginnings, but once you get used to it, you won’t see your life in any other way.
How are you living your zero waste lifestyle? Comment below!