These easy zero waste living tips for beginners will help you in transitioning to a low-zero waste lifestyle. With mountains of information available at our fingertips it’s no wonder we get confused about where to start. Just remember that perfection is not the goal, and living sustainably doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a continuous learning curve, and what works for one person may not work so well for you. These 10 easy zero waste living tips should help ease you into your sustainable lifestyle transition more smoothly..

  1. Take a good look at your waste

    Right, let’s get down and dirty! The easiest way to see where you make the most waste is simply to look through your garbage. I don’t mean empty the entire contents of your bins on your floor and neatly organise all your snotty tissues and banana peels… there’s a much easier way.

    Start by writing a list of 10 of the most common items that you throw away on an average week.
    ⇢ Do you get a take-away coffee every morning in a single-use cup?
    ⇢ Do you clean your ears with plastic ear buds?
    ⇢ Do you grab a pre-prepared sandwich and bottle of water at lunch time and carry it back to work in a plastic bag?

Everyones lifestyle choices are different, so what’s on your list could be very different to your mates. Getting family and friends involved is a great way to share your journey and get loved ones interested in eco-friendly living.

2. Eliminate single-use items

You may have come to the conclusion that most of the items on your list are single-use plastics. Most of these plastics, such as disposable picnic cups/cutlery, crisp packets and thin film packaging are not recyclable. They inevitably end up in landfills. But have no fear! The 21st Century is here and with it comes an abundance of alternative choices!  

10 Easy Zero Waste Living Tips For Beginners

3. Remember your motivations

Everyone who finds themselves wanting to live more sustainably will have their own reasons for doing so. For some, it is a passion for the environment and animals and others will simply want to avoid toxins around their home.

However, we all live in a world where we are constantly being punched in the face by advertisements telling us to buy some new, shiny piece of sh*t that we don’t need. This makes it difficult sometimes to stay on the eco-track. We all fall for it at some point.

Writing down your motivations will remind you why you want to live a more sustainable lifestyle in the first place. Scribble little messages on your bathroom mirror, set it as a background on your phone, or get it tattooed on your forehead – whatever works for you. 

4. Use up what you already have

Who else is guilty of having a drawer full of travel-sized, hair product bottles and those tiny sample packets of who knows what? Guilty as charged! Emptying this drawer was the longest drawn out process for me when I start my Zero Waste journey. This collection was a result of years of gifts, department store freebies, and trying to get the most out of the cost of a hotel room.

You don’t have to buy lots of new things to be more zero waste, it’s the complete opposite! Use up everything you already have, and give away the things that you will never use. Ask to your family and friends that if they’re planning on giving you a gift, to not to buy you any more of these products. Mention an ‘experience’ gift instead to do together.  

This tip can be used for any room in your house. Have a look through your kitchen cupboards and your fridge/freezer. Cook what you already have before buying more packaged food. Towards the end, you may be eating some strange and creative meals, but you will be extremely satisfied that you finally ate last years Christmas pudding (yes I’m British!).  

Have you read ‘What Is A ‘Conscious Consumer’ & Why It Matters‘?    

5. Avoid fast-fashion

I love fashion. It’s a marvellous art form. But I’m not particularly fond of child labour, slavery and killing the planet…

If you haven’t heard of the term ‘fast-fashion’ before, it is basically ‘trending’ clothing that is made in the cheapest possible way. This means that the clothing is often sourced from ‘sweat-shops’, which are factories or workshops where workers are employed at inhumanely low wages (less then £1 a day) for long hours (14-16hrs a day, 7 days a week) and in very hazardous working conditions. Workers are often exposed to toxic chemicals and sexual harassment. The clothing industry is also the 2nd biggest pollutant to our planet after the oil industry, dumping these chemicals into nearby waterways that eventually lead into our oceans and destroy ecosystems. 

Which leads me onto the next tip.

Leaving fast fashion was the easiest break-up of my life – Graphic by Cedar and Surf

10 Easy Zero Waste Living Tips For Beginners

6. Buy second-hand or ethically produced

Think before you buy…then walk away, wait a while, and think a bit more. Do you actually NEED this item? If you absolutely can not live without it or you will use it almost every day, then can you buy it second-hand? Buying and selling second hand will save you money and the planet..Win win!

If you decide that you need to buy it new, then is there an equally as good or better product that was ethically produced (cruelty-free or made from sustainable materials)? If after hours of internet searching, your eco-warrior brain has exhausted all other options then just be sure to pick the best product that’s been designed strong enough to last you for years.

7. Learn how to recycle properly

Recycling can get confusing. What you can recycle in your regular home recycling bins will differ depending on what town, region and country you live in. The best way to find out what you can recycle specifically in your area is to ask your local council or municipality, or check their website. You will be surprised what materials can be recycled with the technological advancements of some recycling industries.

The National Geographic states that a massive 91% of plastic does not get recycled, and overflows into our oceans. Plastics take more than 400 years to degrade, if at all, predicting that by mid-century there will be more plastic waste in the ocean than fish.

Easy Zero Waste Living Tips For Beginners

10 Easy Zero Waste Living Tips For Beginners

8. Get creative with Up-Cycling

Whatever country you live in, you will have options. But if for some reason recycling is not easily accessible to you then that’s alright, try not to stress about it, because you can try up-cycling! Up-cycling is taking old items or materials that would otherwise end up in landfill and turning them into something useful and beautiful. You can also gift your masterpieces to friends and family for a unique and personal alternative to buying something new.
For example, a glass jar can be redesigned into a candle holder, a bird feeder or for DIY beauty products. An old bed sheet can be cut up into cleaning rags or reusable handkerchiefs. If you’re creative with a sewing machine you can make handy produce bags, or funky furoshiki cloth wraps to take to the bakery or to wrap up gifts.

You will be amazed at the creative things you come up with when you start seeing the items around your house in a different light. Almost everything can serve another purpose and save you money!

Easy Zero Waste Living Tips For Beginners

9. Start composting

Composting has to be one of the best ways to reduce your waste. If you’ve never heard of it before, it is essentially collecting your organic waste (food scraps, garden waste, paper/cardboard) and returning it back into nature to become soil. There are a few different methods to do this depending on your living situation. If you’re living in the tiniest city studio or have a big, sunny garden, there are plenty of options you can try out.

The Vision 2020 report claims that 40% of waste that goes to landfill is food waste, that’s around 10 million tonnes per year! Firstly, it is an incredible waste of resources that went into growing and distributing the food (from the land and water used to the labour, energy, manufacturing and plastic packaging wasted). But also when organic waste ends up in landfill, it can not decompose properly due to the lack of oxygen and inhospitable environment, this creates an excess of methane gases, which is catastrophic to the environment and a contributor to climate change.   

10 Easy Zero Waste Living Tips For Beginners

10. Get inspiration & support from your community

If living a more sustainable lifestyle is all very new to you then let me be the first person to welcome you to the community! There are so many inspirational people doing innovative things to help people live more consciously. Whether it be finding groups on Facebook, striking up an awkward conversation with a stranger at your local zero-waste store, or joining a national protest for climate awareness. There could be a strong community of sustainable-enthusiasts in your home town that you never knew existed.

If you’re living with your parents, or have a family of your own, get them involved and aware of your passion for a sustainable lifestyle. I was surprised at how open minded my family was when I introduced them to the concept, and now they love doing it with me. It’s a really fun way to spend time together, share and experience new things that give everyone a new purpose.

If you really enjoy organising events or feel like getting a group of friends or neighbours involved, try your hand at organising a clothes-swap event or hosting a local beach/park clean-up. This is a really beautiful way to meet like minded people and bring together your local community for a good cause. 

Easy Zero Waste Living Tips For Beginners
Bea Johnson, a French environmentalist and author of ‘Zero Waste Home‘, shares how she can fit her family of four’s annual waste into a glass jar.

Lastly, have fun and enjoy the journey! The smallest changes can have the biggest impact. Your actions will inspire others and collectively we can create a more sustainable future.

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