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Now that we’ve learned how to overcome what’s stopping us from making changes, let’s dive in to Part 2 of How to (Finally) Start Going Zero Waste. If you haven’t yet, read Part 1 here. Although you’ll want to dive straight in, starting small and progressively making larger changes will greatly reduce eco-guilt and feeling overwhelmed with change.
Part 2 – Starting Small
Rome wasn’t built in a day. You won’t be able to change your entire lifestyle overnight, and that’s okay. Despite taking longer, making small changes in the beginning will ease you in to a low waste lifestyle. Tackle one area of your life at a time, make your changes become habitual, and move onto the next. This way you are constantly building on successes instead of becoming overwhelmed trying to do everything all at once.
The following quick essentials can be used daily and can instantly cut down on your waste production. Find a suitable water bottle to carry with you. Throw a fork from your kitchen drawer into your bag, and keep it wrapped in a cloth napkin or better yet, in a container for takeaway leftovers. Keep a reusable grocery bag in your car or on your coat rack so you never forget to bring it shopping. A more in-depth list and discussion can be found in my Sustainable Living Essentials post.
You should first determine what essentials are essential for you. I don’t drink coffee, so a reusable coffee mug isn’t on my list. But maybe you can’t live without your daily cup of joe; everyone’s needs are different. Don’t buy items you can live without. Below is a list of essential items that may apply to your lifestyle.
- Water Bottle
- Coffee Mug
- Reusable Straws
- Eating Utensils
- Reusable bags
- Cloth Napkins and Handkerchiefs
- Cleaning Rags and Natural Dish Brushes
- Mason Jars and Other Food Containers
- Bamboo Toothbrush
- Wooden Hairbrush
- Reusable Feminine Products (cup, pads, underwear)
- Safety Razor
Before buying new, see what you already own or what your friends and family own. Swapping items with others is a great way to reduce demand for new products, reduce clutter, and teach others about sustainable living practices.
If you have no luck, visit a secondhand shop. Clean items thoroughly before use. I love secondhand shopping because there’s always a new selection, I save money, and I save items from the landfill. Check out 8 Reasons to Thrift Shop.
In addition to material items, small behavioral changes like I discussed in the first part of this series are a great way to start going zero waste with limited resources. Creating new habits for yourself is refreshing and builds confidence for larger changes that will come later.
Many changes are easy and require nothing but diligence. Setting your washing machine to cold instead of hot takes two seconds but saves a lot of energy, and you don’t even have to think about it after setting it once. Take shorter or more infrequent showers. Refuse free items that will just clutter your home or be tossed in the trash. Leave your produce bagless. These changes not only save resources but also save you time. My list of 50 (FREE!) Little Changes to Live Sustainably is mostly made up of behavioral changes like these.
Harder Changes (But Doable!)
But some changes require more thought or planning to become habitual. If you eat out every day for lunch, gradually start bringing your own food from home. No need to spend time cooking specifically for your lunch; I just make extra servings of what I have for dinner, which hardly adds any additional time.
Planning out what you will eat every week can cut down on food waste and extra trips to the grocery store. Meal prepping cuts out a reason to eat out and can be effective at using up extra ingredients which would likely go bad before you otherwise got to them. For more food waste saving ideas, head over to this post!
In the Information Age, we spend a lot of time watching a screen. I think it’s important to schedule some time to be outdoors and be active. This is good for your body and reduces energy needs. Walk when you used to drive if it isn’t too far. Spend quality time with friends and family without the need for screens. Even just reading books instead of scrolling through Facebook is a better option.
I’m sure it’s the reason you’re reading this post. You want to learn all you can about how to start going zero waste and transition your lifestyle. I started in a similar way, absorbing as much information as I could. I watched videos, read blogs and books, and watched documentaries. By learning about what’s happening to our planet, you can get motivated to start your personal journey to living a more sustainable life. Some of my favorite bloggers and YouTubers who helped me learn the basics are below.
But this is all passive learning. I realized that I wasn’t doing anything to better myself if all I did was read how someone somewhere else was living. I needed to find out how to do it for myself.
One really fun thing I did was search for thrift shops, bulk food stores, natural shops, and farmers markets in my area and take little field trips to them. I even took notes and pictures. If I didn’t visit, how would I know what options I had? It was a really fun experience and made me more confident the next time I came to actually make purchases.
Searching for resources in your area can lead to some great finds. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to easily compost in my city apartment until I found out I had a drop off center half a mile away. I thought my only option would have been to vermicompost or get a Bokashi compost bin since I have no outdoor space. Your access may not be as limited as you might think.
By starting small with sustainable swaps, new behaviors, and a wealth of knowledge, you will surely start gaining momentum to keep moving forward on your sustainable journey. What resources did you use to get started? What were your first steps?
Next week, we’ll continue the How to (Finally) Start Going Zero Waste series by learning how to set both short term and long term goals to stay motivated. But as with most things in life, sometimes pessimism, doubt, and jealousy creep their way in. Part 4 will tackle pessimism and learning how to avoid bad emotions and stay motivated.