How to Start Living Zero Waste: A Beginner’s Perspective

If you’ve decide to start pursuing zero waste, or are considering it, this post is for you. I stumbled across the concept of zero waste living when I discovered that our country doesn’t recycle much recently due to China’s increase in recycling costs. That led me to conclusion that the ultimate issue I need to deal with is my consumption in the first place. If I have less to get rid of, that’s less to stress about when it comes to recycling. That led me to this concept of zero waste living. 

But, let’s be honest, it can feel extremely daunting to pursue zero trash whatsoever in any given day. It feels nearly impossible in our consumer-driven world. So, today, I want to share a few things that are helping me as I start this journey and a few things that might help you.

  1. Start where you are. You don’t need to go cold turkey when it comes to zero waste. Odds are, if you make drastic changes that aren’t sustainable, you won’t keep with it and you’ll simply backslide into old habits. That’s why I encourage you to start where you are. What simple things can you do today to get started. Can you celebrate those things you do that are “wins?” One simple example is using reusable grocery bags for any shopping. I celebrated yesterday that I prevented the use of five single-use plastic shopping bags because I remembered to bring my bundle of bags into the store with me. It’s not a life-shattering step, but it’s one that I can celebrate. I would venture to guess, you can find things like that around your life too.
  2. It’s a change of mindset as well as actions. The more you start thinking about these issues, the more you will view the world through that lens. Start looking around your home with the perspective of what you can reduce, reuse, recycle, or refuse. It will start to shape what products you actually buy and how you buy them. You might start buying different products that are packaged with less wrapping or think through if you actually need that stuff in the first place.  
  3. Learn from mistakes. When you are thinking about zero waste living, you will make mistakes, but think through what you can learn for next time. For example, I realized that not all restaurants will give you the option for straws, many just assume you want them. And, let’s face it:  by the time it’s in my glass, I may as well use it because with health codes, they’re not going to go use it for someone else’s drink. But, if you pick up on this, you can mention it to the server when you sit down so that they won’t give it to you in the first place. 
  4. Share your journey. The more you talk about your efforts to live zero waste, the more you will want to stick with it. Simply sharing about it creates accountability within you to stick to it. Also, the more you talk about it, the more you plant seeds in other people to consider cutting back or making changes as well. 
  5. Level up. You’re not going to change your entire lifestyle in one day. That’s not going to bring sustainable change. But, with each new thing you do, you can build up more and more ability to go after other changes. I may have started with cloth napkins and reusable shopping bags, but I’m heading onto shampoo bars and maybe even chickens. Someday, I may be even more extreme, but for me, I need to just take the next step and level up from where I was before. 

Zero waste living is just like any other thing. We can guilt ourselves and compare ourselves against someone else’s progress. Instead, we need to be focusing on our own life. Keep our eyes on our own paper and push forward in our own journey. I’m not responsible for the waste you create in your life. I’m responsible for me. You can be on a zero waste journey and it can look drastically different from my own journey.