Article by Joseph P. Kauffman
The concept of living entirely waste-free may seem like a radical idea, but it is one that is entirely possible. Living without waste doesn’t mean you have to live without life’s pleasures or luxuries, it just means you take a more conscious approach to your consumer choices—which is what the planet desperately needs us to do. You’ll be doing yourself a favor by saving money on unnecessary purchases and you’ll be doing nature a favor by reducing your ecological footprint.
Included here are 15 ways that can help you in your journey to living a waste-free lifestyle:
- Ditch Plastic Packaging. Glass and stainless-steel containers of all shapes and sizes can be cleaned and reused over and over again, and are easily transported.
- Eliminate Disposable Paper Products. Rather than paper towels and napkins, choose reusable cloth versions instead. You’ll quickly save money over expensive disposables.
- Avoid Using Toxic Styrofoam. Instead, use regular reusable dishes. If you need a single-use option, several retailers offer certified compostable paper plates, bowls, cups and napkins.
- Minimize Food Waste. Revive leftovers, repurpose food scraps into jams and sauces, and stretch your food budget by meal planning.
- Garden. Growing your own food reduces the amount of food purchased from markets. If you do it ethically by following nature’s patterns, it will also improve the health of your soil, and establish a thriving ecosystem that can be a refuge for insects, birds, and other animals.
- Compost. Keep a small composting bucket in your kitchen. Once the small bin is full, remove compost to an outdoor compost pile, or put food waste into compostable trash bags, which can be turned in to municipal compost centers. If you keep the compost for yourself, it can be a rich source of nutrients for garden crops. Compostable items include: fruit and vegetable parts, eggshells, coffee grounds, unbleached paper, tea bags, disease-free houseplants, and much more. Do your own research into what you can and can’t compost. If you don’t have an outdoor compost pile, look to see if your community offers a curbside or drop-off composting program.
- Try Vermicomposting. Red wiggler worms quickly transform organic matter into usable compost. Vermicompost systems are clean, simple, and efficient, and are very useful for those who don’t have space for an outdoor compost pile.
- Avoid Plastic Bags. Use big shopping bags made from canvas, mesh, cloth or recycled/recyclable plastic. You can buy these for about $1 at most natural supermarkets.
- Shop in Bulk. Rather than buying food in single servings, buy the largest size available or in bulk and divide it into smaller eco-smart containers.
- Use Mason Jars. Rather than using a plastic or paper bag every time you go to the store, bring reusable containers such as mason jars for bulk loose items such as rice, granola, grains, oatmeal, dried fruit, and beans.
- Use an Alternative Multipurpose Cleaner. In a spray bottle, combine 1⁄2 cup white distilled vinegar with 1 cup water, and add 10 to 20 drops of tea tree, lavender, lemon or eucalyptus essential oil. Shake well before using.
- Bring Your Lunch to Work. Disposable lunches (to-go packaging, traditional plastic utensils, etc.) generate 100 pounds of trash per person annually. Bringing your own lunch to work can be a great way to reduce waste.
- Water Bottles. Rather than drinking out of chemical-laden plastic bottles, use refillable metal or glass water bottles instead.
- Separate Your Waste. Keep food and kitchen scraps, garden waste, and recyclables separate.
- Recycle Everything You Can. All unbroken glass, some plastics, paper and cardboard, tin and aluminum can be recycled.
A waste-free lifestyle is possible to do, and it starts with assessing your current habits, seeing how much waste you produce, and making the conscious decision and effort to reduce your impact and be a beneficial force for the protection and restoration of our planet. There is plenty of information to be found online or in books if you are interested, but the information in this article is enough to get you started.