9 Easy Steps Towards Zero Waste That Are Free

So you’ve decided to go zero waste, but don’t know where to start. You’ve seen those zero wasters on social media with their tiny mason jar of trash from the past 5 years and you think, “how the heck will I ever get there!?” Fear not.

Zero waste is not an overnight phenomena. Setting the intention to reduce waste is the first step, so congratulations! You’re already on your way. You might have already taken a hard look at your current (wasteful) lifestyle and felt overwhelmed by all the ways you are producing trash. Just remember, baby steps.

You don’t need to throw away all your disposable items and buy new, eco-friendly stuff. In fact, using up your disposable items is part of the journey to a zero waste lifestyle. After you’ve used up the disposables, you can replace them with reusable alternatives.

Going zero waste does not have to be expensive either. In fact, there are many ways you can take steps towards zero waste today that are totally free:

1. Bring Your Own Bottle. When you’re on-the-go, you’re bound to get a little thirsty. Rather than buying a plastic water bottle, keep a reusable bottle or mason jar on hand that you can fill up throughout the day. Don’t have a reusable bottle? Just reuse an empty glass bottle—I love repurposing a kombucha bottle in a pinch!

2. Stash Some Cutlery. Likewise, when you’re on-the-go it’s good to keep a set of cutlery in your bag or purse. Just wrap a fork and spoon in cloth napkin and you’re ready for an impromptu meal without plastic cutlery.

3. Make Some Rags. You likely have some old linens, towels or even clothes that are too far gone to donate to Goodwill. Create your own reusable cleaning cloths by cutting up some old fabric. When you run out of paper towels, you will be all set to go with your reusable cleaning cloths.

4. Host a Clothes Swap. Host a clothes swap at your home and invite a bunch of friends. Clothes swaps are a great way to recycle clothes that don’t suit you or no longer fit, and they’re super fun. Donate the leftovers to Goodwill.

5. Say NO to Plastic Straws. When you’re dining out, just say no to plastic straws. Be sure to alert your server, barista or bartender at the beginning of the meal that you don’t want a straw with your beverage. If you absolutely must have a straw, bring your own reusable glass or stainless steel straw in your bag.

6. DIY All-Purpose Cleaner. If you have white vinegar on hand, you can say bye bye to your cabinet of special cleaning sprays. Just 4 parts water and 1 part vinegar (and some essential oils if you so desire) in a spray bottle and you got clean counters, mirrors, windows, tables—the list goes on! I use my all-purpose vinegar spray all over my home. It works great and the lavender drops I added to mine are aromatherapy as I clean.

7. Bring Your Own Bags. Bring your own reusable bags when you grocery shop and ideally, your own cloth bags for produce and bulk items. If you don’t have cloth bags, you could A) reuse plastic produce bags or B) make your own from old pillowcases! You could also just let your produce go naked in your basket.

8. Shop Your Fridge. I’m all about minimizing food waste. When I’m struggling to figure out what to eat, I look at building a meal around what produce, leftovers or dry goods I already have on hand. I try to get my fridge close to empty before I hit the grocery store.

9. Know Your Recycling/Compost. When I started analyzing my trash, I found out (to my horror) that I was tossing a lot of items that belonged in the compost or recycling bin. There are a lot of common household items that we throw in the trash for convenience or ignorance (no offense, I did it too). For example, cotton balls, paper towels, bath tissue, paper Q-tips can all go in the compost!