Over the past year or so, I’ve done a lot of learning and researching into the amount of waste we – as a society – put out each day. The numbers are staggering to be honest. One any given day, the United States alone, throws away 300,000,000 pounds of food each day. That number is three-hundred million by the way. That’s roughly 40% of our food supply wasted and thrown away to rot. I can not even fathom why we think this is okay. This research led me to find a few ways to live a zero waste lifestyle and some zero waste tips for our family. The zero waste lifestyle changes we made in our home have saved us more money than we ever thought possible.
The thing about the amount of waste we put out is that it doesn’t just stop with food. We are a disposable society. We rip a pair of jeans; we buy a new pair. We break the vacuum; we buy a new one instead of repairing it. We get tired of our old phone; we run out and buy the newest one. Learning to live a zero waste life takes time and effort that most of us simply aren’t willing to put in.
Ways to Live a Zero Waste Life | Zero Waste Tips
At it’s core, these amounts of waste has a huge impact on the environment. Even if you aren’t concerned with the environmental impact, you should be concerned about the impact on your wallet. Wasted food and wasted products or services equals wasted money. There is no getting around that. If you are buying something to replace something that has been wasted, you are wasting money.
Making the changes needed to live a zero waste lifestyle isn’t hard, but as I said, it does require time and effort. You won’t automatically become zero waste mom of the year. You will make mistakes in the beginning. Your family absolutely will frustrate you. There will be times when you want to throw in the towel and quit trying to have a zero waste home. It is all normal and part of the transition. Show yourself some grace and keep moving toward your goal of having a zero waste home.
How to have a Zero Waste Home
The simplest way to begin living zero waste is to start small. Unfortunately, this is one of those areas where you will almost certainly fail if you jump in feet first. The greatest of habits start small so I wanted to give you a few very simple steps to becoming zero waste to help get you started. Obviously, how far you take your zero waste life is up to you. You could aim for a totally zero waste home that puts out nothing but a small drinking cup full of waste each week or you could simply be aiming to waste less food. Either way, these zero waste tips should help a bit if you’re just getting started.
Simple Zero Waste Tips
Create a budget; and learn to stick to it
If you’re finding that your family is wasting money, the first step to eliminating that waste is to learn how to create a budget and stick to it. Wasted money is one of the largest areas of waste for families and honestly one of the most often overlooked. Since wasted money could put your family into a very bad financial crisis eventually, you should make sure that this is one of the first things you tackle when building your zero waste home.
Identify want vs need in your budget
Once you have your budget created, take the time to target another wasteful area for most families. Before you spend any money, ask yourself if you are purchasing a want or a need? We waste far too much time, energy and money on wants. Sometimes we spend so much on wants that we can’t cover our needs. Cutting back on this type of waste will make it much easier to put other zero waste tips into practice.
Replace Plastic with Glass
I never thought I would end up having zero waste products that I favored over others, but I do. I made the switch from plastic storage containers in our kitchen and bathroom to glass and I absolutely love them! Not only are they zero waste products, but they also have that farmhouse decor look that I absolutely adore. For reference, I use these glass food storage bowls, these glass canisters for storage and these glass apothecary jars for bathroom storage.
Learn what to buy in bulk and what not to
Buying in bulk is a great way to waste food and money if your family won’t use the product before it goes bad. It is also a great way to save money if you know your family will use something in time. By taking a good look at your grocery purchases over the past few weeks, you will begin to get a good idea of how much your family uses of each item. For instance, it is cheaper for our family to buy cheese in bulk, but not a great idea to do that with mayo. We won’t use the mayo before it spoils, but we will use the cheese. Instead of wasting the money on a larger bulk purchase of mayo, we buy a smaller jar as needed or simply make our own as needed.
Zero Waste Projects for Your Zero Waste Lifestyle
Start a compost pile
Vegetable waste and certain types of household waste are perfect for using to start your own compost pile. Learning how to start a garden is a great way to save money on your grocery bills and using your own waste to create a rich, composted soil both saves money and takes you one step closer to being a zero waste home.
Learn to regrow from scraps
Did you know that you can avoid buying certain vegetables because you can regrow vegetables from scraps easily? Things such as carrots, celery and others are easy to regrow. The more vegetables you can regrow from scraps, the fewer you have to pay for, so you’re not only eliminating wasted food, but also wasted money.
Use fruit and vegetable scraps in an efficient way
In addition to regrowing vegetable scraps as a way to reduce waste in your home, you can use them in other ways too. Orange and lemon peels can be used to make a homemade all-purpose cleaner. Apple scraps can be made into your favorite apple scrap jelly recipe or into homemade apple cider vinegar. Brown and old bananas can be turned into a yummy banana nut bread recipe. The more ways you can find to use your waste, the easier time you’ll have building your zero waste lifestyle.
How to Build a Zero Waste Lifestyle
Learn about phantom electricity
Waste doesn’t just mean food and money. It can also mean wasted services. In the case of utilities, one of the largest wastes is what is known as phantom electricity. This power waste costs you money even if you don’t realize it. Phantom electricity is the power that is drawn off your electronics even when they are turned off. Things such as televisions, gaming systems, and small appliances all draw power even if they’re not in use. To reduce the waste these things put out, plug them into a surge protector and either turn it off or unplug the entire thing at night.
While you’re dealing with phantom electricity, be sure to take the time to plug any energy leaks your home may have. Those leaks will siphon off your money as well.
Put lights on a timer
I’ve talked before about how an Amazon Echo can save you money and this is just one way. Lights that are left on when they don’t need to be are a waste of money and a waste of electricity. If you’re working on a zero waste home, using a device such as an Amazon Echo or a Google Home and smart plugs or smart bulbs to make your home a smart home is a great – and super easy – way to reduce wasted power.
Once again, we waste hundreds of millions of pounds of food each day so a great way to reduce food waste is by simply eating leftovers. Far too many people are so picky they won’t eat a leftover meal. That is nothing but a huge waste of food and your money. If you don’t want to eat the meal two or more days in a row for lunch or dinner, grab some freezer friendly food storage containers and freeze the leftovers for another day. You’ll still avoid the waste but you won’t need to eat it right away.
Ways to reduce waste in your home
Buy used clothing instead of new
I love shopping thrift stores and if you’ve read my thrift store shopping tips, you’ll know I’ve gotten good at it over the years. Part of the reason for my love of secondhand shops is that buying used clothing is a great zero waste way to look great on a budget.
Pass things down instead of throwing them away
Another one of my favorite zero waste tips is to pass down items you no longer want or need to someone else who can use it. While this doesn’t save you any money, you will be reducing the amount of waste your home puts out and helping someone else in the process. Plus, you may get lucky and have someone pass something onto you the next time you need it.
Switch to cloth options
Replacing disposable options in your home is usually one of the first steps someone takes when they’re learning to live a zero waste life. This can include using un-paper and reusable towels, an old school mop and bucket instead of a Swiffer, using cloth diapers and even making the switch to reusable cloth menstrual pads for the women in your home. Before you say that you could never make a swap such as that, give it a try. I made the swap to cloth menstrual pads years ago and have never once regretted it.
Reuse meat bones and fat
Meat bones such as turkey bones, beef bones and chicken bones are fantastic for making homemade bone broth and stock. Store bought stock is full of unhealthy sodium and super expensive too for what it is. Homemade broths though are great for cooking and health reasons. Fats can be reused as well which gets you one step closer to living zero waste. Use beef and chicken fat to render lard for cooking or handmade candles. Save bacon fat for cooking when you need to add some additional flavor.
How to Go Zero Waste
Switch to cast iron
Most people don’t think of their cookware as creating waste, but if you are having to replace it yearly or even bi-yearly, you are. Using cast iron is a good alternative since once you learn how to care for cast iron, your cookware will last decades. When you buy quality cast iron, there is no need to replace it over and over again which means you’re one step closer to a zero waste home.
Use a food saver
One of the biggest causes of wasted food is food that is not packaged correctly and then frozen. Picking up a Foodsaver can help, but only if you take the time to learn how to package meat with your Foodsaver. Foodsavers aren’t air tight even after the vacuum seal because the bags are not made of air tight materials. Even still, using a Foodsaver is a great way to cut back on freezer burn and lost frozen meals.
Learn to can
Another way to reduce food waste is to learn how to can your own food. Canning gives you the ability to “put up” foods that otherwise might go bad. I once had a good friend have a power outage while away on an overnight trip. The power was still off when she returned home, but her frozen meats were just beginning to thaw. Because she had a gas stove, she was able to can all of the meat for later use instead of losing it to thawing.
Use reusable grocery bags
This zero waste idea may seem beginner level simple for some, but for others, it will serve as a reminder to buy the reusable shopping bags they keep putting off. It can be worth it in more ways than just reducing the amount of waste your family leaves behind. Some stores such as Target, will actually take a few cents off your total sale amount for using reusable bags.
Easy Zero Waste Projects
Learn to DIY
At the end of the day, one of the best ways to live a zero waste lifestyle is to avoid buying something and make it yourself. We made the jump with the first 30 things we stopped buying and started making homemade. Our list is up over 200 things to make homemade these days and still growing. Learning how to DIY something; whether it is a handmade candle or something like DIY raised garden beds not only saves wasted money, but also keeps you from having to purchase yet another product will only serve to fill your home.
Find new uses for household items
I am a big proponent of upcycling because not only do I get a “new” product out of it, but it keeps with our zero waste philosophy. You can find a new use for almost anything which lets you avoid tossing it. For our family, we took the time to find new uses for milk jugs, new ways to use empty bottles, ways to use old sheets, ways to use towels and many more. Each one helps us reduce the amount of waste we put out.
Harvest seeds to replant
I’ve already mentioned using scraps to regrow new vegetables, but what about when you need a veggie that won’t regrow from scraps. Chances are good you can harvest the seeds from the vegetable to regrow new. You can save seeds from everything from strawberries and tomatoes to peppers. This cuts down on waste, but also allows you to start a garden on a budget. Once you’ve got your seeds harvested and dried, do some research into how to start garden seeds and soon you’ll be harvesting delicious food from those “wasted” seeds.
These 21 zero waste tips are by far the end all be all of zero waste ideas. In fact, they’re just the tip of the iceberg. They are, however, a great place to start if you’re new to a zero waste lifestyle. Give each one a shot and work slowly. Before long you’ll be amazed at how little waste you’re generating and how much money you’re saving!