Although the “Zero Waste” trend may sound complicated and expensive to boot, the truth is that cutting back on the amount of garbage you produce can save not only the environment but also your wallet.
By remaining sustainable and reusing or recycling what you have, you can save over $5,000 per year. This adds up quickly, and the more you cut down, the more you save!
This article will discuss what it means to go zero waste, provide tips for how to do so easily, and how going zero waste can save you thousands of dollars a year.
Let’s get started.
What Does It Mean to go Zero Waste?
The concept of going zero waste is pretty simple. According to GoingZeroWaste.com, the basic idea is that your goal should be to send nothing to a landfill to be zero waste. So essentially, you want to reduce the amount of trash you produce every day, week, month, year, and down to nothing.
If this sounds overwhelming, it may help to think of it as a more natural waste management system. In nature, there is no trash. In nature, there are no landfills. Instead, everything is reused or broken down, and nothing is collected from rotting for years where it’s doing nothing but poisoning the earth.
By going zero waste, you are getting as close as possible to how humans in nature are intended to exist.
Although it’s beneficial when it comes to keeping items out of landfills, recycling is not a definitive answer. Going zero waste is preferable to recycling because recycling is not perfect in most cases.
- Contaminated items can’t be recycled, so a large portion of what we think we are recycling is going to landfills anyway.
- So, going zero waste—or as close to it as possible—is a way for you to keep items out of landfills as much as possible and work on saving the environment.
As a bonus, going zero waste can be perfect for your wallet. You can save over $5,000 per year by going zero waste.
How Does Going Zero Waste Save Money?
When you think about going zero waste, you might assume that it is expensive. Don’t you have to buy many reusable and sustainable products to get started? Well, yes and no.
When you first decide to go zero waste, there may be some up-front costs for replacing unsustainable items that you have been using previously. However, the good news is that the longer you practice a zero-waste lifestyle, the less you will spend. Overall, it saves money.
Some people who go zero waste, like Kathryn Kellog, author of 101 Ways to Go Zero Waste, report that the most significant savings come from the fact that they can stop buying things. In addition, once you are in the swing of going zero waste, you will find that you can reuse a ton of what you already have, making new purchases unnecessary.
How can I get started if I want to go zero waste?
Bea Johnson, the author of the book Zero Waste Home, lists five “R” steps for beginners who want to go zero waste. These five steps are:
So, step one means that you should refuse the things that you don’t need. This is the first line of defense against waste, as it stops things you don’t need from coming into your home in the first place.
Step two goes hand in hand with step one, and it means you should reduce the things that you do use.
Step three involves reusing anything that you can. Try repairing things you do have that may be broken or worn down instead of just getting rid of them. Mend old clothes instead of immediately buying new ones and buy things second-hand when you can instead of brand new.
You can also stop using disposable products and opt for ones that can easily be used more than once—for example, reusable makeup removal pads instead of cotton rounds.
Step four, recycle, means that you should recycle anything that you are unable to refuse, reduce, or reuse. Remember, recycling is not the first line of defense due to the reasons we discussed earlier, and these products will still likely end up in a landfill eventually.
Lastly, step five, rot, means that you should compost anything you can. This includes food scraps, paper, and compostable wood or bamboo, such as bamboo toothbrushes.
If you begin by following these five steps, you should be able to transition into a zero-waste lifestyle easily. Although it may seem overwhelming at first, try following one step at a time until you can implement them all. You will soon settle into a rhythm that works for you.
What Kinds of Products Should I Stop Using?
The most important things you should stop using are disposable products and anything that includes a lot of unsustainable packaging. So, when you purchase vegetables at the store, opt for the tomatoes that come “naked”—just the tomato—rather than those in a pound of plastic packaging.
For disposable products such as paper towels or cotton rounds, try opting for reusable versions, like hand towels and fabric makeup removing pads.
You can also DIY lots of products. For example, cleaning products you would typically purchase, like 409 or Windex, come with a lot of plastic packaging—and are relatively expensive. The average American spends about $755 a year on cleaning products for the home.
If you make your own cleaning products and keep them in reusable glass containers, you can save a lot of money and waste.
What Kinds of Products Can I Reuse?
You can reuse plenty of products. For example, think about anything that involves disposable plastic, such as single-use water bottles. By purchasing a reusable metal or glass water bottle instead, you can save a lot of money in the long run and all the plastic you would otherwise be throwing away.
Other products you can reuse include dish towels and hand towels in place of paper towels, bamboo dish scrubbers instead of disposable sponges, and cloth grocery bags instead of plastic.
You can also try more sustainable items like a bidet, which will save you all the waste that otherwise comes from toilet paper. All this will contribute to your new lifestyle.
Do products with no packaging exist?
Yes, products with no packaging exist. Remember the example we gave earlier about buying “naked” fruits and vegetables instead of ones that come in a lot of packaging!
Items also exist like shampoo and conditioner bars, just like a bar of soap. This way, you do not have the disposable plastic packaging that would usually come on a shampoo or conditioner bottle.
When you buy a product with packaging, look for sustainable packaging, such as compostable paper or glass.
Do Zero Waste Stores Exist?
Yes, zero waste stores exist! These are stores where you can bring your own containers to buy food items in bulk or purchase items with no packaging, such as the shampoo and conditioner bars we mentioned above.
Try looking up “zero waste store near me” on your favorite search engine. You are more likely to have one of these stores near you if you live in a larger city. However, if there is not one near you, you can still do your best to purchase items with little to no packaging and take steps like bringing your containers and grocery bags to the shops.
Won’t buying reusable products be expensive?
It can certainly seem like buying reusable products is an expensive choice. For example, purchasing a reusable water bottle for $30 is more expensive than buying a disposable plastic water bottle for $2.
However, your reusable bottle will have paid for itself at a certain point. You are then saving money that you would otherwise be spending on more and more disposable bottles.
While the up-front cost of going zero waste may seem daunting, you will be saving a lot of money in the long run. It helps to look at the future rather than the immediate when you are considering how you will begin saving. Think about how much you will save over the next year rather than how much you will spend today.
Family Handyman offers readers more great tips on how to go zero waste.
How Do I Start a Compost Bin?
Luckily, starting a home compost bin is easy! You can use your compost bin to dispose of food scraps, compostable paper scraps, and wood items such as bamboo toothbrushes. Here are five steps to starting a home compost bin:
- Find a bare patch of earth to start your compost pile. Then, you can build a barrier around it if you wish.
- Lay down a few inches of twigs or rocks to help with the drainage at the bottom of your pile
- Next, add alternative layers of moist and dry compostable materials. For example, food scraps are moist, while leaves are considered dry.
- Make sure the compost pile remains moist. Then, if it does not rain, you can pour some water over the pile. Just make sure it doesn’t get too wet.
- Turn the compost regularly to ensure oxygen is distributed throughout the pile.
And voila! This is a foolproof method for easy composting outdoors in your backyard.
10 Tips for Going Zero Waste
There are tons of different tips you can utilize for going zero waste, but here is a collection of ten tips that will help you get closer to a zero waste lifestyle.
- Bring your own metal or glass straw when you go out for drinks.
- DIY your cleaning products.
- Use a compostable bamboo toothbrush instead of plastic.
- Shop at your local farmer’s market for fresh, “naked” fruits and vegetables.
- Meal planning or meal preparation to avoid excess food waste.
- Start a backyard compost bin.
- Mend old clothes instead of getting rid of them.
- Use rechargeable batteries instead of disposable ones.
- Recycle all junk mail.
- Ask for no receipt or a digital receipt when you are out shopping to save paper.
Is being completely zero waste even possible?
While the eventual goal of zero waste is actually to produce ZERO waste, the important thing about the lifestyle is to do your best. Unfortunately, in the world we live in, you may have to use some products that create waste, and that is just how it will be.
Head over to Treading My Own Path’s blog for more great zero waste information.
What if I’m not perfect?
This goes hand in hand with the previous section. Yes, the ultimate goal of a zero waste lifestyle is perfection—but it is essential to recognize that perfection is not always attainable.
However, if you are doing your best to be mindful and save as much waste as possible, you are doing your part.
It may also help to remember that the more you reduce and reuse, the more money you will be saving! If your main goal of going zero waste is to save money, this may motivate you: the less waste you consume, the less money you are spending.
And, the less money you spend on waste, the better for the environment! So, it is truly a win-win scenario.
So, how much money do you save by going zero waste? In some cases, you can save over $5,000 per year. This is no small amount of money! And, as a bonus, you are saving not only your wallet but also the environment.
Going zero waste may seem daunting at first, but if you follow Bea Johnson’s basic five “R” steps, you can easily get started on the lifestyle: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Rot. These five steps are guaranteed to save you both waste and money.
Image by [Fascinadora] via [Shutterstock.com]