Recently I’ve been reading Anita Vandyke’s book “A Zero Waste Life in Thirty Days.” It suggests that you can reduce your waste by 80% using the tips in the book. However, it also offers realistic alternatives for people who want to reduce waste but aren’t going to hit those zero waste levels quite, yet. Reducing a little is better than nothing, after all.
Reducing Waste to Save Money and The Planet
The author is the first to admit that she started reducing waste specifically to save money. She rejected a plastic bag at the grocery store because she didn’t want to pay 15 cents. Over time, she became passionate about the many other good reasons to stop wasting, not the least of which is the environmental benefits.
Working Up To a Zero Waste Life
For each section, Vandyke offers tips for three levels of reducing waste: simply reducing, lower it even more, and getting to zero waste. What I found as I read was that there are some areas where I’m already at or near zero waste. Others seem unlikely to ever reach that level. However, I can always reduce.
20 Tips for a Zero Waste Life
Here are twenty of the things she suggests for a zero waste life.
1. Reduce Plastic Use Immediately
This one is non-negotiable. You want to aim to stop buying plastic. Luckily, in many ways, this one is easy for me in San Francisco. You can’t find a plastic straw or non-recyclable plastic bag here anyway. But, we could all do better in this crucial area.
2. Set an Intention
As with any goal, if you don’t know why you’re striving towards it, then you’re less likely to work to achieve it. Whether it’s to save money or be greener, consider your true reasons.
3. Examine Your Trash
Ignorance is bliss. Take the time to actually look at what you throw out each week. It’s a lot. Awareness helps you change.
4. Purchase Reusable Coffee Cups and Water Bottles
They pay for themselves in no time.
5. Bring Jars to Restaurants
Use them for takeout food as well as for leftovers. A zero waste life means that you don’t use single-use items. Here in San Francisco, our takeout containers are compostable or recyclable, the former being better than the latter. That said, a jar that I could wash out would be even better.
6. Shop With Reusable Bags
This one is a no-brainer for me. I’ve been doing this one forever and have a nice collection of canvas totes for various shopping excursions. So, this is one zero waste tip that I think should be easy. That said, it took me a long time to bring my own produce bags to the grocery store so that’s one potential way to level up.
Food waste in this world is terrible. I am bad about contributing to this one. Learning different ways to reduce food waste is also critical. But, with food waste or food scraps, composting is always an option. San Francisco has composting bins for every home although my landlord has been stubborn on this point. There are composting options for most living situations though wherever you are.
8. Stop Spending For One Month
Shop your pantry. Don’t buy any new items. Ask yourself if you really need things. (Of course, still pay your bills and whatnot.)
9. Shop Bulk Foods
Stop buying packaged foods. It’s as simple as that, and yet I’m pretty bad about this one myself. It’s an area of growth for a zero waste life for me.
10. Get Organic Food Delivered To You
Arguably there’s some waste there with the driving, etc. However, if you get food delivered from organic, local farms that don’t use packaging other than cardboard, then you’re really close to no footprint. I do get healthy food delivery but it does have some packaging for both the individual items and to keep items cold.
11. Cook What You Have
This goes back to food waste. Learn to make simple meals that allow you to use up what’s in your fridge and pantry. Soups, salads, and stir fry plates are good go-to options.
12. Drink Water
I actually can’t remember if she says this in the book, but it seems like she must have. It’s good for your body. Buy can drink it out of your reusable water bottle. It eliminates the packaging that comes with almost all other beverages.
13. Repair Things Yourself
Mend clothes that need mending. Fix things that are broken. Try to buy things that are designed to last. Then find ways to make them last.
14. Use Bars Instead of Packaged Soaps
Use bar soap. There are also shampoo and conditioner bars. These are better than liquid soap in plastic bottles.
15. DIY Beauty and Skin Care
Make it yourself to save money using good-for-the-planet ingredients.
16. DIY Household Cleaners
17. Use Fabric Instead of Paper Products
Did you have rags in your family instead of Swiffers? Cotton napkins instead of paper towels? Do you still? You could!
18. Embrace a Minimalist Wardrobe
There are many examples for learning how to do this. I, personally, probably won’t ever go this one. I shop secondhand and ethically, though. So, I make some effort, even though it’s not a zero waste life.
19. Eat Less Meat
I’ve eaten vegetarian or plant-based for many years of my life, off and on. It’s a fairly easy one for me to stick to at this point. If you eat less meat, and preferably don’t substitute with “faux meat” alternatives, you save money.
20. Read This Book
Okay, the author doesn’t suggest this tip. But I do. She goes into a lot more detail than I did here. Learn how to embrace a zero waste life in a way that works for you.
- Types of Frugality: Digging Deeper Into Why I Want to Live Frugally
- Reduce, Reuse, Recycle to Save Money
- 5 Frugal Ways to Keep Your House Clean
Kathryn Vercillo is a professional writer who loves to live a balanced life. She appreciates a good work-life balance. She enjoys balance in her relationships and has worked hard to learn how to balance her finances to allow for a balanced life overall. Although she’s only blonde some of the time, she’s always striving for total balance. She’s excited to share what she’s learned with you and to discover more together along the way.