Maybe you’re hoping to reduce your carbon footprint. Or some startling photos of trash polluting the ocean has incentivized your plastic strike. Or maybe you just have a crush on that cute vendor at your local farmer’s market, and want an excuse to visit multiple times a week.
Whatever your reason for going zero waste, it’s certainly a commendable endeavor. But no one ever said it was going to be easy.
From travel-sized toiletries to disposable coffee cups and every plastic straw in between, today’s world is primed for single-use convenience. Embarking on reduced-waste living requires as much adequate prep as it does a shift in mindset.
Not sure how to start zero waste?
Follow these nine surprisingly easy zero-waste tips from MakeSpace, a full-service storage company that serves Brooklyn, the rest of NYC, Los Angeles, Washington DC, and Chicago.
Food waste is an alarming issue with global ramifications. Approximately 40% of food is tossed each year in both Canada and the US, an unfortunate squandering of energy, landfills, and money.
Here’s how to bring that percentage down to zero in your own home:
1. More jars make the transition less jarring
For zero waste that’s also cost- and time-effective, your best bet is to buy in bulk. After filling your cloth bags at the store with dry items like grains and flour, transfer the contents into jars.
You could buy large Mason jars, or repurpose old ones (here’s how to repurpose jars in a way that eliminates pre-existing labels and odors).
The best part?
As Julie from The Beauty in Simple points out, less packaging = a pantry that’s tidier, roomier, and instantly organized.
Psst: Running out of shelf space for your homemade granola? Opt for nesting containers. HGTV also has instructions on how to hang Mason jars under a kitchen shelf.
2. Embrace the chill to avoid landfill
The surest way to get all foods consumed is to prolong their lifespan. Which means making good use of your fridge and freezer.
Erin from Reading My Tea Leaves shares her tips on storing produce so it stays edible longer. You could also invest in The Swag kit, machine-washable bags that keep fruits and veggies fresh.
And the Zero Waste Chef shares her expert tips on how to freeze food without using plastic.
3. When it doubt, compost it out
Zero waste is a journey – one you may find littered with mistakes. You’re bound to waste a few carrots along the way.
Rather than chalking those instances up to failure, consider disposing of expired foodstuffs responsibly, via composting.
It’s doable even for city slickers in small apartments. And if you have enough space in your backyard, here’s how to set up a simple compost system.
Via A Beautiful Mess
For a room that’s often the smallest in the home, the bathroom sure can produce its fair share of waste. But with some simple swaps, you can drastically reduce its output (you may even forego your trashcan altogether).
4. Raise the (soap) bar
Those plastic bottles of shampoo and body wash cluttering your caddy are unfortunately not zero-waste friendly.
But sustainable alternatives (like shampoo bars and Aleppo soap) may prove tricky to store, since water and steam quickly turn them to mush.
PopSugar recommends keeping the bars high, dry, and away from your shower stream at all times, using a suction cup or slatted dish.
Other easy ways to green your shower include bulk buying shampoo and opting for all-natural scrubbers, like loofahs.
5. 0% waste and 100% clean
Luckily, fewer plastic bottles means there’s less to clean from your shower surface. Which will make it all the easier to clean with your new zero-waste cleaning supplies.
Vinegar is widely reputed as the miracle cleaner for everything from your tub tiles to mirrors. Pour it in a glass spray bottle and spray a surface that’s been coated with baking soda.
Want extra scrubbing power?
Here’s how to DIY a natural scrub sponge.
Compared to the average bathroom and kitchen, your bedroom is probably a relatively low-waste space. But there are still a couple steps you can take to really organize it for low-impact efficiency.
6. Go beyond surface level
One of the easiest ways to reduce sheer amounts of wasteful stuff in the bedroom:
Reduce the space to put said stuff.
In other words, minimize horizontal surfaces that could become junk catchalls.
This applies beyond the bedroom, of course. But if you’re prone to mindlessly leaving items on your nightstand or dresser top, it’s a good place to start.
7. Revamp your wardrobe
We don’t mean go shopping – actually, just the opposite! Opt to hem, tailor, and cobble old clothes and shoes, rather than simply chuck them out.
What if, after reexamining and trying to donate old clothes, you’re stuck with some leftover duds?
You could always make them into rags for cleaning. Or do what TreeHugger recommends, and donate your old clothes to a thrift store or to PlanetAid.
Beyond The Home
This is arguably where it’s toughest to stay true to zero-waste. It’s harder to pop into the market if you don’t have your tote, or swing by your favorite coffeeshop without your to-go mug.
But with a bit of prep and conscientious foresight, it is possible.
8. Pack the best bag
Load your bag with essentials you’ll need for the day. From reusable napkins to ceramic straws, the little things often add up the most.
Not sure what you’ll need while you’re out and about?
Near-O Waste has got you covered with her list of suggested on-the-go items.
9. Store by the door
There’s no point in loading up on sustainable resources, only to realize halfway through your commute you left everything on the kitchen counter.
As you adjust to zero waste, make it as easy as possible for yourself. Store everything you need – shopping bags, steel box for leftovers – by the door, so grabbing it becomes second nature.
And let the first nature be the one you’re saving.
This is a guest post from Molli of MakeSpace, a full-service storage company that serves New York City, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., and Chicago