I feel like my whole world changed when I saw a video about the ‘zero waste home’ family’s journey. So rather than reinvent the wheel, I thought I’d add my two cents on her ten steps for getting started.
From her post, How to Get Started
It is actually not as as hard as it seems, and it is as simple as following these Five R’s, in order:
- Refuse what you do not need.
- Reduce what you do need.
- Reuse by using reusables.
- Recycle what you cannot refuse, reduce, or reuse.
- Rot (compost) the rest.”Refuse
1. Fight junk mail. It’s not just a waste of resources, but also of time.
- Canada Post has an opt out program for admail, and opting out is as a simple as putting a note on your mailbox that says “No Unaddressed Mail Please” And it workes!
2. Turn down freebies from conferences, fairs, and parties. Every time you take one, you create a demand to make more. Do you really need another “free” pen?
- I’ve always been really bad at turning down free things, possibly it’s my Scottish nature. I don’t attend too many conferences or fairs, but have attended a number of events lately where there were party favours. I’m sorry to say that I partook.
3. Declutter your home, and donate to your local thrift shop. You’ll lighten your load and make precious resources available to those looking to buy secondhand.
- Seeing as I have a fair amount of junk, I created two boxes in my living room. One is for items that are destined for donation, so that I can make one large trip rather than multiple small ones. The other box is for items that I’m not sure about. If they stay in the box for more than 6 months without me going in to get them, they get donated too. I made a big donation just before I left, and I plan to make another one in the beginning of 2014
4. Reduce your shopping trips and keep a shopping list. The less you bring home, the less waste you’ll have to deal with.
- There are all kinds of apps to help with shopping lists. R and I use Out of Milk since it allows us to share our lists, even though we’re on different platforms. It also lets me keep a list of my pantry items and to-dos, though I don’t really use it for either of those purposes.
- I’m a firm believer of shopping for fresh produce more often, but keeping a list will make sure you only bring home what you need.
5. Swap disposables for reusables (start using handkerchiefs, refillable bottles, shopping totes, cloth napkins, rags, etc.). You might find that you don’t miss your paper towels, but rather enjoy the savings.
- I made and started using handkerchiefs. I also have a bunch of my grandma’s old ones, which I love.
- cotton make-up pads. I have since made some more with microfiber cloths, which I find to be more absorbent and nicer for my face.
- I have a probably too big collection of microfiber cloths and rags for all my cleaning. Having as many as I do means I can do a whole load of laundry to clean them, rather than just a partial load.
6. Avoid grocery shopping waste: Bring reusable totes, cloth bags (for bulk aisles), and jars (for wet items like cheese and deli foods) to the store and farmers market.
- I made and use my own drawstring bags at my favourite bulk food store, Dominion Foods at the St. Lawrence Market. One time when I was there a lady commented that she liked the idea so much she was going to try it too!
- I am usually quite good about bringing my own bags when I go shopping.
- I have yet to ask for cheese and deli items to be put into glass jars. I have them, but haven’t asked yet.
- I try to remember to bring my own container to restaurants so that I don’t need to take a Styrofoam container with me.
7. Know your city’s recycling policies and locations—but think of recycling as a last resort. Have you refused, reduced, or reused first? Question the need and life-cycle of your purchases. Shopping is voting.
- The City of Toronto recycling program involves pick-up every two weeks, and includes a fairly large collection of items.
- This is an area that I really struggle. I am good at buying pantry items in bulk, but when it comes to everything else, sometimes it’s really nice to have something shiny and new! I do now consider how much plastic is in the items that I buy, and will try to pick items that have less or none.
9. Find a compost system that works for your home and get to know what it will digest (dryer lint, hair, and nails are all compostable).
- The City of Toronto has a compost program that I participate in. I have a stainless still container in my apartment that I empty into our communal green bin on pick-up days.
10. Turn your home kitchen trash can into one large compost receptacle. The bigger the compost receptacle, the more likely you’ll be to use it freely.
- My compost, recycling and garbage containers are all about the same size. However, as I noted earlier, I will often go a month or more without taking out my garbage or recycling, where I take the compost out every week. I find if I do it less than that it can get a bit stinky. The beauty of this system is that with the compost removed from the garbage and recycling, it’s all dry waste, and can sit for a long time without smelling.