10 Tips for Zero Waste Absolute Beginners (A 2021 Guide)

While it is no longer the new year, it is never to late to make a positive change in our lives. I know for many of us, the past 12 months have been really difficult – and while things aren’t yet back to normal, it is a great time for a mental reset and a new focus.

For many, that focus will include changing our impact on the environment. And whether you are new to the low impact and zero waste world, or like me, are looking to refocus after a lot of unintentional waste in 2020, I think it’s time to start with the basics.

  1. Say no to a straw.

    You might think you don’t even use straws, but once you are looking for them, you will begin to notice how often you actually receive them. Whether its out and about in restaurants and bars, or with your take away order, often you will get a without even thinking about it. When you order a drink, just remember to say “No straw please”. Now, I know I have given this advice in the past, but with the paper straw trend now relatively common, I feel like it is more important than ever. Paper straws may be a great option when compared to a plastic straw, they still take resources to create! If you don’t need a straw, why not simply drink from the glass?

  2. Say no to Plastic bags (and stop buying the reusable ones at the grocery store!) – Yes, it is wonderful that there is the option to purchase reusable grocery bags, but if we are purchasing new ones every time we go to the store, then we are creating a similar problem. Those reusable bags take more resources to create than a plastic bag – because they are more stable, and are meant to be reused.

    Yes, sometimes we might forget our bags – none of us are perfect, but try keeping a foldable bag in your car or your carry bag. I love my fold up bags that don’t take up a lot of space because then, you are always prepared for a last minute shop.

  3. Bring Your Own Water Bottle and Cup – Did you know that it takes roughly 3-7x times the amount of water that a bottle holds, to produce said single-use plastic water bottle? That’s crazy! Not to mention that these often sit in the sun, leaching plastic into the water that you are drinking. Grab a reusable bottle. My recommendation would be stainless steel.

  4. Take Away Packaging and cutlery – As much as possible, use your own container and bring your own cutlery. It really doesn’t take up that much extra space, and it often starts a great conversation with the staff where you shop. Where it’s not possible, try to support businesses that have sustainable and recyclable packaging, and let other businesses know that you are making this choice, and how they can get your business back.

    However, be careful with bio-packaging – if it can only be composed in an industrial compost, then it is likely not going to be composed, and will have similar damaging effects to plastic when it goes to the landfill.
  5. If you don’t need it, don’t buy it – This sounds like a minimalism tip, more than something to help someone go Zero Waste – but trust me – the fewer items you bring in to your life, the less you have to worry about your carbon footprint. Simply use what you have – even if it’s a little unconventional.
  6. Reduce Your Junk Mail – And any other paperwork you find yourself throwing into the recycling. Go digital, or simply unsubscribe from any catalogs that you are no longer reading.  Depending on where you live, a no junk mail sign might also help with any “letterbox drop” style advertising.

And there you have it, the first 6 things I recommend to start off your Zero Waste journey. Some you might have heard before, and some that might be new to you. BUT – don’t take it all on at once. Take your time and make changes slowly as you are able. Don’t be fooled – you don’t have to go out and buy a bunch of shiny new Zero Waste stuff in order to make a difference.

I believe in you! You got this!

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