The zero waste movement has been hugely popular in the last few years and continues to gain momentum as more and more people wish to cut back on waste and consumerism and do their part for the planet.
While many people are eager to jump on the trend, it can feel intimidating if you’re just getting started, so we wanted to help you along your zero waste journey by sharing 13 easy and actionable ways to go zero waste in 2020. Just like any lifestyle change, there’s no need to put pressure on yourself to do it all at once. Begin by making a few simple changes at a time, and you’ll be drastically cutting down on your waste in no time. The added bonus? The majority, if not all, of these tips aren’t just good for the environment but will also save you a lot of money in both the short and long term.
Not all of these are completely zero waste but all will help you to find fun and easy ways to consume less.
Host a clothes swap
Hosting a clothes swap is just an all-around win in our opinion: they’re fun, free, and zero waste, you get to get rid of clutter in your closet, AND you get new clothes! What’s not to love. You can organize a clothes swap with your friends and family or host one with your community- many coffee shops and local stores are more than willing to support and host events like this for the public.
Shop second hand
Another great way to enjoy some new-to-you items, while saving money, is to shop second hand. Places like Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, and your local thrift stores are a great place to find some amazing second hand deals.
Take an inventory of the disposable items you use the most
Rather than doing a complete switch to reusable products, you can make a big yet not overwhelming impact by taking stock of which disposable items you use them most and then aim to switch out a few of these items. Things like paper towel, tampons, cotton pads, and plastic food wrap are just a few of the most commonly used disposable items in the home that can easily be switched to reusable and eco-friendly versions.
Keep a cloth bag in your purse
You know that kitchen cupboard filled to the brim with plastic bags? Consider for a moment that most people have a drawer just like this and you’ll get a rough idea of how much wasted plastic there is out there.
Using a reusable bag cuts back on so much plastic, especially if you keep one handy in your purse for unexpected errands and purchases.
Use reusable bottles and coffee cups
Plastic water bottles and disposable coffee cups are without a doubt very convenient, but they also amount to a massive source of waste, and if your daily routine involves a stop at your local coffee shop, this can really add up.
Using a reusable water bottle and coffee mug can save a ton of waste in the long run, and some coffee shops even offer discounts when you bring your own mug!
Use what you already have
The ironic thing about the zero waste movement is that it can lead us into buying a lot of unnecessary items. We’re as much of a sucker as the next person for a cute water bottle or trendy reusable coffee mug, but it’s easy to get caught up in buying a lot of reusable items that we don’t really need.
Before making any new purchases, we like to ask ourselves a) if we actually need this item and b) if we already own something that can serve that purpose. Yes, it’s fun to run out and buy, for example, a cute reusable lunch bag, but do you own something already that you can tote your food in? (psst. Our bedding comes in reusable organic cotton bags that would make a super cute and easy lunch bag).
Reuse your old bedding
When your bedding is ready for a refresh, you can reuse the old sheets rather than throwing them out. Cutting them up into rags is a great way to give your bed sheets a second life.
Give experiences instead of gifts
Rather than buy presents for your loved ones during the holidays, you can save on consumption, and make memories, by giving an experience rather than a material item. A hike, trip to the beach, or picnic are just a few ideas of fun zero waste experiences.
Skip the straw
Sure, you can get a reusable straw that you carry around with you, as many zero wasters do, or you can just skip it all together! Easy-peasy and as zero waste as it gets. But, for those who do love using a straw, metal and bamboo options are a great alternative to disposable straws.
Get a safety razor
Do you want a way to get a better shave while saving money on razor blades? Safety razors are the perfect low waste solution to shaving. Rather than shelling out every month for bulky razor blades that come in plastic packaging, safety razors use super tiny metal blades that you can recycle after you use them. The blades are still disposable, but they are a fraction of the size and production intensity of regular blades- plus, the single blade actually gives you a better shave than the multi-blade options.
Think before you buy
So many of us buy a lot of unnecessary things completely on impulse. Rather than heading to the store or “adding to cart” the moment you decide you want something, set it aside for a few days and see if you still want it then. Chances are, the urge will be gone, and you’ll realize you don’t actually want it that much after all.
Skip the plastic packaging
So many of the things we buy are wrapped in (unnecessary) plastic, so one way to cut back on waste is to look for products that don’t come in packaging. Produce, for example, often comes in completely unnecessary plastic wrap and Styrofoam, so you can reduce your waste simply by choosing unwrapped produce.
At SOL, we use zero plastic packaging when we ship our bedding, and our sheets come encased in a reusable organic cotton bag. It’s not only one small way we can help to reduce waste, but it’s also a handy reusable item (like using it as the aforementioned lunch bag!).
Head to your local library
Rather than heading to the bookstore every time you want to read a new book, consider checking out books at your local library instead. For the most part, we only read a book once, so purchasing books can add up to a lot of unnecessary waste. There is the occasional time when it’s nice to own a book that you know you’ll read again and again (we are SO excited for this one from one of our fave collaborators!), but generally it’s a one and done.
Checking out books from your local library, rather than purchasing, can save you a lot of money and is a great way to engage with your local community.