No Spend - Zero Waste for Beginners
We are all citizens of this planet. Moreover, we are here for a short period of time (yes, the average life span is 80+ years, but Earth is more than 4.5 billion years old, so compared to that, our 80+ seem really, really short), and we should preserve our planet for others who are yet to come.
Over the past decade, more and more people have been gaining awareness about how much the Earth is actually fragile and how we should take (more) care of it.
Therefore, some of us decided to go zero-waste because this is one of the ways to protect the Earth and keep it in good condition for the generations to come. (And the ones who already have kids are already raising those future generations and teaching them how to take care of the Earth properly.)
And also, it is always nice to do nice things, especially for others, without having a selfish goal on one’s mind.
So, how to start a zero-waste lifestyle without spending any money? Follow these easy steps, and you will become an experienced zero-waster in no time.
The best things in life are always free; think about having a great time, laughing, loving, the list goes on and on.
And you know what is free as well? Thinking.
Therefore, the first step in becoming zero-waste is thinking about your own waste and how you can reduce it. It is called a “trash audit.” You can take your trash out of the bin once in a week or so and go through it to see what did you put in there. The less smelly way is to put garbage in various containers with labels, so it is easier to see what type of trash you make the most. In addition, it is always helpful to keep a log of the amount and kind of waste you produce. Still, what is the point of all of this? When you are done with your trash audit, you will clearly see how much trash you make (in a week, a month, or whatever period you decide to track) and the most common type you create. In this way, you will be able to make excellent zero-waste and buying decisions.
This leads us to the second point: buying.
First of all, try not to buy anything new, but use what you already have. For example, you already have a beach bag; do you really need another one? Also, you will not wash yourself any better if you have two, three, or four soap bars instead of one. Moreover, how many pairs of shoes do you really need? This is a big thing—think about the difference between want and need. Finally, if you have something of a kind, think long and hard about buying something new. In this way, not only will you save (a lot of) money, but you will significantly reduce the amount of waste you make.
In some cases, you do need something new. However, in that situation, try waiting a while. After, let’s say, 30 days, if you still need it, then you buy it, but first explore alternative options such as borrowing and second-hand.
But you have to buy food, true.
When it comes to buying food, there are two main aspects—its amount and the packaging.
Regardless of the place where you buy your food, at the farmers’ market or in the supermarket, you can always bring your bags and choose food packaging. For example, if you need rice, you can buy it packed in a cardboard container and not in a plastic bag—this way, you tell the producers that you want to avoid plastic packaging. Therefore, when buying pre-packed groceries, look for the package made of a material that can be either reused (glass jars can be used for countless things) or easily recycled (cardboard, paper). When buying produce, bring your reusable bag, and do not buy single wrapped items (such as cucumbers, potatoes, etc.—they need to be washed and peeled before consumption, so it is really unnecessary to buy them packed into a ton of plastic).
If you like juices, try making your own; lemonade can be very quickly made, even in a tiny kitchen: all you need is water, lemons, and something to sweeten it (it can be sugar, brown sugar, honey, stevia, or whatever you like). Also, try avoiding juices in the store altogether—not only are they packed with sugar, artificial colors, and preservatives, but they are also really expensive, and they come in a plastic package which is almost impossible to recycle. Therefore, by avoiding them, you will really score a hat trick.
Another element related to food is eating meat. In order to avoid a lot of unnecessary waste, you can stop eating meat. Of course, it is pretty difficult to stop eating meat all at once, so try little by little. For starters, try implementing Meatless Monday and get creative. In some time, you will find it easier to find and cook delicious meals will less or no meat at all, and, if you decide so, it will become easier to stop eating meat at all.
Now, when we are already talking about cooking delicious meals, it is a great way to control food waste. Not only will you know what you eat, but you will make significantly less waste (think about all those packaging in which the delivered and preprepared food comes in). And this is a great incentive to start composting as well; when you prepare vegetables, it is almost effortless to put scraps into the compost bin, and once you begin, it will become second nature to you in no time.
In the end, if you are new to zero-waste, all of this can sound a little bit daunting. But, do not worry. It is totally OK to make mistakes. Living more sustainably is a continuous journey, and you learn along the way; do not let a mistake or two move you away from your goal.
Every item less in the trash bin is a step forward.
Try a little bit harder each day, and it will become easier in no time.
And who knows, maybe you will inspire other people along the way to take the zero-waste path as well.