Buying high-quality items that will last a long time is important but the prices add up quickly. Joining the “trend” of going zero waste can be expensive, but there are lots of ways to have an impact on our home environment and the planet without spending a penny.
1. Use what you have
You may have heard this a million times but it’s true. Do you need a shiny plastic free bento box or a fabulous linen furoshiki bag? They might be nice to have but aren’t necessary, especially if you already have things around your home that can serve exactly the same function. Any cloth napkin or dishtowel can be tied artfully to carry your lunch to work.
When I first started I wanted to buy a set of beautiful and uniform”un-paper towels”, but I resisted. I cut up old t-shirts and sheets instead.
Sometimes we have items that aren’t very eco-friendly “left over.” Pass along new or like-new items to those who need them, or use them up and then make an eco-friendly switch.
For example, if you have a bunch of plastic sponges at home, use them until you can’t anymore and then switch to a more effective, longer lasting, zero waste dish brush.
2. Search your recycle bin
Instead of putting that glass tomato sauce jar in the recycling, use it to store your lunch or leftovers. Glass jars from nut butter and tomato sauce are my favorites for reuse, but there could be a variety of containers lurking in your recycle bin that can be cleaned up for storing food or even for DIY gifts!
3. Reduce food waste and compost
We spend hard-earned money on food. It took a lot of effort and environmental impact to get the food to our table, even if it’s locally grown. If you’re frustrated at throwing food away, research ways to store your produce and leftovers to make them last longer, Having kids means I often end up with one or two bites of something left in the bowl. While sometimes things go right into the compost, I try to save what I can. I keep a jar in the fridge for smoothies and that single slice of apple, a spoonful of yogurt or single spinach leaf get tossed inside for smoothies the following day.
There are many lovely ways to compost that range in degree of education needed to cost. You can use a backyard tumbler, a vermiculture or “worm bin,” You can even simply dig and bury. We compost by putting a certified compostable bag in our freezer and then we drop it off at a local facility. We’ve tried other techniques but this is easiest for us during this season of life and where we live.
4. Share & borrow
Borrow and share with friends and family
If you need something to help with your zero waste efforts, ask family and friends! Need a reusable coffee cup or some glass storage containers? Post for your whole network to see, or ask trusted people if they have extras. So many people are trying to declutter and minimize their possessions, you might be shocked at how many offers you get!
Use freecycle and local message boards
A quick scan of your local Freecycle site or other hyperlocal message boards or neighborhood Facebook groups might find you exactly what you need. From moving boxes to storage baskets or even bigger furniture and tools, you might be surprised what people are willing to share or offload for free.
5. Reach out to companies, organizations, businesses
This last one is my absolute favorite. In just a few minutes you can email or message a restaurant, grocery store, or manufacturer about being more eco-friendly and producing less waste. If we all did this once – or once a week – we could have a tremendous collective impact.
Hi there! I love your restaurant but noticed that I received plastic straws in my drinks without asking and saw that there wasn’t a compost option for customers. Can you offer straws by request only and provide a place for customers to compost food scraps? Both of those changes would have a positive environmental impact and should be really easy for you to implement! Thanks for listening!
Attn: Store Manager. I shop at your store often and see that you use thermal paper receipts. The paper and ink likely contain BPA, a harmful substance that’s been linked to hormone disruption. Most POS (point of sale) systems allow for skipping printing receipts. This simple change will help the health of your employees, customers and the planet! Please consider allowing people to be emailed a receipt or just not printing a receipt all together. Thank you!
What free or low-cost zero waste ideas do you have? Please share in the comments or jump over and chat with me on Instagram!
p.s. if you are looking for recommendations on my favorite eco-friendly items, check out my “Favorite Things” list!