The zero waste movement is rising, so if you’re wondering how to squish all your plastic, rubbish and wrappers down to nothing, but haven’t yet found a way, take heart. It’s a slow process that takes time but it starts with just a few small steps.
You don't have to become 100% zero waste in a single swoop. Take baby steps. Once something becomes second nature, try another way to reduce your waste further.
So, where to start? Here are 10 different ways how to live waste-free.
1) Say no to takeaway containers
An irony of fast food is that it comes in plastic containers that won’t degrade for a bazillion years. Fortunately, there are some pioneers in this field, namely Bakeys who make edible cutlery. Their cereal-based spoons, forks and chopsticks can be eaten and even if you don’t munch them, they’ll decompose within a few days. If you’re a regular at your local Indian or Burger joint, ask them if you can bring your own containers. Sure, you’ll have to get there with your dishes before it’s served up but the planet will thank you.
DID YOU KNOW In an attempt to reduce marine litter, the EU proposed a ban in May 2018 on straws and plastic cutlery.
2) Ditch the disposables
It might sound crazy but carrying your own wooden or bamboo cutlery can help. And while you’re at it, the return of the handkerchief can replace the need for tissues as can cloth napkins instead of paper. Last but by no means least, carrying a refillable water bottle and bringing your own reusable shopping bags is a must. For more suggestions on living sustainably visit Friends of the Earth.
3) Support sustainable fashion
Fashion ranks in the top 10 of the world's most polluting industries. A simple but effective way to flex your muscle as a conscious consumer is to ransack your local charity shops and re-fashionista stores for second hand buys (hello designer brands at a bargain price!). And be sure to support local, sustainable fashion brands who abide by zero-waste and fair pay policies.
4) Reduce food waste
According to the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) 1.9 million tonnes of food is wasted in the UK each year and 250,000 tonnes of that is still edible when it’s thrown away. Fare Share is an organisation that collects unused food and distributes it to charities who can feed people in need. It may sound like that’s a corporate issue, but we can all do our part by considering our food footprint and reducing it when possible.
5) Be inspired by others
Zero Waste Life provides endless online tips to help you clean up your footprint. The tips range from easy to tricky and there’s even an online course that will guide you from planet parasite to zero-waster in 21 days, all (according to them) while remaining sane. Phew.
6) Share, not buy
Sites such as preloved.co.uk, Gumtree and Trading Post provide the option to buy and sell second hand goods. Even Facebook has buy-swap-sell groups so get online and share the pre-love!
7) Push back on paper
If you haven't already done so, get onto your banks and utility providers to switch over to paperless communication. To take your tree-hugging, waste-free living gestures further, buy a no-junk-mail sticker for your letterbox or start using an online diary.
8) Make it yourself
The homemade movement is making a comeback, which is good news for waste-free living. But if making macrame wall hangings isn't your thing, experiment with home-prepped body lotions, face masks, tooth powder and natural cleaning products. The options are endless.
9) Make memories, not more waste
If you're wondering how to live waste-free, buy gifts that are experience based. You can help an African village by donating money for a goat, make a red velvet cake to bring to a party, treat someone you love to a hot air balloon ride, volunteer as a holiday or take a long walk in nature. Just stay out of the shops.
10) Upcycle your favourite sunglasses
It's a sad fact that when sunglasses get damaged or broken, they usually end up in the bin. An incredible waste-free living alternative is to replace your scratched or damaged lenses so they’re as good as new. Sunglass Fix allows you to replace your old lenses with little effort and at a fraction of the cost to getting a new pair. Whether you’re looking for a new fashion statement or need to replace your scratched lenses, there’s always a way to reuse or upcycle.
Read our sustainable fashion shopping guide.