These are some simple tips for how to reduce your environmental impact in your everyday life. “Zero Waste” is a buzz topic these days, brought to popularity by blogger Bea Johnson of Zero Waste Home, but might not be a realistic goal. So let’s start with a few ideas to help drastically reduce everyday waste.
  1. Simplify: don’t buy it (or take it) if you don’t need it.

    Note: If you need it – try to buy it secondhand. If that’s not possible, opt for minimal or non-plastic packaging, choose local, organic, etc if possible. Some questions to guide you if you’re unsure:

    • Is it a duplicate? Do I already have enough to last me for a while?
    • Does it serve the same purpose as something I already have?
    • Can I fix what I have instead of replacing it?
    • Do I need it right now or can I wait and decide later?
    • Can I borrow or rent it instead of buying it?
    • Am I buying/taking this just because it’s cheap or free?
  2. Decline single-use disposable items

    Practice these phrases:

    • “I’ll have a coffee in this cup, please” *hand the barista your reusable coffee cup*
    • “I’ll have a soda with no straw, please”
    • Would you like a to-go box? “No thanks, I brought a container!”
    • Paper or plastic? “Neither. Here’s my own bag!”
    • “The PLU code for the bulk trail mix is 12345 and the tare weight of my container is .12 lbs”
  3. Be prepared: bring your own reusable alternatives! 

    Here’s my typical zero-waste kit:

    • A reusable grocery bag
    • A reusable water bottle/cup (I like to use one that can double as a coffee or other beverage cup, but you could opt to carry two separate cups)
    • A set of utensils  – for me it’s a fork, knife, spoon, straw, and sometimes chopsticks
    • A cloth napkin
    • A handkerchief
    • A food container
    • A small drawstring bag
  4. Eat mostly plants

    Fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, spices, herbs – these are the easiest things to find unpackaged at the grocery store, and they also happen to be the healthiest, and the lowest on the food chain (as opposed to animals or animal byproducts), which means they use less resources to produce. Even if you’re buying food in packaging, reducing the consumption of animal products means a lot less waste in production of your food!

  5. Follow the 5 R’s of zero waste (in this order!):

    Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rot  This is covers just about everything I’ve talked about above and more, in one easy-to-remember list.The 5 R’s are an adaptation of the usual “reduce, reuse, recycle” to include Refuse, to keep unnecessary things out of the picture entirely, and Rot, aka compost, to properly dispose of organic waste. This list was created by the founder of the zero waste movement, Bea Johnson. For more details, check out this post about the 5 R’s of Zero Waste by zero waste blogger, Shia Su (also known as Wasteland Rebel).