Got Zero-Waste Lifestyle Goals? Here are 3 Easy Places to Start
Posted on November 14 2019
I am a minimalist. I've been one for years.
My husband and I have spent months at a time living with nothing but a carry-on bag of possessions each, with nothing else at "home" or in storage. We currently live and work in a studio apartment, and absolutely love it. We walk or take public transit everywhere (we don't own a car), buy our fresh produce and other groceries within a couple of blocks of our home, and keep things very pared down.
Living simply frees up time, energy, and mind space for other pursuits. Bonus: it often feels gloriously decadent in surprising ways, like having the extra money and time to treat ourselves to daily walks in the park, leisurely coffee breaks, weekend outings, or long, slow trips.
It makes me happy to see that more people are committing to reducing their personal consumption and working toward a more sustainable or zero-waste lifestyle. We love hearing that going plastic-free or choosing environmentally-friendly products is gaining ground and even becoming a top trend on social media as a resolution for 2020.
Simplifying your life doesn't have to seem less satisfying. Making intentional choices and being mindful about your purchases can be very fulfilling. In fact, going greener can feel downright luxurious.
The key? Focus on buying fewer things of higher quality that are made sustainably. Instead of feeling like you're doing without, you'll notice the improved texture, sturdiness, and appearance of the environmentally-friendly products that you use every day, and won't have to replace them as often.
The plan: Start with your everyday consumables. Look in every room of your home. Consider what you can do without, and what you can replace with a more sustainable alternative.
First stop: your kitchen.
Recycle or reuse whatever you can. Look inside your cupboards, your utensil drawers, and your pantry. Do you have items you rarely or never use? Donate them! Swap your paper towels and napkins for absorbent cloth items (there are so many great options now!) Buy your spices and other dry goods in bulk, and store them in glass jars or other reusable containers. Of course, we like using reusable glass straws for all our hot and cold drinks. They add a little luxury to every sip, and they even protect our teeth from stains, enamel loss (that lemon water!) and the discomfort of tooth sensitivity. Bonus: take some with you to use at work or on the go! Also: take your lunch to work in a reusable container. You'll cut down on a whole lot of disposable to-go packaging and probably eat better, too.
Next up: your bathroom.
Buy the toilet paper that is best for the planet. Use a mix of coconut oil, baking soda, and a few drops of peppermint oil as a replacement for toothpaste (and all those tubes!) Switch to a bamboo toothbrush. Buy good-quality organic cotton towels. Switch to buying shampoo in bulk in your reusable container, or at least reduce the number of plastic bottles in your shower and on your counter top. Make your own face masks and hair conditioner (it's fun, cheap, and smells delicious.) Read labels, and choose facial cleansers and laundry detergent that is safe for the environment.
Here we are: your bedroom.
Do a whole closet excavation (or start with one drawer), and donate what you rarely or never wear. Having fewer options will help you see what you wear the most, and what might be a good item to consider investing in higher quality in the future. Look at your shoes, bags, and other accessories. Give away or sell the things you don't need, and keep your space as organized and spare as possible. Once you have things whittled down, it's easy to recognize when you are buying for the sake of, well, something that seems cute right now rather than something you truly need and will wear or use often.
Once you've spent time really looking at how you use the items in these three rooms, you'll look at your other living spaces with new eyes. Often, the most ecological choices are simple and beautiful.
Whether you start with a bamboo toothbrush or transform your entire home and habits, taking steps to become more earth-aware matters.
Let 2020 be the year you get clear about living better, smarter, and in ultimately more fulfilling ways.
Want an easy first step? Start with reusable straws! (Sharing them with others is a great way to start the conversation about reducing waste.)