Trash is the worst! Recycling is better, but reducing waste is the best. And it’s crucial for the future of our children and the planet.
When our family committed to living “zero waste,” it became obvious that achieving absolute zero is unrealistic. So we call it “Near-O Waste,” because getting near zero is entirely possible. You can make a big difference with these small ideas. Three, two, one, Near-O!
1. Remember your bags.
They’re not just for groceries. Bring a reusable bag when you’re buying clothes or picking up take-out. Use smaller cloth bags for produce like lemons, apples, and spinach. Avoid prepackaged fruits and veggies.
2. Invest in a stainless steel or glass water bottle.
Fill it before you leave the house and never buy bottled again. Replenish your supply at public water dispensers or keep a dispenser in your trunk for on-the-go refills. “Wide mouth” bottles can also be used for smoothies at juice and smoothie shops.
3. Bring your own mug to the coffee shop.
Disposable coffee cups are lined with polyethylene plastic and cannot be recycled. Fifty billion end up in American landfills each year. It’s easy to bring your own. Wash it when you get home and put it by the door for the next day. If you’re prone to forgetting, keep a backup mug in an easily accessible place.
4. Fill your own jars in the bulk aisle.
You can buy jars for this purpose or use some that you already have. For each jar; put a piece of masking tape on the lid, get the tare weight at the register, fill ‘er up, write down the item code, and proceed as normal.
5. Carry a cloth napkin in your purse or pocket.
Use it during meals and for hand-drying when you’re out and about.
6. Pack lunches in reusable containers.
Skip the Ziplock bags and plastic wrap. Use small containers (preferably metal or glass) for lunches. Limit packaged snacks and boxed beverages. Use larger lidded containers for leftovers, or put them in a bowl with a plate on top.
7. Say goodbye to paper towels, wipes, sponges, and Kleenex.
Instead of paper towels, use moistened cloth napkins for hands, tabletops, and counters. Rinse and hang to dry for additional uses. Instead of wipes, cut your oldest bath towel into a set of cleaning rags. Use them with baking soda and vinegar or another non-toxic cleaner. Instead of sponges, use washcloths. Wring them out and hang to dry between uses. Instead of Kleenex, cut an old T-shirt into a set of good-old-fashioned hankies.
8. Avoid plastic.
If you do buy packaging, choose cardboard, glass or metal. Plastic leeches chemicals, pollutes groundwater, and loses quality as it’s “downcycled.” Paper can be recycled several times before requiring new fibers, but glass and metal can be recycled indefinitely.
9. Make something from scratch that you’d normally buy in a package.
In the kitchen, try my seven-minute salsa: Combine 5 tomatoes, 3 jalapeños, and 1/3 of an onion, all roughly chopped. Add one bunch of cilantro, the juice of one lime, and salt. Immersion blend until smooth (and remember to buy the produce in cloth bags!). In the bathroom, try toothpaste: Combine 6 tablespoons coconut oil (purchased in bulk or a glass jar), 3 tablespoons baking soda (purchased in bulk or a cardboard box), and 1 teaspoon peppermint flavoring (no sugar, found in the baking aisle). Dispense with a reusable pastry bag with and an icing tip.
10. Buy fresh bread at a local bakery.
Have the loaves put directly into your cloth bag or clean pillow case. If you prefer your bread in liquid form, fill a growler at your local brewery instead of buying beer in bottles or cans.
However you chose to begin, make it a habit, not a hassle. Cheers to Near-O Waste!