From cloth diapers to Bite Bags, creating high functioning products that help your family reduce waste is our favorite thing! That’s why we are thrilled to welcome Ali from the Tiny Waste blog. She is here to share all about how you can get started on your way to zero waste as well!
In 2020, my husband and I hiked the Appalachian Trail, a 2,000 mile footpath from Georgia to Maine. We lived in the woods for five months and carried everything on our backs, including our garbage. Walking 10-20 miles a day gave me ample time to ponder all of life's biggest questions. But what I really fixated on was how much I hated carrying my trash. I was sure that my backpack would feel significantly lighter and I would feel worlds better without that half a pound of waste.
Eventually, I started listening to audiobooks about the zero waste lifestyle. This ultimately led to books about the environment and plastic’s negative effect on it. After spending day and night outdoors, I got a little obsessed with the idea that this landscape might not exist as we know it by the time my children grow up. Needless to say, that drove me to make some changes.
When we got back home, I was eager to maintain the minimalist lifestyle we had settled into. I found there were some major differences between trail life and real life. I thought that, much like crash-dieting, going zero waste overnight was overwhelming and unrealistic. Instead, we opted to make gradual changes by addressing one issue every week. I called it my Tiny Waste resolution.
Over the course of the year, we shifted towards plastic-free products and transitioned from single use items to reusable ones. By the end of 2021, we went from disposing an average of three full garbage bags every week to one bag every month. And we are still finding ways to cut back. Although, everything looks a little different these days with an infant in tow!
I am often approached by people who are looking for advice on how to start towards zero waste. Here are the three steps I recommend taking first:
Look for zero waste packaging
When I conducted my first trash audit, I noticed that my biggest landfill contribution came from packaging, mostly plastic, which has limited recyclability and can take hundreds of years to break down in a landfill. Now, I opt for products that come in paper, infinitely recyclable glass or metal, or even better, no packaging at all. For example, at the grocery store I purchase loose produce and eggs in paperboard instead of styrofoam. I also look for shops that let me fill my own containers.
Ditch disposable cups and bottles
Worldwide, billions of plastic bottles and disposable cups, which are lined with plastic, are sent to landfills every year. I know I used to go through countless water bottles and coffee cups every day. Now, I keep a water bottle and thermos that can be rinsed and refilled repeatedly.
Get a handle on food waste
Wasted food means wasting all of the valuable resources it took to produce and transport it. Not to mention, food that ends up in a landfill produces methane, a greenhouse gas 86% more powerful than carbon monoxide in terms of global warming potential. One way we’ve cut back on food waste in my home is by planning our meals a week in advance, so that we only buy groceries that we know we’ll eat. We also make a point to include leftovers on the menu, so nothing goes uneaten. In addition, we’ve set up compost bins to keep any remaining food scraps out of the landfill.
It’s important to remember that sustainability looks different for everyone and living a low-waste lifestyle is one of many ways to take care of the planet. Progress is more important than zero waste perfection!
About the Author
Ali Hall is a new mom working towards a zero waste lifestyle and sharing information through her blog and social media along the way.