5 Steps to Zero Waste You Can Start NOW

(that are Totally FREE)


I put together a short list.

There is NO way I would have started going Zero Waste with a list of 27, or 38, or 42 “Steps to Going Zero Waste.” I started with one. Reusing some bad Monkey Bread. And it didn’t even really work out.

So, I made this list manageable.

I also made it so we can stop thinking that to go Zero Waste, one has to go out and buy stuff.

These Zero Waste habits can be started today and won’t cost you a dime. No Amazon, no great alterations to your life. And you can easily incorporate (dare I say, indoctrinate?) the kids into most of these efforts (as opposed to, say, shopping with reusable containers).

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1. Go through your house and find stuff.

No need to leave the house to start going Zero Waste. There is a good chance you already have a bunch of stuff lying around to help get you started.

I bet you come across a reusable bag you can use for groceries. Or maybe some old jars you can use for spices. And somewhere, buried or shoved, must be a plastic, reusable coffee cup.

You probably have more than you realize: coffee cups, shopping bags, mailing boxes.

The goal here is to become aware of what you own in hopes of keeping you from buying something new. (read more)

Also take note of any consumables in your home, because the next step is to…

2. Use up the stuff in your home.

This is where you make a concerted effort to use up anything in your house that has been sitting around. I’m thinking tea bags, canned food, old BIC pens, your hotel shampoo collection.

Because, here’s the deal: once you start getting into Zero Waste, you might want to go all in.

So if you decide to stop using commercial shampoo, for example, you aren’t going to want to use your leftover shampoo, lest you undo all that effort (and it is, btw, a bit of effort). So, use it up NOW, and THEN you can go stock up on baking soda and apple cider vinegar.

If you want to try refillable ink pens or choose to go paperless, what are you going to do with all those pens BIC medium, blue ink pens?

See where I’m going with this?
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3. Learn What you can recycle locally.

You might think you know how to recycle, but take the time to really make sure.

Can you recycle half-gallon milk jugs?

How about spent Christmas tree lights?

Or bubble wrap (AFTER the kids have popped it all, of course)?

In this century alone I’ve lived in seven states and two countries and I’m starting to think there are as many variations in local recycling regulations as there are types of IPA:

Separated, no glass, plastics #1-#2

Single-stream, no glass, plastics #1-#7

Glass, but separated, single-stream paper and #1-#7 plastics

And so on.
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4. Stop junk mail.

It’s relentless, I know. But consider that these solicitors are wasting YOUR time in an attempt to take YOUR money, as well as wasting YOUR planet’s resources and maybe you’ll develop a personal vendetta against them like I have.
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5. Stop using plastic produce bags.

Don’t even think about it.

If there was ONE lifestyle change on this list I wanted you to adapt, it would be this.



Remember those bags you found in Step 1(link)? Use those to corral your oranges, or apples, or broccoli crowns instead of automatically reaching for a produce bag. It’s not a hard habit to break…but it does take a few minutes of introspection, which is nearly IMpossible when you are schlepping children around a grocery store!

*HINT: to make it easier on the checkout dude/chick, I always buy the same kind of orange, apple, onion, etc., so when they get a bag of random produce they aren’t overwhelmed. “Those oranges are all navel,” or “I got five lemons,” will do the trick.

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Okay, I have more than five steps.  Here are three freebies:

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BONUS. Stay out of the stores.

Nobody gets in without
one of these cards.

Easiest way to stop buying stuff. Just stop, stop, stop, take a step back, and stop.



We are habitual consumers, Americans especially, meaning we are in the habit of buying things. We buy things without thinking about it anymore than we do brushing our teeth.

Seriously, when you go to the grocery store today, see how far you get, see how much stuff makes it into your cart before you have realized you are bringing these things into your life.

If you have a Target problem, try Target vouchers.

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BONUS. Stop using Straws.

I like this one because not only is it simple (no instruction required), but it’s an exercise in habit formation. If you can reprogram yourself to stop using straws, think of the other knee-jerk reactions you can alter (Facebook checking and chocolate-binging being the top two that come to mind for me).
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BONUS. Trim your toenails. Save your socks.

I’m totally serious. No one likes to see their flesh suddenly pop through their sock at 6:45 am. Keep those big piggies trimmed and see if it doesn’t help your socks last longer.

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That’s it. If you checkout the BLOG link up top, I have a ton more ideas that are FREE, some that require more effort (like making sauerkraut or recycling crayons), some that don’t (like water your plants).