Every time I’ve seen a landfill, it’s been in a movie or in a foreign country. Though I’m surrounded by garbage cans in the U.S., I am insulated from the effects of all the trash that my affluent community regularly creates. But when I look at trash cans overfilled with single use containers, I can’t help but think of the landfills we have somewhere, the trash we send overseas, and the trash littering otherwise pristine natural habitats. That’s why when I heard of the zero waste movement, I felt it was the right lifestyle for me. Zero wasters try to create as little trash as possible. Changing your lifestyle to zero waste is a gradual process that’s taken me years. Here’s a look at a zero waste day in my life.
[This post contains affiliate links just to illustrate some of the products I use. I may get a small commission if you make a purchase through one of these links but I’m only recommending items that I personally know and use].
Morning in a Zero Waste Day
The first habit I do in the morning is brush my teeth with my homemade toothpaste – coconut oil, baking soda, and peppermint oil. No cavities in 10 years, and my dentist always compliments my brushing every six months. Then, if I’m going into the office, I have to pack everything up to bike to work. It’s an easy 5 mile ride in. You’ll probably think this is gross, but I don’t sweat much, and the in-office gym is too expensive for how often I go into work (4 times a month). I rely on strategic use of hand sanitizer and dry shampoo to be respectable.
My work wardrobe consists of clothes I’ve had for a decade or secondhand threads. Even when I lost a dress size during the pandemic, rather than buying a whole new wardrobe, which would have cost a fortune, I tailored all my clothes down a size. And then I bought a few new pieces from the ThredUp app. The fashion industry creates so much waste, and we have plenty of clothes circulating in the world.
I don’t eat breakfast and I don’t do anything to my face – no cleanser, serum, moisturizer. It saves time, money, and waste. Sometimes I do shave off the peach fuzz with a safety razor. Plastic razors are so expensive! This one is cheap, lasts forever, feels super cool, and the metal is forever recyclable.
At-Work Zero Waste Work Day
At work, I have my reusable coffee mug, cloth napkins, microfiber cloth, a collapsible cup and bowl, and silverware. The coffee mug is so I can get coffee from the cafeteria without throwing away a single use cup. I drink my coffee black, so I don’t have to deal with single-serving sugar packets or plastic cream caps. I use the cloth napkins to wipe my hands after using the bathroom or to blow my nose or to use as a napkin.
The microfiber cloth cleans my glasses instead of reusable eyeglass wipes. The collapsible cup is for water and the collapsible bowl is to use to get food from the cafeteria. Every day in the office, I’m saving at least 2 paper cups, several paper towels and tissues, a styrofoam to-go container, and plastic cutlery.
Zero Waste Evening
When work is done, I bike home. If I need to, I can bike for some errands. I live in a walkable community and can access a grocery store or library easily by bike.
Often I go to the gym across the street from my apartment building. I like to go to a walkable gym because the farther away the gym, the less likely I’m going to go. Because I swim, I always shower in the gym, and partake of the gym’s toiletries. Otherwise, I’d be at the mercy of tiny travel personal items.
Zero Waste Food
Food is a great way to start doing zero waste at home. I cook most of my meals at home. I tried doing one of those home delivery food service, but they make too much waste. Any non-meat food waste is placed in a a large container that used to hold coconut oil, placed in a compostable bag. Don’t waste your money on an expensive tiny compost bin! Just reuse a container you have. My county has compost drop-off and so does Whole Foods Market and Mom’s Organic Market.
When I shop for food, I try to find what I can buy with the last packaging. And of course, I cart everything home in my backpack or a reusable bag. There’s no need to use a plastic bag for a few seconds and then have that bag live forever in a landfill!
In my kitchen, I’ve banished paper towels in favor of tea towels. I have one similar to these towels with helpful kitchen equivalents and shortcuts printed on them. They’re my favorite.
If I was going to do it all over again, I would have gotten bamboo kitchen utensils. Bamboo is renewable and biodegradeable. Whenever I need to replace something, I try to do it secondhand or with bamboo. For example, these bamboo dish brushes are an excellent replacement for sponges.
At night, I have zero waste activities like reading, or playing the piano or guitar. Or blogging or watching TV. I know it seems like I’m Amish but I obviously use electricity and spend way too much time on screens.
Zero Waste Waste
Even following all these little steps still creates a fair amount of waste. And part of being zero waste is caring about the end destination of your stuff. Reducing waste by reusing is step one. Finding a good home, or at least, a non-landfill home, for your stuff is step two. Recycling is the last step.
If I have brand new or gently used kitchen/home stuff I want to donate, I give it to an organization that helps resettle refugees. This way, I know the item goes where it’s needed. Otherwise, I list it on Craigslist or Freecycle.
For recycling, I go to Mom’s Organic Market, which recycles shoes, corks, Christmas lights – you name it. Nordstrom recycles beauty packaging. I’m hoping that soon, there will be better places to put our refuse than in the bin.
Conclusion How I Do a Zero Waste Day
I’m not saving the world here but I think it’s a cheaper, easier lifestyle, and I think it makes a little bit of difference. If enough people made small changes, it would move the needle a little bit without much sacrifice.