Living a zero-waste or low waste lifestyle is a lot easier than you might think and, in most cases, requires little to no effort. At times, the zero-waste movement alludes you to think that being sustainable requires buying a new product that’s often expensive and inaccessible to tha masses but that’s simply not the case. There are types of waste that are impossible to avoid due to the way things are manufactured or produced and there are other types of waste that can be avoided through foresight and a bit of planning.
If you’re new to the low-waste lifestyle, chances are things might seem a bit intimidating or confusing to start. You might be wondering of what changes to adopt, how to be a more environmentally aware consumer, and if tidying up the Marie Kondo way will spark more joy in your life. My advice to anyone beginning their conscious living journey is to start where you are and find ways to reduce your personal waste that won’t disrupt the normal flow of your daily life too drastically. When it comes to being a less wasteful a little bit goes a long way and all you have to do is to take stock and notice your own lifestyle choices and habits. As you get comfortable making small changes, it will broaden your interest and help you notice other areas that can change.
For today’s post, I want to share with you 5 simple ways to reduce plastic waste and help you take notice of your consumption on a regular basis. These simple tips will help you think of new ways to avoid unnecessary waste and serve as a starting point in your conscious living journey.
5 beginner-friendly tips to reducing plastic waste
1. Choose non-pre-packaged produce
Buying non-packaged produce has a multitude of benefits outside of the fact that it reduces plastic waste. Most of the cost associated with pre-packaged produce comes from the packaging so non-pre-packaged vegetables is a cost-effective and cheaper option. When purchasing non-prepackaged produce, putting them in plastic bags is also a step you can omit. Some vegetables such as potatoes, onions, garlic, avocados, are already naturally protected and often don’t require the use of plastic bags. Other veggies that are easily bruised such as tomatoes or lettuce can be stored in a cloth produce bag or placed in a safe area in your shopping cart. To take it a step further, consider buying locally and shopping at your community farmers market to support farms in your area. Produce at farmers markets are already non-packaged so not only will you be doing the environment a favor, but you’re also supporting small businesses as well.
2. Use reusable bags over single-use plastic bags
One of my many reasons for advocating for reusable bags is that it helps me carry groceries in one trip while being environmentally conscious. But all jokes aside choosing to use reusable bags is an easy alternative to cut down on plastic waste. The average grocery bag is used for less than 15 minutes and annually 500 billion plastic bags are used worldwide. Reusable bags can be used multiple times for various reasons, and they are a more durable and sustainable option. The best part is that any bag you have will do the trick. Check out this easy guide to help you chose the eco-friendliest reusable bag.
3. Opt to dine-in vs. takeout
Without a doubt, choosing to eat at home and making your own meals is a guaranteed way to reduce plastic waste that’s associated with dining out. However, life doesn’t always allow for the time nor will power to cook every meal which is understandable. In times like these, opt for dining at your favorite restaurant instead of ordering takeout. When you order food to go, more often than none, your food is stored in a plastic or Styrofoam container that’s often-non-reusable. Choosing to dine in cuts down on excess waste from the packaging and often time allows the business to properly dispose of their single-use items. By opting to dine in you support restaurants to stay open for business due to traffic consistently coming through their doors. Some restaurants have made the switch to compostable food containers but that’s currently isn’t the norm. So do yourself and the environment a favor and opt for a dine-in experience. It’ll great for your mental health to be around others and the opportunity to get out of the house for a change.
4. Carry your own beverage container
Carrying a reusable bottle with you whether it’s a durable plastic bottle, aluminum or glass – reduces the likelihood of buying bottled beverages and gives you a container to reuse continuously. For coffee drinkers on the go, a reusable cup cuts down on plastic waste since coffee cups are non-recyclable (I’ve heard great things about KeepCup). Bottled water and other to-go beverage containers are often recycled improperly which adds to the issue of rising plastics in our oceans. Bringing your own container along with you keeps these types of plastics out of our waterways and reduces pollution caused by bottled water and other types of disposable beverages.
5. Say no to single-use disposable items
I will admit, getting into the habit of refusing single-use disposable items will take some time to get adjusted to. It’s the norm in western society to use a plastic straw and other disposable utensils when eating out or in social gatherings. The important thing to note is to be prepared for situations like these by making sure you have alternatives on hand. For starters, say no to plastic straws. If you’re not comfortable drinking straight from the glass of a restaurant, why dine there? Plastic straws are the easiest single-use item to refuse especially if there is no medical condition that requires their use. There are alternative to plastic straws available if it’s something you deem essential. You can also carry with you your own utensils from home (something I recently started doing) or invest in a travel-size utensil kit. As for single-use plastic bags, make sure reusable bags are available for use by stashing some away in your car, backpack or desk drawer at work or locker. Chose items packaged in paper or cardboard rather than plastic since the paper is easily recyclable.
These are just a few easy to do lifestyle changes to familiarize yourself with. The goal isn’t to be perfect, but be conscious about the decisions you make that have long-lasting consequences. Once you get the hang of things, continue to notice your habits and find areas that need attention.
What are some of your own beginner-friendly tips that’s helped you transition into a low-waste lifestyle and what hurdles you’ve experienced along the way? Let us know in the comments!