How to Start a Zero Waste Lifestyle

Does your heart break for the environment, seeing all the waste on land and in the ocean? Do you want to do something about it but feel like your individual contribution would be too small? But do not take this to heart, no contribution is too small, especially if more and more individuals move towards a zero-waste lifestyle like you want to do. In taking small steps to minimize the waste we produce, you can help reduce landfill waste in your lifetime.

Choosing a zero-waste lifestyle might seem impossible today, especially in our convenient, contemporary times – but you can take baby steps to achieve it sometime in the future.

Here’s how you can start a zero-waste lifestyle.

1. Establish your reason.

Why do you want to start a zero-waste lifestyle? Are you tired of spending $5 on a latte every day, and you’re guilty about throwing a disposable cup of coffee every morning? Are you a surfer who hates seeing plastic get washed up on the beach? Are you living on the coast, and you’ve seen plastic and trash in the belly of your freshly caught fish? Have you experienced a health issue after using a beauty or skincare product containing toxins? Are you concerned about global warming and climate change, getting you worried about the future of your kids?

Establish your “why” so you can always come back to it whenever you feel lazy and uncommitted to the change you want to start. Setting a good reason behind your motive for a zero-waste lifestyle will get you doing it consistently until you make a huge difference. 

Setting up your ‘why’ is important because not only does it help you, it helps others as well. When people ask you why you follow such a lifestyle, you can confidently answer them and spread this good message. Additionally, it also personalizes this goal and makes it a mission that you just have to achieve.

2. Check your lifestyle and prioritize.

Plastic free set with eco cotton bag, glass jar, green leaves and recycled tableware top view. Zero waste, eco friendly concept. Flat lay.
Plastic free set with eco cotton bag, glass jar, green leaves and recycled tableware top view. Zero waste, eco friendly concept. Flat lay style.

Maybe you realized that you throw away a lot of trash because of your to-go coffee every morning and takeout on weekdays. You may start by brewing your coffee at home, putting it in a thermos to go, meal prepping, and packing your lunch in reusable lunch boxes.

Maybe you’re a beauty product junkie, and you’ve been throwing away tons of lotion, shampoo, soap bottles, and expired makeup. Check if you really need one before you buy one because most probably, you have a lipstick or a body wash sitting on your stash, unused and underutilized.

Focusing on one area of your life at a time and making amends can make going zero waste so much easier. 

A good practice is to go through your everyday tasks and figure out a way that you can reduce the waste that you create. This exercise can help you figure out exactly where you should improve upon. After you have identified the waste you create, figure out in what way you can minimize it. Be sure to make the changes gradual. You don’t want to overwhelm yourself. 

3. Switch from disposables to reusables.

Plastic free set with cotton bag, glass jar and recycled tableware top view. Zero waste, eco friendly concept.
Plastic free set with cotton bag, glass jar and recycled tableware top view. Zero waste, eco friendly concept with copy space.

Take a look at your trash and note down what you throw out after a single-use. The most common culprits include plastic water bottles, plastic utensils, and paper boxes from takeouts. Where you can, replace the stuff, you use once with reusable items.

Always opt for reusable shopping bags instead of plastic bags. Use glass jars more often and get a reusable water bottle instead of buying plastic every time. Buy an insulated coffee mug and fill it at home with your coffee instead of buying coffee every morning. Switch from paper towels to cloth towels. If you like drinking with a straw, switch to reusable metal ones instead of using plastic. If you have a baby at home, a bulk of your trash includes disposable diapers, so consider switching to cloth diapers. For every disposable thing out there, you can generally find a sustainable, reusable alternative.

4. Pay attention to materials.

Take a look at what your products are made from and packaged in before buying. Generally, try to buy items that are made of stainless steel, glass, or wood. For example, instead of a plastic fish sponge, get a wooden brush that you can compost at the end. Instead of using plastic dental floss, get a silk one packaged in a refillable glass container. 

Use a bamboo toothbrush instead of a plastic toothbrush. Get wooden kitchen utensils instead of plastic ones. These can help you lessen plastic waste that usually ends up in landfills. Natural materials can also be composted easily once they are all used up and ready to be disposed of. As a bonus, these items tend to look prettier in the home than their plastic counterparts!

5. Plan your meals.

When you plan your meals, you can shop smartly and reduce your waste. When you know what you will be making, you will know exactly what to buy and avoid excess produce that may go to waste before consuming them. It will also encourage you to cook at home and avoid too much takeout that brings in more waste.

Planning your meals also allows you to make note of what you eat and what changes you can bring to your lifestyle to ensure that no food goes to waste. It is common knowledge that food is the biggest source of waste so reducing food waste should be our priority. 

6. Buy in bulk.


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A post shared by Bea Johnson (@zerowastehome)

Buying in bulk is another great way to reduce waste at home. You don’t only save the environment, but your wallet, too. Small items in small packaging accumulate, increasing the amount of waste you throw away.

Today, there are a lot of food stores and markets selling food in bulk, especially nuts, dried fruits, cereals, rice, beans, spices, and more. So instead of buying cookies, snacks, and candies that are packed in single-serve plastic containers, buy them in bulk and pack them in reusable snack boxes for your kids to bring at school.

There are even supermarkets that offer stations to refill soap, shampoo, and other toiletry items. They usually won’t mind if you bring your own jars, boxes, and containers. So, carry your reusable containers when you go shopping the next time.

7. Compost as much as possible.

Compost what you can and when you can. Food scraps and paper are some items that you can compost at home. If you have a backyard, composting is a lot feasible, but if you have no space – it’s still possible. You can get an indoor composting system or a compost bucket. Things such as paper towels, toilet paper, floor sweepings, nail clippings, human and dog hair, dryer lint, pizza boxes, paper butter wrappers, cotton balls can be composted as well. It will dramatically cut down your landfill waste and help you become more aware of what you throw away.

8. Consume less.

If you don’t need an item, don’t buy it. For example, before buying new clothes, think if you have clothes you rarely wear in your closet. Before you buy a new bottle of lotion, see if you have underutilized bottles in your vanity drawer. Make sure that you really need an item before you buy it.

If you take a look at your home, you probably have many things you don’t need and can do without. The fewer things you consume, the less waste you will have.

9. Repair your things before considering buying new.

Don’t just throw out stuff because they are broken. Repair them when the damage is repairable to avoid extra waste. Got a phone, a fan, or a lamp that won’t work? Check if it can be fixed before buying another one and throwing the old ones in the trash.

10. Buy products without packaging or at least with recyclable packaging.

When shopping, look for eco-conscious products that come in zero-waste containers, such as reusable jars, reusable containers, or recyclable cardboard boxes. Buy your fruits and vegetables loose in markets, not from grocery stores that put too much packaging on the produce. Carry reusable shopping bags and mesh bags for your fresh goods. Consider switching to a shampoo bar instead of using liquid shampoo in bottles. 

11. Go paperless with bills.

This is one great way to start living zero-waste. Cancel all your bills that go to the mail and choose the online option instead. Do the same thing with your bank statements. Going paperless can help save paper and the environment in the long run.

12. Go digital.

We are already in the digital era, but still, we use too much paper. Instead of using paper to communicate with your colleagues, use email instead. Take digital notes instead of using a notepad. If it’s not necessary, don’t print – just use your phone or laptop for viewing or reading documents.

Instead of using USB memory sticks and external hard drives that cannot be recycled, save your files in a cloud online. The cloud has zero waste, and it’s free to use in most cases. Dropbox, Google Drive, and iCloud have good file storage and sharing services.

13. Invest in high quality.

When buying items like furniture, gadgets, appliances, and fashion items, choose high quality instead of getting a good deal. High-quality items are built to last and do not need to be replaced every few years. Deals that are too good to be true will often cost you more in the long run and create more waste that you need to dispose of.

 FAQs: How to start a zero-waste lifestyle


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A post shared by Bea Johnson (@zerowastehome)

1. Can you live a zero-waste lifestyle?

Practically, it is impossible to create no waste at all however, you can ensure that you create minimal waste. There are many ways that you can reduce, reuse and recycle everyday things. Such small steps help you towards creating a lifestyle that shuns excess waste. 

2. How much waste does a human produce per day?

This is a common question yet the answer will shock you. It is estimated that a person on average creates around 4.5 pounds of trash per day. To top it all off, this waste didn’t have to be waste and could have easily been used again or recycled. Statistics like these really put into perspective how much change even a single person could bring.

3. What is the largest component in our garbage?

The largest component in our garbage by far is food. Food comprises a total of 24 percent of the waste that gets dumped into landfills. Plastic is not too far behind at 18 percent. Paper and paperboard make up about 12 percent and you can find around 11 percent textiles too. 

4. Is it difficult to recycle plastic?

Yes, it is fairly difficult to recycle plastic due to the fact that we do not have sufficient knowledge. Plastics exist in many different forms and in everyday plastic, a mixture of them are used together. Due to the complex nature of plastic, no one kind of recycling method works on this amalgamation. 

5. What are the top 3 steps to living a zero-waste lifestyle?

The three steps to living a zero-waste lifestyle include:

  1. Reducing consumption and being mindful of what you purchase
  2. Prioritizing the 5 Rs that are Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rot
  3. Set goals as it takes a long to change behaviors and build habits. 


Change takes longer than one expects. However, some changes are necessary not only for you but also for the environment. Living a zero-waste lifestyle can be seen as something challenging and out of your comfort zone but be assured that when you get into the habit of it, it will feel so rewarding. 

The best part is, you will see the difference right in front of your eyes. The planet might not change overnight but things will get easier for you. There will be less trash, there will be more healthy food in the fridge. You will feel yourself performing better as cutting out wasteful items will surely free up space in your mind and your environment. 

There is literally no reason as to why you shouldn’t go waste-free and start a zero-waste lifestyle.