If you all remember, I was pretty gung-ho about becoming zero-waste in 2016, and even took several steps in making my kitchen get close to zero-waste.
The last year however, hasn’t been as smooth. Between home renovations and pregnancy, it’s been a lot of styrofoam, giant boxes, take out, and paper plates over here. I definitely feel ready to make a turning point in reducing my waste again.
Even with everything going on, there were a few waste-reduction things that I’d already implemented and was able to stick to pretty seamlessly throughout the last few months. Here are the 8 easiest things you can do to reduce the waste in your home:
1. Start bringing tote bags to the grocery store...and every other store for that matter
Who else has a million of those free tote bags but forgets them every time they go grocery shopping?? I combat this by leaving a batch in my pantry, and some in my car so I never forget them. Resist the idea that you’ll look weird and bring them to other stores where you don’t want to grab a million of those pesky bags. I’ve found this gets a bit trickier because cashiers in retail stores aren’t used to them and LOVE to still give you a plastic bag, but most of the time I’m able to avert it!.
2. Get some reusable produce bags
This has so far been my all time favorite waste-reducer. I LOATHE those plastic produce bags at the grocery store. Not only are they wasteful, but they make the produce go bad quicker. Instead, I use these mesh bags and toss them in the wash once they get dirty.
3. Start a compost bin
This seems really difficult, but I promise composting is the easiest thing! I do it the lazy way - I drilled ~20 large holes in two plastic trash cans with lids and keep them by my regular outdoor trashcan. I place all my food scraps in them and layer those with yard waste (think leaves, sticks, dirt). Then I let one bin sit for 9 months to a year while I fill the second bin, occasionally turning the compost inside. This has reduced our waste greatly, and it’s super cool to watch your trash turn into usable compost.
4. Swap your kitchen trash can with your recycling bin
After we started composting, I found that most of our trash was actually recyclable, but we were still throwing it in the kitchen trash because we’d run out of room in our teeny recycling container. I ended up swapping out kitchen trash and recycling bins, and problem solved! Now our recycling goes in our big shiny silver can and trash goes in a smaller can under the sink.
5. Use vinegar and baking soda to clean
I made the switch to cleaning with vinegar and baking soda a few years ago and haven’t missed traditional products at all. I keep my vinegar in a pretty amber glass spray bottle to easily use on countertops and in the bathroom. One note to make is that vinegar and baking soda do not kill off harmful bacteria, so I do keep a bottle of certified disinfectant handy (I like the Seventh Generation brand since bleach is so harmful) to use in cases where meat or eggs may have gotten in the kitchen, or to clean up when someone has the flu.
6. Combine products where you can (coconut oil, dr. bonners)
Everyone loves to save money - so why not combine products where you can? We swapped in Dr. Bonner's for our liquid dishsoap, hand soap, and body and face wash last year. It did take some adjustment, but once we found the proper dispensers (I love these foaming ones), it’s been much easier to love it!. I also made the switch to coconut oil for lotion and a face moisturizer, along with a hair smoother. Saving money and less packaging to deal with. Win win!
7. Swap out paper towels for microfiber clothes and rags
This has been a really hard one for my husband and visiting family members mostly because grabbing a paper towel is pretty much ingrained in us as a habit now. We still keep a roll around in the house for drying raw meat before cooking, or the occasional pet mess, but for the rest of the time the microfiber clothes and rags do their job. I try to encourage using these by keeping a pretty basket and jar of them on the counter, and I hide the roll of paper towels in the pantry, otherwise they get quickly used up!
8. Ditch the paper plates, straws, and napkins for reusable ones
We were never big paper plate users, but we did buy a ton of straws for cocktails and often use paper towels for napkins. Instead, I’ve purchased some reusable straws (both rubber and metal), and cloth napkins. To make sure we use them, I keep the napkins right out on the kitchen table and we reuse them a few times before putting them in the wash.
I hope you find these tips helpful! I know sticking to these few easy things certainly makes me feel better in times where we are a little worse with the takeout and online shopping. What easy tips for reducing your trash do you have?