Striving towards zero waste is a daunting task. It’s easy to assume that all the other zero-wasters out there are producing zero trash and have seemingly endless time on their hands. The reality is though a) we all started somewhere and b) no one is doing everything perfectly.
Here are some great strategies to ease your way into some changes. It will be up to you to see what you can make work with your current lifestyle. It’s always best to work towards something, but don’t let the big picture get in your way of small successes.
When grocery shopping, I choose my products based on the following criteria:
1st Choice – Entirely zero packaging
Ask yourself. Can I find this piece of produce not wrapped in plastic? Can I get this item from the bulk bins with my own bag/jar?
2nd Choice – Zero waste packaging
Glass or metal is infinitely recyclable. Paper (not lined in plastic) is compostable. These items I consider “zero waste”. Yes, I know there’s a production aspect that uses resources, and there is transportation to consider (how far away did it travel). But if you get hung up on too many details, you’ll come home with nothing!
3rd Choice – Recyclable
Choosing products that come in recyclable packaging is my third choice. Things like paper and plastic with specific numbers that match your regions recycling guidelines. Technically the goal of zero waste is to also reduce your recyclables, since the entire system is somewhat problematic. Things like soft plastic are sometimes accepted, but are often just incinerated at recycling centers in a waste-to-fuel process. A few of the hard plastics actually get shredded and sold in blocks to make new products, so when choosing a product that has to come in plastic, I usually opt for a hard plastic with a recycling symbol on the bottom.
4th Choice – Bigger!
If you must purchase something that comes in single-use packaging, you’re better off purchasing the largest quantity you can. It’s better to buy one larger yogurt tub, then 12 smaller ones. It’s less plastic in the end (and often cheaper). If the item comes in recyclable plastic, a larger container is more likely to actually make it to its destination at a recycling center rather than be blown away in the transportation process.
5th Choice – The least amount of packaging
When all else fails, and you HAVE to buy something in disposable packaging. You can at least choose smart. If you look hard, you can see sometimes products are packaged into smaller groups inside packaging! I’ve noticed this with a lot of kids snacks, or sometimes large packages of toilet paper. So beware and pay attention.
To further reduce kitchen waste, it’s ideal to try and make as many of your own items from scratch, because many basic ingredients like vegetables, beans, rice and pasta can all be purchased package-free.
Often people start their journey by focusing on either the kitchen or the bathroom, these are the two most wasteful spaces. You can get a real good sense of some of the problem items just by looking at what’s in your trash.
Some of these minor victories may not seem like much, but with the public’s growing passion for the environment, companies are waking up and driving industry change. We all just need to show them it’s what we want!