Four Tips for Starting a Zero Waste Lifestyle

Most beginner guides for going zero waste are full of simple swaps, but there’s so much more to zero waste living than replacing your household items.

Don’t get me wrong, I love swaps too like The Ultimate Guide to Zero Waste Swaps and 3 Easy Ways to Cut your Trash by 80%, but I think the tips below are the four most important tips I can give you for going zero waste.

They’re essentially the building block of zero waste, minimalism, and eco-friendly living. If you’re feeling a bit more advanced check out my post the Ultimate Step-By-Step Guide to Going Zero Waste which lays out the different areas you’ll cross through from beginner to advanced!

4 tips for starting a zero waste lifestyle and become a conscious consumer from wwww.goingzerowaste.com #zerowaste #ecofriendly #beginnersguide

But, before we get to it... I'd like to inrtoduce you to this post's sponsor!

This post was sponsored by Arbor Teas. All thoughts and opinions are my own for more information please see my disclosure policy.

Y’all. You know I love Arbor Teas Arbor Teas and I’m going to hit all the high points with a bullet blitz! BULLET BLITZ.

  • Only tea brand to offer loose leaf tea in backyard compostable packaging!
  • They package in cellulose making the switch from canisters reduced the carbon footprint of their packages by 60% (AMAZING!)
  • They package all of their teas in a solar powered building
  • All of their shipments are offset carbon neutral
  • They source their teas from organic, biodynamic, and regenerative farms.
  • They have plastic free matcha. I repeat PLASTIC FREE MATCHA.
  • They are just genuinely the nicest people on the face of the planet.
  • And, their teas are just freaking amazing!

buy less:

The average American throws out 4.4lbs of trash a day, and that’s not even the half of it for everything that we throw away on average 70% is lost in the manufacturing. We only see 30% of the trash made!

THAT'S INSANE. 

Buying less is the number one thing you can do to produce less trash. 

Before buying anything make sure you really truly need it. I always ask myself a series of questions.

  • Do you really need it?

  • Is it really necessary?

  • Can something else make do?

  • Do you need to own it?

Zero waste is not just about the trash jar. It's also not solely about the landfill.

Trash is really just a physical representation of misallocated resources. I always say, very rarely do we have waste problems - we have creative thinking problems!

Have you heard of Earth Overshoot Day? It's a day on the calendar that marks when we’ve consumed all of the resources the earth can sustainably produce for the year, and it came at the beginning of August last year.

That’s BAD.

We're using 1.5 earth's worth of resources. It's completely unsustainable. So, the best thing we can do for the planet is to buy less. 

buy well:

However, there are still purchases we need to make. If you don't live completely off grid/are self-sustaining, you'll need to make some purchases.

So when you do purchase something, really think about its full life-cycle. Think about where it came from and where it's going after you're through with it. 

Here are a series of questions I like to ask myself when making a new purchase.

  • Ask a friend.

  • Can you find it second hand?

  • Can you find it local?

  • Who made it?

  • Is it made to last/ can it be repaired?

  • What happens when you’re done with it?

Always check the secondhand market first and if you're going to buy something new make sure you're taking everything into consideration.

And, whatever you do don't settle. 

If I've learned anything in two years of zero waste living, it's that settling for something your not 100% happy with inevitably means you will be unhappy with it. Then you'll look for something else which is a waste of money and time. 

So whatever you buy, just make sure that you love it

find contentment:

We live in a world full of constant advertisements that tell us we’re not enough. They tell us in order to be happy or be loved we have to have this product. That their product will solve all of our problems. That it will make us happy or loved - which of course… we logically know isn’t true.

But, advertisers are really good at manipulating our subconscious so one of the most rebellious and radical things you can do is to simply find contentment with what you already have. One of the best ways to do that is to practice gratitude!

Things don't define you. They don't give you worth. Instead of buying things to make you look better or cooler, try spending time bettering yourself. Take a class, learn a new skill, focus on self-improvement. 

So many studies have been done that people who opt for experiences instead of things are generally happier.

strike a balance: 

And, like you've heard on this blog a hundred times before, it's not about perfection it's about making better choices. 

Personal sustainability is super important check out the post I wrote about it - The Five Rules of Personal Sustainability. It's one of my favorite blog posts I've ever written. 

The thing is, we live in a perfect zero waste society instead we live in a world where things are designed to be thrown away. Check out this post if you’re interested to learn more about the Circular Economy vs. a Linear Economy.

Things aren’t going to go our way 100% of the time and that’s OK. All we can do is the best we can where we are.

What would be some of your tips for someone starting a zero waste life? 

8 Tips for Eco-Friendly Apartment Living

I haven’t lived in an apartment complex for a long time, but hear that it comes with a slew of challenges like not having access to recycling, composting, and generally not having control over your own space.

Now, I do rent so while I don’t have a lot of apartment experience, I do understand what it is like to not have complete control/ownership over my own space.

8 tips for eco-friendly apartment living from www.goingzerowaste.com #ecofriendly #apartment #sustainable #apartmentliving

No matter how bad I want an electric car… my landlord is NOT putting in a 240 Volt charging port…

He’s also not going to install solar panels and a grey water system, but that would be dope and super green. So, I wanted to round up all of the small things that you could do to make apartment/renting a little more eco-friendly.

1. lightbulbs baby:

The first thing I did when I moved into my rental was switch out alllllll the light bulbs. Instead of using the old school halogen light bulbs that came with the place, I switched them to LEDs. This of course lowered my electricity bill and are much more eco-friendly.

Since LEDs are a little spendy… I kept all of the halogen bulbs and then just swapped them after I moved out…

8 tips for eco-friendly apartment living from www.goingzerowaste.com #ecofriendly #apartment #sustainable #apartmentliving

2. energy, energy:

Just because you can’t get solar panels installed in your apartment doesn’t mean you can’t switch to renewable energy. Companies like Arcadia Power and Clean Choice Energy are energy suppliers.

When you sign up, they work with your existing utility company to make sure all of the energy you use is supplied by clean energy sources. This doesn’t cost anything extra for you and in fact, you’ll probably see your electricity bill go down!

And, did I mention if you sign up for Arcadia, you’ll also get $100 in Reformation credit? Yah. Clean energy AND sustainable fashion… being eco-friendly never felt so good.

But, in all seriousness, they just dropped their new shoe collection and I’m seriously lusting over a pair of their gold menage sandals.

If Arcadia nor Clean Choice supply your area, a quick google search should turn up an alternative!

8 tips for eco-friendly apartment living from www.goingzerowaste.com #ecofriendly #apartment #sustainable #apartmentliving

3. recycle?

I’ve heard recycling in large apartment buildings can be tricky because of trash chutes?

I’ve lived in two apartment buildings one was two stories and the other was four stories… neither of them had trash chutes.

There was a dumpster and you were required to take all of your stuff out to the dumpster.

Come to think of it… the two story apartment didn’t have recycling which is a super bummer. If I didn’t have recycling available at my apartment or only had a trash chute, then I would try to find another way of dealing with my recycling.

One of the great things about living a zero waste lifestyle is that I don’t have much recycling at all because zero waste is about recycling less - not more! You can read more in this post What is Zero Waste?

So here are all the ways I would make recycling work for me:

  1. I would walk my recyclables down separately if my building had a designated recycling room.

  2. I would ask my friends who had access to curb side recycling if I could bring my recycling over to their house.

  3. I would bring my recycling to a drop point.

  4. I would ask my landlord to get curbside recycling or set up a recycling area and get signatures from other people in my building.

  5. I would bring it to work and use their recycling pick up.

Also, check out my series How to Recycle the RIGHT way.

8 tips for eco-friendly apartment living from www.goingzerowaste.com #ecofriendly #apartment #sustainable #apartmentliving

4. compost:

Compost is another tricky one. If you have a small balcony you could easily implement a tumble bin, but if you don’t things might be a bit more challenging. I’ve got a ton of tips in my post How to Compost in an Apartment.

8 tips for eco-friendly apartment living from www.goingzerowaste.com #ecofriendly #apartment #sustainable #apartmentliving

5. shower heads:

Who’s got two thumbs and swapped her wasteful shower head out for a very efficient one!? THIS GIRL.

JK. My husband did it as a surprise and it was the sweetest thing ever. He bought this shower head which hasn’t sacrificed water pressure - which is so important to me! High water pressure = big hair. I’m from the south and you know how we like our big hair. Volume baby.

So, we saved the original shower head and will swap it back once we move.

8 tips for eco-friendly apartment living from www.goingzerowaste.com #ecofriendly #apartment #sustainable #apartmentliving

6. insulate:

I’m not sure how insulated your apartment or rental is, and it’s not like you can start swapping out windows and filling in walls. However, if you are building a home and looking for eco-friendly insulation… could I recommend old denim?

I’ve rounded up a few easy solutions to help insulate your home to keep it warm or cool depending on the season. This will help keep your energy bill down which is good for the planet!

CURTAINS:

Dress your windows! Curtains help insulate a room blocking drafts and retaining heat in the winter. They also help to shade the room from the sun in the summer which will keep it cooler.

According to energy.gov: “Studies demonstrate that medium-colored draperies with white-plastic backings can reduce heat gains by 33%.” That will save you some cash on the air-conditioning bill. Not to mention that window treatments add a good design element to a room.

DRAFT STOPPER:

Stop drafts from coming in with a weighted blocker that you can take with you when you move.

WINDOW INSULATION:

Alright, so I know that these are plastic… but if you have old, thin, vintage single-pane windows and your house is freezing! These could really help reduce your energy cost. Which in the long run is actually going to be better for the planet than a little bit of plastic waste.

8 tips for eco-friendly apartment living from www.goingzerowaste.com #ecofriendly #apartment #sustainable #apartmentliving

7. furniture and decor:

If you need to go shopping, opt for second hand! This is a great way to bring character to your apartment, you’ll get a bargain, and it’s great for the planet.

Check out my 10 favorite places to shop secondhand online.

Of course, if you can’t find something that you need or like, then check into getting something sustainable. I have two end tables from Urban Wood Goods which was made our of reclaimed wood that I absolutely love!

8 tips for eco-friendly apartment living from www.goingzerowaste.com #ecofriendly #apartment #sustainable #apartmentliving

8. check your fridge:

Your fridge might be one of the biggest users of energy in your home. In fact, 25% of your electric bill may be from the fridge alone. When I moved this last time (check out my Zero Waste Home Tour and Zero Waste Home Tour Treehouse edition ((I’ve moved a lot)) the fridge was from the 70s or 80s.

It was absolutely ancient and the shelves were actually duct taped inside. It was completely falling apart and the cooling was sporadic.

Thankfully my landlord got us a new energy efficient fridge! But, to keep it working well, it’s important to keep the compressor coils clean!

If you can, try to dust and vacuum the back of your fridge to ensure your energy bill stays low. Cover Make surer your fridge's seal is tight and keep your freezer full.

The more stuff you have in your fridge, the easier it is for it to cool. So, if you don’t have a bunch of food in there, just fill up some old mason jars full of water.

Check out my guide How to Freeze in Mason Jars because yes, you can freeze in mason jars!

I would love to know how you’re keeping your apartment eco-friendly?

8 tips for eco-friendly apartment living from www.goingzerowaste.com #ecofriendly #apartment #sustainable #apartmentliving

4 Farmers Market Essentials

I love going to the farmers market. Every Saturday I look forward to seeing all the fresh, seasonal produce.

Supporting local farmers is so good for the environment and local economy. It also puts a face behind the food you consume, a key step that’s missing at the supermarket. You never get to meet the people who grew your food at the grocery store.

Four farmers market essentials from www.goingzerowaste.com #farmersmarket #zerowaste #groceries

Related: A Trip to the Farmers Market

Local food also means fresher food. The taste can’t be beat, and neither can the fact it doesn’t have to travel half way across the world to reach your plate. Certainly, cuts down on carbon emissions!

Also, it’s important to eat in season produce as much as possible.

What’s in season depends on your region and what the farmer decides to grow, but seasonal foods have higher nutritional density. Plus, it’s much easier to find plastic free berries at farmers markets during the spring and summer than the winter!

Here are my top four essentials for the farmers market that help me stay waste free every time I go.

Four farmers market essentials from www.goingzerowaste.com #farmersmarket #zerowaste #groceries

1. reusable produce bags

These are my life line. I use them to store apples, pears, carrots, huge heads of lettuce - you name it. All kinds of produce gets put straight into my reusable produce bags.

You can find several different kinds on the market. There are ones made from cloth which can be composted at the end of their life. There are also produce bags made from synthetic fabric that are very durable.

Both cloth and synthetic produce bags are machine or hand washable. They also have these handy drawstring tops to secure all your food in place (assuring no produce tumbles out).

Whichever type you use is up to you, but they certainly beat single use produce bags every time. They’ll help you cut back on so much waste.

There’s also different sized produce bags available too. I personally just use the large sized ones because it’s guaranteed to fit anything I want. I tend to get things in large quantities, so I like a bag that can keep up, you know?

You can also make your own produce bags from some scrap fabric you have lying around, if you’re good at sewing. Or, you can even use an old (clean) pillowcase to house your fruits and veggies. Whatever works, right?

I recommend bringing anywhere from 8 to 10 produce bags. It depends on how much food you plan on getting, but you can never have too many (just in case).

Four farmers market essentials from www.goingzerowaste.com #farmersmarket #zerowaste #groceries

2. tote bags or baskets:

While at the market, you’re going to need a place to store all those fruits and veggies you put in your reusable produce bags. I use a tote bag, but baskets are really cute too.

My farmers market gives out free tote bags in an initiative for New York to go zero waste by 2030. I have several of these tote bags because it’s important to support efforts like this, plus why refuse a free reusable bag?

You can see if your farmers market gives any away for free. If not, reusable bags aren’t too hard to find. Most grocery stores sell them right at the cash register.

There are also several companies that make reusable tote bags such as Blu Bag or BagPodz.

Related: Reusable Bags Made Easy

I recommend taking anywhere from three to four tote bags with you to carry all your supplies comfortably. It might be nice to ask a friend or family member to come and help you carry them as well.

Bringing a basket to the market is also a really cute way to carry around your produce before and after purchase. Just be prepared: If you get a lot, it easily gets heavy to hold!

Make sure to get a basket that’s sturdy and comes with handles for easy holding and carrying.

You could even get a wicker trolley to take with you to the market. Just imagine how cute and efficient you’d look carting it around with all your plastic free goodies.

Four farmers market essentials from www.goingzerowaste.com #farmersmarket #zerowaste #groceries

3. mason jars or containers:

Sometimes, bringing a mason jar or container is a really good idea. If you have a meat or fish vendor at your market, and you happen to eat meat, you can ask them to put it in your own container.

This eliminates the need for it to be wrapped in paper or plastic. Most of the time if you’re nice, they’ll say yes without even blinking an eye.

As always, do your best to keep your meat consumption to a minimum. Eating a more plant-based diet is overall better for your health and the environment.

Mason jars and containers from home are also great for storing berries in. Berries sweat a lot in the summer, so they can easily stain your cloth produce bags.

Lots of farmers markets sell berries in the summer months in paper containers (which you can return the following week by the way).  That said, berries tend to bleed and get crushed easily, so putting them into a mason jar will protect them better.

Before you do that though, make sure to ask the farmer if that’s okay and pay for it first. Don’t want them thinking you’re stealing!

Four farmers market essentials from www.goingzerowaste.com #farmersmarket #zerowaste #groceries

4. beeswax wraps:

If you enjoy getting bread or cheese from your farmers market, consider bringing some beeswax wraps with you. Assuming the bread or cheese isn’t pre-wrapped there, you should be able to get it in your beeswax wraps.

Cheese tends to come wrapped in plastic or paper, so walk up to a vendor and see if they pre-wrap them or not. If not, ask them if you can have a piece put into your beeswax wrap before they wrap it for you.

This will prevent any waste from being generated, and keep the cheese fresh. Just make sure to store it properly when you get home (yes, it can stay wrapped in the beeswax wrap).

If you plan on getting a baguette, there are baguette sized beeswax wraps available. Just ask for your bread to be wrapped into it, simple as that.

You can also use two large beeswax wraps to wrap a round loaf of fresh baked, package free bread. Personally, I get a loaf of bread to go in my cloth produce bag, but it’s totally your call.   

For more tips, be sure to check out the ultimate guide to zero waste grocery shopping.

What are your farmers market essentials?

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Guest Post: Ariana Palmieri is the founder of Greenify-Me.com, a blog dedicated to zero waste living and sustainability. Her work has been featured on MindBodyGreen, Green Matters, The Penny Hoarder and several other publications. Get her free e-book "10 Ways to Reduce Trash" by signing up to her newsletter and learn how to reduce your waste today.