The Ultimate Waste-Free Starter Guide - 9 Essentials To Get Started
9 Essential Items To Start Your Zero-Waste Journey.
We’ve rounded up a few essential (i.e reusable) items that’ll help you shift into that waste-free lifestyle without breaking the bank.
Jayla Pearce, founder of her collectives, shares her personal 9 essential, relatively easy items to start your waste-free journey.
Trying to go waste-free can be overwhelming. And if we’re being honest, it also seems like a huge commitment. We’ve dipped our toes into the zero-waste world in our Sunday Ritual a couple weeks ago by looking at how the impact of even the littlest of actions can diminish our footprint and the amount of waste we produce (need a refresher? Find it here) . Amanda Javier, the mastermind behind Witch in the Wild, also shared with us how she made it her mission to go zero-waste this year. We’ve got the foundation, it’s now time to put words into action! We’ve rounded up a few essential (i.e reusable) items that’ll help you shift into that waste-free lifestyle without breaking the bank.
1. Stop sucking. Plastic, that is.
Plastic, that is. Reusable is the new plastic and we are loving it. Buy a pack of stainless steel straws so you’ll always have one on hand (at home, at the office, in your purse, etc).
Bonus: find packs come in a bag and have a pipe cleaner to clean those hard to reach places (is anyone else getting childhood flashbacks with the pipe cleaner crafts?).
Basic: Want an easy way to take it a little further? Grab some cutlery from your kitchen (fork/spoon) and throw it in the travel bag to go anywhere.
Extra ($):, buy a set that comes together to be extra #green stylish. For example, this set includes a wooden spoon, fork and straw for whenever your stuck getting food in a hurry.
2. No one likes to be clingy. Let’s get rid of your clingwrap for good.
Reusable beeswax paper is popping up everywhere and it’s truly is a win-win. The wax paper is breathable, so your food lasts longer before spoiling (resulting in less produce waste), and it’s washable. All you have to do is give it a quick rinse off and it’s ready to go. My favourite is Abeego (it’s Canadian AND has a cute design!), but there are a ton of others on the market now, I've seen them popping up in Whole Foods next to the cling wrap.
3. Take it to go - snack prep can be waste-free also.
If you’re like me, you grew up with Ziplocs in your lunch bag. Wonderfully convenient for packing snacks on the go, terrible in terms of waste. A great alternative is getting reusable snack bags. They’re dishwasher-safe and super cute. Your fruit and nut mix will thank you.
4. Protect your produce. plastic-free protection.
One thing that annoys me, more than I’d like to admit, is those stupid thin plastic produce bags. What do you do with them once you get home? Nothing! Its one thing that is an engrained habit in us, I regularly disagree with my boyfriend who follows the 'rules' and wants to put 2 lemons in the produce bag, while I insist to leave the produce loose. Does anyone else have this silly disagreement?
I usually end up ripping mine to get to my fruits and veggies and end up tossing them in the garbage. Total, absolute waste. My life was changed once I discovered these eco-friendly bags. Just like the reusable snack bags, they’re easy to wash and super convenient to carry around. And, hello win-win for grocery shopping domestic debates!
5 . Shop ‘til you drop. Like a chic pinterest-worthy Parisian woman.
Ever come across a Pinterest photo of a (we’re assuming) Parisian woman carrying her baguette and fresh fruit from the market in effortlessly chic basket and thought “man, I wish I could look that chic doing my groceries?” Well, now you can! There are so many stylish reusable bags out there (currently loving these mesh cotton bags), you’re guaranteed to find one that fits your style.
Tip: Find a bag that is good to keep in your purse for convenience. I know before I got one for my purse it was always a good intention until I arrived at the grocery store! I actually have 2 from free people as the jewelry gift bag that are mesh, free and compact.
6. Bulk Up & Decant. Overhauling your Pantry, Nicely.
The waste we create through buying packaged goods is astronomical. The solution? Hit up your nearest bulk store. Either bring your reusable bags (above) or bring in glass jars to fill powders.
Next, for an aesthetically-pleasing yet waste-free pantry, get a bunch of the same type of glass jars to 'decant' aka empty and story your produce in. Unison is best for stack-ability and visual appeal, but also using what you have is never a bad (and always more waste-free).
What is the best option to store bulk products?
You can buy mason jars to store your goods, which usually already come with blank sticker labels for you to fill. Once you run low on something, all you have to to is bring the jar with you to the store to fill up. Easy-peasy, right? It’s a low-investment way to make your cupboards look nice and organized.
Get a label maker.
To further commit and up the aesthetic ante, label everything with a seemingly fancy-shmancy label maker. I have gone label crazy and my cheap mason jars now look appealing to display. You’ll not only know what everything is, but your cupboards will have a super boho/boutique apothecary vibe. I love love love mine and the tactical experience of punching each letter is so satisfying. It feels like arts and crafts or childhood, and nice to have something mechanical instead of electronic based (no batteries).
Get nicer decanting jars:
Want to be 'bougie' with your waste-free? Weck Jars are more aesthetically pleasing than standard mason jars, but a tad more costly. If you want to up your decanting game or have open cupboards, these are a really great option.
7. Green and Clean Scrub-a-dub-dub.
Cleaning supplies is a WHOLE other ballgame and a big conversation to have about toxic waste. Without getting into the whole buy natural cleaning products or make your own (which yes, I urge you to consider), let’s just start with something more accessible and manageable. Buy cleaning supplies in concentrate version. This will mean less waste is created for each bottle you buy. I have the Mrs Meyers Natural All Purpose Cleaner and mix 50/50 concentrate with water. Same goes for Laundry Detergent. The same Mrs Meyers Concentrate version uses half the amount of regular detergent, so each bottle lasts longer. As a rule of thumb, just look for Look for natural but also concentrate when buying.
Why pay (and waste and carry) a product half full of water? As a rule of thumb, just look for natural and concentrate when buying.
8. Be mindful with refill/subscription based products.
We now live in a economy where it’s not the upfront purchase that companies make profit on, but the subscription that continues afterwards. For tech software, it makes sense. For products, however, its a different story. Take your Swiffer, for example. The mop itself is cheap, but the refill pads aren't. Think about what you buy that requires repurchase (ex, k-cups or nespresso even though you can recycle the metal pods) and try to find an alternative.
For my Swiffer, I swapped it out for the Bona mop. It has its own refillable container and the pad is removable and machine-washable. I did a ton of research on an alternative to my Swiffer, something that was as convenient, yet more sustainable. I love this mop so much I bought my 'critical' mom one as well (she suffers from Osteoporosis so needed something easy as well as sustainable), who loves it just as much. It my personal favourite 'find' of the year. (wow, I'm getting old when a mop is my favourite purchase, <face palm emoji>!).
9. Do we even need to tell you about your take-out coffee habits?
My favourite to-go coffee mug options are a glass or collapsible. Coffee tastes best in a glass mug and it helps that it’s not made of plastic (which we’re trying to avoid afterall!).
If you think that it’ll be hard to commit or don’t have enough room in your bag, a collapsible (sillicon) mug is your next best bet. It’s not as cute, but it’s really easy to use and hard to forget. At the end of the day, anything reusable is better than nothing.
Wanna dig deeper?
The Remodelista book provides a great visual on how to organize your home with less but also make it beautiful. Simple things like decanting I got from here.
Final Thoughts; Guilt-Free Club
Sometimes ignorance is bliss. So finding out all the waste we create can generate either a ton of guilt, or, feel unattainable, so say 'forget it.' So, my BIGGEST waste free tip is to take it slow and avoid trying to 'do it all' if it means you won't do any at all. It is impressive, but a big commitment to go waste-free, so committing to just being aware of your waste, and trying when you can to be waste-free is better than not at all. Do what you can, when you can. Awareness alone (ei, oh ya those plastic produce bags) is a great initiative and commitment.
Stay committed and kind with yourself (and others) in your journey to green living.
What are some of your waste-free hacks, tips and struggles?