ZERO WASTE TRANSITION KIT.
START your Zero Waste lifestyle with these 11 items.
Use this list to help you seamlessly transition to a more mindful (and sustainable) lifestyle.
If you have the time, I'd recommend buying local, checking out thrift stores, and asking friends and family if they're looking to get rid of any extra items -- you'll be surprised at how often you'll find just what you need!
1. Water Bottle.
Or should we say water bottles. Honestly, this is one of the simplest ways you can save money, time, and the environment. I like to have at least two reusable water bottles per person in our house. I'd also recommend getting two different sizes. I have an 8oz and a 32oz. That way depending on the event, I can either throw the small water bottle in my purse, or on long road trips (or long days) have access to all the water I need. Some people like to make fancy infused water too. I really like lemon-water and it's also great for your health!
The average American uses around 167 plastic water bottles last year, and only recycled 38 of them.
Bottled water uses more than 17 million barrels of oil annually - that's enough to fuel 1.3 million cars for a year.
Americans used about 50 billion plastic water bottles last year. However, the U.S.’s recycling rate for plastic is only 23 percent, which means 38 billion water bottles – more than $1 billion worth of plastic – are wasted each year.
If you drank 8 plastic bottles of water every day for a year - you'd spend about $1,400. If you bough one reusable container and filled it up at home, you'd spend about $20.
Learn more about the Ban the Bottle Movement.
2. coffee or tea Thermos.
Making your coffee at home and/or bringing your own reusable coffee thermos can reduce your waste by up to 23 lbs a year. Even if you're not using styrofoam (which can't be recycled) cups that can be recycled still take use up an incredible amount of energy to produce, distribute, and recycle. Buy yourself a reusable thermos (or two) and you'll always have a hot beverage, without the waste. They're also less likely to spill!
Learn more at Carry Your Cup.
3. Shopping Bags.
Nearly 2 million plastic, single-used bags are used every minute -- meaning that world-wide over a trillion bags are used each year -- and hardly any of them are recycled. If we all do a little bit better, we can have an extraordinary impact on reducing waste and saving energy.
The amount of energy required to make 12 plastic shopping bags could drive a car for a mile.
Reusable grocery bags have become a norm - but it can be hard to remember your shopping bags when you first make the switch - so don't give up. And remember! Bring your own reusable bag anytime you go shopping - not just at the grocery store.
Learn more fact about plastic bag usage.
4. produce bags.
Over 49 million Americans live in communities that have passed plastic bag bans or add fees - that includes produce bags. It's easy to make the change once you have an alternative - like these mesh bags. They're better at storing your food (because the produce can breathe) and they're better for the environment. Another alternative is Tanuki Wrap -- a sustainable way to carry or wrap just about anything.
5. Cloth Napkins.
Most of the time, we don't actually need to use napkins, (think about items where you're primarily using silverware to eat) so if you don't need them don't use them! On occasions where you do need them, cloth napkins (especially if their made of 100% linen) can be used over and over again and only have to be manufactured once. While it's true that you will use energy and water to clean the napkins, their overall carbon food-print is a lot less than traditional paper napkins, which often can't be recycled (food particles) or put in an organic bin (colors and dyes.) Most people also end up using a lot fewer cloth napkins (think BBQ's) than paper napkins per meal. Learn more about the benefits of paper napkins.
Tip: Make sure to wash your napkins in cold water, use biodegradable soap, and line dry them.
6. Dish Towels. (no more paper towels).
Did you know that 51,000 trees per day are required to replace the number of paper towels that are discarded every day? That's insane. If every household in the U.S. used three less rolls per year, it would save 120,000 tons of waste and $4.1 million in landfill dumping fees. Not to mention the amount of money you'll save from not buying paper towels every year. My tip is to buy 100% organic cotton towels (they actually absorb stuff) and then save your older towels to use as cleaning rags. Learn more about the benefits of going paper towel free - or at least using less.
7. Glass storage containers.
Plastic was a great invention, just not for food storage. Food heated in plastic containers - or stored in it - can leech harmful chemicals into our food. If you've ever put spaghetti into a plastic container, you probably also realize the chances it will stain those containers too. Make your life easier and buy oven-safe, dish-washer safe, reusable glass containers and you'll cut out your need for plastic wrap, cleaning multiple dishes (because you had to transfer stored items to heat them up) and have a well organized fridge and freezer.
8. Recycling Bin(s).
You'll recycle a lot more when you create an environment that allows you to easily do so. I recommend putting a recycling bin everywhere you put a trash bin. We have both options in our bathrooms, bedrooms, and in the kitchen. You'll be amazed at how many items won't end up in the trash when there's easy access to a recycling bin. This is a basic example of choice architecture - where you can nudge yourself into certain behaviors just by changing your environment. Just be sure to label them for when guest are over so you don't end up having to re-sort stuff!
9. organics Bin.
Food waste thrown in a landfill takes years - if not decades - to break down. This is because when organic material (like food) has limited access to oxygen and pests - it creates an anaerobic environment that slows down the decomposition process and creates powerful methane gases. The first step in this cycle is to reduce your food waste in general, second is to dispose of food waste properly. Lots of cities have places you can bring your compost material - or you can build your own in your back yard. Just remember that if you're composting in your backyard you'll want to leave meat and dairy products out of the mix.
10. compostable organics Bags.
Remember when we were talking about food waste need access to oxygen to break down? Well, it can't do that if it's been thrown in a plastic bag. That's why you need bio-bags. Just be careful not to put hot coffee grounds - or anything with sharp edges - because you'll easily put a whole in the bag - and then you'll have food scraps everywhere. Trust me, you don't want to learn from experience on this one!
Plastic forks, knives and spoons help account for the 6 million tons of non-durable plastics each year. Most of the time, it doesn't get recycled. In fact, currently over 85 percent of the world’s plastic is not recycled. So grab yourself a couple of sets of light-weight bamboo cutlery (or make your set out of thrifted silverware) and put one in your office drawer, your car, your purse, your briefcase or backpack.
Learn more about the effect of plastic pollution.