Want to Go Zero Waste? How to Get Started

By Bea Echeverria

Birds do it, bees do it, even educated fleas do it. These simple creatures know how to live zero waste, but for us to live zero waste, we have some un-learning to do. And beware! Once you fall for this lifestyle you will never again see innocence in a disposable Starbucks cup.

Ready to start? Here's how:

  • Stop buying. Leave your wallet at home for at least a week, if not two. Finish all the stuff you had stored in your pantry, fridge, and freezer. Unless you need medication or toilet paper (although some use this instead), don't spend money until all the food is gone. You can even make your own laundry detergent and shampoo.
  • Take al look at all your stuff and de-own a couple of hundred items. It'll do you so much good! Simplify and reuse your items. 
  • Make a list of everything you really missed during your shopping fast. Did you "need" the item or did you "want" it? 

By now you must be clear on what you really need to buy. Before you head out the door,  answer the following:

  • Do I already have this item?
  • Can I use something I already own that fulfills the same need?
  • Can I make it?
  • Can I borrow it from someone?

If you answered "No" to the latter questions, it is time to go to the store and buy what you really need that you don't already have, can't make, cannot substitute, and cannot borrow from anyone. To do so in a zero waste manner always favor: 

  • Items that will not generate waste once you use them (bulk carrots vs. bagged carrots)
  • Items made with durable and sustainable materials (all stainless steel scissors vs. scissors with plastic handle)
  • Items with cradle to cradle cycles 

And this is how you start your zero waste journey. When in doubt, use this adage: "Use it up, wear it down, make do or do without."

Enjoy the journey.

Bea Echeverria is a marine biologist turned Simple Life Activist and zero waste lover. She recently moved from her family from hometown of Barcelona, Spain, to the Chicago area. She currently works towards creating awareness on the virtues of voluntary simplicity and living a sustainable life.

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