Zerowaste 101: 5 Simple Steps

Getting to that place of ZeroWaste is a journey, and NOT like the #1 through the Canadian Prairies.  (If you have never trotted this trail it is a monotonous, straight, eventless ride).   I would compare it more to the winding mountainous roads in the Canadian Rockies or the nauseating curves of the Amalfi Coast! But don’t let that sway you.  This trail is a rewarding one.  Not only for the planet, but for YOU!

Here are five steps to help take you on your way to eliminating waste from your life.  If you take one step at a time, and are patient with yourself, there is no reason why you shouldn’t succeed.  Burnout is in the rush of things.  Let it be a choiceful, yet natural progression and you may not feel the uncomfortable shifts and growing pains at all!


Step 1: Refuse

How many free newspapers and flyers do you receive every day? One thousand? Ten thousand? (feels like it, right?) Why not REFUSE to drown in useless paper by putting up a No Junk Mail sign?

You can also REFUSE to purchase products that come in extra plastic packaging. Buy fresh lettuce, rather than lettuce in a plastic box. Evidence of freshness is upackaged produce.  Buy shampoo bars rather than shampoo in a plastic bottle. Make your own home cleaning products (this one not only eliminates plastic bottles from your house but is also extremely cost-effective and probably TOXIC FREE!).

Step 2: Reduce

Do you buy a hot beverage every day from your local coffee shop? Do they ever put it in a disposable cup? Why not take you own thermos or mug and REDUCE the amount of waste produced?

Do you have a junk room? You know what I mean… a room full of thing that you really meant to use, but never got around to checking out. Boxes of old homework, baby clothes, vacuum parts, antiques from dear Aunt Dorothy (may she rest in peace). REDUCE the amount of junk in your life! Go through it, take one last walk down memory lane, give all that stuff away and then move on and be present.

Step 3: Reuse

Use your imagination when things like clothes get used up and become unwearable. REUSE them! Old clothes can become rags for cleaning. Combined with homemade cleaning products, your cleaning bill will nearly disappear!

Also, stop using disposable products such as paper napkins and plastic bags. Invest in some cloth products and you can REUSE over and over again. Ultimately your pocketbook will thank you.

Step 4: Recycle

You can RECYCLE almost everything today if you do a little research. Is there a place for batteries at your local bottle depot? Does your city or town have a program for upgrading and distributing used furniture? Do you know who to call about taking an old TV or computer? There are places for all these things beside just dumping them!  It may just take a little lag work in the beginning, but believe me, it’s worth it in the end!

Also, make sure that you know the best practices for RECYCLING the regular stuff. Do you sort your paper? Do you wash recyclable food containers? Do you know what to do with broken glass?  A good hint for cleaning your recyclables is simple.  Just fill your sink with warm water and clean them all at once, one time a week.  You will use less water, and scheduling such a task once a week will take less mental space than worrying about it every time a container empties.  Maybe set aside a bin under the sink for dirty recyclables to deal with so they don’t pile up on the counter. 

Step 5: Rot

Have you ever thought about setting up a worm bin to deal with household compostables? It takes a little bit of effort, but it’s fascinating for kids to set up a little ecosystem right there in the kitchen. And the worms keep the ROT from stinking up the place.

Also, depending on your yard space, make sure to set up a compost bin outside. There are all kinds of recipes and strategies for this, so do a little research and find out what will work for you. Remember that those things that you let ROT will become the stuff of growth and new life.  If you don’t have the time or mind space to deal with composting on your own, check out the municipal services available to you.  I know in Calgary (where I live), the compost pickup is taken very seriously.

You might not be able to set up the perfect ZeroWaste plan, but with a little effort you can definitely set up a ZeroWaste plan that’s perfect for you! Remember that the first steps are the ones that matter on the road to ZeroWaste. This is one of those times when starting the journey is just as important as reaching the destination. Please share your own strategies for REFUSING, REDUCING, REUSING, RECYCLING, and ROTTING!  And….Acknowledge yourself in your journey.  The very idea that you are reading this and considering what steps you might take is of so much value in itself! Believe me, I still struggle, because I never grew up this way.  I am learning everything from scratch. It’s a tough road, but my only complaint is that I didn’t start earlier. 

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