When you toss a piece of trash, do you ever stop to question where that small piece of trash will end up? We know our curbside is not the ending destination. That single piece of trash is a miniscule part of America’s almost 251 million tons of trash being generated annually. That’s 4.6 pounds of trash per day per person! After our trash leaves the curb, it is then transferred to dumps, recycling stations, composters, and energy plants, with the majority ending up in landfills. Landfills are not designed to break down trash, but to merely bury it.

The environmental impact of our daily actions adds up more than we may realize. We don’t stop and think how much waste just one person can accumulate in a matter of seconds! Recycling helps to reduce further accumulation, but is still only acting as a band aid to the underlying issue. We are wasteful!

Whether your intent is to protect the planet, save extra money, or even lose a couple of pounds, there are great benefits to a zero-waste lifestyle. More so, by simply replacing new behaviors with old routines, achieving this lifestyle is easier than we think- even right here in the MOV!

Where to start? Look at your trash!

Seriously. Look at your trash! What’s accumulating? What do you throw out the most? For me, it was plastic water bottles. I was purchasing almost 24 water bottles a week, about 1,248 plastic bottles I sent to the trash annually. It may not be water bottles for everyone. Someone else may look in their trash and see 10 plastic bags or a week’s worth of single use coffee cups. Start with what’s in YOUR trash and research eco-friendly alternatives.

Allow the process to flow naturally. I wouldn’t suggest tossing every plastic or single use item in your home immediately. Instead, let your trash unfold for you, because it will. Once you become mindful of what trash really is, trash, you start noticing all the different ways we unnecessarily accumulate it.

January’s accumulated waste

What are you really paying for- food or packaging? Buy in bulk!

Did you realize you pay to have your items packaged? Once we toss that packaging, that is your dollar going in the trash. However, we can buy unpackaged items, and at less cost, too!

If you’ve never been to Mother Earth Foods in Parkersburg, go! They have a great bulk bin section that can replace a lot of the packaging found in your kitchen. Spices, flours, nuts, pasta, rice, oats, granola, beans, candies, and more. There are paper bags available for the bulk items, which can be reused by keeping emptied paper bags in your reusable shopper. In comparing costs, I’ve found that the items I’ve purchased in bulk are usually about $1.00 cheaper per pound or ounce.

Essentially, we pay for disposable containers. Instead of throwing away the used packaging, save it to store your bulk purchases!

A portion of the packaging I was buying prior to the 30-day Zero Waste challenge. All easily eliminated by utilizing items in the bulk bins at Mother Earth Foods.

Eat more whole foods. Cook at home.

I was averaging about a smoothie per week from Panera. Per year, that’s 52 plastic cups, 52 lids, 52 straws, 52 straw wrappers, and $250! You see where I’m going with this? Just from eliminating a weekly smoothie and no longer buying packaged water, I’ve already saved myself almost $500 annually. Make your weekly smoothie at home, or whatever it is for you.

Learn to make your favorite pre-packaged items using unpackaged, whole foods – peanut butters, protein bars, breads, soups, nut milks, dips, spreads, teas- anything and everything! Real food that is healthier, cost-effective, and chemical free! The internet is unbelievable, and the sky is the limit when it comes to getting creative with food. Personally, if we can’t recreate the food that comes in packaging, we probably shouldn’t be eating it!

Going Forward

The waste we already have, we already have. I wouldn’t stress about getting rid of what’s in your home, but instead, look for opportunities to reduce further accumulation. Be mindful of each item you purchase. Is it needed? Can you find a zero-waste alternative? When you run out of something, look up how to replace it. You will be amazed at how cheap and easy it is to swap a lot of our frequently disposed of packaged items with eco-friendly replacements.

Don’t let hesitation stop you- ever. Start making changes now. Zero waste may look intimidating, but in the long run, it can be much, much easier! It’s simply training ourselves to do one thing instead of another-  different versus increased effort. After a while, it becomes the norm. Plus, you don’t need to go zero waste to reduce your impact on the planet, your wallet, or your health! Below are some quick, simple ways to start reducing waste.

Eliminate single use- buy reusable. Shopping bag / water bottle / coffee cup / eating utensils

Refuse straws.

DIY beauty/ self-care products. As a female who has grown accustomed to buying quality self-care/ beauty products, I was extremely happy to find DIY alternatives that worked just as well as store bought. A lot of ingredients can be found in a well-stocked kitchen!

Reuse packaging. Instead of buying a bunch of containers to store food, DIY self-care products, etc., start collecting reusable packing you’d normally throw away. I have spices in old baby food jars and homemade tooth powder in a plastic condiment cup courtesy of Panera.

Learn to compost or find a friend who does. I freeze my food waste in paper bags and give it to friends/family with compost piles.

Buy food without packaging. Eat more fruits and veggies! Utilize farmers markets and prep for winter. Berries are a big part of my diet, but come in plastic containers. With a little prep in the summer time, I can freeze berries for all winter long! Fresh, local, eco-friendly produce!

Bring your own container for to go food orders. Can’t stay away from the convenience of food to go? Let them know you brought your own container.

Talk about it! Tell your friends, co-workers, employers, or even strangers. Let people know what you are doing, why you are doing it, and your successes. Help others find ways to eliminate waste. Help your community! We are all in this together. Share your ideas and have a voice. Get involved.

30-day Zero Waste Challenge

What’s in the box?

Junk mail, waste from Christmas gifts, food packaging from pre-challenge, and of course, my accumulated waste for January:

  1. Receipts
  2. Lint Roller Paper *Reusable options available
  3. Voided check
  4. Toothpicks from a to go order
  5. Finger tape for climbing, plus a few band aids
  6. Larabar (I had a moment of weakness)
  7. Fruit & Vegetable stickers/ binding
  8. Plastic seals from opening new bottles
  9. Food packaging for- berries, tempeh, and tofu
  10. Contacts
  11. Toilet paper* There is roll-less TP!
  12. Broken hair clip
  13. Post it note
  14. Zest Juice bottle