It’s time to think twice about trash. And we don’t just mean deciding whether something is recyclable or not. We mean rethinking our actual trash output. The average American creates 4.4 pounds of trash a day, enough to make us wonder how our landfills are not overflowing.
While the zero-waste movement started off as a niche undertaking, it’s growing into a full-blown trend aimed at environmental preservation. It may be no surprise that the best place to start your zero-waste efforts is at home. And, as it turns out, it’s not as challenging and costly as it seems.
With just a few minor adjustments to lifestyle habits and waste disposal, anyone can begin the migration to a zero-waste home environment.
#1) Buy a composter.
Composters are a great way to turn your organic trash into something usable. These airtight containers decompose organic matter, such as egg shells, orange peels, coffee grounds, and spoiled foods. In turn, the decomposed material can be used for gardening to revitalize old plants. Just spread it on the soil and it works as a fertilizer and pesticide.
Compost is especially useful for indoor plants that just need that extra added touch of nourishment. It’s a rewarding process that allows individuals with green thumbs to see some impressive results.
What’s more, composters don’t have to be a major investment. A small composter can go for as little as $90. Just place it in your yard or on your balcony. Avoid placing it on a wooden surface or deck as it can leak.
There are also plenty of DIY composter ideas and cheaper compost bins you can buy. While they may require a little more work, they’ll surely save you a bundle.
#2) Make mason jars your friend.
Plastic packaging is zero waste’s main foe. While it can be convenient, plastic is the least recyclable and most abundant substance we use day-in and day-out. Living completely without it may be impossible (especially if you live in an urban area), but it is possible to reduce its presence in your home.
To start, buy most of your products in bulk (dried goods, sugar, etc.). This way, you’re not constantly purchasing new plastic packaging. Then, transfer these items into jars and other reusable containers. Mason jars in particular are an aesthetically pleasing and creative way to do this.
You can even buy beautiful labels to place on them, turning them into an almost decorative touch. In addition to mason jars, save the jars from other products you buy and just continue to reuse them. You’ll be happy to learn that glass jars often preserve your goods better too.
#3) Install a bidet.
The average American uses 50 lbs of toilet paper annually, leaving toilet paper production at 84 million rolls per day. While you can opt for recycled, unbleached toilet paper, it’s not a long-term solution. Your best bet is to lower your toilet paper usage.
You might be wondering, How on Earth do I do that?
Installing a bidet is the best option. A permanent fixture in most European households, it’s just barely making its way into the American market. While installing a separate bidet mechanism might be a costly upgrade, you can always purchase a bidet toilet seat.
A bidet toilet seat simply takes the place of your regular toilet seat, and is a relatively easy DIY project. Lifehacker estimates that a switch to bidets instead of toilet paper could save 15 million trees annually, an equivalent to 36.5 billion rolls of toilet paper.
#4) Swap out your bedding.
The fact that your bedding could be wasteful may sound like a foreign concept, but it’s very real. Rather than purchasing bedding made of synthetic fibers, go for some made out of organic materials. This includes cotton, linen, hemp, wool, and other fair-trade fibers.
You’ll want to ensure the bedding you select is GOTS certified. This refers to the Global Organic Textile Standard, the global processing standard for organic fibers to ensure they meet a certain ecological criteria.
While organic bedding can be a little pricier than regular bedding you find in most stores, it also typically lasts twice as long. Of all the strategies on this list, this one might impact your pocket the most, but it will enhance your comfort while simultaneously honoring your zero-waste lifestyle.
Your skin will thank you, in addition to your carbon footprint.
#5) Opt for an activated charcoal stick.
Plastic bottles have become the poster child for wasteful living. At the root of every eco-friendly pursuit is the reusable water bottle. Whether we’re buying our water in bottles or having Sparkletts deliver, however, we’re expending unnecessary plastic.
Many households might think the solution is a reverse osmosis water filtration system, which automatically filters the water coming through your taps. However, a system like this can cost upwards of $200 – per sink. You also need to buy replacement filters at an additional cost.
Activated charcoal sticks are equally effective and significantly cheaper. An activated charcoal stick usually costs between $8-$12, and can simply be dropped into a reusable water bottle or glass water dispenser for easy filtration. It may take a little longer than a Brita or Pur filter, but their filters are not recyclable, making them not entirely zero-waste.
Activated charcoal sticks last for six months and are 100% recyclable and reusable. All you have to do is “recharge” the stick after three months of use by boiling it in water for a few minutes and letting it dry in the sunlight. They are made of kiln-heated Japanese oak branches, which makes them completely organic.
Going zero-waste will be a lot of work at first. These changes, and the extra effort it takes to implement them, will be supremely rewarding. What’s more, you may just start a movement among your family and friends, expanding the influence and appeal of a zero-waste home.
Ellie Batchiyska is a writer for Rent Viking, a leading provider of solar-powered portable sanitation products for events, construction sites, and more.