Zero waste for beginners

Updated: Aug 5, 2019

Unless you live under a rock or believe the earth is flat, chances are you’re aware that the health of our planet is rapidly declining, and the future of all living things is in great danger. News articles on climate change are released daily and images of pollution can be found from all parts of the world. Sure, recycling and turning off the lights when you leave will help but we need to make a more conscious effort.

The planet is dying and if you think that’s fake news, do a few google searches.

The images don’t lie.

* There is no Planet B *

Have you heard the term “zero-waste” floating around on social media yet? Zero-waste has recently started making headlines in an attempt to educate and spread awareness. What is a zero-waste? According to the Zero Waste International Alliance… I just learned this was a thing and I am suuuuper jazzed…

ZWIA says that “Zero Waste: The conservation of all resources by means of responsible production, consumption, reuse, and recovery of products, packaging, and materials without burning and with no discharges to land, water, or air that threaten the environment or human health.”

The simple answer… Zero-waste basically means that you are actively making an effort to produce as little waste as possible with a goal of not producing any waste at all… zero-waste. You don’t want anything to make it to the landfill, incinerator, ocean or as a pollutant anywhere. Of course, becoming completely zero-waste is nearly impossible but getting close to zero-waste is completely realistic.

The largest form of pollution is plastic. It’s said that by the year 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean then sea creatures. We might not live to see that but what about future generations? Shouldn’t they be able to enjoy the beauty of the ocean that so many before them have taken advantage of? Have you heard about The Great Pacific Garbage Patch? It’s pretty horrific.

Another great resource is The United States of Plastic it’s an illustrated story on plastic production and where it ends up.

pieces of micro plastic litter the ocean and beaches

When plastic is made

It stays around forever


Here are a few ways to get started on your zero-waste journey!

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I’ve had a few reusable water bottles over the years. I finally invested in a HydroFlask and have had the same one for about 4 years now. There are so many things I love about this brand. They support several nature related non-profits, every bottle has a lifetime warranty and they support nature related non-profits. I also really love that it keeps things at temperature for up to 24 hours.

These collapsible straws are perfect for traveling and they are reusable = environmentally friendly! I also have a set of these reusable stainless steel straws for at home. I like that both sets come with a small brush for cleaning and a few extras so that I can give away / share. I’ve heard a lot of chatter over the paper straws getting mushy and I’m not quite sure how well you can clean the bamboo ones. The stainless steal straws can soak in warm water and I'm not worried about rust or germs.

If you want to get real fancy with your reusable goods check out Spruce + Pine Co on Etsy. They have reusable utensils in hand made pouches that are perfect for keeping in your purse, desk or lunch bag. They also have reusable produce bags and other zero waste goodies. Everything is shipped with eco-friendly materials and you’ll be supporting a small business. Winning.

Believe it or not but those plastic shopping bags you get are only recyclable if you bring them to specific recycle locations. If you put them in your home recycle bin and they end up at your local recycle plant, they can really mess up the machines that sort items into specific categories.

You might have noticed a lot of grocery chains are saying "Good Bye" to plastic shopping bags. Not only are they a huge source of pollution, they are also pretty hard to recycle. Unlike most recyclable items, those plastic shopping bags can't just be tossed into your recycle bin. You've also probably noticed those "reusable" plastic shopping bags…Yes they do contain plastic. How many uses do they get before they tear and are no longer functional?And when they do tear after a few uses they become waste. Stardust Sustainables makes reusable shopping bags from 100% plant-based materials meaning they are also compostable once you’re finished with them! I’ve been able to fit about 30lbs of groceries in them and had no problems with breaking. I even buried one in the garden to test how compostable they are... after about 3 months you could barely even recognize it was ever a bag. It even had plants growing through it!

Clothing and household items are another * HUGE * contribtuon to waste. Not only when they end up in a landfill but also the production and transportation of the goods. Next time you need a new outfit or furniture / home goods check out your local second hand stores. By keeping the item out of the landfill, you are giving it a second chance at life while saving money and most likely supporting a charitable organization. Craigslist and FaceBook market place are other great resources to find items for discounted prices that could otherwise end up in the trash. Make sure when you are buying anything from someone you’ve connected with online that you practice safety first. Here are a few tips for buying second hand from a private seller.

I didn’t realize how many paper towels we were using till I started using rags and reusable napkins. If you have some old t-shirts or linens, you can cut those up. You can also buy old t-shirts for about a buck from the thrift store. Most home improvement stores sell rags in bulk for fairly cheap. If you want something more eye * appealing * check out A Few Old Bags, handmade crochet dish cloths… you will be supporting a small business with handmade goods. Whatever you chose, a reusable product instead of single use paper products, you will be making a positive impact on the earth. I also feel pretty damn fancy using a cloth napkin. I keep a little trash bin under my kitchen sink and toss my rags or napkins in there when I’m done using them. When it starts getting full, I just toss them into the wash with a little vinegar to help kill bacteria!

Avoid using styrofoam and single use food containers. If you want to carry out for dinner, when calling in your order ask if they would be open to putting your meal in a reusable storage container. Most will allow you to bring your own carry out container for leftovers too! I’ve even seen people do this for meat and seafood in the super market.

A friend of mine introduced me to the idea of having guest bring their own plates and silverware for parties. HEY LIZA!!! I started implementing this for a Thanksgiving pot luck dinner and it was a * HUGE SUCCESS * Everyone brought their own plates, silverwares, cups and take-home containers. The amount of waste we didn’t produce is unimaginable… there were over 30 of us so I know we helped a considerable amount. And the coolest part, everyone participated and some even brought extra for those that forgot. If reusable is not an option, there are compostable items available.

As a gardener this one is a real favorite of mine… COMPOST… What is compost you ask? Compost is decayed organic matter. A tree branch can be organic matter. So can a banana. To keep it simple, a home compost consists of food scraps. banana peels, orange peels, egg shells, vegetable and fruit scraps, coffee grounds. You should not compost meat, fish, butter, yogurt, cheese, milk, or animal fat. When you mix a bunch of compostable items into a compost pile they naturally break down into a nutrient-rich fertilizer. I keep another small bucket, with a lid, under the kitchen sink, the lid is important for many reasons including contamination and keeping fruit flies down. When your bucket is full, hopefully you’re able to have a compost pile or bin in your back yard to dump it in. You can also check out what resources your city offers you. Some cities have compost programs, or you can find a nursery that collects compost. Composting is really easy but there really is a lot to talk about on the matter and not enough time to discuss today so I found this great informative article to share with you from Home Composting Made Easy.

Have you gone paperless and cancelled your junk mail? I couldn’t believe the amount of junk we started receiving after a recent move. If you haven’t already, switch to e-billing, e-receipts and online magazine subscriptions. Fun fact: some online magazine subscriptions cost less or are available FOR FREE. Amazon offer’s a ton of online subscriptions included in your Amazon Prime.

Not everyone is the do it yourself DIY type and that’s okay. I’ve just started getting serious about making my own hygiene products. Deodorant has been a huge fail but facemask, body scrubs, tooth paste, and body wash are a few I’ve had a lot of success with. If the DIY version isn’t working for you, for whatever reason, there are still plenty of zero-waste options out there for ya! Shampoo and conditioner bars are becoming extremely popular and apparently, they work better than the stuff in a bottle. I’ve got some friends whom have given up shampoo completely and their hair looks pretty luscious. And they don’t even smell. My hair would be an oily nest but if it works for you, work it.

Buy in bulk. Some markets are selling items like spices, beans, dried fruits, even liquids in bulk. Yes you can buy eco friendly laundry detergent. In bulk. And tons of other every day luxuries. You can bring in an empty mason jar to carry these items instead of using a plastic produce bag. Storing these items in a mason jar will also help them stay fresh. And buying in bulk is often cheaper.

If you’re looking for more local companies and zero waste shops to support Hippie Haven has an

* AMAZING * list of resources from all over the world.

Above all, the best thing you can do for our earth is led by example. Don’t criticize people. I admit I am guilty of this, if you don’t recycle, I am judging you. But I am trying to stop and instead of criticizing I am trying to educate and spread awareness. Sometimes this does come with tough love and I’m not sorry. It’s 2019 and you should know better.

Let’s take simple steps together.

For Mother Nay Nay.

Love & light

Kristen Claire

Links to what you’ll need to get started

Zero Waste International Alliance

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch

The United States of Plastic

Reusable water bottle

Collapsible + Reusable travel straw

Stainless steel straw

Reusable utensil set

Plant based shopping bags

tips for buying second hand

A Few Old Bags, handmade crochet dish cloths

Home Composting Made Easy.

Hippie Haven <--- Link to zero waste stores

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