Zero-Waste is a big statement in and of itself. The very name already makes you think its unattainable. It’s not as big as you think it is. The easiest and most significant changes are these 5. You probably can do most of these switches without spending much more money. So here is my TOP 5.
You probably already have a reusable water bottle. Whether its a fancy HydroFlask or a Camelback or a Nalgene with all those stickers on it. The difference with Zero-waste, is you actually have to use it. I had so many water bottles in cupboards going unused because I wanted a new one or I “didn’t like” my other ones. Buy one you ACTUALLY like. Buy one that will last a long time too. No point in buying something made out of plastic is you are going to throw it out in a year.
I use a Takeya, which is a fake HydroFlask, and I love it. It is 32 oz. which is big enough to not have to refill every hour. It’s white but I find it doesn’t get that dirty .
#2 Reusable Bags
Everyone has these. I have most of mine from the college booths at the state fair or from Trader Joe’s (they have the best bags just so you know). I am trying to use all of my old ones but only buy 100% cotton new ones because all those college ones still have plastic in them. They are still better than the throw away plastic ones so use whatever ones you have. It’s always nice to have a small packable one because they don’t take up too much space. You can use it for shopping or if you need to hold extra stuff (which is usually what I use it for because I have to carry around all of my reusable containers). My favorite bag was definitely spend-y because it’s local and I got it at the co-op. It’s a Scandinavian one and its navy blue. (The company is only for wholesale so no link online.)
# 3 Keep Cup
You have a coffee thermos but do you actually use it? Are you still getting Starbucks and only using your mug for coffee at home? These were the same with water bottles, I had a ton but never used them. For this, I did actually buy a new one. It was one of my Christmas gifts (and probably my favorite). Keep Cup is a great Australian brand that is vocal about sustainability. It’s tempered glass and has a cork band. It’s also barista standard so the size is the same as coffee shop sizes. It makes it easier when asking at a coffee shop (you wouldn’t think it would be hard but with our disposable society, sometimes people give you weird looks or don’t know how to respond when you ask. You get braver, I promise.)
You have this, its just a matter of bringing it with you. Think about all the fork and spoons made to be used ONCE. Crazy. If you don’t want to spend money, you can just wrap some cutlery from home in a napkin. A popular zero-waste thing is bamboo cutlery but I don’t like the way it feels, plus how sharp can a wood knife be? I got a cute little stainless steel set that comes in a pouch so I don’t lose all the pieces in my bag. It comes with a knife, fork, spoon, and chopsticks. I’m still getting a hang of the chopsticks but they are useful just the same.
#5 Reusable Straw
This one you will most likely have to buy. I got mine in a 4 pack on Amazon, and it came with a little wire brush to clean them. According to “The Last Plastic Straw” an advocate organization trying to limit plastic straw use said that U.S. Plastic Straw consumption alone is enough to wrap the circumference of the entire Earth 2.5 times a day. So even though it may seem like not a lot of plastic volume wise, that is a huge impact. It’s a little harder to use reusable straws at restaurants because they usually give you one anyway, and even if you don’t open it, they will mostly likely still throw it away. Always try to catch it right at the beginning. It feels rude and uncomfortable to ask all the time, but I’d rather be a little uncomfortable than have a bigger carbon footprint. It’s pretty easy at places like Starbucks because the straws are usually sitting in a cup for you to grab instead of put in your cup.
That is my first set of Zero-Waste switches. The most important thing to remember is that it is not all or nothing. I repeat: any step in the sustainable direction is the right one. Just switching 1 of these is still better than nothing. Its not a guilt trip, its just a step in the right direction. For example, maybe you don’t have a reusable tumbler to bring to Starbucks for cold drinks. At least if you have a reusable straw, its something. Straws are not always recyclable but the plastic cold drink cups are. Just one switch at a time. Zero-waste is not a end goal, it is a change of perspective. You will never produce 100% zero waste but you can try to limit it. Let me know what the everyday changes you are making in the comments.