Five Simple Steps Towards a Zero-Waste Home
It’s a new year, and you’re vowing to do better for yourself and Mother Nature. That’s music to our ears, so we want to share five simple tips to get you started on your journey towards a zero waste home.
2022 is a fresh start—a clean slate—and you have big resolutions. We fully support you dreaming big and chasing your goal to live a zero-waste, non-toxic lifestyle.
But big resolutions and goals are best tackled in small, digestible chunks. That’s exactly why we’re sharing our top five simple and tangible steps towards a zero-waste home, so you can start your new sustainability resolutions with confidence and ease.
1. Master Your Mindset
When you’re accustomed to a certain lifestyle, the idea of going “zero waste” can seem overwhelming—unachievable even. So we want you to start this journey by nipping that mindset in the bud.
Have you ever heard of analysis paralysis? It’s the idea that you need to know everything about a certain topic before you get started—to be able to master something perfectly without ever having tried it before. While that would be ideal, you’re never going to feel like you know everything, so this way of thinking can prevent you from ever getting started.
Let’s apply this to your zero-waste journey. You may be completely overwhelmed with the amount of waste your household currently generates, and you want to immediately cut it to zero. Well, we’re here to tell you that slow and steady swaps win in the long run—and by definition, sustainability is all about the long run.
To master your mindset around your zero-waste journey, start with these tips.
- Take a deep breath. Let go of your expectations and take it one swap at a time. Start with the simple tips we’re laying out here and go from there. This doesn’t have to be stressful. Instead, this journey should feel light, inspiring, and exciting.
- Find your why. Maybe you’ve seen statistics about the amount of household waste in your country. Maybe you’ve read climate reports that shocked you. Maybe you’ve heard of all the benefits of minimalism on your mind and body. Maybe you just want to take back control of your purchasing power. Whatever your why (or whys) are, write them down and put them somewhere you’ll see them often.
- Reframe your approach. Rather than beginning your zero-waste journey out of sheer desperation and anxiety, give yourself permission to truly enjoy this experience. Reducing the waste in your life is a beautiful act of self-care—a way to reinvent yourself.
Instead of a chore, think of this process as a way to free up space in your home, body, and mind—to allow new, amazing habits and products to find their way into your home and your life. A way to use your habits and purchasing power to cultivate a home that truly aligns with you and your values.
2. Get a Water Filter and Reusable Water Bottles
If you already have a reusable water bottle, awesome! If not, there are a ton of options out there like the infinitely reusable aluminum bottles at Pathwater.
Now let’s think about water filtration in your home. If you don’t have a drinking water filter in your refrigerator, we encourage you to buy one. Filters that attach to your faucet can filter up to 100 gallons, whereas the pitcher filters last to filter around 40 gallons.
Whole house water filters attach to your water supply line, so even the water coming out of your shower head and washing machine will be filtered (which is great for your skin and overall health). While these filters are definitely more expensive than the ones mentioned above, they’re typically easy to install and don’t require massive renovations.
These filters are a great way to incentivize you to drink from the tap and make great use of your reusable water bottles. At 1 Hotels, our sustainable sanctuaries have filtered water taps, so you can drink as much high-quality filtered water as your body needs.
Our in-room cups are made with recycled wine bottles, so we can reduce our waste while also encouraging you to always steer clear of single-use water bottles and cups. Drink up!
3. Identify Your Zero-Waste Product Swaps
Take inventory of all the waste-generating products in each room of your house (bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, living room, etc.). By waste-generating products, we mean products packaged in plastic that can’t be composted, easily recycled, or infinitely reused. This room-by-room breakdown by Zero Waste Home can serve as a guide for this exercise.
You may be overwhelmed by all of the sneaky plastics (or other synthetic materials) that have made their way into your home. But don’t worry, identifying these materials is the first step to implementing real, lasting change. So be proud of yourself for bringing this into your conscious awareness.
Now, it’s important to note that you should use these products until they’re gone/done. It’s not sustainable to simply throw something away just because you want to swap it for a new, more sustainable product.
The chunk of time when you’re finishing off those old products is the perfect time to find sustainable, zero-waste swaps for them. Below you’ll find a few ways to get you started with finding these swaps.
If you notice your fridge/kitchen has a lot of plastic in it, it’s time to go to the farmer’s market. We recommend bringing your own canvas bag to the farmers market to get fresh food (and other products like local honey, tea, coffee, etc.) sans plastic. Plus, you’ll be stimulating your local economy by supporting farmers and producers in your area!
If you’re overwhelmed by the waste in the rest of your house, we recommend visiting a zero-waste online store like the Zero Waste Store, EcoRoots, or Grove. You can find everything from shampoo bars to household cleaners to compost systems. Take your time exploring sites like these—they can inspire swaps you didn’t even realize you needed like cloth napkins, natural dish scrubbers, beeswax wraps, and silicone sandwich bags.
On the topic of silicone sandwich bags, we’d like to mention that switching from plastic products like ziplock bags, cling wrap, and tupperware to glass and ceramic products isn’t just good for the environment—it has a positive impact on your body, too.
Plastic products can leach harmful chemicals into your foods and beverages, especially if you’re eating and drinking out of them every day or putting these products in the microwave or dishwasher. You’ve probably heard about this because of the infamous ban of bisphenol-A (BPA)—now many plastic companies use the “BPA-free” stamp as a marketing ploy to convince you that plastic is safe for everyday use.
The truth is, plastic is made of all kinds of toxic chemicals. BPA is just one that has been extensively researched. In fact, there are other types of bisphenols (BPS, BPF, BPZ, etc.) in plastic that have not been banned simply because they haven't been thoroughly researched. However, there’s evidence that these chemicals behave much like BPA and can still disrupt your body’s delicate hormone balance.
Long story short, avoiding plastic is the perfect example of the mantra, “Sustainability is self care.”
Across the globe, we waste 1.7 billion tons of food each year—the equivalent of dumping $750 billion worth of food in the garbage every year. This is a tragedy in itself, but even more so as over 800 million people face hunger on any given day.
For tips on reducing your household food waste, please read our previous post, Reducing Waste with Haste. Visit the NRDC’s food waste report, WASTED, where you’ll find 11 specific actions that you can take to reduce your individual food waste (on page 42). Think meal planning, freezing leftovers, and donating to local food banks.
As you develop new routines to reduce your food waste, we encourage you to simultaneously learn the ins and outs of composting. To start, we recommend getting familiar with your area’s composting services. You can search “composting services near me” to create a list of drop-off sites or specific rules for composting in your city/county. For example, Toronto’s Green Bin Program collects organic waste from your curb, whereas most states in the U.S. require you to drop off your compost yourself.
We also encourage you to explore composting in your own yard! This is one of the best and easiest ways to use your food waste for better, especially because there are certain household items that you’ll never eat like banana peels, egg shells, and tea bags.
For a little inspiration, the on-site organic composter at 1 Hotel Toronto can turn 12,000 pounds of waste into 1,000 pounds of compost every month. The sanctuary’s food scraps are used to feed over 2,500 plants instead of rotting in landfills producing harmful greenhouse gasses.
To give you a brief overview of what composting at home looks like, here are a few basic steps.
Select your scraps. Make a list of the things you use all the time that can be composted.
Choose a place to store the scraps. This could involve an old milk carton or a bag in the freezer.
Choose a place to make your compost. This will depend on your living space.
Make your compost mix. It’s all about layering the browns and greens, you’ll see.
Wait. This is the easy part, but you might need to rotate the pile while everything decomposes.
Now that you know the basics, we hope composting doesn’t seem too intimidating. You can find more details on how to ease into it with this beginner’s guide to composting at home.
5. Bring Your Own
While this article is all about reducing your household waste, we encourage you to extend these tips beyond your home (especially because it’s easy to bring waste home with you).
To do so, our top tip is to bring your own supplies! Consider making yourself a zero-waste kit with the following items.
- Reusable bags (produce bags, grocery bags, shopping bags)
- Reusable cups for coffee and beyond
- Reusable bamboo cutlery
- Reusable stainless steel straws
- Refillable hand sanitizer
We recommend keeping your kit in your car, so you have it for spontaneous outings.
It’s Never Too Late
We want to remind you that it’s never too late to begin your zero-waste journey. In fact, you’ve already started just by reading this article! And always remember—every single step counts and presents a unique opportunity to engage your own community to follow suit.
Globally, we throw out 2 billion tons of waste per household every year—over 60 tons of waste every second. Your decision to start reducing your household waste matters, and (because you’re doing it on your own terms) we think you’re starting at the perfect time.