If you are just beginning your journey to a zero waste lifestyle – congratulations. You've taken the first step on a long adventure – but it is one that will take you to some amazing places, and allow you to do your part for people and planet.
We know it can be a daunting thing at times to navigate the minefields of modern life and create a zero waste home. But we're here to help. As you begin to work towards a truly zero waste lifestyle, here are ten tips to help you find your way:
1. Determine Your Motivation, and Let That Be a Driving Force
Whenever we set out to make any decision, it is important to determine why we are making that choice. There are plenty of reasons to embrace sustainability and to create a zero waste home. It is the right thing to do for our own survival, as individuals and as a species, and overall for this beautiful planet we call home.
But it is important to think about the reasons that really motivate you. Those are the reasons that will really help to drive you forward towards your goals. It won't always be easy, but it may be easier than you think. Whatever happens, keep your reasons for making the changes you are making in mind. That can help you keep going if things do get a little tough.
2. Know Where You're Starting From
As you begin to work towards creating a zero waste home, one key thing is often overlooked. Many people forget that we need to know where we are to work out how to get where we are going.
In order to begin taking the necessary steps, it is important to evaluate your home and your lifestyle. You really need to think deeply and carefully about what you are already doing right, and where you might be going wrong.
A good place to begin is by evaluating the things you buy. A zero waste lifestyle begins not with what you throw away, but with what you bring into your home in the first place. Think carefully about the lifecycles of all the items you bring into your life. Determine all you can about what went into making them, and their true costs in terms of energy, water, land, resources and human endeavour.
Of course, once you've looked at what you buy, you should also take a long hard look at what you throw away. That will help you to determine the main areas that you have to work on as you transition to a more ethical and sustainable way of life.
3. Count and Value Existing Resources
Between buying and throwing away, there are a range of other steps. As well as thinking about how we can change what we buy and what we discard, we should also think about how we utilise the resources that are around us every day.
There is one thing that those new to zero waste living often forget. We all have more resources available to us already for a sustainable lifestyle than we think.
Those trying to create a zero waste home often rush to buy new products. And certain new products are necessary as we make the changes we need to make. But before buying new, we should always make sure we have made the most of everything we already own. Often, trash can be turned into treasure if we know how.
We can upcycle, repair and repurpose old items to provide for new needs – and often we already have the things we need within our very own homes.
We can also make use of the things that we might have previously thrown away. Packaging, for example, might be used in starting a new garden, or in a range of other ways.
We can also make use of the natural resources. By looking in our own gardens, or in the natural environments in our areas, we can often find many of the things we need to create a more sustainable lifestyle and continue on our journey to a zero waste home.
4. Take Things One Step at a Time
Don't jump the gun and try to take on too much too soon. It is important when making any changes to take things slow and not to take on too much all at the same time. It can sometimes feel a little overwhelming trying to move to an entirely zero waste home all in one go.
It is a good idea, therefore, to implement small solutions one at a time. For example, you could start by trying to shop a little more carefully and a little less, and give up single use plastics by choosing to use reusable containers before you take things to the next level.
Read also: 26 Zero Waste Tips to Apply Everyday
5. Acknowledge Your Feelings – People Respond Differently To Change
Everyone has different reactions to change. Some people are happy to make major changes in their lives and don't feel too much stress of upheaval as a result. Others, however, find even small changes quite a wrench.
Creating a zero waste home will almost certainly involve making some changes to common habits. It is likely that you will have to make changes to your daily life. As you do so, however, remember to acknowledge your own feelings. If you struggle with change, acknowledge that it might be more difficult for you. Give yourself a bit of a break. You can't change your personality overnight, so embrace who you are, and take the journey at a speed that feels right for you.
6. Make Time To Learn New Skills
Another thing that will make your journey a lot easier is equipping yourself with certain skills that will make zero waste living more feasible. The more you learn, and the more you are able to do yourself, the easier it will be to create a zero waste home.
As you think about all the different things you need to do to meet your goals in this arena, think about the skills that will help you achieve those things.
For example, if you want to try to buy less food in plastic packaging, then gardening will be a good skill to learn. It will help you discover the wonderful world of growing your own, and reduce the amount of food you have to buy.
If reducing food waste is a key aim, then cooking and food preservation skills will be very important.
And if you aim to focus on creating a zero waste wardrobe, then learning some basic sewing skills should be high up on your list.
Read also: Composting: A Beginner's Guide
7. Make Time for Reflection
As you consider your options and make changes, it is very important that you build in time for reflection. Make sure you give yourself the time and space to do the necessary research. Be sure that you truly ponder each and every item you buy, and pause to truly consider everything before you throw anything away. Making time for thought is key to making progress in your life, and in creating a zero waste home.
It can sometimes help to pause at various points along your journey and to reflect on how far you have actually come from where you started. This can help not only to determine your future direction, but also to give your mood a boost. Make sure you congratulate yourself on each 'win' rather than just focussing on things that don't quite go according to plan.
8. Get Your Friends and Family On Board
A zero waste home does not necessarily need everyone living within it to be equally zealous about their zero waste efforts. But things will certainly be easier for you if you can get your friends and family on board.
Having some people around you who share your goals can help you stay motivated. It can help you continue to make the changes you need to make. Make sure you keep talking, even if you don't always think the same way or believe the same things. Communication is key. Don't be a zero waste bore. But do make sure you keep the conversation going. The more people understand what you are trying to do, the more likely they are to jump on board.
9. Seek Out and Value Your Community – Find Your Tribe
Remember, on your zero waste journey, that you are not alone. It can be helpful, especially if you don't get much support at home, to find others that you can talk to about your experiences. Find like-minded individuals who may well be going through the same things that you are. And remember, your tribe exists, and you will find people who think like you do, even if they don't live next door.
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10. If At First You Don't Succeed, Try, Try Again
Finally, it is very important to remember that no one is perfect. The goal is not to become an automaton who gets everything right every time. You are human and you live in an imperfect world. So give yourself a break. If you don't succeed at first – don't beat yourself up about it – but equally, don't give up. Keep trying new things and you will get there in the end and find a style of zero waste home that works for you.