Living waste free is something that we’ve been working towards in our house for a few years. We aren’t by any means fully waste free, but every goal starts with baby steps. The waste free lifestyle is becoming more common in daily life. And it can be an amazing way for all of us to help with the global climate crisis on a day to day basis. Since making big life changes all at once can be challenging, I’ve put together this list of 10 Easy Ways to Start Living More Waste Free.
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To get started, I suggest choosing one or two things from this list and implement them into your life. Doing all at once would seem like too much and may leave you feeling discouraged. Going waste free is something that must happen slowly. For example, if you choose to stop using paper towels for an eco friendly alternative, don’t just throw out your whole Costco package of paper towel. Use it up, compost as much of it as you can and try to recycle as much as you can. Then, once it’s gone, make the switch. This goes for everything. Try your best not to cause excess waste, while aiming to produce less.
And speaking of which,
1. Saying Goodbye to Paper Towels
This one has been hard for me. Probably one of the hardest things to give up in our house. We used to go through huge packages of papertowel very frequently. And we don’t have a huge family or lots of kids. But I was determined to say goodbye to the extreme excess packaging, and regular money spent. In my researching on this, I got a few different favourites from different people. But what has worked for us, is actually using a few different things. For tasks like spills, I use bar rags. They’re meant to absorb a lot and come in large packs. If anything just needs to be dried off, or if im draining fat or oil from food, an old tea towel is equally as good as paper towel.
And finally for the regular cleaning tasks, like counters, stove top, tables etc. I’ve turned to Cellulose cloths, sometimes known as Unpaper Towel. Cellulose cloths are fully biodegradable and fully washable. Once your cloth has worn itself out and can’t be washed anymore, the 100% plant made material can be composted! By adding a small bin to our kitchen as a laundry bin, all of these substitutes can be easily washed in our regular laundry.
2. No More Dryer Sheets
If you think paper towel is too hard to give up right away, how about dryer sheets? Mike and I used those every load of laundry without even thinking about them. They’re single use, they can be toxic to the environment when thrown in landfills, and they take a very long time to break down. So switching away from them seemed obvious, but we like our clothes being softened and unwrinkled and lint free. Solution? Wool Dryer Balls! These are literally compressed balls of wool that you add to your dryer. They get tossed around inside the dryer removing static to let lint and hair release. They help your clothes to not wrinkle, and they help to soften clothes. You can even add essential oil to the ball before each load to give your clothes a fresh, clean laundry smell. The best part is, once you buy them, you don’t need to buy more. They last almost indefinitely, making them a money saver too!
3. Get Rid of Plastic Wrap
Plastic wrap is very useful in the kitchen, but I honestly don’t know anyone who truly loves it. It’s crazy wasteful, and pretty annoying to use. Our favourite waste free alternative is beeswax wraps. Beeswax wraps are becoming super popular and it’s easy to see why. They are fully washable and reusable, and can nearly replace plastic wrap 100%. The only thing that most companies don’t recommend using them with is raw meat. For our raw meat storage I have just switched to glass tupperware. Other than that, I adore our wraps. You can wrap leftovers in bowls, cover bread to rise, wrap produce. You can even make a pouch out of them to put sandwiches or snacks into.
4. Re-use Glass Jars for Bulk
This one may seem like an obvious waste free option, but getting into the habit of re-using glass jars was a tricky one for us. We would naturally, without thinking, recycle the jars. But if you’re already buying in bulk for the cost benefits as well as to avoid excess packaging then bringing your own jars is great. Most bulk stores will let you weigh each of the empty jars before you start filling them. Then you just fill them and they can deduct the weight of the jar. Most stores require the jars to be cleaned before you arrive, so just make sure you wash them.
5. Re-Use Old Pill Bottles
I only started doing this after meeting Mikes mother for the first time. She and I were chatting about gardening, and she gave me some pepper seeds in an old pill bottle. It was so obvious once I saw it, but had never occured to me. Later when I spoke with Mike about it, he said he uses them to hold small electrical components and other hardware. I now hold onto all pill bottles. Washed and kept in a basket, they’re there whenever I need to collect a new seed, or carry small pieces of hardware out to the garden.
6. For The Ladies
Guys, you can skip this part if you’d like. Ladies, tampons and pads are just and outrageous source of waste. Not only a waste of packaging, but they’re jsut one more thing to be spending money on. My favourite solution has been The Diva Cup. You buy one, and simply wash it and reuse it. I know, it’s a little weird to think about and it takes a wee bit of getting used to. But getting away from pads and tampons is a HUGE step towards being waste free. And I really can’t recommend the diva cup enough.
7. Wash Away Wasteful Cleaning Products
Cleaning products, whether for our bodies or for the home are another huge source of waste. Constantly buying new bottles and tossing the old ones is a vicious cycle. There are again, a couple options here. We have found in our house that switching from body washes and hand soaps to simple bars of soap to be a big waste saver. Usually bars don’t come with fancy wrapping (some aren’t wrapped at all), and they are just as gentle and soft on our skin as fancy body washes.
For our waste free cleaning products, we use refillable concentrates. There are a lot of these brands out there (Mrs. Meyers is good Canadian one, and Branch Basics is awesome if you’re in the USA). Basically with these concentrates, all you do is refill the concentrate (health stores and bulk stores usually offer this). Then you pour a small amount of the concentrate into your detergent bottle or spray bottle, and top it up with water. Voila! Great cleaners, at a fraction of the cost and waste.
8. Brush with Bamboo
Toothbrushes are one of those weird items that can cause way more waste than most people think about. Since they can’t be recycled and we’re told to replace them so frequently, they end up in landfills, not breaking down, in huge quantities. A cool waste free option we came across was bamboo toothbrushes. Bamboo is a highly renewable resource, unlike plastic. And it can break down easily in the environment. Once you’re done with the brush, you can remove the bristles with pliers (collect them in a clean glass jar, once it’s full, most recycling plants will take them). And the handles can simply be composted! Or you can use them are plant markers in your garden.
9. Speaking of Brushing
Toothpaste tubes are also super hard on the environment, and can’t be recycled. This one had me stumped for a little while, but eventually some awesome companies arrived on the scene with great solutions. We’ve switched to a dip and brush toothpaste that comes in a glass jar. So when we’re done we can just wash the jar, then reuse it for something else, or actually, properly recycle it! Another cool option I’ve heard about, but haven’t tried yet, is toothpaste tabs. They also come in glass jars, great for reuse, and all you do with these is pop one in your mouth and chew it a few times. It starts to foam and you can brush with it. Neat!
10. A Classic
What better way to deal with food waste then our old friend, Composting! So many cities now offer green bin services, definitely check if yours is one of them. If it’s a possibility where you live, it’s a great thing to do. Not only is it way better for the environment, but if you’re in the city it helps keep critters out of your trash. If you’re in the country, or simply have some yard space, why not start a compost pile of your own? With a bit of love once or twice a year you’ll have some beautiful garden worthy soil. In an apartment, with no access to a green bin service? Don’t be sad! Vermicomposting is compact and an awesome way to deal with your food waste. This method uses worms in compact bins to eat through your kitchen scraps and produce basically garden gold, aka worm castings. Check out this link to a great vermicomposting walkthrough!
There are so many ways that we can all reduce our waste, these are just a few that you can try. Remember, every little helps, and no one is expected to change everything about their life all in one shot. Just a little thought here and there and you can be well on your way to living a much more waste free life.