The zero-waste trend has one important goal – sending nothing to the landfill. Reaching that point is quite an adjustment, but small, gradual steps will get you there eventually, or at least you’ll be leading a more environmentally friendly lifestyle. You can start with simple steps, such as shopping in zero-waste grocery stores, if you have some in your area, or at least choosing products with minimal packaging and foregoing plastic bags.
Another great way to adhere to this lifestyle is by giving a new life to old objects or by purchasing items with a long lifespan – and home décor, home accessories and home supplies are the perfect niches to start your zero-waste journey. Here are some creative, zero waste ideas you can put into practice right now:
Need new furniture or décor? Consider upcycling
Getting furniture and decorative objects for your home is a need that occurs all the time – but before purchasing new stuff, you should first consider whether you can repurpose some items you already own.
Maybe you have some old furniture in your storage unit that you could upcycle – a new lick of paint can work wonders, and you’re saving hundreds of dollars. Let your creativity fly. You might think that the old-fashioned China cabinet your grandma gave you it’s not suitable for your home, but if you take the glass doors out, you end up with a pretty cool bookshelf, a lot nicer and more durable than any new flat-pack furniture. And said doors can be easily turned into original picture frames for your gallery wall, for example. Perusing vintage shops, flea markets or online platforms to find used furniture and accessories that could be turned into something useful for your home is a good way to advance toward a zero-waste lifestyle.
And if you want to take zero waste up to a system, mapping waste of various sources in your own neighborhood could eventually lead you to various forms of reuse, comments Escape Waste blogger Antonia Ko.
Use glass or ceramic containers and bowls instead of plastic ones
One simple way to reduce waste (and to make your kitchen and other areas of your home look much better) is by forgoing any plastic containers, bowls and other such home accessories. Instead, go for glass, ceramics or stainless steel – they have a much lower impact on the environment. You usually get a lot more use out of them and look a lot better. Whether it’s your salad bowls, pots for your plants or containers for your cooking ingredients, avoid plastics.
Zero-waste gift packaging
Wrapping paper and gift packaging is a huge environmental issue, one that you don’t want to be a part of. According to a Stanford University research, Americans create 25% more trash between Thanksgiving and Christmas than during any other period of the year. It translates to about 25 million tons of extra garbage. A lot of it consists of packaging and gift wrapping, which is very difficult, if not impossible, to recycle. There are some simple ways to cut waste, whether you’re wrapping gifts for someone’s birthday or for Christmas:
- Keep the wrapping paper and the gift bags from old presents and reuse it.
- Shop as much as possible for presents that use minimal packaging.
- Replace wrapping paper with craft paper if you really want to use some type of paper, as it’s a lot easier to recycle.
- Make the packaging part of the gift: you can, for example, put your gifts in a nice basket, that the gift recipient will be able to use for other purposes.
- Forgo any type of wrapping altogether and use a bit of string and something decorative, such as slices of dried citrus fruits or dried flowers to decorate your gifts.
Repurpose cardboard boxes and other packaging as much as possible
The harsh truth is that most of the garbage in a household comes from the packaging of the purchases we make. There are ways to reduce the problem, and we already mentioned: buying in bulk, buying from zero-waste stores, favoring products with minimal or recyclable packaging. However, that’s not always possible – and, for those situations, you should try repurposing the boxes and other packaging as much as possible. Here are some useful suggestions on how to do that.
- Cardboard boxes can be repurposed as closet organizers, pet beds, toys and more – even Halloween costumes.
- Food delivery trays make great drawer organizers, particularly for jewelry or crafts supplies.
- Egg cartons are also really efficient for organizing small items.
- Old jars make for very cute planters for small plants like succulents or cactuses.
- Empty cans make great kitchen containers – you can have them on your countertop or in your cabinets and use them to organize your wooden spoons, spatulas and so on.
- Empty bottles make cute candle holders or even vases. You could use them as is – of course, after removing the label – particularly if you’re into a minimalist décor. If not, you can put your DIY talents to work and decorate them using acrylic paints.
- Old calendars, newspapers or magazines can be used as wrapping paper.
Get reusable kitchen supplies
Single-use kitchen supplies, like saran wrap, plastic bags, paper towels, baking paper and so on, are very wasteful. You’re wasting both money and resources – fortunately, there are solutions to this problem. We all like the convenience of having a roll of paper towels to pick up kitchen messes easily – and you can still have that convenience without wasting so many resources. Here are some simple kitchen supplies swaps that will get you closer to the zero-waste lifestyle:
- Get silicone baking mats instead of baking paper.
- Replace regular freezer bags with reusable ones.
- Get refillable cleaning products to reduce the plastic waste associated with cleaning supplies packaging and containers.
- Buy your ingredients in bulk as much as possible – it’s not only cheaper, but it also reduces packaging-related waste.
- Use a water filter pitcher instead of buying bottled water.
- Replace single-use paper towels with washable bamboo towels or with ultra-absorbent microfiber cleaning cloths.
Sustainable holiday decorations
Nowadays, holiday decorations tend to be almost single use: a sort of fast fashion, with new colors and new trends being pushed upon us each year. The zero-waste approach would be to buy beautiful decorations that you will enjoy time and time again during the holidays and other special occasions (and maybe pass on to your children).
There are plenty of artisans creating beautiful holiday decorations suitable for a variety of occasions, from Halloween and Thanksgiving to Christmas, that are so much better than the cheap plastic or Styrofoam ones you can find in most stores.
You can also create your very own unique holiday décor in your home. DIY Halloween decorations or Thanksgiving decorations are fun to make. Your family will enjoy the activity and you’ll end up with pretty decorations that have zero negative impact on the environment.
Making the transition toward a zero-waste lifestyle (or as close to that as possible) is good not just for the environment, but for your budget also: you’re buying less stuff and drawing more use from what you are buying, translating into money saved.