The zero waste lifestyle can sometimes be positioned as a yuppie daydream filled with mason jars and reusable Starbucks mugs. It can be intimidating to get started when there are so many changes to make, and experts seem to have every resource available to them to go zero or low-waste: Time to drive to specialty stores, money to buy high-quality reusable containers, and the ability to live in an area with farmers’ markets and healthy stores that offer bulk food options that don’t come in packaging.
However, all households, regardless of location, income, time, or family size can implement low and zero waste practices. And bonus: Ditching single-use paper and plastic items for reusable ones will actually save you money in the long run.
Here are ways to go zero/low-waste on a budget:
- Buy your reusable products from thrift shops. Buy pillowcases to use as reusable bags, and find things like cloth to turn into cloth napkins at a thrift shop. Reusable silverware and mason jars are also much cheaper at places like Goodwill.
- Embrace minimalism. We own so much stuff. But how much of it actually enhances your life and brings you joy? Minimalism is a lifestyle that focuses on cutting down on the collection of consumer goods and instead really enjoying what you have. This mindset will not only help you save money, but it will also support your zero/low-waste mission.
- Build a high-quality capsule wardrobe. Instead of buying “fast fashion” clothing items that are cheap but fall apart after a few washes, build a wardrobe out of quality clothes. Go to thrift stores and give quality clothes a second life, and donate or resell your unwanted clothes instead of sending them to the landfill.
- Fix items instead of throwing them away. Instead of throwing away objects that are broken, get them fixed. Treat your belongings like more permanent fixtures and invest in quality, and don’t ascribe to the “oh, I’ll just buy a new one” mindset.
- Bringing your own bags and containers to avoid extra charges. At most grocery stores (depending on the state you live in), there’s now a bag fee. Some coffee shops also give discounts for bringing your own reusable mugs. Weigh bags used for produce or bulk food before filling them, and then write the weight difference with colored chalk for checkout.
Remember, zero/low-waste isn’t an all or nothing lifestyle.
Simple swaps like using reusable straws instead of plastic ones and bringing your own bags to the grocery store can greatly reduce your trash impact. Start with small changes that fit into your lifestyle, and continue from there.
All of your trash doesn’t have to fit into a mason jar overnight — this is a process, and be kind to yourself on your journey to saving the environment. We look forward to meeting you where you are and supporting your journey. Reach out with questions or product suggestions to aid your sustainable lifestyle.