Zero Waste how to

10 Things You Can Do Today

Looking for immediate solutions and easy things you can do right now to eliminate some of your garbage? Look no further!

  1. Bring a reusable water bottle.
  2. Use a reusable travel mug.
  3. Keep reusable bags in your car.
  4. Pack a zero waste kit and keep it with you.
  5. Shop at farmers’ markets.
  6. Buy secondhand.
  7. Choose unpackaged options.
  8. Get it “for here.”
  9. Ask for “no straw.”
  10. Look at your trash and recycling.

Bring a reusable water bottle

It doesn’t need to be fancy- just pop a reusable water bottle into your bag. You’ll be surprised how handy it will be and how many plastic bottles you’ll avoid. We especially recommend stainless steel (light and indestructible) or repurposing glass bottles (free and easy to replace). Julie’s favorites are a dented old stainless Kleen Kanteen and a repurposed juice bottle. You probably have a bunch of bottles hanging around- use them!

Use a reusable travel mug

Again, everyone has a travel mug- just make sure to bring it with you! We would never think to deny anyone coffee-on-the-go, and most places will fill up your reusable mug. They also make handy containers for all manner of things that accumulate throughout the day, like apple cores and orange peels that you can then take home and compost instead of throwing away.

Keep reusable bags in your car

All those reusable bags that inevitably accumulate won’t do you any good if you don’t have them with you. Pop a bunch in the car and then you’ll always have them ready. And remember- if you forget your bags, it’s okay to just load the cart up and bring it out to your car without bags. It’ll make the baggers uncomfortable, but I guarantee that bringing in armloads of produce will be a real learning experience.

Pack a zero waste kit and keep it with you

Putting just a few essentials like reusable silverware and a cloth napkin in your bag can really make a dent in how many small disposable items you use. It doesn’t need to be anything fancy- just grab a spoon, knife, and fork from your utensil drawer, wrap it in a cloth napkin, pop it into a reused plastic bag or small cloth bag to keep it clean, and throw it in your bag. Presto: zero waste kit! For more ideas on how to prepare a more thorough zero waste kit, check out our article.

Shop at farmers’ markets

By shopping at farmers’ markets, you are supporting your local farmers, keeping your money local, and reducing fossil fuel use for transportation. You’re also much more likely to find unpackaged produce and other goods. Bring those reusable bags along with some light produce bags (repurposed plastic bags are fine, or make some yourself out of repurposed old clothes!) and some towels or pillowcases for bread, and you’ll be zero waste styling!

Buy secondhand

By shopping secondhand, you are both preventing something from going to waste AND preventing the need for new resources to be used to create the new item. Mainers have a long tradition of yard sales and secondhand stores, so it’s easy to find some great scores. Julie has found awesome secondhand deals on everything from her car to records to kitchen wares to her pets.

Choose unpackaged options

We’re not going to sugar coat it: this can be the most frustrating aspect of going zero waste. All of a sudden you’ll realize just how much everything is packaged! Bananas? Wrapped in a plastic tape. Lettuce? Sealed in a plastic bag. Scone from the bakery? Saran wrapped to death! But fear not, there are options out there. Next time your in the produce section of your grocery store, see if you can find unpackaged options. Maybe there’s a bag of onions over here, but over there you can buy them loose. Or maybe there’s a certain store where everything seems to be packaged but another store a few miles away where there’s more unpackaged options. Maybe that same bakery that has the saran wrapped scones also has loose scones, and you can simply wrap one up in that napkin you’ve been keeping in your bag. There are lots of options, and sometimes you just have to look and think outside the box.

Get it “for here”

Did you forget your travel mug? Don’t have your zero waste kit with you? Fear not, there is an old-fashioned solution: get it “for here.” Order that cup of coffee and get it in a mug and sit down for a few minutes with a book or catch up on some email. One of Julie’s favorite lunches is the tom yum soup at the Thai restaurant nearby. If she gets it to go, it comes in a plastic take out container with a bundled spoon/napkin and tied all together with a plastic bag. If she eats it at the counter of the restaurant, it comes in a ceramic bowl with a stainless spoon and she can enjoy people watching for a few minutes. It only takes a little longer than getting it to go and it’s a nice break in the day and creates no single-use disposables.

Ask for “no straw”

Will you ask for no straw and still receive one? Probably. Are straws truly the root of all evil like the online zero waste movement would have you believe? Probably not. But it’s an easy step to take, and it helps create awareness that folks are opting out of a disposable culture. If you happen to like or need straws, there are alternatives to single-use disposable straws, such as glass, stainless steel, silicone, or reusable plastic straws. However, if you need a straw and single-use straws are your only workable solution, you won’t have any judgment from us. Not all solutions work for all people, and medical requirements should never make you feel guilty!

Look in your trash

We can tell you all day what things you could eliminate from your waste, but the best indicator of what you’re throwing away is to, well, look at what you’re throwing away! Don’t be shy- dig through your trash and recycling! What’s in there? You’ll start to see patterns and get a real sense of what will make a big difference in your personal waste. And then go after those big, low-hanging, easy to fix problem areas. Whether it’s plastic clamshells for produce, used tissues, paper towels, or chewed up dog toys, only you can say what’s filling up your garbage can and recycling bin.

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