Why live a low waste lifestyle? So many reasons exist! But I’ll start with just a few.
Four of the biggest reasons to go low-waste:
1. Replenish the local economy — while adding to your own bank account.
Living low-waste actually creates community wealth. Low-waste lifestyles create more jobs than disposable ones. Think of how a sustainable product can be restored and resold multiple times. Or how recycling creates more jobs over a lifetime than simply throwing out trash upon first use. On a personal level, buying in bulk and bringing your own containers and bags equals savings for you, too.
2. Spend your time wisely — supporting creativity, not consumption.
Initially, the time invested in learning new sustainable living skills may feel a little less convenient than in the buy-in-plastic-and-throw-it-away model. But seriously, once you’ve created a low-waste lifestyle, you’ll spend time doing more meaningful tasks than shopping. Shopping trips become less frequent, less automatic. And the products you do buy will last longer.
Hey, if you really like shopping but want to focus on zero waste, no problem. You can still shop. You’ll merely find yourself going to more original places and investing in higher-quality goods that support local artisans and craftspeople. The pieces you choose will be more unique to you as well.
3. Build a true community — focusing on living well while supporting your friends and neighbors.
You can bond with your local community members by envisioning and creating a regenerative, sustainable future. A farmer’s market creates community compared to ordering online, as one example.
4. Enrich the Earth — restoring the health and wellbeing of our home planet.
This is the big one, but it’s listed last because perhaps it seems a bit lofty or removed from daily life. But buying sustainable packaging or refilling means less plastic waste. Less plastic pollution in fields and waterways. Fewer landfills. Less toxicity.
Supporting the entire ecosystem — meeting the needs of plants and wildlife as well as our own human needs — is the responsible, feel-good thing to do. Additionally, use of local and renewable goods and services reduces CO2 transport emissions, which is a critical step towards stabilizing the climate.
Hopefully by now, you’re already convinced of some key benefits of reducing waste. So, where can you begin if you want to go low-waste or zero-waste? I’m glad you asked!
Three of my favorite tips for low waste living:
1.Seek out all-natural stores and all-natural products.
Most of us use dozens if not hundreds of products on a regular basis, so don’t feel bad about taking small, measured steps while upgrading to all-natural products. I love to use all-natural products, but it can take time to make the switch with every product you use.
To avoid overwhelm, start with a single daily use product to make the biggest impact. Think about:
- Shampoos and conditioners
- Skincare and makeup
- Cleaning products
- Food and grocery related items
There are apps that can let you scan a barcode and learn about ingredients. The app called “Think Dirty” is one I like in particular.
Note that the terms marketers use to designate all-natural products aren’t regulated. So you can’t rely on a label that says “non-toxic,” or “natural” without checking the ingredients, specifically. You may also eventually need to do more homework regarding a company’s supply chains, sourcing practices, and overall ethics. It can help to shop at local or regional stores dedicated to all-natural products, as these merchants can do a lot of the screening work for you and you can talk to them about specifics.
2. Reduce habitual plastic use.
If you think about it, there are probably hundreds of ways to reduce your plastic use. Start by thinking of just one routine you can change that could actually make a difference in your overall plastic use. For a lot of people, learning to bring bags while shopping is a good place to start. For others, it might mean bringing your own coffee containers or straws when you dine out. As you master one change, look for just one more to add at a time, and celebrate your “wins” with eco-friendly rewards.
You may also look at packaging of the products you buy regularly — if they seem wasteful (lots of extra packaging due to marketing), consider if a different product could work better for you. So much of our consumer behavior is automated that it helps a lot to simply think consciously and choose what we want to change that would feel good and be more sustainable for the planet.
One bonus of a low-waste lifestyle is that the packaging can be so much prettier. I simply love the way a clear or frosted glass dispenser looks compared to a plastic one with colors, designs, and writing on it. That’s a reward unto itself
3. Furnish and stage homes with recycled goods and materials.
When I’m furnishing or staging a home, I like to consider using rehabbed furniture.You can look on Facebook Marketplace (a.k.a. Meta Marketplace?) before going out to buy something new.
You can also sell the furnishings and goods you no longer want online, too. If you purchase a living room sofa with a five to six year lifespan, it’s a waste to toss it. And there are many folks out there looking for a deal.
If you have the option, try not to buy trendy-but-cheap home goods. So many big box stores churn out things that will end up in a landfill too soon. I love Ikea as much as anyone — it’s so much fun to use low-budget items and make them look luxe — but avoid anything that seems it will hae a short life span. Avoid low quality furniture made of particle board or composites with plastic. Check out my blog on sustainable furnishings for details on specific materials to buy and avoid.