4 Attainable Zero Waste Habits To Adopt in 2021, and how to make lasting, positive impact. When it comes to living a zero waste lifestyle, a common misconception is that it's "all or nothing". This is a huge setback, because the prospect of living completely "zero waste" is unattainable for many people. It sounds expensive, complicated, and unapproachable.
Over the past few years, there's been a big focus on selling products geared towards zero waste living - expensive food containers, zero waste kits, and fancy cleaning tools. Don't get me wrong - I love the concept of deigning products that are reusable - keeping garbage out of landfills, incinerators and the ocean. But, I do think that the way we talk about and approach "zero waste" living needs to be more inclusive and attainable.
With that in mind, I wanted to share 4 Attainable Zero Waste Habits to Adopt in 2021. I think by now, we've all heard about the basics of zero waste living: reducing plastic, recycling, swapping single use items for reusables, bringing your own reusable coffee mug or grocery bags... Maybe you are already doing all these things, and want to take it a little deeper!
If you're stumbling upon this post because you are interested in reducing your ecological footprint, I hope that this inspires you! Whether you've been on a journey to living a zero waste lifestyle for years, or are just getting started - I think we all have room to learn and improve. I will be the first to admit that I don't live a perfectly zero waste lifestyle! That being said, I try to use these zero waste habits on a daily basis to reduce my waste and ecological footprint.
1. Consume Less
How much do you buy, and how much do you really need? Every time I make a purchase, I think "do I really need this? Will it change my life?" This is a habit that I have my parents to thank for! Growing up, my parents encouraged us to think about this each and every time we asked for something or wanted to buy something. Especially if that item was made of plastic - we were encouraged to think of alternatives or consider whether it was really needed.
Adopting a minimalist mentality helps you to stop purchasing items that you really don't need, and consume less. This is probably the easiest way to reduce plastic waste! With more time spent at home over the past year, it's been easier than ever to consume less. Less in-store shopping = less temptation to spend money on items that you don't need. Of course, online retailers such as Amazon are still thriving... but if there really is something you need, I encourage you to browse more eco-friendly and ethical small business instead of shopping on Amazon. You can read more about the problem with Amazon, and browse my eco-friendly and ethical small business directory on this blog post.
2. Properly Dispose of Food Waste
Let's get food waste and compost out of the landfill! Do you have a composting system in your house? Many families don't compost because they don't have access to a backyard composting system, or because there is no compost collection in their city. It's easy to throw away food scraps and organic waste with the rest of your garbage - and because we don't see the effect of that directly, many don't think twice about it.
But did you know that food and organic waste can't properly biodegrade in landfills? Approximately 40% of the material that ends up in the landfill is organic - but it can't degrade properly because of a lack of oxygen and sunlight. We pack our garbage into tightly wrapped plastic bags, which then gets compressed and buried under layers and layers of more waste. When materials degrade in an anaerobic environment (without oxygen) - methane gas is produced. Methane gas is a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change.
Composting and properly disposing of food waste can not only help to keep wast out of landfills, but also provides an opportunity to create nutrient-rich soil to use in your own garden!
If you don't have access to a backyard compost bin, I'd encourage you to try using the ShareWaste App to find neighbours who are already composting - and accepting scraps and food wast from others. ShareWaste is an awesome community, allowing you to "host" a composting and receive scraps from nearby community members, or "donate" your scraps to nearby hosts. You can view the map and locate a host (or sign up to be a compost host!) here. ShareWaste has a growing user base around the world and it is totally free to use. No more excuses for not composting!
3. Eat & Support Local
This summer will be my second year of supporting a local CSA (community supported agriculture), and I am so excited! I decided to join a CSA in the spring of 2020. The beginning of the pandemic got me thinking about eating and supporting more local businesses, and this is a habit from 2020 that will definitely be sticking around for me! If you aren't familiar - a CSA essentially means that you purchase a "share" of the season's yield from a local farmer. You typically receive a weekly box of fresh seasonal produce. This helps to support your local farmers - providing the finances to purchase seeds, equipment and supplies before the growing season even begins.
Here's what I love about being part of a CSA :
- Knowing exactly where your produce comes from.
- Getting veggies directly from the farmer means that when your produce arrives, it’s still covered in soil and good bacteria for your microbiome. Less travelling = fresher, more nutrient dense produce!
- Save time and money! Less trips to the grocery store + your food is decided for you. This means you also get to try some veg that you might not have typically purchased! It’s fun to mix it up.
- And lastly, it’s eco friendly. Your produce didn’t travel hundreds of thousands of Km’s to get to you! Eating locally is one of the best actions you can take to help reduce your carbon footprint and fight climate change.
For anyone interested, the CSA that I have joined for two years now is Cedar Grove Organic Farm, based in Omemee, Ontario.
4. Set Zero Waste Goals
This is something new to me! I decided to create a list of weekly, monthly, and yearly "zero waste" goals to help me keep track of the ways that I am reducing my footprint on the environment, and stay accountable. In addition, this will allow you to keep track of your progress and get specific on how you want to begin or continue to achieve your zero waste goals. A few zero waste goals that you aim to achieve include:
- Starting to compost (either in your own backyard, or finding a host on ShareWaste)
- Starting to purchase more local produce, signing up for a CSA, or starting your own veggie garden
- Reducing unnecessary purchases - try writing a list of items you need before purchasing, and thinking about it for longer, rather than making impulse purchases!
- Encouraging or inspiring one other person to adopt a "zero waste" lifestyle
Thanks for reading! I hope that this post inspired you and got you thinking more about how you can make an effort on a daily basis to reduce your waste. I'd love to know what your zero waste goals are - please share a comment below! I also wanted to mention that I have been very inspired by my friend Elsbeth Callaghan, who shares about how to make zero waste living practical and attainable on her podcast Practically Zero Waste. I chatted with Elsbeth about how I use essential oils to reduce my waste everyday - you can listen to that episode here!
Be sure to follow me over on instagram @nourishmintkitchen for more healthy tips and daily inspiration! If you liked this post, you may also like my post on 7 Important Lessons I Learned from My First Veggie Garden, or this post on My Natural Skincare Routine.