Have you ever done a waste audit? It’s a great first step to take when just starting out as it really helps you understand exactly which areas you need to concentrate on.
The way to do it is to empty your trash out at the end of the week and count how many of each item you have. See which items are the biggest offenders! Now start researching some zero waste or plastic free swaps and implement as many as you can!
Keep hold of your first audit and compare a few months or years down the line to see just how far you’ve come.
2. Bring Your Own Tote / Bag
This is a swap that is totally achievable for everyone! It really doesn’t matter what type of bag you take to the store (as long as it means you can refuse the plastic ones) but our favorites are our reversible linen tote or mesh string bags for shopping at farmers markets! We always keep a selection of bags in the car so we are never caught short!
3. Buy Bread Without Plastic
Most standard loaves of bread sold at the supermarket are sold in a plastic bag, along with a little plastic tie (which is particularly harmful for fish and marine animals). Instead invest in a bread bag and take to your local bakery, who will be more than happy to put it straight into the bag instead! If you don’t have a bakery near you, get to know the staff behind the bread counter at your local supermarket – they might be able to tell you what time the fresh bread comes out of the oven so that you can take your own bag.
Once at home, keep fresh by wrapping the cut end with a beeswax wrap and placing in a bread bin!
4. Take Your Own Container!
How often have you been in a restaurant and been faced with the dilemma of wasting food or taking said food home in a polystyrene container? We make a habit of taking our bento box with us to restaurants so that if we do have leftovers, we can take them home guilt free.
5. Buy in Season
When you buy fruit in season it tastes SOOOOO much better. Try eating a strawberry freshly picked in summer and you’ll know what I’m talking about! When you buy local, in season produce you can often find it packaged without plastic as it has had a much smaller distance to travel.
6. Use Handkerchiefs Instead of Tissues
Handkerchiefs used to be common place a few generations ago, but of course our ‘throw away’ culture has seen disposable tissues rise in popularity. There really is no need! Aside from the obvious plastic waste, handkerchiefs are much soften on your nose and will save your loads of money in the long run too! Just make a habit of carrying a couple of reusable hankies in your pocket or handbag and you are all set! They are also really easy to make your self from left over material.
To wash just place in a washer bag and add to your normal washing load.
7. Use a French Coffee Press
Throwaway coffee filters and the little disposable pods are a huge source of waste, especially if you drink coffee every day! Look for a zero waste option like using a French press or drip coffee machine instead.
8. Drink Loose Tea
Did you know that many brands of tea bags actually contain plastic? We recently made the switch over to loose tea and love the fact that we can buy without packaging (in a refillable tin). There are so many great specialty tea shops out there that often have hundreds of different flavours of tea so there should be something for everyone.
9. Freeze Scraps for Making Stock
Wanting to make use of meat, fish or vegetable scraps but don’t have enough to make a stock? Use an old zip loc bag (keep reusing it) and keep adding the vegetable peelings, fish or meat bones until you have enough, then simply defrost and bring to the boil as you would with fresh!
10. Regrow Your Own Vegetables
Did you know that you can regrow some of your own vegetables? Just stick the vegetable in water and watch them grow. It’s that simple! Not all vegetables can do this, but it works great with green onions, bok choy, lettuce, cabbage, celery, fennel and leek. @plantedinthewoods did a great post on how to do this here.
11. Switch to a Zero Waste Toothpaste (or make your own)
There are some great options for toothpaste out there that either come in glass jars or are sold as ‘crush and brush’ tablets. Great for combining with your bamboo toothbrush! Most do come without fluoride so you may need to take that into consideration, particularly if you have children.
12. Turn Vegetable Scraps into Dog Treats
We chop up broccoli stalks into small bite sizes pieces and use as dog treats. This also works great with carrot tops, parsnips, zucchini and lots more! If you have a large amount then why not try making your own dog food too?
13. Use a Plastic Free Sunscreen
We recently discovered these fantastic plastic free sunscreens from Raw Elements and absolutely love them! They are fully certified and even offer a kids and babies SPF30 roll on stick. Highly recommended!
14. Switch to a Plastic Free Bubble Bath
There are quite a few plastic free options out there for bath salts and bath bombs, but the options for a bubble bath that ACTUALLY creates bubbles are pretty slim. Luckily we worked with Essentials by Nature to customize their packaging so that this all natural bubble bath could be sold entirely plastic free! The ‘sweet baby’ scent is amazing for young children!
15. Switch to a Plastic Free Makeup Removal Routine
Great news people, there are some amazing options out there when it comes to makeup removal! Ditch the single use cotton rounds and replace them with reusable options! They are typically made from either cotton or bamboo and are easily washed along with your regular washing (just make sure you put them in a washer bag).
Pair with an all natural plastic free makup remover solution or perhaps try making your own? (Coconut oil is a great DIY option).
16. Replace Dryer Sheets with Dryer Balls
Are you looking for an eco friendly way to dry laundry faster without using wasteful dryer sheets? Dryer balls might be just what you have been looking for - and who can resist how cute these guys look?! Wool dryer balls help dry your laundry much faster, are made from all natural materials and they lasts over 500 laundry loads! PS, the old ones make fabulous cat toys or are fully compostable!
17. Use Reusable Diapers
Did you know that the average child goes through over 5000 disposable diapers in their lifetime? We made the decision to use cloth diapers with our kids and we are so glad we did!
On the face of it cloth diapers may seem quite expensive, but once you do the math over a child(s) lifetime you actually save significantly when you factor in the resale value (yes, there is a second hand market for diapers, who knew?!)
Just make sure that you launder responsibly and save water where you can by storing a few up in a wet bag if possible. If the all of the above doesn’t convince you, just take a look at some of those patterns….. too cute on little babies bottoms!
18. Get Creative with Kids Crafts
When it comes to kids’ crafts, try and think outside the box a little and get creative! @plantedinthewoods (one of my all-time favourite IG accounts btw) shared some amazing waste free children’s activities in their stories, including natural plant-based paints, nature paint brushes and natural play dough!
19. Refuse Free Products in Hotels
When travelling and staying at hotels, call ahead to let the hotel know that you don’t need any of the bathroom products (by this point we have fully converted to soap bars right). Just leaving them unused, chances are that the hotel will throw them away (especially if it is a bottle or similar that does not have a seal).
20. Download Magazines Online
Newspaper creation creates a lot of waste (aside from the paper used, they are also often wrapped in plastic too). Where possible subscribe to a digital magazine instead, like the incredible Wastefree Magazine.
21. Understand the Recycling Rules in Your Area
Recycling can be a bit of a minefield as unfortunately each country, province and even town can have completely different rules! Take the time to research the rules applicable to you. For those in Calgary, here are our recycling rules.
22. See Some Litter, Pick it Up!
Whenever you are out and about and see a piece of litter on the floor, do your best to pick it up and put it in the appropriate bin. The earth thanks you.
23. Wraps Presents in Cloth
Have you heard of the Japanese gift-wrapping technique called furoshiki? It’s a fantastic way to reduce waste around Christmas and birthdays and the gifts look stunning. I love the idea of wrapping gifts up in a scarf or tea towel that the person can use afterwards too. We also sell these stunning gift bags from @everpresentgiving that make fantastic gifts and can be continually reused.
24. Buy Second Hand Clothing
Buying second hand clothing is a great way to reduce waste as well as save some money too! For us the best ways to find clothes is either via thrift stores, Ebay or through our local buy / sell listings.
We’ve had great success buying our kids winter clothing this way – we just make a point of searching a year in advance so that we don’t run out of time and have to buy new. For those in Calgary / Okotoks area, @loopkidsokotoks is a fantastic place to pick up 2nd hand kids clothes.
25. DIY Dish Soap
Run out of your favourite dish soap, or want to try making your own?
@Stacysullivan has a fantastic recipe here which is super simple to make! She also has a stunning feed so definitely take a look!