How You Can Practice Zero Waste Living this Summer

By Victoria Smith

The less trash each of us can produce, the better those who come after us will live. The key to zero waste thinking is to remember that you are going for improvements, not perfection. Before you buy, make sure you are getting as little packaging as possible. Before you discard, think about how you can reuse the item.

Shop in Bulk

Even if you don’t have a co-op or a health foods store nearby, you can shop in bulk. If you live alone, pair up with a friend and split large containers of dried foods, such as TVP, beans, rice, and pasta, into smaller reusable containers. You can help the planet and save money.

Good Club is a great way to shop more sustainably, using refills and bulk buying to minimise waste.

Cook in Bulk

Invest in a quality selection of stainless steel food containers for lunch and get in the habit of cooking in bulk. While the cutting board is out to make a salad, chop up veggies for soup and load up the crockpot. If you are turning on the oven to make a quiche, put together some make ahead breakfast biscuits, let them cool, wrap them in a silicone food storage bag, and freeze for easy heating up on a busy morning.

If you are nervous about baking bread, make your own biscuits with baking powder or whip up a simple batch of cornbread to build confidence. Your whole day can get a lot easier knowing that you have a hearty breakfast in the freezer.

Compost the Scraps

Once you get in the habit of cooking in bulk, you’ll have veggies to fill up your composting bin or bucket. If you don’t have space outside to compost, consider investing in a worm farm. The soil you generate can serve to brighten your houseplants, or you can grow your own herbs and greens in a window. Your worm farm can also be used to recycle shredded junk mail if you do not plan to put it on edible plants.

Buy Used

Where possible, look for used items that will suit. You may need a new couch. Look for a simple wooden framed used sofa and update the cushions with new covers. You might need a bookcase. Instead of ordering one online, check out moving sales and estate sales for one that you can put to use. Finally, avoid buying new clothes unless there is no other way. Consignment shops, yard sales, and your local thrift store means you will only have a tag to toss.

Repurpose Where Possible

Before you put a worn piece of clothing or linens in the garbage bin, take another look. Old tee shirts can yield a lot of cleaning rags. Old socks can be repaired or cut up to produce:

  • a dust cloth from the foot section
  • wrist protectors from the tops

If you love to hike, save the tops of old socks to bind your pants to your legs during tick season. If you love to garden, wrist protectors will make it much easier to tidy up that rose bush.

If you have plastics in your home already, repurpose those. Even if you don’t want to use them for food storage, a small plastic container with a tight-fitting lid can be filled halfway with water and frozen to keep your lunch kit cold.

Be sure to avoid any feelings of deprivation when planning your zero waste purchases. The process will quickly fade if you and your family feel deprived. Additionally, you may feel that you are not making all that much of a difference. However, the power of your shopping dollars can be used to let producers know that single-use plastics are not welcome in your home, and this pressure is quite effective.