One of the things that bothers me the most about the term “zero waste” it’s because it’s something unattainable, a goal impossible to reach.
Even if you’re not consuming plastic and you’re shopping on bulk bins every day you’re still producing waste, it’s impossible to be waste free in the world.
Besides that, zero waste feels very privileged, usually products are more expensive in bulk bin stores (not all of them but I’d say a majority), at least in Portugal. All these new eco-friendly products are also very expensive.
So today I wanted to talk about that you don’t need to spend money to be more zero waste. You also don’t need to change completely to reduce your waste, you can make a few changes without being a “regular zero waster”. If everyone did a little bit it’d help immensely. I stand by that and hopefully this will inspire you to not feel intimidated by everything you feel like you need to buy or do.
First of all, you don’t need to buy anything, you can start RIGHT NOW.
Second, everyone has their own issues and everyone’s path to less waste will be different, don’t worry about everything that you SHOULD be doing, focus instead in what you CAN do.
How to be more zero waste while saving money
Reduce your food waste
Did you know that in Portugal (2010 data), each Portuguese wasted 132kg of food? And in the US, each person wasted 154kg of food? (sources: here and here)
Food waste is a big problem around the globe and you can change it by making changes in your kitchen. You don’t need to buy anything fancy “zero waste” to do this.
There are so many things that you can do to reduce your kitchen waste, it’s starts by planning your meals or using up everything you have before going to the supermarket. Make pantry challenges every once in a while to make sure you’re spending everything that you have. Don’t throw away your peels and use for something else, here you can find ideas on how to use carrot peels. You can also make broth out of vegetable scraps or bones.
Once you get the hang of it you’ll find uses for everything. It’s fun to think about all the possibilities.
Take faster showers
There are so many discussions about wood items, reusable straws, all about buying instead of reducing. Our focus should be always reducing.
Reducing your water consumption is a HUGE way to reduce your footprint. A simple way to accomplish this is by taking faster showers (plus you’ll have a lower water bill if you make a habit out of it).
If you struggle to take faster showers, start small. Once a week take a faster shower. You don’t need to do it all at once. Every little step has an impact.
Also, bonus tip: If your water takes a long time to heat up use this water to water your plants, by doing this you’re reducing even more your water consumption.
Reuse your plastic bags
If you can’t afford buying or making reusable produce bags, reuse your plastic bags. The worst part of consuming plastic most of the time it’s because it’s a single-use. It’s not hard to reduce your plastic bags, you can wash them and putting them out to dry and use them again. The reality is that most of them won’t even need to be washed. Same thing for ziplocs, if you like them keep using them just wash them and reuse them over and over again.
While I like alternatives like Stasher they’re expensive and not affordable to everyone. Reducing waste shouldn’t be about spending more money, don’t let money be an excuse to not reduce your footprint.
Buying local, at least in Portugal, means cheaper. I love to get my produce from local fruit shops. Although they do sell fruit and vegetables from other countries most of the time these local fruit shops sell local produce. You’re not only reducing your footprint because the food didn’t travel thousand of miles to reach you but you’re also helping the local economy without having an impact in your wallet.
Initiatives like Fruta Feia are also amazing for this, not only are you buying local you’re also buying what could go to trash just because it doesn’t meet the “standard beauty of produce”.
Buy second hand
You cannot control the huge amount of things that are being manufactured everyday, but you can buy second hand items which will help them have a longer lifespan.
In Europe only about 15–20% of disposed textiles are collected (50% downcycled, 50% reused), the rest is landfilled or incinerated (source).
Buying used it’s recycling! And it’s better because textile waste is not often recycled as some companies like to tell us, since fabrics are not always recyclable, they’re often used for other useful materials but recycling a dress doesn’t mean that you’ll get a new dress out of it.
As you’re buying second hand you’re allowing less things to go to the landfill. How many things do we throw away that could be used by someone else?
These are just a few simple tips that can make a big impact, let me know if you start implementing them.