Standing in our kitchen one night, we glanced over at the plastic recyclables bin and noticed that it was, yet again, filled to the max with single-use plastics. Food packaging and random plastic containers that we used during the week made up the majority of the bin.
In addition to our plastic container, we also have a place for paper, glass, and metal, which would soon be filled too. We felt good about these containers and thought that we were doing everything right by sorting out our trash and walking it down to the collection center a few streets away.
We even produced our own stainless-steel water bottle so we could avoid using plastic ones in a small effort to help the environment and save a little money. However, after staring at the plastic bin that night, we quickly realized that recycling alone was not enough. We needed to make a bigger change. That’s how we came upon the idea to create a zero waste box based around the zero waste lifestyle, and it’s also the main driver behind this beginner’s guide to eliminating plastic waste.
If you’ve ever looked at your plastic recycles bin and thought the same as us, then you’re in the right place.
In this article, we will cover a few facts about plastic waste worldwide, how plastic ends up in the ocean, the five R’s of zero waste, and replacements for the worst single-use plastic offenders.
Ready to start your zero waste journey? Us too, so let’s begin!
8 Million tons. That is the amount of plastic that ends up in the ocean each year. Sewage related debris, mismanaged city trash bins, littering, and unlawful industrial production practices are amount the top contributors to ocean waste.
However, eight million tons is a little hard to visualize, so we created a little infographic to help you understand just how much plastic ends up in the ocean each year.
The 5 R's
Adhering the 5 R’s will help you eliminate unnecessary plastic from your life and put you on the fast track to a zero waste lifestyle.
Refuse – Do not accept anything that is apparently wasteful, harmful, or unnecessary.
- Refuse plastic straws. There is absolutely ZERO need for these.
- Refuse to use harmful household cleaners. Create your own cleaning mixtures and store them in reusable glass bottles.
- Refuse to purchase items with unnecessary packaging. Don’t buy that single banana wrapped in plastic warp.
Reduce – Use the minimum amount necessary to get the job done.
- Brushing your teeth? Use a pea size amount instead of covering the whole brush head.
- Measure your cooking supplies to reduce kitchen waste.
- Air dry your hands instead of using paper towels.
- Think of little ways you can reduce the amount needed to complete whatever you are doing. Using less will not only help the environment, but it will also help your bank account.
Reuse – Make a habit of using an item more than once or replace single use items with reusable ones.
- Avoid plastic and save money by purchasing a stainless-steel water bottle. Doing so will allow you to have a durable water bottle that will last for years.
- Reuse packaging materials. Did you know that you can reuse boxes from Amazon and other companies to ship your own packages? Save any wrapping the comes with your new order for future use!
- Slowly make the change to reusable products from natural materials like washable makeup removers, washable cotton pads, reusable produce bags, reusable coffee cups, etc.
Repurpose – Create something new out of something you already have.
- Use your Yoga Junkies box as a place to store your spiritual growth tools, yoga equipment, or bathroom items.
- Save your misprinted papers for notes. The back side is often left blank, which is perfect for a shopping list or yoga notes.
- Save glass food jars and use them around the house instead of purchasing jars from the store.
Recycle – If all the above methods are unavailable, be sure to dispose of your waste properly.
- There’s no reason to not recycle your plastic, paper, metal and glass. It’s simple and can greatly impact your ecological footprint.
- Place food scraps in a separate bin if your waste management company accepts them or place them in the garden.
- Every single piece of fabric should be recycled. Every piece!
- Take your electronics to the local waste management facility for proper disposal.
- Do not pour paint or chemicals on the ground or down the toilet! These materials require special care to be disposed of properly.
Zero Waste Tips
Use these beginner tips to slowly begin the transformation to a zero waste lifestyle.
- Bring a travel coffee cup with you when you go to your favorite coffee shop.
- Make the switch to a biodegradable bamboo toothbrush.
- Search for a bar soap wrapped in paper to avoid plastic shower gel bottles.
- Switch to a natural and reusable pad for periods.
- Use cotton, hemp, or jute bags for your produce instead of the thin plastic bags provided in store.
- Build your own zero waste kit to keep in your car. Then, whenever you’re out and caught without your reusable items, you can have a backup plan.
- Keep a reusable straw on you at all times.
- Say “no straw please”. Everywhere.
- Keep a set of reusable utensils close at hand if you know you will eat a meal away from home.
- Donate any old items you no longer use.
- Avoid using paper towels and use washable cotton towels instead.
- Keep a reusable water bottle with you at all times. Bonus points if it’s a Yoga Junkies water bottle 😉
- Take shorter showers (5 to 10 minutes is best).
It’s important to remember why you are making the switch to a zero waste lifestyle and to make small changes over a certain period of time. If you try and rush into it and change everything all at once, you’re more likely to fail at turning these changes into habits.