Zero waste looks tidy, from a distance. At an arm’s length, it’s all mason jars and bamboo cutlery; up close, it’s kitchen cupboards overflowing with recycled jars and trying to figure out how to clean beeswax wraps. Zero waste living is messier than it looks. It’s a lot harder to pull off than bloggers would have you believe.
Zero waste is a big lifestyle change. If you rush into zero waste living, the adjustment will be too much. Reusing and recycling is messy. Before you know it, you’ll be falling back into the convenience and comfort of the single-use stuff. If you really want to make the change to zero waste, you need to ease into it with realistic habits.
There’s a method to the madness of zero waste, you just need to pick a system that works for you. The trick is to make sure your lifestyle changes actually suit you, so you don’t have to buy a new keep-cup every time you forget where you put the last one. With our tips, you can waste less without all the mess.
Buy More Jars (and Keep the Good Ones)
While it might be your gut instinct to reuse every single jar you bring home – pesto, mayo, Vegemite, you name it – you shouldn’t keep every single jar. Just because you want to waste less doesn’t mean you have to keep every single reusable thing you bring into your home. You’re never going to have enough food to decant into all those jars, and let’s face it, some jars are just too small to bother.
By accumulating jars, you’ll create clutter; instead, you should keep your eyes out for quality produce that’s packaged in a jar you’re actually likely to reuse. Try a bulk pickle jar for decanting dry ingredients, like flour or sugar (wash out the jar first, obviously, unless you want everything you bake to smell like pickle juice).
Figure out what your pantry goals are. Then, determine what you need more of: large jars, smaller jars, jars with tight seals. Head to the supermarket with those jars in mind. After a few shops, you’ll have the pantry of your dreams. Once you have enough jars, shopping in bulk will be a breeze.
Pro-tip! Keep all your lids in one place so you can easily match them up with their jars whenever you need to decant something.
Remember, Everything You’re Reusing Needs a Home
When you’re trying to save as much as you can from the bin, you have to find somewhere else to put it. If you’re trying your best to reuse everything, that “somewhere” usually ends up cluttering up your place. To keep track of it all, you have to assign a permanent “somewhere” for all of that stuff by making a home for it to live in.
Group things together logically. Anything that you reach for everyday – like a keep cup – should be really easy-access, so you remember to bring it with you when you head to work that day. Anything that you reach for every-other-day – like reuseable produce bags for your weekly groceries – should be within reach, tucked away with everything else you need to bring along on your trip to the shops.
Anything that you don’t use everyday or every-other-day probably doesn’t have a logical home. If you only reach for it a few times a year and it’s in the way, store it elsewhere.
Organise Your Drawers with DIY Dividers
Professional home organisers love plastic. They’ll convince you to buy plastic storage bins, plastic drawer dividers, plastic everything. Save yourself the plastic and DIY your own solutions. This won’t just save you money, it’ll also save you from throwing out more stuff. Start by saving some boxes.
Repurpose the cardboard you have lying around: shoeboxes, iPhone boxes, online shopping boxes, you can even cut the lid off a tissue box if you feel like getting crafty. Small boxes are perfect for dividing your drawers, keeping everything organised and in line.
If you’re your own handyman, you could even get serious with some real tools and real wood.
Pro-tip! This tip and the last tip get on well: try using drawer dividers to create logical homes for all your zero waste supplies.
Eliminate the Excess
Buy what you need and use what you need. Don’t let zero waste bloggers convince you otherwise; that bamboo tupperware set might look nicer than the plastic set you already have, but you already have the plastic set. Buying twice will always result in more waste and more stuff in your space.
Try these tips:
- Don’t replace it if you don’t have to: keep the bottles from your finished cleaning supplies and refill them at a bulk supply store, or make your own
- Simplify your supplies: you don’t need every eco-friendly substitute on the market, make do with what you have where you can
- When it’s practical, embrace the excess: by managing your storage space at home effectively, you can save money and time shopping by buying in bulk
Anything you can’t help accumulating? Don’t be too hard on yourself, we all have habits we can’t break – just store it. You never know when you might need it.
Eating Fresh > Chucking Out the Not-So-Fresh
It hits hard but it’s true: just because you bought a bunch of fresh fruits and veggies at the farmer’s market doesn’t mean you’re going to eat it all before it goes bad. We’ve all found spinach at the bottom of the fridge that’s seen better days. Give your greens the life they deserve by planning out what you’re going to do with them before you buy them.
Remember, just because it’s not wrapped in plastic doesn’t mean it’s zero waste. If you’re not eating all your food before it goes bad, you’re wasting food.
Save what you can, where you can:
- Save plastic: plan and prep your meals a week ahead to avoid ordering in
- Save money: cook extra so you always have leftovers to bring to work with you
- Save it from the bin: figure out how you’re going to use all the the fresh produce in your fridge so you can make that trip to the farmer’s market actually worth it
Keep the Might-Need-It-Someday Stuff
Don’t need it now? Might need it someday? No need to throw it out, we’re not here to judge – you’re never going to know when you might need it. You’re not the only one with this habit, a lot of Australians living with clutter are the same; out of everyone surveyed in a 2017 study, most Australians believed their clutter was a result of the exact same problem. We hang onto old stuff in case we need it for future stuff.
No need to break the habit. Get it out of the way some other way. With TAXIBOX, you can store your might-need-it-someday stuff somewhere else. Once that “someday” comes around, we’ll bring your stuff right back to you, when you actually need it. Do your future self a favour, store the excess for later.