How to Have a Zero Waste Home

February 15, 2023

How to Have a Zero Waste Home

It's pretty well known that plastic is a significant issue for the environment. As consumers, it might seem there's little that can be done to help decrease the flow of single-use products that come into the market, and end up in the landfills. But, one way people can start making a difference and cause a positive impact in the world is by joining in the zero waste movement, and creating zero waste homes.

What Is a Zero Waste Home?

The zero waste movement is a waste cycling philosophy supporting the aim of zero waste, meaning no waste going into incinerators, landfills, or oceans. Consumers can join in this zero waste movement by transforming their households into zero waste homes.

Certain companies use the "zero waste to landfill" term for describing the waste practices of their business, but this term is often misleading. For instance, while incinerating waste, so it won't wind up in landfills may fit under this term, it doesn't fit the philosophy of decreasing waste through using resources better.

The zero waste movement, at its core, aims to decrease waste creation through better resource use and production practices. For people, this means supporting low-waste companies, and making an individual choice to decrease waste, too.

What Are the 5 R's of Zero Waste?

While the "zero" in the term zero waste might make it sound difficult to achieve, it's really not as difficult as it might seem, and it's as easy as following the five R's, which are:

  • Refuse
  • Reduce
  • Reuse
  • Recycle
  • Rot

Let's break it up.

  1. Refuse

Tackle junk mail. Junk mail isn't only a waste of resources, it's also a waste of time. You can visit websites like optoutprescreen.com, dmachoice.org, and catalogchoice.org to register to receive less junk mail.

Turn freebies down at fairs, conferences, and parties. Each time you take one, you're creating a demand for more to be made. Besides, how bad do you really need that free pen?

  1. Reduce

Start decluttering your house and donate items to your neighborhood thrift store. Doing this will lighten your load, making precious resources available for people who are searching for items to buy secondhand.

Reduce your store trips. Make a shopping list. This will allow you to bring less stuff home and this will leave less waste for you to deal with later.

  1. Reuse

Use reusables instead of disposables, such as:

  • Refillable bottles
  • Handkerchiefs
  • Rags
  • Cloth napkins
  • Shopping totes
  • Etc.

You may find you enjoy the savings more than you do the paper towels.

When grocery shopping, bring along reusable cloth bags, totes, and jars (for wet items like deli foods and cheese) .

  1. Recycle

Get to know the recycling locations and policies of your city, but still consider recycling as your last resort. You first want to think of ways to refuse, reduce, and reuse. Consider the life-cycle and need of your purchases.

Buy mainly secondhand, or in bulk. If you do have to buy new, select metal, glass, or cardboard. Avoid the use of plastic. Most of it is shipped across the globe for recycling, and frequently winds up in the landfills (or in the oceans).

  1. Rot

Find a home compost system that will work best, and get to know the things it will digest (i.e. nails, hair, and dryer lint are all compostable).

You could even turn your home's kitchen garbage can into a big compost receptacle. The larger the compost receptacle, the more chance you'll use it.

What are the Benefits of Having a Zero Waste Home?

Benefits of a zero waste home are:

  1. Decreases Climate Impact

An important part of your strategy for climate change for reducing greenhouse gas emissions is to reduce, reuse, and recycle.

Around 42% of all greenhouse gas emissions, according to the U.S. EPA, are caused by producing and using goods, including:

  • Products
  • Food
  • Packaging

You can conserve this energy, and drastically decrease carbon emissions, by reducing, reusing, and recycling.

  1. Reduces Food Waste

At the micro level, another principle of zero waste is minimizing household food waste. For example, you can do this by cooking appropriate portions, and not allowing food to rot. Basically, purchase only what you need, and not things you don't just because they're on sale, or you're shopping hungry.

  1. Minimizes Pollution and Conserves Resources

The present consumption culture is unsustainable. Large amounts of energy is needed to extract raw materials from natural spaces, and this causes pollution, whether its:

  • Mining for minerals
  • Logging a forest
  • Drilling for oil

It requires more energy, and results in more pollution processing these materials. Once the goods are used, they're just dumped in landfills, or destroyed in incinerators.

Tips to Get Started With Creating a Zero Waste Home

Zero waste isn't an overnight strategy. The first step is to set the intention to decrease waste.  But, to help, here are some tips to get you started.

  1. Recycle the Rest

Learn your community's policies on recycling - what you can and can't recycle. A great resource for helping you identify where you can recycle almost anything from special drop-spots of electronic waste, or hazardous chemicals to curbside pickup of paper, glass, plastic, or metal is Earth911.

  1. Bring Your Own Bottle

When you're out and about, chances are you're going to become thirsty at some point. Instead of heading to the store to buy a plastic water bottle, keep a mason jar or reusable bottle on hand you can refill throughout the day.

  1. Host a Clothing Swap

Host a clothing swap at your house, and invite your family and friends. Clothes swaps are a perfect way of recycling clothing not suited for you any longer, or that don't fit anymore, and they're a great deal of fun. You can then donate what's left to Goodwill.

  1. Compost

A great thing for the environment is starting a compost bin. A lot of what people toss out is compostable, and some methane emissions come from organics that don't decompose in landfills. It's simple to start a backyard compost. Even if you're not that great at composting, it's better than not doing it at all.

  1. Use Reusable Bags

You can use reusable bags for much more than simply grocery shopping. For instance, you can use them to fill all your home improvement store or pet store items in. Prior to leaving your home, figure out if you'll require a reusable bag or two during your errand. If you're walking, keep a small foldable bag on your keychain, or inside your pocket. If driving, toss a few inside your trunk.

  1. Stock Some Cutlery

It's also a good idea to stash some cutlery in your purse or bag when you're on-the-go. Simply wrap up a spoon and fork in a cloth napkin, and you can dine out without having to use plastic cutlery.

  1. Don't Impulse Shop

Make sure you only make purchases you're 100% happy with. Don't make purchases out of impulse. Take a little time to consider the item, and think about it to decide if you really need it, or if it's the best purchase possible.

  1. Monitor What You’re Discarding

Pay attention to the trash you're sending to the landfills. It's essential you recognize what is making up your waste stream. Most people aren't really conscious about how much or what they're even throwing out. You'll likely see you're throwing the same items away over and over, much of which you could likely replace with a reusable version.

  1. Sleep on a Natural Latex Mattress

Traditional mattresses have a rather short lifespan, typically five to 10 years. They also are known to fill up landfills, since they are made of materials that are largely non-biodegradable. On the other hand, latex mattresses are made out of natural materials, and have a longer life span, up to 20 years, which is much longer than a conventional mattress. Eco Terra’s Hybrid Latex Mattress is composed of 100% natural talalay latex, and organic wool and cotton.

It would be simple for consumers to create zero waste homes in a society that achieves zero waste in government and manufacturing. But, in our present single-use and toss-it-away culture we live in today, it's much more challenging. But, this doesn't mean it's impossible. There is plenty you can do to create a zero waste home with just a little effort.

Patrick Gunther

Patrick is an accomplished writer. He has been in the retail mattress space for the past 13 years, and more specifically in the natural mattress niche. He blogs on the subjects of natural mattresses, sleep, health, fitness, and green living.