Going Zero Waste: How to Begin Noticing Your Waste

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In celebration of Plastic Free July

Going zero waste not only sounds intimidating but unrealistic for the world we live in today where plastic is in everything. It’s true, plastic is cheap and easy to manufacture so why should we change our ways? If China’s plastic ban doesn’t scare you as it scares me, plastic is an unnecessary extra in our lives that we need to start living without.

I realize that so many posts and videos talk about plastic in such a way that it becomes hard to tell where it is one should start their journey, so I decided to write this post for every beginner going through the process of zero waste living. Please remember zero waste doesn’t mean having all your years of trash in one jar for I find the zero waste journey to be different for everyone.

Just make sure to set goals for yourself, don’t tackle it in one day. The biggest step on this journey is noticing that we have an issue, the next is finding out how to fix it. So, if you’re reading this post be proud of yourself! This is a big step!

The first thing I want you to remember and start implementing into your daily life is the 5 R’s of Zero Waste:

  1. Refuse – By refusing paper flyers, samples in plastic, straws, and switching to online billing you’re lessening your impact! Get used to saying to these items that are single use and will just end up in a landfill.
  2. Reduce – By reducing you general consumption you’re helping the environment. Try purchasing products that can be used for multiple purposes, an example being switching from dish soap to castile soap (which you can also use to wash your hands).
  3. Reuse – Disposable products are only helping you, by switching to reusable not only are you going to be reducing your waste but saving money!
  4. Recycle – Recycling should be one of the last resorts as only 9 percent is recycled, 12 percent was incinerated, and 79 percent was accumulated in landfills or discarded in the natural environment. Although throwing plastic in recycling might make you feel better, it is still best to refuse, reduce, and reuse.
  5. Rot – The beautiful thing is that your kitchen scraps can be composted easily and turned into mulch! It reduces or eliminates the decline in nitrogen availability that commonly occurs when organic materials, such as sawdust or straw, are added directly to the soil. Composting is also very useful for recycling kitchen wastes, leftover crop residues, weeds, and manures.

Putting items into the trash should be your last resort, so if you take anything from this article let it be the 5 R’s of Zero Waste! Now that you have this knowledge what can you do with it? Well, you want to start by taking notice in your day to day life of your single use items, and record when you throw them out. For example, I use ear swabs when I come out of the shower or come back from the pool. Do I need to? No. Do I like to? Yes. I would write this down as something I’d struggle to live without in my zero waste journal so that when I finish my pack of Q-Tips I can easily switch to an earth friendly alternative. By having a Zero Waste journal, I’m making myself accountable for the waste I create. This is one of the best things you can do if you want to notice what changes you want to make. Write!

Why do I recommend finishing your harmful individual use items before switching over to a zero waste alternative?

The simple answer is that you purchased these items with the full intent on finishing anyway! I’m a budget traveler and living on the tight budget makes me appreciative of every penny I earn and use. This means finishing off the single use items before purchasing their zero waste replacements. Another alternative is to donate or give these single use items to shelters, friends, and family. Donating products that you’ve never opened, like shampoo, can allow you to declutter and stop the temptation of continuing with plastic products.


I hope you’ve enjoyed my advice on starting the zero waste journey. Let me know how these tricks work for you below, like, and share with your friends! Remember, this is a big step in the journey to being zero waste!

Be sure to follow as all of July I’ll be posting advice on how to be less reliant on plastic.

Until next time,

Colleen Rose

Interested in reading another Zero Waste post? Check out GOING ZERO WASTE: 11 CHANGES FOR A BIG DIFFERENCE


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