Going zero waste is not a hardship; it makes life easier because you need less stuff. That means you spend less and enjoy more of what you have. It really is liberating to live with less, just ask Marie Kondo fans.
The zero waste movement has gained momentum in the US and we have practical, money-saving ways you can go zero waste. Whether it’s buying something once and reusing it instead of buying something made of single-use plastic, or choosing to recycle things that actually have value – like food and textiles – your actions matter.
Zero Waste Starts With You
We’re all in this together and the solutions to our global waste crisis, a crucial component of the climate crisis, start with us. Here are 5 super simple ways to go zero waste at home and while shopping.
1) Never accept another plastic dry cleaning bag.
My organic dry cleaners taught me to use a reusable garment bag instead of accepting plastic. They sell their branded garment bag, which zips on the side and cinches at the bottom to double as a sack for dirty laundry, for $10. I made the investment to support them and have a bright green bag that every member of my household can easily recognize and grab out of the hall closet when going to the cleaners.
Let your dry cleaner know you won’t be accepting single-use plastic dry cleaning bags because you have a better system. Show them the photo below to inspire them to launch their own branded garment bag program or just BYO when dropping and picking up. You’ll have to train the rest of the family to follow your lead. I anticipate that our family will avoid using at least 52 plastic bags per year like the one to the right. Imagine if everyone made that choice!
2) Stop buying and disposing of single-use sweeper pads.
Buy reusable, washable sweeper pads instead of buying single use, disposable pads. I have used these pads every week for a year and they show no signs of wear despite having been machine washed. The pads need to be washed less frequently than you’d think. When I’m done cleaning the floor of lint and dust, I like to flip the sweeper over so the pad is facing up. Then I vacuum it! Most of what was captured is easily and quickly removed. The box on the right below is the last of our single-use pad inventory and we won’t be buying more. I estimate an annual saving of $50 by switching to reusable, washable pads, which cost about $12 for two.
3) Break free from plastic at the wine store!
Bring a cloth wine tote with built in dividers to keep each bottle protected to the store instead. Pack up your collection of plastic mesh and Styrofoam wine bottle protectors (pictured at left) – I know they’re sitting in the bottom of a mud room or closet – and return them to the store. They will be grateful to have them because it means less plastic in the environment and a financial savings for them. Let them know you won’t be accepting single-use plastic wine protector sleeves anymore because you have a better, cheaper option. Visit Sunset Meadow Vineyards in Goshen to buy one of these bags and enjoy delicious sustainable wines Made in CT in their expansive tasting room with fantastic vistas.
4) Ditch paper gift wrap forever.
You buy it, cut it up and tape it, adorn it with a bow, present it, then it’s torn and thrown in the garbage. We can do better than paper gift wrap. Reusable fabric gift wrap is a 100% zero waste solution to gift wrapping. The gift recipient is getting two gifts in one, and is empowered to pay it forward and being their zero waste journey. While fabric bags are an expense, they sure are more beautiful and unique than paper wrap and gift bags and signal to the giftee just how much you care about them and the environment. Paper wine bags are better than plastic or cellophane, but they wear out pretty quickly, usually with a tear along the seam.
You can always wrap a gift with an old piece of fabric and a reusable piece of ribbon. I fell in love with the wine bags that Spruce Fabric Gift Wrap makes in CT, some from upcycled fabric and ribbon. Spruce’s Liberty of London print bag with built in ribbon pictured below was a big hit at the Zero Waste Faire last Saturday. Spruce also makes one-of-a kind bags for wine shops, parties, and fundraisers.
5) Kick the single-use plastic bag habit. Everywhere.
Every single-use plastic bag you use is a win for the plastics industry and a loss for the environment and the animals that live in it. Plastic bags, just like all petroleum-derived plastics, do not biodegrade.
Some bags can be recycled at designated retailers, but recycling rates are low. Instead bags are ubiquitous in our environment, even the oceans where they imperil sea life. Humans can end up eating plastic garbage when it breaks down into micro and nano particles.
Ban single-use plastic bags in your kitchen and home. We all end up paying for them directly or indirectly. Instead carry reusable bags everywhere you go so you can use them for every purchase – food and beverages, drug store, home decor, clothing, takeout food (just throw the bag in the washing machine), and more. Put one in your pocketbook or backpack and a few more in your trunk or back seat so they’re always handy. It will take a few weeks to get used to it, but soon enough you’ll kick the single-use plastic bag habit!
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