Everyone skips THIS first step in their zero waste journey

There are so many sources of waste in our homes.  From your kitchen, your bathroom, your kids’ bedrooms, you name it! And every households’ waste sources are so different. 

Here is how you start

Start by living your normal wasteful (teasing!) life, and notice these things: 

  • What is taking up the most room in your garbage bag this week?
  • What’s taking up space in your recycling bin?
  • How many shopping bags are coming into your home on an average week?

Really you just need to start noticing your largest sources of waste in your house. And remember, waste can be things BROUGHT IN to the house too.  That loot bag your kid brought home? Junk. Your cheap H&M finds? Sorry, but also junk.

Here are the categories you could ponder when tracking your household waste: 

In your garbage bin

  1. Food packaging waste
  2. Toiletry waste
  3. Miscellaneous

In your recycling bins:

  1. Plastic recyclables (bad)
  2. Glass and aluminum recyclables (less bad)
  3. Cardboard and paper recyclables (also less bad)

In your compost bin:

  1. Uneaten food waste
  2. Food scraps 
  3. Other organics (tissues, paper towels, etc. that go in your compost bin)

When I first started, I really noticed how often we had to take out the recycling.  Like ALL the time, especially because it’s a very small garbage can that doesn’t hold much.  No, you should not feel good about taking out the recycling all of the time - because basically none of it actually gets recycled. Our bin was full of plastic clamshells and take out containers, plus beverage bottles. So I took note.

Another thing we were going through a ton of was paper towel.  Again, at the surface maybe this doesn’t appear so bad because it can go in the compost bin.  But really, anything single use is a huge waste, and paper towels are something that are so effortlessly replaced. Tisk tisk past-tense Michelle.

Okay so back to you,  living normally, observing, not changing, just taking note.  Ah! we take the garbage out an insane amount and it’s always packed with chip bags.  Ah! how does my husband go through so many cotton swabs? Ah! these kids have so many kinder surprise toys!  Whatever you’re noticing the most of.

Start by changing that one thing.  

For me, starting with one makes the transition to zero waste far less daunting.  So we recycled way too much stuff. Our simple swap? We get take out WAY LESS then we did before.  Yes, it took some dedication to meal plan, or pick up something on the way home that is less wasteful (hello subway, seed & salt, freshii, etc).  When I used to order sushi it came in one million clam shells, so sushi to stay, or no sushi at all for this gal.

We also cut way back on produce that came in plastic (clamshells or plastic wrap).  We buy field cucumbers instead of mini cucumbers, we buy bulk carrots instead of baby carrots, etc (one thing I’m never giving up is cherry tomatoes, just not doing it).

Our two initial steps: 

  1. Eat less take out
  2. Skip the plastic-wrapped produce

Plus another little one: Michelle - if you forget your travel mug, you don’t buy a coffee that day, that’s your punishment.

What your first step shouldn’t be  

Transitioning to refillable face masks if you only put a mask on once a month.  It shouldn’t be swapping to compostable dental floss if you only floss once a month.  Your first step should try to address the largest sources of waste in your home.

What your first step should be

Maybe your first step is using your compost bin the way you should (anything from the earth goes in there folks!) Maybe your first step packing lunch every day, or swaping out paper towel for unpaper towel, or just skipping the odd shopping spree.  Maybe you go through a roll of plastic wrap a week, well swap that out for wax wraps. It can absolutely be a tiny change, but if you are making that tiny change on your biggest sources of waste, it’s going to pay off. 

Start tracking your waste

You can use a simple tally sheet on the fridge for how many times the compost, garbage, and recycling goes out in a week.  Track it, notice it, change the worst offender! Make the change, and keep tallying. Then you can see the impact you’re making and I promise, it will be way bigger than you think it should. 

Once you’ve made your first step - in addressing the big sources of waste.  Move along to the other easy swaps (wax wraps, reusable zip locks, produce bags); things that are easily implemented in your household.  Things that will be adopted by your roommate, your spouse, your kids, whatever. But start with the big ones and make little changes to address those.

Get in touch! 

I’m dying to know what your biggest offender is, and what you’ve done to address it.

And I am not perfect - absolutely not.  Stay tuned for an upcoming post on my non-negotiable plastic products.  We’re all humans, trying our best.

That’s all for now,


Older Post Newer Post

Leave a comment