When it comes to little changes you can make in your life to become zero waste, a little can go a long way. From changes in which products you buy to habitual ones, there are so many things that you can do to help the planet be aware of your own footprint.
Keep in mind that not all of these things will be accessible for everyone, and that’s okay. Just because you can’t do one or some of the things on this list does not make you a bad person. The fact that you are even trying to reduce your impact on the planet and the environment is already doing so much.
Walk or Bike Places (if you can)
The carbon and CO2 emissions given off by cars is part of our greenhouse gas problem, so we can help out by not contributing to the problem ourselves. If you can, I would highly recommend walking to any places nearby where you live. For example, I’m going to start walking to the Walgreens where I get my prescriptions since it is only about 5 blocks away from campus.
Walking and biking aren’t just good for the planet, but great for your personal health too. So if you aren’t always able to get a regular exercise routine going in your life, maybe walking or biking places could be a great step in a healthier direction.
Pick Up Any Litter You See
This year while I’m walking on campus, I’m going to have an extra tote bag in my backpack that I can take everywhere with me. This way, whenever I come across any trash or litter on my way to classes, I can pick it up and make sure that it gets put where it belongs. An added part of this habit is keeping any recyclable litter and dropping it off or having it picked up by the recycling services in your town.
This is something that I personally haven’t gotten the courage to do myself just yet, but I have been working towards lessening the heat of my water when I shower. Cold showers use less energy since they save your hot water heater from using up electricity to heat up your water. Cold showers also make you shower faster and reduce the amount of water used for your shower.
Washing Laundry in Cold
The same principle applies here as it did above. About 90% of the energy that your washer uses to wash your clothes is just used to heat up the water, so not only will you be saving energy, but also money on your energy bill. Cold-water washing means clothing is less likely to shrink or fade and ruin clothes. Cold water can also reduce wrinkles, which saves energy costs (and time) associated with ironing.
Hang Dry Your Laundry
This is also another energy and money saving tip. Hang drying your clothes helps you save money not just on your energy bill, but also saves you money when it comes to buying new clothes. Hang drying allows for clothes to retain their shape and last longer as a result of not putting them through the ringer each time you dry them. Hang drying also eliminates static and the need for dryer sheets. It has also been reported that the act of hang drying clothes is a great relaxer and reliever of stress!
Put Plastic You Can’t Avoid in the Recycling Bin
Something that I’m doing this year especially in my dorm is having a trash can that is just for recyclable plastic. I’m lucky at school to have easy access to a recycling center that accepts #1 and #2 plastics and also paper waste. My school also has a dumpster where you can put all of your recycling in. There are also online options from companies like Terracycle (article here) who take even the hardest things to recycle, with even free recycling programs! You should research what is available in your area and see what products you use that could be recycled.
Store Your Leftovers (And Eat Them Too)
There are so many times that I save leftovers in order to avoid waste, but then I never actually eat them. They sit in my fridge for days until I’m completely turned off of the idea of reheating and eating them. This is just a habit that I need to change, since food waste is terrible for the environment. When thrown into landfill, food waste produces a large amount of methane. As food rots and degrades, it emits these harmful gases which are 25 times more harmful than carbon dioxide in terms of trapping heat in the atmosphere, and adding to our greenhouse gas problem. So save your leftovers, and please eat them! An easy way to do this is to use your leftovers as your next day’s lunch!
I can’t think of one company that I use that doesn’t have a paperless billing option. Not only does paperless billing save paper, but it also saves carbon and CO2 emissions that would have been used to deliver your bills to your door. You can also help your footprint by reading your news online on your phone, as most newspapers (national and local) now have an online version of the day’s news on the internet.
Carry Your Reusables
It is way easier to refuse that plastic coffee cup when you have your own reusable one to give the barista instead. If you carry your reusable to go containers, then you don’t have to awkwardly wait to ask the waiter for their styrofoam option.
The thing that people don’t think about when it comes to all of those promotional freebies companies give out, is that they aren’t really free. Those items take resources to create and are usually cheaply made, meaning that they go into the trash more often than staying in your possession for years.
Make Your Own Food
Dining out is a great way to support local businesses, but can cost a lot of money. If you find yourself eating out more than staying in, try to make it a habit to cook your own meals an extra day each week. Pinterest has a plethora of yummy recipes for people on a budget and even for those with a limited amount of kitchen appliances. Baking things yourself, like bread and sweets that you would normally buy from the store is actually a lower cost per batch to make yourself.