Your guide to becoming “Zero Waste” in 2021

We’re using up earth’s resources much faster than they can be replenished, and recycling is a poor solution, as only 9 percent of plastic gets recycled. Plastic waste is poisoning our waterways, their inhabitants, and us.

If you’re looking for a way to be more eco-friendly (as well as save some money and live healthier), you may want to adopt a “Zero Waste” (ZW) lifestyle. To make things simple, here’s a month-long plan for getting started on your own journey: 31 steps (one per day) to low waste.

Here are some tips to get started.

  • Use what you have! Don’t toss your old products to buy new “eco-friendly” ones. That likely means you’ll have to come back to several numbers on this 31-day plan at a later date—and that’s okay!
  • Find what works for you—not everything will work for every person.
  • Don’t get discouraged. In the words of Anne-Marie Bonneau (a.k.a. The Zero-Waste Chef), “We may never reach the zero in “zero waste” but that’s no reason to take zero action.”
DayCategoryActionConsider …
1PlanningSet goalswriting down what you’d like to achieve and why
2PlanningLearn your recycling rulesresearching your municipality’s system so you can recycle properly and choose the best options for packaging based on your area
3On-the-goMake an on-the-go kita reusable straw, cutlery, napkin/cloth, chopsticks, travel mug, and water bottle
4On-the-goPrepare your lunches and snacksreusable pouches, jars, lunch kits, or divided stainless steel containers
5On-the-goSay no!saying no to shopping bags, receipts, straws, free promotional items, etc
6BathroomZW bathroom productscotton swabs made from cotton and paper, or going without altogetherrecycled paper or bamboo toilet paper that comes in a boxsolid soap or liquid refillsa metal safety razor
7BathroomZW skin careproducts that come in glass, metal, or paper tubes, or refills
8BathroomZW hair careshampoo and conditioner bars or liquid refills
9BathroomZW cosmeticsproducts that come in glass, metal, or paper tubes, or refills
10BathroomZW period productscloth pads, a menstrual cup, or period panties
11BathroomZW oral carebiodegradable bamboo toothbrushcompostable flosstoothpaste powder or tabs
12KitchenZW food storagewax food wraps or cloth bowl covers instead of plastic wrapcloth bags instead of plastic
13KitchenEvaluate your dietreducing your intake of meat, dairy, and seafood, as these are typically very resource intensivelocal and organic products
14KitchenChoose unpackaged producebringing your own cloth bags when needed
15KitchenGo bulk shoppingfinding a refill store near you or choosing unpackaged foods from the bulk section, bakery, and deli section/butcher
16KitchenCook/bake somethingmaking a food staple you’d normally buy
17KitchenCompostinvesting in a compost system
18OthersRethink giftsgiving experiences or second-hand gifts, or contributing to a cause
19OthersRefuse junk mailcancelling unnecessary mailplacing a “no junk mail, please” note on/inside your mailbox
20OthersZW cleaning productsDIYs or refills
21OthersZW laundry productsDIYs or refills
22OthersVisit your librarythe free resources, services, programs, and content
23OthersRethink paper productshandkerchiefs instead of tissuescloths/rags instead of paper towelscloth napkins instead of paper
24New skillsGrow somethinga small balcony garden
25New skillsRepair somethingsewing, such as visible mending
26New skillsShop second-handthrift stores, online groups, and consignment shops
27New skillsTrade, barter, or borrowonline “swap & shop” groups
28New skillsBuild your skillsknitting, sewing, or canning
29Thinking biggerTell othersspeaking to friends and family about what you’re doing
30Thinking biggerHelp your communitydonating your money, time, or talent
31Thinking biggerKeep learningeducating yourself about intersectional issues such as race, class, poverty, accessibility, and disability