The term Zero Waste basically defines itself: it means you strive to generate no waste. More than likely, you’re well aware of the negative impact of trash and other waste has on our environment, with the top two being landfills and ocean pollution. We’re filling our world with garbage, and we need to (quickly) make changes in our lifestyles to stop generating so much waste.

Truth is, actually achieving Zero Waste would be almost impossible because of how our economy and other social systems are set up. However, it can be a goal we work toward.

You’ve probably heard the phrase “reduce, reuse, and recycle.” Notice reduce and reuse come before recycle. That’s because they are more important than recycling. Again, we currently don’t have systems in place to recycle many of the items we discard, and we only recycle a small percentage of the items we are able to. That’s why reducing and reusing are so critical.

But a few, painless changes in your daily and weekly routines can dramatically reduce the waste you generate. Here are a few:

  • Use dishcloths and handkerchiefs instead of paper towels and tissue.
  • Buy food in bulk when you can and use reusable containers (glass is best) when you shop and store your food.
  • Purchase a reusable water bottle.
  • Carry your own shopping bags to the grocery store.
  • Put produce in reusable instead of plastic bags.
  • Find methods other than aluminum foil and plastic bags for storing food and leftovers.
  • When you need to make a purchase — clothing, toys, shoes, furniture — try the secondhand market first. Ebay, thrift stores, and consignment shops are great alternatives to buying new.
  • Buy multipurpose products. Instead of buying a different cleaner for every surface in your home, buy one all-purpose product and use it everywhere. 
  • Compost. Organic materials are still waste and go into landfills. If you have a space, composting is easy and inexpensive.

These are just a few of the simple changes you can make. But will they make a difference? Yes. Because if everyone changed even a little, the amount of waste we generate would change a lot.