7 useful things to know before going Zero Waste

7 useful things to know before going Zero Waste

Thinking about going Zero Waste? Here my top 7 things that I wish I had known when I started on living a lower waste lifestyle.

7 things I wish I had known before going zero waste

When the idea of ‘going zero waste’ first attracted my attention a few years back, I wasn’t sure exactly what it meant. But the goal of reducing the amount of waste I created really appealed to me and my family.

The Zero Waste aim is to reduce the amount of rubbish you generate, by choosing different products to purchase, in packaging that can be reused, composted or recycled.

It can also involve reducing how much you buy in general, as practically everything we buy has to be dealt with in some way at the end of its life.

Read more at this related article: What is a Zero Waste lifestyle and why is it important?

1. You don’t have to be perfect at going Zero Waste

You don’t have to reduce of all your waste and be 100% perfect. That’s pretty hard to achieve unless you spend a lot of time making or growing the things you need.

It might look good on social media, but it’s probably not achievable to do the ‘all my rubbish for the year fits in this Mason jar’ thing. It could put you off before you even start, if you are already thinking ‘I could never get to that point’.

See this great article from the Going Zero Waste blog about why the trash jar ideal isn’t great. It really doesn’t show all the recycling and other ways that a person deals with waste.

Don’t let the fear of not being perfect put you off making small steps towards going zero waste.


Progress is greater than perfection graphic for Going Zero Waste post

2. It can take time to change habits

It takes a while to reduce your waste, don’t expect it to happen overnight! It took me a few months of looking at our consumption habits to see where we could make changes.

I’m a firm believer in ‘one step at a time’ and that ‘slow and steady wins the race’! As we identified small changes, they added up to reductions in waste overall.

For example, an early change we made was to switch from buying wet cat food in pouches to buying it in tins. The tins can be washed and recycled, whereas the pouches were hard to recycle at that point (they can go in the soft plastic recycling bins now, but that wasn’t an option at the time).

3. You don’t have to buy new ‘zero waste’ things – use what you already have

If you are thinking of going zero waste, you don’t have to buy lots of new items that are marketed or branded as low waste! You probably already have reusable containers and bags that you can use, rather than buying a new thing. It’s always best to use what you have, instead of buying a new thing just because the marketing says ‘zero waste’.

4. There are some areas that are incredibly hard to eliminate waste entirely

Somethings are incredibly hard to recycle or reuse or replace with lower waste options, in our current waste management system.

Some items are made from such a mix of materials that they take too much work to separate out all the materials.

Examples of items that are hard to recycle are:

  • Health / medical packaging, such as blister packs for paracetamol tablets etc
  • Shoes – they are usually made from a mix of materials, so are very hard to recycle
  • Old CDs and DVDs if they are too scratched or broken to be used
  • Mattresses and furniture like sofas
  • Takeaway coffee cups
  • Tetrapak packaging

It’s hard to avoid some of these items, such as shoes. Buying better quality shoes that will last longer, and can be repaired is one way to avoid creating too much waste from these – although that relies on people having the money to buy the higher quality and more expensive items.

Avoiding some of these items where you can, and trying to reduce them if not is probably the best option. However, I totally understand that many people rely on things like medical products, and these are essential to their health and wellbeing.

5. You might be going Zero Waste, but not everyone is – don’t be preachy!

Going Zero Waste isn’t the top priority for everyone, even if you feel incredibly strongly about it (like I do!). You might make people a bit annoyed with you if you get too evangelical or preachy.

On the other hand – you might just inspire people to try some of the ideas for themselves.

6. Sometimes you have to go with the flow, and accept situations

Sometimes you have to accept that the world isn’t yet fully on board with zero waste, even though it’s frustrating that the amount of waste we are creating is getting bigger by the year.

For example, if you with friends at a party, and the host is throwing empty bottles and plastic plates in a rubbish bag, it could be difficult to say or do anything without causing embarrassment or offence.

However, you could politely offer to help with sorting out the recycling, and see if they are responsive to the idea.

7. Researching and choosing better options can be time consuming and exhausting

It can be hard to spend time and money looking for alternative products and packaging.

For many of us, there are just not enough hours or emotional energy spare after other commitments, to focus on reducing waste.

In this case, I recommend trying one little change at a time. Small changes add up, and if you start with easy wins, you may soon find capacity to take on bigger challenges to reduce waste.

Zero waste toolkit for Going Zero Waste post

Thinking about going Zero Waste? Here are some articles that can help:




The Beginners Guide to Waste Reduction from Going Zero Waste by Kathryn Kellog, a Zero Waste blogger.

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