Reducing waste in your home takes time! It has been a slow process for us and we are still not where I want to be. It is not really something you can do over night, especially in South Africa where options for waste free items are limited. If you are just starting out on your zero waste journey, set yourself a goal for each month and take it one step at a time.
Setting one goal per month allows you the time to focus on getting one thing right at a time and by the end of the 12 months you will be able to look back and see what a massive difference you have made.
You can start whenever you are ready but don’t rush through teach step.
MONTH ONE: Refuse the plastic bag. If you have read all my other plastic free July posts you are probably tired of hearing this but this is the “easiest” change to make. Admittedly this has been challenging with online shopping during COVID because often even if you opt for no bags, they arrive. When you do your shopping take your bags with you and if you forget them, pack your items back into the trolley. I keep bags in both our cars, so even if I forget to take them into the shop I can still pack the items into them at the car.
MONTH TWO: Stop buying take-out coffee/sodas in plastic bottles. Invest in a coffee mug or two and when you do get your take away coffee, use your own mug. Buy a glass or stainless steel bottle and full it up before you leave home. Sodas was the hardest one for me, I used to grab a buddy coke almost every time I went out. It was more of a bad habit than anything else so when I stopped buying them I also ended up saving money.
MONTH THREE: Purge everything. If you have a lot of stuff, start with one room. Go through each drawer and each cupboard and get rid of everything you do not need or no longer use. Be ruthless when you do this. Donate items you no longer use and throw away the rest. This is an incredibly satisfying exercise and will help you to take stock of what you already have and what you need (if anything). I do this every 2/3 months to make sure that we don’t collect “stuff” again.
MONTH FOUR: Don’t buy anything new. This is not as hard as you might think. For one month, avoid buying anything new. If you really need to buy something, look for sustainable, small, local brands that support a waste free lifestyle. You can also consider buying second hand items from your local thrift store.
MONTH FIVE: Compost. You can reduce the amount of waste your home is producing dramatically by composting. Almost all your food waste can be composted and you can set up a compost system in a large bucket or plastic tub, you do not need to have a dedicated area in your garden. I have written about how we started our compost pile.
MONTH SIX: Upcycle items. This can actually be a lot of fun. You can cut up old towels to make clothes for the kitchen. Egg cartons can be used for seedlings, or they work well as little paint pots for the kids. Orange peels can easily be turned into household cleaners. The possibilities are endless, you just have to get a little creative.
MONTH SEVEN: Swap out cleaning products. I have also written about this when I did my kitchen swap post. Reducing the products you use in the kitchen will make a huge difference in your zero-waste journey and you can also experiment with making your own cleaning products.
MONTH EIGHT: Swap plastic storage for glass! The focus for this month is to reduce the plastic storage you are using. Upcycle old coffee jars and store all your dry goods in them in your kitchen. If you need lunch boxes, look for tin lunch boxes or opt for fabric ones. Store leftovers in glass containers. If you already have a collection of plastic storage containers you don’t have to get rid of them, just stop buying more. Check out Unwrapped for some plastic free shopping options.
MONTH NINE: Waste-free oral health. Buy a bamboo toothbrush and try out some natural waste free tooth paste/powder options. These might take some getting used to so start with swapping your toothbrush and then try out at least one plastic free toothpaste option.
MONTH TEN: Waste free wrapping. How much money have you spent on gift bags and wrapping paper? Stop buying it all and rather buy brown paper and wrap all your gifts in that. Alternatively, newspaper can also make for pretty wrapping. Get creative with string and your arts and craft supply and you will have stunning co-friendly wrapping paper.
MONTH ELEVEN: Zero-waste Beauty. I have not managed to get this right yet but it can be done. Beauty brands that make non-toxic products are popping up more and more and it is possible to find both skin care and makeup that is kind to the environment.
MONTH TWELVE: Plastic-free travel and picnics. Traveling in South Africa often involves road tripping which means plastic cutlery. Ditch all of that and find eco-friendly products. Checkers have a great range of plates, cutlery and cups that can be composted once used. Add these to your picnic basket making eating on the go much more environmentally friendly.
Together these changes seem like a lot but when you break them down over a year they are a lot more manageable and you will realise that it is not as hard as you initially thought.
Have you already made some of the changes on your zero waste journey?