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6 quick tips to actually start going zero waste: A basic guide for busy people.

Last Updated: June 17, 2021

Zero waste can sound impossible, but the truth about zero waste is a little more complicated and a lot more doable. With this guide, we’ll help you head toward zero!

If you’re in the habit of taking out the trash and recycling every day, you’ve probably noticed a heavy trash bag on a daily basis, especially if you have a big household. Despite our best efforts to reduce, reuse, and recycle, the notion of reaching “zero waste” can seem daunting.

And yet, the idea of an empty trash can and an empty landfill is incredibly appealing. We’re here to empower you with some guidelines and tips that will help even the busiest of us get closer to zero waste!

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First, what is zero waste?

The definition of “zero waste” is not universal, with different organizations holding their own definitions. According to the Zero Waste International Alliance, “zero waste” means:

“The conservation of all resources by means of responsible production, consumption, reuse, and recovery of products, packaging, and materials without burning and with no discharges to land, water, or air that threaten the environment or human health.”

So, in basic terms, “zero waste” means contributing no waste through packaging, production, or consumption into the environment. Okay, how in the world do you do that?

Why is zero waste important?

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While certainly challenging, working toward zero waste is crucial in maintaining the health of our planet for several reasons.

All of our waste creates landfills, which create serious problems, like contaminating groundwater, producing nasty, planet-warming methane gas, and causing serious health problems for residents nearby.

More broadly, the more stuff we throw away, the more stuff we need to replace, meaning more used up natural resources, more new greenhouse gases, and more problems for the environment.

If we all used less, the strain on the planet would also be lessened dramatically.

How can I get to zero waste?

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Adopting a zero waste lifestyle is challenging for anyone. Luckily, there are a lot of great organizations, communities, and individuals paving the way and setting great guidelines.

One of the most important things to learn when it comes to zero waste is the “5 R’s” of sustainability and zero waste.

What are the 5 R’s?

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The 5 R’s are an expanded and more up-to-date take on the 3 R’s, the basic “reduce, reuse, recycle” you may have learned growing up.

The 5 R’s generally include:

  • Refuse
  • Reduce
  • Reuse
  • Repurpose
  • Recycle

In some circles, “repurpose” is swapped with “rot” instead.

These expanded R’s give more focus on stopping waste before it's created by refusing what we don’t need and using what we already have for as long as possible.

6 quick tips to start going zero waste

With all of that in mind, there are many intuitive tips you can implement at home to start working toward zero waste. While the journey to zero waste is long, there are tons of ways to start reducing your waste dramatically and get toward that zero percent goal.

2. Refuse single-use items whenever possible

Even if you have a kitchen full of reusables, it won’t make much of a difference once you step inside a coffee shop, shop at the grocery store, or pick up a takeout food order.

By refusing these single-use items and making a real effort to bring along your own reusable equivalents like cups, straws, and silverware, we can all cut down on single-use plastics.

Grove tip: Look up a zero waste grocery store in your area or shop the bulk bins at stores like Whole Foods and read Tip #3 for more info.

3. Shop bulk and refills

Instead of buying a tiny bag of your favorite trail mix or a brand new bottle of gentle hand soap, consider buying your favorite things in bulk. Buying in bulk cuts down considerably on packaging, waste, and costs, both for you and for businesses.

Buying bulk doesn’t necessarily mean Costco though … think the bins full of grains, coffee, and other produce items at a grocery store instead. You can even bring your own reusable packaging to fill (as long as you weigh it first).

4. Support sustainable businesses

Even if you bring a zero waste mindset to the grocery store, the grocery store itself might be on a different wavelength. Try to seek out businesses that are dedicated to reducing waste. Businesses that are B Corporations plastic neutral, or plastic-free are good places to start!

5. Buy used

A great way to reduce waste is to buy used or donated products. Whether it's clothes or electronics, buying used means less new products are created and less materials are used up in the production pipeline.

Zero waste is for everyone!

While it may take some time to truly reach zero waste, all of us can work hard to reduce the amount of waste we create. By changing a few habits and incorporating some simple tricks, we can all have a day where our trash sits empty.

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Here at Grove, we're big believers in saving the planet with science — and without sacrificing products' effectiveness. To break down how natural and sustainable products manage to stack up against the competitors without questionable chemicals, we're grilling our scientists, doctors, and fellows for easy-to-understand primers and explanations on how products work.

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