4 Incredibly Simple Ways to Be Less Wasteful, According to a Zero Waster
These tiny tweaks to your routine make a big difference.
The Zero Waste movement—the philosophy that everything should be reused or recycled in order to reduce the amount of trash we send to landfills and incinerators—is a noble goal, although admittedly, isn't the sexiest concept around. But several Instagram-famous "Zero Wasters" are working hard to change that. By documenting their journeys in zero-waste living through beautiful flat-lays and ultra-flattering filters, the Zero Waste movement is becoming not only more mainstream, but certifiably cool. With these champions of the eco-friendly movement gaining tens of thousands of followers, they're inspiring a more sustainable lifestyle, one like at a time.
To find out more about how the modern Zero Waste movement is gaining traction (and learn some easy ways to join it), we reached out to Kathryn Kellogg of Going Zero Waste, author of 101 Ways to Go Zero Waste ($12, amazon.com). She shared everything from her one simple trick for creating less trash, to the reusable bag brand she swears by—and it may just inspire you to invest in a reusable water bottle or ditch the paper plates. After all, the Earth (and your Instagram game) depends upon it.
RS: How did you get started in the Zero Waste movement?
KK: I started going zero waste for selfish reasons. I had a breast cancer scare when I was 20. I started trying to phase endocrine disrupters out of my life, which can be found in cleaning products, beauty products, even plastic. I started DIY-ing my cleaning and beauty products to have control over the ingredients and out of financial necessity. When I moved out to California, there was litter and trash everywhere. It really solidified my own commitment to cut plastic from my life. I learned that plastic isn't just bad for our health, it's also bad for the health of the planet.
RS: What's the best way to start wasting less?
KK: Start paying attention to what you're throwing away and what you're recycling. The average American throws out 4.4 pounds of trash a day! See how much of that you can reduce. Recycling is great, but it's not going to save us. We have to consume less, and we have to consume differently. Look for items without packaging, and swap out disposables for reusables. Instead of paper towels, use dish towels. Instead of paper tissues, use cloth handkerchiefs. Instead of paper plates, use real plates. Use real stuff. Use real flatware, cups, cloth napkins. This was normal living until the 70s.
"It's not radical. It's not time consuming. It's just about building habits! Once you're in them, you won't even notice you're doing anything differently."
RS: On your blog, you recommend starting a zero waste essentials kit—what does that include?
KK: I recommend everyone start with the big four [below!]
1. Say no to single-use plastic straws. If you like straws, you can opt for a reusable straw like glass, metal, bamboo, or silicone for kids!
3. Bring a full water bottle with you before you leave your house. Phone, wallet, WATER, keys—good to go. If you don't like your tap water, consider investing in a water filter. It will save you a lot of money in the long run.
4. Say no to takeaway coffee cups by bringing your own, or asking for the coffee to stay in a real mug. I like to carry a double insulated water bottle with me. You can get hot coffee to go in the same vessel, so it's one less thing to carry around. My favorite insulated water bottles are Klean Kanteen and Healthy Human Life.
Thanks so much, Kathryn! Okay, ready to join the movement? Earth Day (April 22) is a great time to kick off a few eco-friendly resolutions, then follow Kathryn on Instagram to keep the inspiration going all year long.