Beginners' Guide to Zero Waste Living

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You may have heard the term Zero Waste and seen people who are able to fit all their trash for 1 year in a jar. If you are not able to do this, don’t worry. You’re still doing great just by making changes to reduce waste!  

Zero waste doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Going zero waste is a process that continues over time. And every little change counts 

Are you ready to get started on your journey towards zero (or less) waste? Here’s some tips on where to begin.  


Did you know only 9% of the world’s plastic is actually recycled? Have you heard about the pacific garbage patch? These are some examples of why but everyone may have their own reason behind why they want to make changes. Then when you make purchases, this why will help guide your decisions.  


The best place to start is your trash (including recycling!) See what makes up the most of your trash. For many, that may be water bottles, yogurt containers, or other food packaging. For others it may be beauty products or cleaning products.  

Remember glass, paper and metal have the best chances of being recycled while plastic the least.  


Reviewing all your trash can seem overwhelming but if you focus on one thing at a time, it is much more manageable.  

Just pick one or two items at a time and see what alternatives are available. Then once you’ve made a couple changes, move on to the next item.  

You will be amazed at how quickly you reduce your waste by doing this!  

Planning also means being organized. It’s much easier to avoid waste of single use items when we remember to bring our shopping bags, water bottles and packed lunch with us when we go out.  


While moving towards a zero waste lifestyle, it may be tempting to throw away all your plastic products and replace them immediately with sustainable alternatives.  

Buying something new just to throw away unused items is even more wasteful, isn’t it? Finish what you have on hand while exploring alternatives so you’re ready to replace with zero waste items once finished.  


There are some amazing resources from blogs to social media to help find sustainable alternatives to traditional plastic or non-recyclable products. Retezerowaste is a wonderful site for tips and tricks when moving towards a zero waste lifestyle.  


1. Replace plastic water bottles with reusable metal bottles

How many plastic water bottles are in the trash each week? Probably more than you think! In Italy, we are the largest consumers of bottled water in all of Europe at more than 1,300 bottles of water per family (12 billion liters) each year!  

We’re very lucky to have microfiltered water stations where we can refill glass bottles at a very low cost. Other options are installing a filter or using a stand alone filter such as a Brita. Even our tap water is actually generally high quality!  

When going out, we always bring our metal water bottles everywhere we go, like these.

    2. Bring your own bags
      At first, it can be hard to remember to bring reusable bags when you go shopping. Make it easier by leaving bags in the car, next to your purse or jacket, in your bag, wherever you are most likely to remember! 

      And not just shopping bags. It’s best to bring your own cotton produce bags too! It’s been found recently that compostable produce bags are not the best solution either. 

      f you’re lucky enough to have a bulk store nearby, that is ideal to really reduce the use of packaging. Cotton bags such as these are great for buying cereal, beans, pasta, rice nuts, etc. before transferring to glass jars at home. 

      3. Avoid single use products

        Many of the changes towards a zero waste lifestyle bring us back to how our grandparents used to do things. We did not have so many single use options, so the default was to reuse more durable products.  

        Reusable products are also much healthier than the single use plastic counterparts which have been shown to have toxic contents, particularly when heated or cooled. 

        Switches away from plastic include: 

        • Bees wax wraps instead of single-use plastic wrap 

        • Metal or glass portable food containers instead of single use plastic for take-away food
        • Reusable napkins and dish towels instead of paper towels 
        • Reusable diapers (post coming soon!)
        4. Choose solid over liquid
        As children, most soap was in solid form. Over the years, liquid soap has become the norm, and requires a significant amount of plastic packaging. Going back to basics and choosing the solid format of items like dish soap, body soap, shampoo and even lotion helps eliminate such unnecessary packaging.  

        5. Switch your toothbrush

        Plastic toothbrushes are made from a mix of plastic materials that combine elements of rubber, crude oil as well as some extra plastic and cardboard that goes into their packaging. It’s time to switch to bamboo.

        6. Choose glass, metal and paper over plastic 
        Glass, metal and paper have extremely high recyclability, whereas plastic is unlikely to be recycled. When possible, choose products such as toothpaste and mouth wash in easily recyclable glass.  
        7. Invest in a safety razor 

        While it may seem daunting at first, safety razors are an investment in a quality shave for life. You only have to replace razor blades when worn and once you get the hang of it, they are easy to use! Not to mention the money you will save on never buying disposables again!  

        8. Buy second hand 

        Clothing, particularly, fast fashion can be wasteful and harmful to the environment. Producing synthetic fibers like polyester (plastic!) requires energy and crude oil like petroleum.  

        Break the cycle of constant consumption, choosing to shop second hand. 

        By purchasing second hand, you’re keeping items out of the landfill. If there aren’t any second hand shops near you, there are an increasing number of online shops with a vast and affordable selection of current clothing such as Armadio Verde, Vestiaire Collective and Depop.

        9. DIY 

        Probably the most intimidating of all, creating your own products can seem impossible for those of us with little to no time or experience making our own products. But you’ll be surprised at how easy many of the zero waste recipes are with often only 3-4 ingredients.  

        For example, see Green Tribu’s simple toothpaste, citrus cleaning spray and yogurt recipes on Instagram! Stay tuned for more recipes coming soon.  

        When the options are purchasing a product only available in wasteful packaging or making your own, give it a try! You may be pleasantly surprised and will save money in the process. 

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