First steps to a zero-waste lifestyle

We read and hear more and more each day about the growing necessity for us to put the planet first and change our habits before it’s too late. It’s clear that how we currently live just isn’t sustainable, with landfills and oceans becoming overrun with plastic. Most of us hear it, read about it and then, if we’re honest, conveniently shove it to one side as we let our busy work and social lives take priority. We justify it to ourselves by saying we wouldn’t be able to make a difference anyway. Well, that’s where the zero-waste movement comes in. It’s trying to change that  mentality by encouraging people en masse to save the planet one small, simple change at a time.

What is the zero-waste movement?

To understand the movement, we need to understand the dire extent of the situation. A staggering 13 million tonnes of plastic winds up in our oceans every single year, tragically killing over 100,000 marine creatures. It doesn’t stop there, plastic use is rising, not dropping. An inexcusable average of 150 single-use plastic bags are used per year, per person on a global scale. We could continue, the facts around plastic use are both astonishing and bleak in equal measure.

Tons of plastic end up in the oceans every year
13 million tonnes of plastic winds up in our oceans every single year, killing over 100,000 marine creatures (photo: Dustan Woodhouse)

Enter the zero-waste movement. It aims to put an end to our global abuse of plastic. It’s pretty much exactly as it sounds, i.e. a movement to live our lives without creating even the merest spec of waste. That means we shouldn’t use a single product that isn’t completely reused. Bottled water? Out. Plastic toothbrushes? Never again. Plastic bags for your shopping? You get the picture. 

Sounds hard? The truth is, it is. But don’t be put off. The overriding goal of the movement might be to arrive at a point where no rubbish at all is sent to landfills, incinerators or, most importantly, the ocean, but there are no hard targets and this is very much an ideal or a goal. In other words, every little helps, and while you and your flatmates may not be ready to go hardcore zero waste straight away, there are definitely small changes you can make to start helping the environment right now.

5 easy changes to reduce waste in your flat

As ever, whether it’s what board games to play, neighbourhood advice or doing your bit for the environment, we’re on hand to help you improve your flatshare in every aspect. Get your notepad and pen out, below are 5 easy changes you and your flatmates can make right now to become greener!

Change 1: It starts in the kitchen 

Your first step into the world of zero waste can be to stop using sponges for the washing up. That’s right, stop buying them and stop using them (after using the ones you’ve already bought, of course). Go to the store and buy a lovely wooden brush. Why? Because they last longer and are 100% compostable, so, zero waste! As a nice added bonus, it’ll also make you and your flatmates that little bit cleaner in the kitchen – sponges attract all kinds of bacteria with their warm, damp environments. So for the environment and your hygiene, swap sponges for wooden brushes!

Zero waste movement
Zero waste movement
Zero waste movement

Change 2: Get a new toothbrush

Next up is another brush-related tip. We’re moving into the bathroom now to sort out another daily habit, brushing your teeth. How long do your plastic toothbrushes last before you throw them out? The average is 3 months. So fast forward a decade and you will have thrown out 40 plastic toothbrushes! Don’t worry, we’re not going to suggest you stop brushing your teeth. Just start buying yourself bamboo toothbrushes instead. They’re completely compostable, so, zero waste!

Change 3: Get serious with recycling

This one’s obvious, but we so often get it wrong. This changes depending on where you live, but it’s well worth doing a bit of investigating to understand exactly what you can and can’t recycle. Once that’s clear (maybe leave a handy list above the recycling bin for your flatmates?), you need to make sure what you’re recycling is clean and dry. Ever chucked your half-drunk cola can or half-eaten ice cream tub straight into the recycling? Well, never again! Empty it, clean it, wait for it to dry and then chuck it in the recycling. Otherwise all your good intentions and recycling efforts will have been for nothing.

Final top tip on recycling, make sure everything is loose in the recycling bin. In other words, don’t put your glass bottles in a plastic bag and then in the recycling bin, it’ll contaminate the glass with plastic.

These are just a few of the most-common recycling pitfalls. To become a real pro, make sure you read up on your local recycling rules.

Change 4: start shopping right

Next stop sees us take our zero-waste movement to the grocery store. This is obviously a huge one, with the majority of our single-use plastics coming from the aftermath of the weekly shop. Want to start shopping right? Then say goodbye to all meats, vegetables and cereals that are packaged. Buy everything loose from the supermarket, or, even better, go to your local market and buy direct from the farmers. Just make sure you’re equipped with a good sized box for your vegetables and a variety of jars for your meat, cereals and whatever else is on your shopping list. 

Another simple way to do your weekly shop without harming the environment is to start buying seasonal produce. It’ll be fresher, tastier, and won’t have created such a big carbon footprint on it’s way to your kitchen! You win, the environment wins.

Zero waste movement

Change 5: Learn to compost 

Let’s finish with the key tip. This one’s the most important and can really make a huge difference. A brand new compost bin should shoot straight to the top of your flatshare’s shopping list. It requires a bit of research, but you’ll be amazed with what you can compost. You’ll be equally amazed at how long things that are perfectly compostable will last in a landfill if you don’t compost them yourself. A lack of air circulation at landfill sites means waste such as magazines, burgers and more will remain fully intact for decades. So, snap up a compost bin and get studying to see what you can chuck in it starting with your washing up brushes and bamboo toothbrushes!

That brings our 5 top tips for a greener flatshare to an end. We’ve shown you the way into the wonderful world of zero-waste living, now it’s over to you. Gather your flatmates, share what you’ve learned and start making small changes now. If you and your flatmates want to dive even further into the zero-waste movement, you absolutely should. There are a ton of practical changes just a Google search away. Also, head over to the Badi Blog for more tips on sustainable living.