greenplanet.jpg On the face of it, going zero waste may seem like a difficult goal. After all, everything comes in plastic, cooking always makes waste and what are you supposed to do with all those cardboard boxes? But going zero waste is easier than you might think. With some simple lifestyle adjustments, a zero waste (or lower waste) home is right within reach.

Ditch the disposables

The sad fact of modern life is that things were made to be thrown away. But it doesn’t need to be that way. Start by looking around your home for things that are unnecessarily disposable: water bottles, k-cups, paper towels, garbage bag liners, paper plates and plastic utensils, to name a few. Every one of those disposable items has a more permanent solution. Use reusable water bottles and real towels, ditch the garbage bag liner in favor of washing out your garbage can by hand and eat off of real dishes and silverware, even at dinner parties. You can even find reusable coffee filters for sale. But don’t stop there. Look at other areas of your life where you toss junk. For instance, take a reusable coffee cup (the kind with the plastic lid and washable straw) to the café. Never buy a disposable straw again, just get some durable plastic ones. Once you start the junk reducer game, it gets a little addicting to see where you can reduce waste next.

Invest in cloth everything

You know that entire closet filled with plastic bags from the store? I always get plastic bags thinking I’ll use them to clean up dog messes, but they just pile up. No more. Just use cloth bags. Speaking of which, ditch the dog poo bags while you’re at it. Use the reusable clamp pooper-scoopers. If you MUST use bags, get biodegradable pet poo bags. Cloth bags have been all the rage for years now, so they’re easy to find. One of our local grocers gives them out for free. They’re easy to swipe out in self-checkouts, as well. There’s button to hit if you brought your own bag. It’s so easy that pure apathy is the only reason to not make the switch. Along the same lines, switch to cloth diapers and cloth rags. I even now line my guinea pig’s cage with towels layered under some moisture-wicking fleece. It’s a little more cleaning effort, but worth the lack of waste. Plus it’s way cheaper in the long run. I don’t miss buying giant bags of wood chips for cage lining.

Start a compost pile

Composting will cut out most of those food scraps. Coffee grounds, vegetable ends and fruit leaves can all go into the pile. As long as it’s not fatty or animal-based, toss it into the compost pile. Even better, in several months, the pile will be ready to spread in a garden. To make it really easy, you can have a small pail with a tight lid in the kitchen to both easily collect food scraps and control odor. Then when you have a minute, you can take it outside. You can learn about composting here.

Go as paperless as possible

One of the main things we toss in our house each day is the ludicrous amounts of junk mail we get. Stop that needless waste at its source. Cancel as many useless subscriptions you have. Sites like and let you refuse junk mail through opt-out selections. Take it one step further and pay your bills online. Most services are trying to push for this option because it’s cheaper on their end. With any luck, by the end of the year, you’ll get nothing but holiday cards (and even those can be digital).

Become a packrat and reuse

You know the person who keeps everything because they’re convinced they’ll find a use for it? Old doorknobs litter the basement, the garage is full of old pickets and somehow they came across a rusty lawnmower they’re emotionally attached to now. Be that person. I’m serious. Be the hoarder guy or gal. Not to unhealthy levels, of course, but you never know when you’ll be able to use that doorknob in a fun upcycle project. That reclaimed pallet could easily become some DIY shelving down the road. Old window frames could become some vintage-looking picture frames. Get creative with your junk.

Bulk purchasing is your friend

A lot of waste could be cut out of the system if we didn’t demand individually wrapped everything as a consumer base. Buy in bulk so that you only have one container for tons of food. You can even locate stores that will allow you to bring your own refillable containers. Many stores are now going zero waste, which means food is put into reusable bins and customers come and fill up their own reusable bins.

Redesign your home

Forbes covered tips from a real life zero waste home. One of the best tips you probably haven’t thought of? Design your home so there’s less space to throw tons of crap. That means no coffee table and smaller tabletops. When you don’t have the space to keep the junk, you don’t want the junk. Even better, there are less surfaces to clean.

Remember to donate

This one speaks for itself, but it’s important nonetheless. Donate instead of tossing. Give old appliances and cars to scrapyards, donate your electronics and give clothes to drives. If you don’t throw it out, it doesn’t need to be repurchased by someone else. And while you’re at it, don’t buy new if you can avoid it. Go to the reuse stores yourself. You’ll close the loop of useless consumerism.

Avoid the fickle world of trends

Along the same lines, stop following trends that will just disappear in a few months. It puts you in this never-ending spiral of buying new stuff, then needing new stuff again next season. Adopt a classic style that is truly timeless. Wear solid colors and basic styles. Or better yet? Buck the mainstream and create a style that is all your own. Your look can’t go out of style if it belongs to only you.