Baby Steps: How to Opt for the “Less Waste Home” before “Zero Waste Home”

30 Dec


When Jess Chamberlain came out with her story in Sunset Magazine about the Zero Waste Home I was fixated! How could this family of four + 1 dog manage to go through an entire year with just one small jar full of trash? It boggled my mind that this family was able to do just that. It’s hard enough just keeping a home clutter-free, but garbage free – wow.



On the one hand, it would be ideal to go cold turkey and follow every single one of the tips suggested on the Zero Waste Home blog. Seeing the long list, it would be impossible to implement all these at once.

It’s certainly a huge commitment and takes dedication to get to that place of no waste.

Rather than see the glass half empty, I decided I’d rather start small, see what works, what doesn’t and adjust as I go along.

The Zero Waste Concept involves 5R’s:

  1. Refuse what you do not need
  2. Reduce what you do need
  3. Reuse what you consume
  4. Recycle what you cannot
  5. Rot (Compost) the rest

Thus, here was the challenge, here’s what I did, what worked, what didn’t and what I intend to do.

Challenge: An almost impossible dream – create a Zero Waste Home.

Small Steps
Here’s a couple tips I tackled:

1. Swap paper towels for reusable rags.

Use rags and less paper towels.
Spend less money on paper towels.
Cons: Small towels have to be washed. Although we still use the occasional paper towel, it’s made a difference in the overall waste we produce.

Use cloth napkins as opposed to paper napkins.
Don’t have to buy napkins, napkin bill went down.
Cons: Cloth napkins also need to be washed and that adds to your laundry bill.

Rethink the recycling bin
Ironically only a small percentage of recyclables actually get reused and the rest ends up in the landfill anyway, so recycling should be a last resort. What I did was use clementine crates for gardening tool organizing, donate glass jar containers to my son’s schools for paints, reuse christmas cards for craft projects for son’s school and reuse aluminum foil, take out containers and sandwich baggies before recycling.

2. Curb Holiday Consumption

Every year we typically buy presents for family and friends. We curbed overspending this year by bailing out of exchanging presents for everyone and offering 1 big present where needed. Example, my family and sibling’s family pitched in for an outdoor grill for my parents. Throughout the year, some potential gifts were purchased either on sale or second hand. Example, for my son, we got a good amount of outdoor toys and kids consignment store and Craigslist finds that were his presents.

What I plan to continue to do and follow up on:

  • composting
  • junk mail
  • add more indoor houseplants (to absorb toxins and clean the air)

What baby steps have you taken for reducing household waste?


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