How to minimize your waste when you don’t have the time or money to go zero waste

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Let’s be honest, it takes quite a lot of time to live a zero-waste lifestyle or even just a plastic-free one. If you don’t have the privilege of living a life that allows you that time or you simply live in a small area without the option of shopping at a bulk store it can feel discouraging to see perfect zero-wasters line up their glass jars online.

But… you don’t need to be perfect or have access to a package-free bulk store to make positive changes. There are several small things you can still do in your life to minimize the packaging you use.

Buy only what you need

And nothing more than that. About one-third of food is wasted globally and this is contributing to climate change as food waste that in many countries end up in landfill which emits methane. Methane is a greenhouse gas (just like carbon dioxide) which contributes to warming the planet.

Outdoor markets

Such as farmers markets. Many cities have these daily or weekly during certain seasons or all year round. They often display produce out in the open so if you bring your own produce bags they will most often let you use them. One thing I’ve noticed on my local market is that later in the day when the vendors are about to close they will sell the produce cheaper as to get rid of it.

Bring own bags

This was quickly mentioned above, but just bringing your own bags for produce and for shopping will save loads of plastic bags that are both unnecessary and risk ending up in nature and in our oceans. Also, you don’t have to buy expensive macramé produce bags, just by bringing an old plastic bag you have at home will save the planet from more plastic!

Buy big packs

This might seem contradictory of number one, but it’s not necessarily. For pantry staples or hygiene products you use a lot and you know will keep for long it can be wise to invest in the biggest packaging. When you buy a big pack you will save a bit of packaging compared to having to buy three small packages. It will also generally save you money. Before you buy a big pack, just be sure you can eat them on time and store them safe from pest animals. Food waste is generally a worse problem than packaging…

Invest in some reusables

By investing in and using reusable cloths/pads/cutlery/whatever instead of disposable ones. You can save a lot of resources AND money. The tricky part is you need to have the money to spend, to begin with. A menstrual cup and/or reusable cloth pads is one of the easiest and best saves. Feminine hygiene products are used often and cost a lot. A menstrual cup will cost you around 30€ and last you for years, saving you both money and the earth from tampons that won’t dispose of. As for glass jars and bottles, instead of buying new ones, save the jam jars and smoothie bottles you get from the grocery store and just reuse them instead!

Why should we strive for zero waste?

The reason to avoid packaging is that it requires emissions and resources both to produce and to recycle. In addition, many live in areas without proper recycling and some materials, like styrofoam and soft plastics, are not recyclable or are of such low quality that it can only be recycled very few times. Plastic is a non-renewable resource which means that sooner or later we will run out of it, so I try to minimize plastic first and foremost.

Don’t feel bad if you do not have the option of choosing the (often more expensive) package-free option. Going zero-waste, in my opinion, is something to engage in after of simultaneously as you increase your bigger impact posts like transport, food, and housing.