Free, Simple Zero Waste Switches
There is a rapidly growing market for products labeled “zero waste.” While there are a lot of relatively low-cost items that make it easier to live a sustainable lifestyle, we must consider that production of new goods (when preexisting ones will suffice) is inherently opposed to the idea of sustainability.
The good news is that there are several things you can do immediately to move toward low waste living without spending any money at all. In this post, I’m sharing some of the switches I’ve made that have been easy to implement.
Switch to clean energy
Did you know you may be able to switch to renewable energy at no extra charge? Last year, I signed up for Arcadia, an organization that lobbies for sustainable infrastructure and connects consumers with renewable energy options through their wind or solar farms. Essentially, they act as the middleman between the consumer and their preexisting electric company.
You can pay a bit more a month if you want to support their work. Otherwise, they’ll pay your bill for you (and you can use your credit card to rack up points) and help you support renewable energy creation. See if Arcadia operates in your area.
See what your locale recycles
Did you know that a majority of glass is not recycled? Before making assumptions about what materials to recycle, check with your local recycler to see what they will take. Certain types of plastic are preferred for recycling because it costs far less to do so. Kathryn at Going Zero Waste wrote a great explainer on glass versus plastic here.
Use old bathroom linens as kitchen and cleaning rags
You don’t need to buy brand-new kitchen rags to go zero-waste. If you have older wash cloths and bathroom linens, consider transferring them to heavy-duty kitchen clean-up tasks when you’re ready to purchase new bathroom linens rather than wasting resources. Having plenty of rags available will help reduce the need for paper towels and napkins, too.
Stop plastic-bagging your produce
You don’t need a fancy mesh bag to buy produce. Unless you’re buying in bulk, consider leaving produce un-bagged when you buy it at the grocery store.
You’ll need to wash it when you get home anyway. Washing produce with plain water is just as effective as using produce cleaner.
Cover leftovers with a plate
Instead of buying excessive food storage containers, bowl covers, or saran wrap, cover leftovers with your standard dinnerware until you’re ready to warm it up and eat it again.
This works best for food you plan on consuming within 3 days, as food stored longer than that needs a tighter seal.
Choose a lower heat setting on your washer and dryer, and hang-dry when possible
I’ve been working on a lifecycle assessment for my university’s School of the Environment, and one thing we discussed is how much waste/resource-use occurs during the “consumer use phase.”
According to Energy Star, 90% of energy usage during laundering occurs when water is heated. Switch to cold water when possible and make sure to select the Less Dry or Optimized settings on your dryer. Consider hang-drying if possible. Tree Hugger also suggests wearing clothing more than once and hand-washing to make an even bigger dent.
What are your favorite free low waste habits?