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How to Easily Start Your Zero-Waste Journey — A Family Guide

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Zero-waste is something that we should all be doing if we want to preserve our one and only planet. Of course, that’s easier said than done. And families with kids might have the hardest time adapting to it, as they already have enough on their plate. Still, with some additional effort, it's more than feasible.

You may not be able to purchase an electric car or install solar panels right away. However, you can start your zero-waste transformation with some minor and simple changes, such as metal straws and cloth napkins, and upgrade to bigger ones as you go. We should strive toward helping the Earth any way we can, even if it means taking one small step at a time. Some good will and a bit of creativity can go a long way.

Here's how you can make zero-waste a habit for you and your family, covering all important spheres of life:

Food & Kitchen

The majority of the waste you produce probably comes from the kitchen. Thus, you might want to start there.

For starters, we suggest making an inventory of all the food you already have on hand and doing so on a regular basis. Doing so will make you more conscious of your food waste and prevent you from buying stuff you don't need. Store the older foods that need to be eaten first at the front of the fridge/pantry and place the ones that can last longer in the back.

In case any foods start going off, freeze them and use them later. While they may not be that fresh once defrosted, it's still better than throwing it away.

You can also replace some of the common kitchen disposables for reusables. For instance, instead of plastic straws that end up polluting our oceans, buy reusable metal straws. Furthermore, instead of wasting baking paper, you can turn to silicone baking mats. There's also no need to waste kilometers of paper towels every day, as you can buy or even make your own cloth napkins and rags.

When going to the grocery store, avoid plastic bags and wrappers where possible. Bring your own grocery bags and buy produce in bulk if you can. And when it comes to takeout, consider ordering from restaurants that use sustainable packaging. If you can't seem to find any, you might be able to bring your own containers and ask the staff to use those.

Bathroom

You could also swap out some everyday bathroom products. For one, you can opt for recycled toilet paper and biodegradable cotton swabs. If you have a baby, then perhaps you might want to consider using washable cloth diapers to reduce your waste production.

Another common household item that tends to end up in landfills is the toothbrush. Thankfully, you can easily substitute it with a sustainable toothbrush made from bamboo or recycled plastic. Similarly, you can switch to silk floss instead of nylon.

And instead of buying toothpaste in plastic tubes and creating a bunch of unnecessary waste, you can DIY it using just baking soda, coconut oil, oregano oil, and peppermint oil. In fact, there are many cosmetics and cleaning products that you can make yourself.

Clothes and Toys

Once your kids grow out of their clothing, don't throw it away — hand them down to a friend or give them away to a shelter. If it's well-preserved, you might even be able to sell the old clothes and toys online or to a thrift store and make an extra buck.

On the other hand, if the clothes are old and shabby, you can repurpose them into cleaning rugs. In case you have the time for it and you know how to sew, you can even make toys and plushies out of old clothes. Your kids will love this project, especially the fact that they get to unleash their creativity and design their own toys.

Crafting is an activity that typically involves a lot of waste. However, that doesn't have to be the case. You can use leftover cardboard and paper that you would otherwise throw out and make crafts with those. Just add some paint and glitter, and your kids will never be able to tell the difference.

Finally, much like you'd give away your old clothes and toys, you might want to consider using hand-me-downs and buying from second hand stores. That way, you'll also save money.

School/Work

Even if you make the effort to turn your home zero-waste, it gets a bit trickier when you step outside, as single-use plastic is around every corner. All is not lost, though.

First of all, you can bring your own reusable mug, bottle, or thermos for your favorite beverages; you don't have to use plastic bottles and coffee cups. Similarly, you can bring your lunch from home, using a lunchbox instead of disposable plastic containers and beeswax paper instead of plastic baggies.

And what about office/school work? It inevitably involves wasting a ton of paper and plastic, right? Again, it doesn't have to. You can swap out the cheap plastic pens for refillable fountain pens, preferably made from organic materials like wood. In addition, you can always buy recycled paper.

Final Thoughts

Keep in mind — zero-waste takes a lot of time and effort. Don't get discouraged if you're not making too much progress at first. After all, we live in a consumerist and wasteful society. Moreover, profound changes like these don't happen overnight.

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