Zero Waste

Is zero waste actually possible?  Well, even in the most conscientious and conservative of households, we will probably still have some waste, but with a little creativity and effort, we can come as close to zero waste as possible.  

We are familiar with the three “R”s: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.  The best way to approach zero waste, is to focus heavily on the first R.  

REDUCE:  Buy only what you need, and use everything you buy.   

First, always ask yourself:  Do I really need this?  Will I use it regularly? Can what I already have, be fixed? Is there a place I can get something used, instead of increasing the demand for raw materials?  For food and other perishable items – will I eat/use this? Do I really need it? Should I buy a small quantity first and try it to determine if I like it?  If not, it may end up going bad, using unnecessary money and product, with the food itself and the packaging ending up in the waste stream.  

Next - some great ways to Reduce, actually largely involve the second R, “Reuse”:  


Simple things you can do every day, to reduce plastic  production and waste!  For many of these items, consider sharing an order with a friend, or contact Ecofest organizers or other non-profits to get in on a group order!  

Food storage and other food-related items  

Always carry a reusable water bottle. Water bottles are at the very top of the list of one-use, discarded items that end up in the trash (about 10% are actually recycled).  

Always utilize reusable shopping bags.  

Always bring along your own take-out containers for leftovers at restaurants.  

Always bring reusable or compostable flatware when eating somewhere that might provide you with plastic utensils.  

Always have a reusable, or, at minimum, compostable straw.  These are easy to find these days, can be bought in bulk, and plastic straws are in the running with water bottles for the most discarded one-use item.  

When making your kids’ (or your own) lunches, use biobags instead of plastic baggies (see, for example,,,), or, better yet, metal or BPA-free containers that can be washed and used many times.  

Buy compostable trash bags.  

COMPOST!  This will significantly cut down on what goes into the trash, and how many trash bags you are using.  

Put leftovers in sealed, reusable containers, and label with the date.  Check frequently, use before food goes bad, and this will cut back on both food waste and, again, the amount of bags (compostable or not) that end up in the waste stream.  

When purchasing food (or anything, really) – look for sensible packaging. If it can’t be reused or recycled, consider other options.  

Write to companies with poor or excess packaging, and ask them to consider utilizing other materials.  

REDUCE:  Buy only what you need, and use everything you buy.  

Toys and other kid-related stuff  

Stay away from plastic toys that come with lots of little pieces which break easily and get lost quickly.  These items are frequently discarded after very few uses, adding to the huge amount of plastic items that find their way into the trash stream.  Buy puzzles, books, and other fun and useful items that last longer!  Make your own playdough!  See other suggestions which save materials, money, and add to your child’s enjoyment and creativity.  A quick internet search will give many options!  Here’s one source:  

Investigate toothbrush and flossing options:  these are necessary to keep our teeth and gums healthy, but again, add to a lot of plastic waste.  Switch to electric or regular toothbrushes that have replaceable heads, so that you are only discarding the only the brush part and not the full time.  
Also try using a device such as a waterpik, that is reusable and often recommended by dental professionals for more thorough cleaning than regular floss. This will significantly decrease the millions of little threads discarded each year.  Kids love playing with water, and this is a great way to get them to care for their teeth.  

Unlike what many of us would like to think, our waste doesn’t just get picked up and become safely discarded.  It often accumulates on the streets, or in enormous piles at landfills, and is carried into the oceans by wind and rain. Very often, it’s just dumped directly into the ocean.  

Plastic water bottles, bags, containers, and other discarded items, are choking our waterways and killing massive numbers of aquatic beings, who often die slowly by micro-plastic ingestion leading to starvation (they fill up with these, and get no actual food), or by strangulation.  


Consider this fact:  

Every day approximately 8 million pieces of plastic pollution find their way into our oceans. There may now be around 5.25 trillion macro and microplastic pieces floating in the open ocean. Weighing up to 269,000 tonnes. Plastics consistently make up 60 to 90% of all marine debris studied.  

REDUCE:  Buy only what you need, and use everything you buy.  


Use thrift shops, yard sales, neighborhood apps and other sources, to find lightly used clothing, blankets, tablecloths, cloth placemats, and a multitude of other items, rather than creating a market for new items.  

If you sew, or know someone who does, repair things whenever possible, instead of discarding.  

Donate lightly used items to friends, relatives, veterans groups, women’s shelters, pet shelters, wildlife sanctuaries and other facilities.  Many organizations can utilize old blankets, sheets, towels and such that may otherwise end up in the trash.  

Use some of your old towels for cleaning rags.  

Use cloth napkins instead of paper.  

Although fabrics are generally more biodegradable than plastics, we can still greatly reduce waste and prevent unnecessary use of landfill space, by cutting back on what we discard.  

REDUCE:  Buy only what you need, and use everything you buy.  


As with clothing - Use thrift shops, yard sales, neighborhood apps and other sources, to find items you can use, rather than creating a market for new items.  

Whenever possible, buy items that use rechargeable batteries, solar chargers, electricity instead of batteries.  

Always check to see if something can be repaired, before running out and buying a replacement.  

Get warranties on any electronic products.  This will often give you the option of getting repairs, or refurbished replacements, instead of new items.  This option cuts back on both your expenses, and materials going into landfills. In many cases, electronics cannot be put into the trash or regular recycling because they contain toxic components.  Repair is often good way to get around the need for finding a place to  discard the entire item, often at a cost.  

Always keep an eye out for municipalities, schools and organizations hosting electronics recycling days.  Most townships have these at least semi-annually.  

For the items you can’t reuse, RECYCLE 

Not everything can be recycled, but many companies are coming up with creative ways to accept more materials for recycling, and put them to use.  This should always be the third option, with reduction and reuse coming before this, but recycling is still a good choice instead of just tossing things in the trash.  Check your local municipality for acceptable items, and also look at places like and local nonprofits, who may accept items that aren’t taken curbside.