How to go zero waste without giving up your life • Lydia McMullen-Laird


When a dear client of mine told me about an organization that she’s involved in, Live Zero Waste, I was immediately intrigued. Lessening my carbon footprint and ensuring that less of my trash ends up in landfills and the ocean has been sitting on my conscience for quite some time now.  I’ve made little shifts here and there. Things like paper towels replaced by regular towels, second-hand vintage furniture, and a lot of vintage wardrobe. But I still have a looooonnnngg way to go. And because a lot of small steps add up to a big shift, I’m quite inspired to share Lydia McMullen-Laird of Live Zero Waste’s beginning suggested steps towards going zero waste!

L |  Many people shy away from trying zero waste, because let’s be honest, it sounds like a huge sacrifice of so many things that you love about your life. I thought the exact same thing and had major doubts that I would be able to survive even for one day without creating trash. But after over a year of living zero waste I can honestly say that my life has become simpler, healthier and a lot more fun! Here are my strategies for how to live zero waste without giving up your life.

FOOD | Food packaging is easily the most wasteful part of our daily lives, which is also what makes it the most impactful in terms of waste reduction. The secret to amazing zero waste food without spending the whole day running all over town is a strategic shopping routine. Make a meal plan and a shopping list, arm yourself with cloth bags and containers and then narrow down your weekly shopping trip to two locations: a farmer’s market for fruits and veggies that come without packaging/stickers and a store with a bulk section, a bakery and a deli for everything else. For specialty items made by local artisans that you just can't live without, talk to the artisan! Many times they will be happy to refill containers for you, or sell you items in bulk.

Another way to save time and money on zero waste food is to is to share with your friends. Let’s bring back the good old days where people made huge batches of things from scratch and shared with their friends and neighbors. I made a big batch of yogurt the other day and gave a jar to each of my friends. I’m also part of a Facebook group that shares probiotic starters such as kefir grains and kombucha mothers. Seek out communities (or create your own) that share and trade resources and you’ll save a lot of time by making only a couple things from scratch. Plus, you’ll always have something zero waste on hand to share with your friends.

COSMETICS | Since cosmetics are rarely sold in bulk, you’ll have to get a little creative in this area when you transition to zero waste. At first you might be overwhelmed by the hundreds of DIY recipes online—from facemasks and mascara to deodorant and all-purpose cleaner. I actually really enjoy DIY projects as a way to unwind from work, but sometimes life happens and I just don’t have time to learn how to make homemade soap and shampoo bars. In those instances it really helps to develop relationships with people in your community who love making things and can custom make zero waste products for you. These types of artisans can usually be found at farmer’s markets or online and are often more than happy to support zero wasters and might even give you a discount for bringing your own containers! This way you won’t be slaving away every weekend to make your zero waste life a reality and you can relax and enjoy life. Of course for simple DIYs like toothpaste or facial toner, which take minutes to make and are dirt cheap, it’s more cost and time effective to make them at home. Check out our pinterest page for tons of zero waste cosmetic recipes and make a night of it by inviting your girlfriends over to make them together.  

CLOTHING | The best way to make zero waste clothing more manageable is to have less clothing in the first place. Invest some time into sorting your clothes so you only have what you absolutely love and need. The less clothing you buy, the less will end up in the landfill. Not only that, but with a more minimal wardrobe you’ll have less decisions to make in the morning and less stuff to wash and fold. Check out Project 333 for tips on how to create a capsule wardrobe. If you do need to buy an article of clothing, buy the highest quality you can afford used so you can enjoy it for years and don’t forget to get really excited about spicing up your wardrobe by thrifting for unique vintage finds.

SOCIAL | One of the hardest things about living zero waste is incorporating it into your social life, because chances are, none of your friends are zero waste. But the good news is that sharing your new lifestyle with your friends can be a ton of fun. You’ll have really interesting conversations and might even inspire your friends to try it, or at least to adopt a few of your zero waste habits. Zero waste isn’t about guilt tripping people or being pretentious about your activism, it’s about leading by example and inspiring those around you to make small changes in their lives.

And last but not least, the number one best way to go zero waste without giving up your life is simply to…simplify! Zero waste forces you to think about what you actually need and value in your life, so you’ll only be giving up things that shouldn’t be in your life in the first place. If you’re ready to shift your focus from stuff to relationships and money spent on things to time spent on experiences, check out the Live Zero Waste pledge page where you can join our day, week, month or year programs. Our mentors and community of zero wasters will help you every step of the way. Living zero waste can be challenging at times, but so is training for a marathon or attending a 10-day meditation retreat. Reaching the end of your pledge and knowing that you made a real difference is totally worth it! 

"Zero waste is a lifestyle that focuses on relationships and experiences over money and possessions that sends no trash to landfill."

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Manifestation with Lacy Phillips