Kathryn Kellogg is the founder of goingzerowaste.com and the author of “101 Ways to Go Zero Waste”. She shares her journey with us along with a few tips and tricks for reducing plastic and waste from our lives.
It’s not because I don’t like taking it out, it’s because I don’t have any. Yep, you read that right—no trash. At first, this might sound time-consuming, difficult, or downright crazy, but I can assure you that it’s none of those things. I just shop differently.
Trash is a huge problem. The average American throws out 4.4 pounds of trash a day. We’re running out of room. Landfills aren’t aerated for proper decomposition causing methane and tons of greenhouse gases to be released each year. The ocean will have more plastic and trash than fish by 2050. We are ruining the planet with over packaging.
Have you thought about how much packaging we deal with on a daily basis? It’s out of control and plastic is the worst. It never biodegrades; it photodegrades. It never disappears; it just gets smaller and smaller, which means every piece of plastic ever created still exists. That’s a lot of plastic.
The zero waste movement puts the power into the hands of the consumer. As a consumer we can demand change by choosing to consume differently. Everything you buy is a vote for the future you want. By opting out of excessive plastic packaging and trash, you’re creating a sustainable future with less packaging and less waste.
I look for naked options: things that come without packaging. I also focus on reusables instead of disposables like growlers for beer and wine, getting my coffee to go in a mason jar, and buying produce with a reusable cloth bag. I still buy all of my favorite things like ample amounts of chocolate, red wine, and all the fixings for a slammin’ veggie burger; I just buy them, ya know, naked.
Living a life without packaging doesn’t mean sacrificing—it just means shopping differently. Here are five of my favorite tips and tricks for breaking up with packaging and reducing your waste.
1. Bring a water bottle
Keep a refillable and reusable water bottle with you. I have a stainless steel canteen, but I really like to use a mason jar. Being from the South, we have plenty! My great grandmother’s vintage Golden Harvests are my favorite. They are the unsung heroes of waste prevention. You can use it to take home leftovers, get a scoop of ice cream, coffee, juice and even smoothies—yes, Jamba will put your juice in a mason jar.
2. Shop local
The farmers’ market is the perfect place to buy fruits, vegetables or homemade artisanal items naked. Even if it comes in a package, ask if they’ll reuse it. Most of the time they will; it’s one less package they have to buy. A lot of vendors have refill options, too. I buy glass jars filled with cheese or jam. When the jars are empty, I bring them back to the vendor for a refill.
3. Carry a handkerchief or napkin
This waste-busting item is perfect when you’re on the go. You can dry your hands in the restroom, blow your nose, catch unexpected sneezes, and wrap up treats like muffins or cookies when out—just not in that order.
4. Try a DIY
There are dozens of snack recipes you can easily make at home. Skip the overpriced and over-packaged stuff at the store and try your hand in the kitchen. You can make hummus in five minutes! You’d be amazed at how cheap and easy it is to make some of your favorite pre-packaged foods. It doesn’t just stop at snacks; you can make beauty products too. Whip up a face mask, lip balm or dry shampoo all from pantry staples. It’s fun, inexpensive and takes less than five minutes. For more diffcult things like shampoo or soap—Lush has your back with their naked line.
5. Remember your bags
I have several different types, but remember they’re not just for grocery shopping. They’re for all shopping whether it be clothes, hardware or the pet store. I always keep a small foldable bag in my tote for emergencies. When I’m going grocery shopping, I have bags to carry everything home, but I also have smaller bags for produce and buying pantry staples from bulk bins. That way I don’t have to take home any packaging! With a few adjustments to your daily routine, and shopping a little differently, you can drastically reduce your waste and be well on your way to saving the planet.
Beyond feeling good about the impact I’m leaving on the planet, I’ve seen a lot of personal benefits too, from eating healthier to saving money. Even after a year and a half, I’m all in—I’m naked for life.
Want even more ways to start living a zero waste lifestyle? Find more at goingzerowaste.com.