8 Steps to a Zero-Waste Summer

By taking a look at the headlines, it’s clear that climate change is a major concern. Unfortunately, most people wait for big corporations to make the changes. While that is a major part of the solution, there are plenty of ways the average person can work on doing their part to reduce their carbon footprint. One of the most impactful ways to get started involves implementing a zero waste lifestyle. While it might seem daunting and difficult, start with baby steps. Consider some of the best steps to take in order to enjoy a zero-waste summer.

1. Food at Home

Plan menus and meals in advance. It’s also really wise to freeze a lot of items you don’t plan to use immediately. Produce and meat go bad quickly. As soon as you get home from a grocery shopping trip, wash, cut and store everything in the areas where it will last the longest. Cook meals in large batches. Freeze what won’t be used within three days. Then when you’re not in the mood to cook, you won’t have to spend money on takeout. You can simply defrost a precooked meal, save money and enjoy good food. Food that spoils, you can toss in your personal compost bin. Everything from eggshells to spoiled greens can be useful when put in a compost bin. If you have a garden at home, the compost will eventually turn into an effective fertilizer for your plants.

2. Dining Out

It’s always nice to enjoy a night off from cooking. While it’s great to support local restaurants and fine dining establishments, there’s a lot of waste involved. Bring reusable to-go containers to pack up the leftover food. Instead of throwing it away, it can be consumed for another meal at home. There are plenty of chic reusable containers that are made out of sustainable materials such as stainless steel, bamboo and glass.

3. Grocery Store Shopping

When it’s time to do the weekly grocery shopping trip, take reusable grocery bags to pack up all the groceries. Some smaller grocery stores allow customers to bring containers to refill certain items such as nuts, grains and coffee beans. After measuring the contents in the container, you can pay for the weight. This is a much more sustainable way to shop. When you’re purchasing produce, bring reusable bags in order to avoid the use of disposable — and wasteful — plastic bags. Look for retailers who sell reusable grocery bags made with sustainable materials that are good for the planet.

4. No Mindless Purchases

More than ever, it’s really easy to scroll online and mindlessly purchase items with the click of a button. It can be easy to consume without really thinking about whether you truly need an item. Instead of making mindless impulse purchases, plan for what you need to buy. Take inventory of the things you already have. Then, keep a running list of the items you still need. If there’s an item you don’t need, don’t buy it. While instant gratification might be trendy, it’s actually one of the main reasons why the United States accounts for more than 12% of the world’s waste. Since the United States only accounts for 4% of the world’s population, this is a major problem.

5. Apparel

It’s not uncommon to need a few pieces to wear throughout the summer months. Whether it’s a pair of sandals, a well-fitting pair of denim shorts or a lovely dress to wear to an upcoming wedding, do your best to purchase through secondhand retailers. Visit your local thrift store in order to find gently used or brand-new pieces at a fraction of the price. If you don’t like to wade through racks of clothes, simply visit online shops like eBay and Poshmark for gently used pieces. Then, take really good care of your garments by following the instructions on the care tag. This will help your wardrobe last longer.

6. Repairs

While it might be feasible to replace an old item instead of repairing it, this is a very wasteful approach as well. Whether there’s a broken wheel on a bike or a loose hemline on a skirt, work on repairing the item first. If the repair is beyond your scope of expertise, pay a few extra dollars to take the item to a repair shop. It’s also OK to contact the manufacturer to find out if they have a repair program.

7. Repurposing Items

If there’s a beloved pair of jeans that are falling apart, go ahead and cut it up. It can be reused for other purposes. It can serve as a great cleaning towel for the bathroom mirror. Once you’ve finished using the glass tomato paste jar, thoroughly clean and sanitize it. Then, reuse it to store items such as cotton balls, dried beans or pens. Instead of purchasing a brand new vase, simply reuse a glass mason jar from a past grocery store purchase. Do your research to find zero waste alternatives to everyday items such as paper towels and deodorant.

8. Water

Instead of purchasing large packages of water bottles, invest in a reusable water filtration system. When it’s time to pour a glass of water, simply use a reusable glass container. The shower is one of the places where it’s really easy to waste a ton of water. Start by installing a low-flow showerhead to decrease water usage. Place a bucket in each shower. At the end of your shower, use the water for other purposes. That shower water can be used to water the plants around your home. That water can also be used to flush the toilet. With the average toilet using five to seven gallons to flush, using leftover shower water for some of the flushes can definitely help with water usage.

While the work involved in implementing a zero-waste summer will involve planning and preparation, it can become a way of life after consistent practice. Allow this to be a conversation starter among family members, friends and co-workers. If more people adopt a zero-waste lifestyle, it can improve the quality of life on Earth. The next generation deserves to enjoy and inherit a beautiful planet in 2050 and beyond. If we implement these small steps on a small scale, a zero-waste lifestyle can help the next generation on a much larger scale.

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