As concerns have grown about climate change, so has buzzed around the so-called zero-waste lifestyle.
While the benefits of this lifestyle may seem enticing it is not easy.
Reducing the island of garbage in the Pacific Ocean, decreasing pollution in our cities and waterways, and the feeling the satisfaction of doing something about the environmental crisis – it can sometimes feel like the sacrifices of living zero-waste are a bit overwhelming.
We hope with this article we make it a touch more overwhelming for you!
We will give you actionable steps to start to live a more zero-waste lifestyle and ways to start composting.
Tips To Start Your Transition To Zero-Waste Living
If this feels like a bit too much, but you still want to reduce your environmental impact, here are some simple steps you can take toward decreasing the amount of waste you produce.
1. Start By Keeping Track of Your Trash
For a day or two, put all of your garbage into one bag so that you can evaluate it.
At the end of the day, dump out the bag, and take a hard look at the trash that you produce.
What makes up most of your garbage?
Do you throw away multiple disposable coffee cups a day?
Do you use paper towels to clean your kitchen?
Did you make boxed or canned food for dinner?
Maybe you ate out for multiple meals, and you found several layers of food wrappers in your trash.
Taking stock of how you currently generate your trash will help you to determine what simple changes you can make to create the biggest impact on your garbage production.
2. Be Aware of What’s Easily Replaceable
As you take stock of your trash, try to note what’s easily replaceable and what’s not.
For example, you may find it easier to bring a refillable coffee thermos with you than to stop buying pre-packaged pasta sauce.
That’s okay. The point of this exercise is not to feel guilty or to eliminate all of your trash at once.
It’s to take note of your current habits and to see where you can most easily make changes.
For example, some people find it easy to clean their whole house with cloth towels, then toss the dirty towels in the wash immediately after.
But if you currently take your laundry to a laundromat once every few weeks, this might not be a change you’re interested in making right away.
3. Be Aware of What’s Easy to Recycle and To Compost
Maybe you don’t want to make homemade pasta sauce just yet, but you are ready to set up a home recycling and composting system.
Many cities are offering compost pickup services, so for many people, this is just a matter of organization.
However, it’s important to be aware that some materials, like metal and glass, are easier to recycle than others, like plastic.
When you do choose to purchase products in disposable containers, opt for glass or metal instead of plastic, as these are easier to recycle and more sustainable in the long run.
Additionally, you may not be allowed to put certain items in your home recycling bin.
Some recycling centers won’t accept #5 plastics, and many won’t accept plastic bags.
Be aware that, ironically, the bulk sections of many health food stores sell their foods in #5 plastic containers.
While these are recyclable, you may need to bring them back to the store for recycling.
Also, keep in mind that many paper and cardboard products can be composted.
So, if you’re still cleaning your house with paper towels, consider using a compost-friendly cleaner and tossing the towels in the compost bin.
Stick with me until later where we give you tips on how to start a compost!
4. Most Importantly, Start Small
Much like starting a diet or trying to eat healthier there is a reason why they say, “Slow and steady wins the race.”
Trying to make too big of a leap will leave you stressed, worried, or worse.
You to stop completely and go back to your old ways.
Making small, sustainable habits that you can keep will make a bigger difference in the long run than trying to make several dramatic changes all at once and falling off the wagon after a few days.
Start by choosing a small, achievable goal, and stick with that.
For example, maybe you’d like to start by bringing your own insulated cup with you to work for a week.
Or maybe you’d like to cook your own food for one more meal per week instead of eating takeout.
Making changes you can stick with, and adding to them over time, will create a larger impact on the environment than trying to do too much at once and giving up after a few days or weeks.
Bonus: The Steps to Begin a Compost Pile
Composting is a simple activity that has significant impacts on the environment.
It doesn’t require one to have a green thumb or a large garden to start composting, and it isn’t as smelly a process as many might think.
According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, the country generates in 2018 was 292.4 million tons (U.S. short tons, unless specified) or 4.9 pounds per person per day.
Of that waste generated, approximately 69 million tons were recycled and 25 million tons were composted. (source)
As simple as composting can be, it doesn’t just involve dumping a bunch of food waste into a pile and calling it a day.
Here’s everything beginners need to know about composting and how to start a compost pile.
What is compost?
Compost is decayed organic matter that farmers and gardeners use to enrich their soil.
Sometimes, they use compost alone as soil for their plants. They collect organic matter or waste, ranging from food waste to twigs and even manure.
Anything that came from the ground can go back to the ground through composting, as long as the items aren’t diseased.
Animal products and by-products, which are usually oily, are also to be avoided.
When this organic matter is combined with bulking agents, the substances break down faster and more quickly until the pile becomes a fertilizer rich in nutrients.
The result is referred to as mature compost, which smells earthy and looks dark brown or black.
Any of the original organic matter should no longer be visible in mature compost.
Things You Can Compost
- Fruits and vegetables
- Coffee grounds and filters
- Shredded newspaper
- Yard trimmings
- Grass clippings
- Hay and straw
- Wood chips
- Cotton and Wool Rags
- Dryer and vacuum cleaner lint
- Hair and fur
- Fireplace ashes
For more in-depth information on composting you can go check out the article on the EPA website which is a great resource for this topic.
How Does Composting Benefit The Environment?
Perhaps the most significant impact composting has is on climate change.
Composting food waste prevents the waste from being left in landfills, where it could eventually emit methane.
Methane is a colorless and odorless gas that occurs naturally and as a result of human activity.
It also happens to be a potent greenhouse gas, along with ozone, nitrous oxide, water vapor, and carbon dioxide.
These greenhouse gases contribute to climate change.
Aside from reducing methane emissions, composting reduces the need for chemical fertilizers considering that compost can be a natural fertilizer.
According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, the use of compost can even lead to higher yields of crops, enhancing soil water retention.
Researchers have found that compost protects the soil and eliminates harmful compounds in the air.
The material can destroy 99.6% of volatile organic compounds that pose a danger to human health.
It can also improve contaminated soil and act as a more cost-effective alternative to other pollution remediation methods.
Lastly, composting helps provide carbon sequestration, in which compost can act as a carbon sink in soil.
Carbon sinks provide long-term carbon storage, preventing the carbon from entering and circulating in the planet’s atmosphere.
This slows the accumulation of greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change.
How to compost
Composting can occur whether one lives in a home with a garden or an apartment.
Compost is generated after food waste is collected into a pile, rather than disposed of in the trash.
1. Choose & Store The Right Organic Matter
Food scraps from fruits and veggies are great for composting, so they should be at the top of one’s list of preferred organic matter.
Organic material from the garden, such as old flowers and twigs, may also be added to the compost pile.
Eggshells and coffee grounds aren’t bad either.
However, experts recommend avoiding materials like meat, dairy, cooked food, and bones because these might attract pests.
Some products nowadays are labeled “compostable,” but it’s important to note that they may not be suitable for composting at home.
The items should be collected and stored before being added to the pile. They can be placed in separate plastic bags and kept in the freezer before they’re ready to be composted.
I like the compost bin above and recommend these for people who live in the country like myself.
They are made from recycled plastics and you can put them closer to your gardens for using the compost.
The kit has two swing-open doors for easy access and tons of air vents on the side.
The best part is that it has a built-in lift door at the bottom to allow even easier access to the composted material at the bottom with a shovel.
2. Choose Where To Compost
The location of where to place a compost pile depends on where one lives.
People who live in apartments can either contribute to their community’s compost pile if they have one or create their own at home.
Farmer’s markets often have their compost collection sites where scraps are collected regularly.
Sometimes, trash collection services offer compost collection as well.
Vermicomposting is also an option but isn’t very popular among newbies because they would have to handle worms.
All they need is a plastic container large enough to house soil and worms. The worms feed on the compost.
People who have gardens don’t need to have a container for their compost pile, but beginners usually prefer to start with a tub.
3. Start Mixing The Compost
There’s a science to this.
Composting involves reaching a balance between green and brown ingredients.
Green materials refer to food scraps that provide nitrogen, which helps microorganisms grow in the compost.
Brown materials are carbon-rich items such as paper products and dried plant materials.
Green and brown materials differ not only in color but in texture; the former is usually wet while the latter is dry.
The organic matter must be layered in a specific way for the pile to compost properly.
Dry brown materials should be added to the bottom of the pile, underneath the wet greens.
The dry materials allow for aeration, through which water and air can flow through the collection, and the microbes are still able to retrieve enough oxygen to function.
The layers of browns and greens should measure around an inch each and go on until there are no more food scraps to add to the pile.
Composting veterans suggest having more browns than greens to prevent the pile from getting too wet and attracting pests.
That is why I love the kits made by Miracle-Gro pictured above.
It has smaller holes designed into the tumbler to let air in but most importantly lets water.
The holes are small enough to allow for this without letting any pests inside the container.
You can see more details by clicking below.
4. Tend To The Compost & Wait
Periodic watering of the compost is necessary, so it stays damp.
It should also be stirred up or turned in at least once a week so the compost can aerate adequately.
The compost should be ready after several weeks, depending on the climate. If the compost smells like a landfill and is still giving off heat, that’s a bad sign.
It should smell earthy and feel fluffy enough to be fed to a garden. Composting takes a bit of patience and time, but it’s a worthwhile, earth-saving activity.
With this article with ways to transition to a zero-waste lifestyle along with bonus tips on composting you are set.
Going zero waste and starting a compost are great ways to stop damage to the environment and even give back to the environment that gives so much to use.
You can go zero and compost to add natural fertilizer back into the foods you love to grow in your garden.
See you on the next one!
If you liked this article and want to see more surprisingly simple & useful eco-friendly lifestyle tips & activities click here!
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