Posing a question

“What’s the one zero waste thing you’ve done that’s made the biggest difference?”

I follow a zero waste board on Facebook, and this very question popped up at the beginning of December. It was interesting to ponder — what IS the one thing I’ve done that’s made the biggest difference? — and equally interesting to read everyone’s answers.

I'd like to point out that naps are completely zero waste, which is why that's my main hobby.

I’d like to point out that naps are completely zero waste, which is why I plan to take two today.

And this seems like a good time to pose the question here as well as transcribe the answers written on the board. Because … I don’t know about you, but there’s nothing like the excess of Christmas (even if you’re a minimalist and do up the holiday very minimally) that makes you want to take a breath and embrace something a little … less.

For the record, the first thing that came to my mind was “reusable lunch containers.” Maybe because that is one of the very first steps I took, and continue to embrace. We haven’t used plastic baggies in a couple of years, and that’s pretty awesome. I’m also excited that (most of) the food we put into those lunch containers is unpackaged. I do feel like that’s made a big difference, especially since the entire Walker Four is on board.

What about you? How would you answer this question?

And for those wondering where to start, here are more than a few ideas to consider. Actually, this is a great list even if you have started. As I read through the answers, it really made me think about what I do and how I could step up my game. It’s also pretty awesome that there are so many different ways to go about this:

  1. Composting (lots of people listed this, actually)
  2. Cloth diapering
  3. Taking reusable bags to the store
  4. Taking a water bottle and/or thermos everywhere
  5. Recycling
  6. Using cloth produce bags
  7. Bringing your own tupperware and silverware when going out (for takeout, leftovers, and avoiding plastic utensils)
  8. Buying items from the bulk bins
  9. Buying food without any packaging
  10. DIY baby wipes / hand wipes
  11. Buying as little as possible — no unplanned shopping
  12. Reusable menstrual products
  13. Using rags and towels instead of paper products
  14. Riding a bike to work
  15. Walking everywhere
  16. Gardening
  17. Using grey water to water plants in the yard
  18. Place a bucket in the shower; use water to flush the toilet
  19. Sew worn clothing into new clothing or items
  20. Menu planning
  21. Batch cooking
  22. Reusable sandwich bags
  23. Refusing all disposables
  24. Line drying clothing
  25. Not using dryer sheets
  26. Reusing shower water to presoak clothing (that whole bucket thing again)
  27. Buying food in season
  28. Giving up plastic bags
  29. Buying ingredients vs. prepared, packaged items
  30. Using jars
  31. Finding a zero waste buddy (to encourage each other)
  32. Shop primarily at thrift stores
  33. Avoid takeout
  34. DIY yogurt
  35. Refusing!
  36. Repurposing!
  37. Buying milk in glass jars
  38. Using a reusable coffee filter
  39. Waste no scrap of food
  40. See what’s in the trash can, then find alternatives to those items
  41. Collect and reuse scrap paper
  42. Cook from scratch
  43. Be wary of palm products (oils, etc. HERE is why)
  44. Feed food scraps to animals
  45. Reusable lunch containers!

To be honest, some of these seem a little extreme to me, but hey, it’s all about stretching our minds and thinking outside the box, right? And it’s so great to see how fervent other people are about working to reduce their impact on this planet. I don’t feel isolated in my efforts by any means, but I do forget that so many of us are working towards the same goal. And that, my friends, is amazing.

Next up: End of the year pondering.

7 Responses to Posing a question

  1. In terms of reducing volume of trash, I think cloth diapering and composting are the big ones for us. I kind of hate that answer because those things are monolithic and a little boring. I feel like it’s more fun to talk about jars and hunting down great soap and finding obscure things in bulk, or figuring out how to resume a piece of twine…but actually, composting and cloth diapering probably knocked out 50% of our household waste, or more. On the other hand, that’s encouraging, because each represents a single change that has daily effects.

  2. We compost, recycle, refuse, and a few other things that are kind of hit or miss, but the three things that have really worked for us is using cloth napkins (most of them are 23 years old and still look fine), feeding food scraps to the chickens and always carrying a water bottle and travel mug. Everything else is a work in progress.

    • That’s a great answer, too — simple yet concrete steps that make a big impact. (I feel like my zero waste steps are still a work in progress too, by the way. I’ve got the routines down so that part is easy, but it seems like every day some new question gets posed that I have to navigate. Some go better than others.)

  3. We’re nowhere close to zero waste and, honestly, don’t truly aspire to it right now. That said, for everything we’ve tried to do when it comes to leading simpler lives – reducing waste, eating at home more, working on being minimalists – the key has always been *planning ahead”.

    I hate that that’s the key because it sucks, but it is. Plan ahead so we bring our reusables with us when we go out, plan ahead so we can get a good meal on the table at the end of a long day, plan ahead so we’re not buying something crappy at the last minute because we didn’t seek out better alternatives in advance. As cheesy as it sounds, being intentional is everything.

Tell me, tell me...