Not Quite Zero Waste Tips!
Let’s start by saying Zero Waste is a terrible name. It’s completely unrealistic, unattainable and probably turns more people off than anything else. So we’ve opted to share with you some Not Quite Zero Waste tips.
We are not perfect, we couldn’t be further from perfect, but we try - and for us - that’s still a big win. So we hope that you can go easy on yourself - and realize that if you choose to do even ONE thing from this list - you are doing your part in lessening your impact on the environment.
Also - it’s really worth noting that we implemented these strategies over time. We do not recommend you throwing out your plastic tupperware and going to buy all the glass jars. We don’t recommend you try to implement every single strategy right now. Allow this to be a process. Take your time. Don’t create more waste in attempting to go Not Quite Zero Waste.
Start small and then set goals:
What action can you easily implement today? (refuse is a great one!!)
What action do I want to move towards over the next few months?
What are some actions I’d like to implement in the next few years?
When we lived in a regular home (not on wheels) we had different strategies to lessen our footprint. One could argue BETTER habits, but we’ll just say different (see - let’s all be easy on ourselves!).
Here are some Not Quite Zero Waste strategies we’ve implemented over the past four years.
This one is HUGE. When you head to the drug store or are just picking up a couple of things from the grocery store - refuse the plastic bag. Carry your purchases with your hands, keep a reusable bag in your car in case of emergency or stuff as much as possible into your purse (after you pay for it… if that wasn’t clear haha).
Refuse plastic bags for small last minute purchases. Refuse plastic straws - let the barista or server know when they take your drink order. Refuse one-time use cutlery and napkins - when you order out, let the employee know you will not be needing those items.
Just starting to refuse can make a HUGE impact with very little effort.
groceries + bulk food
Buying bulk has been one of our favorite shifts to Not Quite Zero Wastes. We have these awesome reuseable bulk and produce bags that we bring with us to the grocery store. With easy to read tare amounts, bulk purchases are convenient and usually much cheaper. We also do not place our produce in plastic - yes, we let our produce roll all around our cart. If that doesn’t land for you - then just grab those bags linked above and place your apples in there!
We also try our best to switch items on our grocery list that have a lot of packaging. For example, we prefer spinach to kale but if the store doesn’t sell bunches of spinach (not in the plastic bag) we opt for kale since it doesn’t have any packaging. Small shifts like that can make a huge difference in the amount of trash we consume.
When we living in our house in Philly, we hired a service called Bennett Bucket - they gave us an empty 5 gallon bucket and we filled it with our food scraps and various other items.
Our trash lessened CONSIDERABLY and we were sad to let this go when we moved into the RV.
Since switching to our home on wheels, we now use a composting toilet!!! Okay - we know that a bathroom compost and kitchen compost system are totally different BUT it’s still doing SOMETHING. And although we are no longer composting our food scraps - we are saving a TON of water with our Nature’s Head Composting Toilet.
replacing paper towels
This Not Quite Zero Waste tip has saved us a ton of money as well as reducing our trash consumption. We switched over to kitchen rags a few years ago and it was a BUMPY transition. We ended up keeping paper towels on hand for a few months until we got the hang of it.
We use the rags for cleaning up spills, napkins, handling hot dishes, drying dishes… and eventually they get pretty ratty and those turn into our cleaning rags for the bathroom, floors, sinks, etc. We have purchased two sets of these rags plus our kitchen towels that we had when we bought the house.
leftovers, food storage, and no more ziplock bags
We love mason jars. Sorry - we are just your typical, avocado toast loving millenials and we can’t help ourselves. So when we lived in our non-mobile house we used various sizes of mason jars for food storage - big ones for our favorite bulk items and lots of leftovers, small ones for less used bulk items and small leftovers. We did use plastic lids because the tin lids kept rusting. We also purchased some weck jars in various sizes and we LOVED those for lunches, leftovers and bulk as well.
We really don’t recommend buying a whole bunch of jars unless you really need them though. Slowly, start to save jars from your food, or buy a set of mason jars but don’t just throw out your old tupperware. Remember - that’s going to the trash then too. So donate, pass along, and slowly transition your leftover/bulk system over to glass.
Since moving into the RV, we tried to keep the glass. But when the house moves - so do the contents of the refrigerator and pantry - and well - we had SO many broken glass disasters. We switched over to OXO containers for bulk items and we really love them. We still have a few glass mason and weck jars that survived and we use those for leftovers.
We also really wanted to stop using single-use plastic Ziplock bags but the how really baffled us. How would we transport our snacks and sandwiches while hiking, heading to work, or just purse nuts (y’all know what we mean!)?? Thankfully, we found Stasher bags and we LOVE them. Yes - they are expensive. But we purchased two sandwich sized and two snack sized and we have had them now for several years!
We own bags on bags on bags. We like to have at least one in the car at all times in case of last minute purchasing needs. This is another easy to implement trick and a lot of people are already using them. We have two refrigerator bags from TJs and several regular bags.
We bring them ALL to the store and try to remember them for other shopping stops like Target, Walgreens, and more.
water + coffee
This is one of those old school Not Quite Zero Waste tips but we are surprised at how many people still struggle with adapting this one. We love our Hydroflask Watter Bottles - but we understand that they are a bit heavy. So take some time and do your research to find a water bottle that fits your needs and then - get it and use it and then… CLEAN IT! So many complaints about reusing water bottles has to do with not regularly washing it!
We also have Hydroflask Coffee To-Go Cups - and these are IMPERATIVE for saving some Mother Earth if you’re a coffee house regular. Keep it in your car and remember - wash this often too!!!
There are so many other small ways you can practice a more environmentally loving life.
We like to menu plan for the week so we end up eating almost all of our food, reducing our food waste
When we worked at our jobs - we each packed our lunches in a canvas bag, a rag for a napkin, and regular cutlery
When we lived in Philadelphia, we were members of our local CSA - to support farmers and because the food was usually without packaging
We frequented farmer’s markets and various grocery stores to get what we needed with the least amount of packaging
We make a lot of items that tend to come in packages - almond milk, laundry detergent, dressing, pickles, kimchi, etc.
On the road, we pack snacks in jars, stasher bags, and other containers so we have items on hand and resist packaged treats from gas stations!
But most importantly - remember that you do not need to do EVERYTHING or even most things. The main takeaway we hope you get is that even one small thing is a big deal. Because if everyone did one small thing, it would make a HUGE difference.
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