Changing to a zero waste lifestyle has the potential to cost a lot. There are loads of plastic free, unpackaged, and reusable items available that are great to have. But they can often cost a lot more as an initial cost. Living zero waste doesn’t have to be expensive, so here are a few ideas of things that don’t cost you anything at all.
As usual with any list of ideas of things to do, I don’t know you, or your lifestyle or your specific circumstances, so please feel free to adapt these to suit you and your needs.
1. Stop getting more plastic bags.
If your house is anything like every house I’ve ever lived in, there’s a massive bag full of other bags. When you go shopping, take some of them with you. If you already have some canvas bags like the kind you often get as freebies, they’re even better as they’re longer lasting. If you live somewhere where they charge for all carrier bags then this will save you money too.
2. Cut out straws
If you don’t actually need to use a straw, start asking for your drink without one. Many restaurants and take away food places automatically give straws with soft drinks, when a lot of people don’t really need them. If you do still want to/have to use straws, rather than throwing them away after one use, wash them up with the rest of your dishes and reuse them. They will last for several uses which will save you money.
3. Bring cutlery with you
There’s a good chance you already own cutlery, or at least there’s some in your house that you could use even if it doesn’t technically belong to you. If you know you’re going to eat take away food, bring cutlery with you instead of using single use plastic cutlery. If for some reason you don’t have any cutlery you could take with you, next time you get given some plastic cutlery instead of throwing it away, take it home with you and wash it. This can become your cutlery for taking out with you.
4. Reduce post you don’t want
Junk mail is just annoying. It comes through your letterbox and doesn’t even get read before you put it into the paper recycling. It’s probably going to be difficult to completely eliminate all junk mail, but you can try. You can put a notice on your post box asking for no junk mail and advertising, which probably won’t stop all of it but may help a bit. You can contact companies and ask them to stop delivering junk mail to you. If you’re receiving advertising that’s addressed to you from companies you do actually use, see if you can change your contact method with them so they email you with news instead.
I’m not sure how many other countires this applies to, but here in the UK if you register to vote you will then automatically have your details put into the open register unless you choose to opt out. This information is then accessible to anyone who buys it. While you probably don’t get much junk mail from this, it’s possible that you can. Removing your details from the open register does not affect your right to vote, and you will still be on the electoral register. If you wish to do this you can contact your local council, usually their website will have a quick form to fill out to opt out. If you need and help or more information you can follow this website and it wil guide you to your local council’s website: Open Register Opt Out
Newspapers can also be a massive waste if you aren’t actually reading them. If you often get newspapers delivered that you don’t read, cancel your deliveries. If you use the internet regularly, which considering you’re reading this blog post means that there’s a good chance you do, all news is published online which is quicker than waiting for it to be published in a newspaper.
If you get lots of post for people who no longer live at your house, if it’s addressed to someone you know you can ask them to update their details so they get it delivered to teir own house, and if it’s addressed to someone you don’t know and it has a return address then you can send it back to the return address with a note. Simply cross out the original address and write something like “Addressee not known at this address, please return to sender”. Then the sender will know their letters are not being received and if they have another way of contacting the intended recipient they will do so.
5. Eat out less
This one doesn’t quite cost nothing as you will still need to buy the food, but it costs less to bring food from home than it does to eat out. Get organised and bring food with you instead of eating on the go. You probably already have some kind of tupperware box you could use as a lunch box.
Also, if you usually buy a tea or coffee in the morning and don’t already own a reusable mug you could bring to a coffee shop, you can make it at home instead. It might mean getting up a little earlier to have a coffee before leaving the house, or if you own a flask then you could put a hot drink in a flask and take it with you.
This saves takeaway containers, single use cutlery and packaging from going into the bin.
6. Don’t print receipts
Lots of places now offer email receipts, and many self service checkouts offer an option of not printing your receipts
7. Use e-tickets
Rather than printing tickets, you can often have tickets scanned from your phone.
8. Don’t print unless you need to
Rather than printing documents that aren’t necessary to print, keep them on a USB drive. If you need to take a copy somewhere with you, transfer the document to your phone. If you need to give it to someone else, email it to them.
9. Start composting
This one an be quite a big change for some people, especially people who don’t usually do much gardening. Food waste such as fruit and vegetable peelings can be composted to make soil full of nutrients for plants. There are many reasons why you may not be able to have your own compost pile, if this is you but you still want to find a good use for your food waste you could see if someone local to you would be happy to take your food waste for their compost pile. If you don’t know anyone to ask, you could see if there are allottment gardens near you. It’s likely that someone there would have a composer, or they may even have a communal compost heap that they wouldn’t mind you adding to.
10. Stop getting paper bank statements
Many banks offer an option of email or online bank statements, which saves paper and also saves you having to file loads of papers.
I’m sure there are many other ways of making zero waste changes without spending any money, but these 10 should start you off nicely. If you have any more ideas that you want to share feel free to leave them in the comments, and let me know how you get on with making these changes. My challenge to you is to not let a tight budget stop you from working towards producing less waste. All the zero waste gadgets are great, but they aren’t necesarry to start you off on your journey.