Going Zero Waste and Living A Low Waste Lifestyle 

You want to have a positive impact on the earth. Awesome! One way to do that is to live a zero waste lifestyle.

But how do you even begin the journey to creating less waste? 

Don’t worry, I got you! 

Read on for 5 simple ways to go zero waste and to live a more simplified and eco-friendly lifestyle.  

These 5 steps are the core of living a life that will have a positive impact on the planet. 

What Is Zero Waste?

Zero waste is a lifestyle that aims to send nothing to the landfill. It is a dedication to reducing what you need, reusing as much as you can, and recycling and composting the rest. 

Zero waste is about making choices as a consumer to cut down on plastic and single-use conveniences that are bad for the planet. 

Zero waste is about simplifying your life by reducing the waste you create. It’s the ultimate goal of living an eco-friendly lifestyle. 

Zero waste is not about being perfect or making huge sacrifices. It’s little steps you can do to cut down on waste. In your kitchen, your bathroom, and your home. 

A zero waste life is about a circular economy versus a linear economy. The current system of a linear economy, raw materials are mined and processed into products that are thrown away after use. In a circular economy, the cycle of raw materials needed is closed. Instead, the cycle of reducing, reusing, recycling and composting creates a production that is much more sustainable. 

A zero waste life is focused on creating a system where all resources can be resumed fully back into the system instead of ending up waste in the landfill.

Why Going Zero Waste Is Important 

Here are some benefits of keeping waste out of the landfills:

  • Prevents pollution caused by reducing the need to produce, package and distribute, and dispose of goods
  • Saves energy
  • Reduces greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global climate change
  • Helps sustain the environment for future generations
  • Is healthier for you, your family and the planet
  • Saves money
  • Reduces the amount of waste that will need to be recycled or sent to landfills and incinerators
  • Allows products to be used to their fullest extent

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without”

– Ancient Proverb

The 5 Rs of A Zero Waste Home 

Following the 5 Rs of zero waste: Refuse, Reduce, reuse, recycle, and rot will make cutting waste from your home more simple and easy to do. 

The five Rs are easy steps you can take for using less plastic and producing less waste. Simply refuse what you don’t need, reduce what you do need, reuse what you consume, recycle what you can not refuse, reduce or reuse, and rot (compost) the rest. 

This isn’t about being perfect but doing your best to go zero waste and to produce less waste in your home. Applying the 5 Rs in order will result is less waste. 

Refuse and Reduce addresses how to prevent waste. Reuse addresses mindful and conscious consumption. Recycle and Rot addresses how to process discards. 

The 5 Rs are simple ways you can go zero waste.

Below I go more in-depth in what each means and how you can apply them to your life. 

5 Rs of Zero Waste

1. Refuse

Refuse What You Don’t Need 

This is step number one to keeping waste out of the landfills. It’s refusing all the things that add up. Junk mail, business cards, receipts for small purchases that you won’t return, double bagged goods at the stores, flyers… anything that is essentially junk and wasteful.

Refuse what you don’t need such as:

  • Single-use plastics: coffee pods, snack packs, straws, bottles. All these things that offer “convenience” but create unnecessary waste that is damaging to the planet. 
  • Freebies: Hotel toiletries, swag bags, promotional pens. You know all the things that we grab without thinking that we end up throwing in the trash. Just kindly refuse to take it when freebies are offered. 
  • Junk mail: Think of all the envelopes and flyers you have put straight into the recycle bin from your mailbox. Recycling is better than trash, but ditching junk mail helps cut down on deforestation and paper waste. 
  • Knick knacks that serve no purpose: When shopping you may find something that is cute and you are caught in an impulse buy. This clutter adds up and one day you will toss it in the trash. Refuse anything that doesn’t have a purpose or serve a function in your home. 
  • Low-quality cheap items: Advertisements for deals may seem enticing but how many of these purchases are for things that will stand the test of time? You may save money at the moment but if the item is low-quality, you may need to replace it sooner than later. It ends up in the trash and you have to buy a new item that is produced with raw materials. Refuse deals of low-quality items and always spend wisely for items that will last a long time.

2. Reduce

Reduce What You Do Need 

There are some things that you just can’t refuse, but you can take steps to reduce consumption and only buying what you truly need. Yes, you need to buy food but reduce single-use plastics and cut down on wasteful food packaging. Sure, you need toiletries but reduce buying what you don’t need. You get the idea.

Pare down and declutter your home. Evaluate what you use and what ends up collecting dust. This will help you make smarter choices with shopping. You will be able to make choices based on what you actually need. 

Reducing waste starts with how you consume. Decrease leisure online shopping, only buy what you need, and question every purchase you make. 

Other areas to reduce:

  • Food Packaging: Buy in bulk, eat fresh, and reduce single-use plastics. 
  • Car emissions: Bike and walk when you can. 
  • Home Size: Downsize and only buy for the rooms that will be used. 
  • Water Usage: Use greywater and install faucet aerators to conserve water flow.

The key to reducing is to be aware of your consumption habits and find ways to reduce unsustainable ones. However that looks for you. We are all different and there is no right way. Find how you can make positive changes to reduce your carbon footprint.  

3. Reuse

Reuse What You Consume and Cannot Refuse Or Reduce

Reusing is utilizing something in its original manufactured form several times to maximize its usage, as well as increase its useful life.

Since this is the third step, you won’t have to worry about reusing junk. Because you will refuse and reduce unwanted plastic and waste. 

Reusing will help you evaluate if you need to take better steps to be refuse and reduce. If you don’t bring home plastic bags then you won’t have to worry about how to reuse them. Reusing helps eliminate waste from consumption, alleviate resource depletion, and extend the life of goods purchased. Yay! 

Ways To Reuse:

  • Ditch disposable and use reusables. This will eliminate wasteful packaging and single-use items.
  • Buy second hand: Need something? Look at local garage sales, second-hand stores, craigslist, amazon, and consignment shops. One person’s trash is another person’s treasure, right? Totally. 
  • Buy smart: When buying new things, look for items that are reusable, refillable, rechargeable, and repairable. 

Before throwing something away, check to see if it can be repaired, reused as another function, or returned. Also, always donate if something is still in good condition before throwing in the trash. 

4. Recycle

Recycle What You Cannot Refuse, Reduce, Reuse

Recycling is good but it’s not perfect. How many times I have heard, “oh, you’re an environmentalist? Awesome, me too, I recycle”.


Don’t get me wrong, recycling is good but it’s further down the list because if you aren’t taking steps to refuse, reduce, and reuse then there is still a waste issue. Plus, recycling uses resources and creates greenhouse gas emissions. It’s better than landfills but if you can cut down on waste in the first place then recycling won’t be needed. 

With every purchase you make, think of the life cycle of that item. Sure, you can recycle that plastic water bottle, but what does that really mean? That plastic bottle is toxic to produce, degrades in the process of recycling, made into non-recylable products, and is destined to end up the landfill. 

Refuse, reduce, reuse, then recycle. 

When you do recycle, learn what your community accepts and does not. It’s different everywhere so be sure you look up what can and can not go in your bin. Also, recycle the right way. What needs to be cleaned? Do you have single-stream? What plastics are accepted?  

Recycle when necessary and look to the other Rs first. 

And don’t worry if you do find yourself recycling a lot. Going completely zero waste is not really feasible for most people (myself included) and is quite restrictive. You will recycle but do your best to cut down on how much you will need to. 

5. Rot

Rot- Compost The Rest 

Rotting is the process of composting. Which means the recycling of organic materials. It’s nature’s way of recycling. 

The organic matter decomposes over time and becomes a nutritious soil conditioner. Most kitchen food scraps and yard waste can be composted. This compost can be used as mulch in your garden and house plants. 

There are simple compost bins you can use in your kitchen to high tech compost garden bins. If you live in an apartment there are even electric composters and worm bins that you can use to rot your kitchen scraps. Find one that meets your needs and get to rotting! 

Conclusion On How To Live A Zero Waste Lifestyle 

Be sure to follow these 5 simple ways to live a more zero waste lifestyle. Refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle, rot. It’s now your mantra. Say it, live it. But don’t feel like you have to be too militant about it. 

Going zero waste is a journey. You may never go completely waste-free, which is fine because like I said earlier, it’s restrictive and not really feasible. But do your best to not contribute to the current throwaway culture. 

Ditch disposables and replace them with reusables. Refuse to bring junk into your house that doesn’t serve a purpose besides filling up the trash can. Think of recycling as the last resort, not the first. 

These 5 steps may seem daunting at first but once you get the hang of it, the 5 Rs really are simple ways to cut down on your carbon footprint. 
For tools to help you live a more zero waste lifestyle, look at eco-friendly must-haves.

Simply Follow the 5 Rs For Zero Waste Living

What do you do to live a more zero waste lifestyle? Which of the 5 Rs do you find easy to follow? Any that you struggle with? Share in the comments. 

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