• Kim Bresseleers

Zero Waste Week 2021 - Tips to challenge yourself to get started with a Zero Waste lifestyle

Zero Waste Week is an annual international awareness campaign in the first full week of September aiming to get everyone to reduce their waste, reuse materials, recycle as much as possible, reduce landfill waste, and bring awareness to the growing environmental problem of waste and pollution. In this article, you will find some useful information and tips to challenge yourself to get started with a zero waste lifestyle.

What is waste and why is it bad?

Waste is simply a discarded product or material we no longer have use for but not all of it is natural. It comes in all shapes and sizes from farm waste, to the by-product of a manufacturing process, to leftover food, clothing we’ve grown out of, and electronic products we no longer need.

The problem with waste is that:

  • we produce so much of it

  • a great deal of it isn’t natural and therefore not biodegradable

  • we have difficulty disposing of it

All of this has a terrible impact on the environment: it either sits in a landfill for years to come or particles become airborne and end up in ‘unnatural’ environments like the sea and forests. In they turn have a harmful impact on fauna, flora and wildlife, and the health and well-being of people.

How can we cut down our waste?

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle – these three 'R' words are an important part of sustainable living, as they help to cut down on the amount of waste we have to throw away. It's really simple!

  1. Reduce the amount of waste you produce.

  2. Reuse items as much as you can before replacing them.

  3. Recycle items wherever possible.

Sometimes, two more 'R's can be added to the three basic ones.

  • Rethink: It means we should think about the way our actions impact the environment.

  • Recover: It refers to the act of putting waste products to use. For example, decomposing garbage produces methane gas, which can be recovered and burnt to produce energy.

How can I reduce the amount of waste I produce?

Reducing is all about creating less waste. Here are some of the ways you can do this:

  • Only buy what you need

  • Choose products with less packaging

  • Buy in bulk

  • Look for items that you can re-use

How can I reuse what I have?

Reusing looks at how you can use certain items again (ideally multiple times) before replacing them.

How can I recycle the products I use? Recycling is about making sure you separate items that can be recycled, meaning they can be used for a new purpose.

Challenge yourself and get started with a Zero Waste lifestyle

Don’t go out and try changing all of your life habits at once. Just take it one step at a time. And remember, it's the small actions that count!

Shop responsibly

A big area where we produce waste is shopping. Here are some tips:

  • bring your own cloth grocery bags as well as reusable produce bags

  • instead of purchasing packaged goods, try to go for items in bulk with cloth bags

  • make a meal plan and only buy what you need

  • try to make as much homemade food, beauty or cleaning products instead of buying processed food or products

  • look for promotions of unsold food in supermarkets and restaurants

  • buy second-hand or repair clothes rather than buying new ones

  • pay attention to what your product is made from and what packaging has been used

Switch from Disposable to Reusable

Once you're aware of what things you throw away, start looking for reusable alternatives. For every disposable item out there, you can generally find a reusable, sustainable alternative. Here are some examples:

  • replace single use plastic items (such as drinking bottles, snack bags, straws, etc.) with reusable alternatives

  • use glass jars and bottles to store fine baking flours and powders, teas, spices, nut butters, olives and oils, ...

  • switch from paper towels to cloth towels, from a plastic to a bamboo toothbrush, from tampons and pads to reusable menstrual cups, from plastic to sustainable makeup accessories, ...

  • in times of covid-19, switch from disposable masks to reusable, washable masks


Create a compost bin and throw food scraps and various yard waste into it. The benefits of composting:

  • soil conditioner - adds nutrients to your plants and helps retain soil moisture.

  • recycles kitchen and yard waste

  • reduces landfill waste

  • good for the environment

Did you know that you can use your banana peels and egg shells as a fertilizer for your plants? Just add them to the soil of your plants.

Start recycling

Recycle all of your waste per type of material and check for yourself what you can reuse. For example:

  • food scraps can be used to regrow your own vegetables, fruits and herbs (also check our the articles on 'How to grow your own avocado tree' or 'How to grow your own pineapple plant')

  • plastic water bottles can be used to automatically water your plants or as a green house

  • toilet paper rolls can be used to plant your seeds at a first stage

  • boiled water of vegetables, rice, ... can be used for your plants (after letting it cool down)

If you can no longer reuse your waste, then check the local regulations on how to dispose this correctly.

Go paperless

The average person receives around 30 pounds of junk mail every year; reducing this junk mail can make a significant impact. Some suggestions:

  • use email rather than traditional paper mail

  • receive bills online or on your smart device rather than in the mail

  • most stores now offer digital versions of receipts

It’s not just the generation of waste that will threaten our planet in the coming decades but the way we choose to manage it!

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