How to Lead a Nearly Zero-Waste Life

Last winter, a video started circling the internet that covered how a young woman, Lauren Singer (blog here), has been able to decrease her trash output to the point that her two years of garbage can be kept in a single mason jar.

That’s impressive. A little shocking, even. How is that even possible?

Lauren is a part of a growing trend dubbed the Zero Waste movement —  a slowly growing practice that empowers participants to produce no garbage and ultimately prevent it from entering landfills where it may do irreparable harm to the planet.

Exploring Zero Waste

The philosophy of Zero Waste is two-fold. First, it requires people to find alternatives to their transient, wasteful habits by prioritizing creativity and longevity. Second, it encourages the practice of minimalism: learning to live with less and ultimately want for less.

This isn’t exactly a new concept. Countless religions and philosophies encourage contentedness and urge us away from the greed that clutters our lives with stuff. Stuff gets in the way of real life and a lot of the time harms the living things around us, earth included.

Ryan and Joshua, founders of The Minimalists (a blog centered on minimalism and secondarily zero waste) say on their website, “Minimalism allows us to focus on what’s important in life — health, relationships, passion, growth and contribution — so we can find happiness fulfillment and freedom.”

Lauren Singer says something similar, but from the Zero Waste perspective: “I wanted to lessen my impact, so I started my Zero Waste journey. This is when I really decided that I not only needed to claim to love the environment, but actually live like I love the environment.” She calls this value-based living.

Taking Steps Toward Zero Waste

Bea Johnson of Zero Waste Home, could be considered the one who began it all for modern audiences. Her 5R Guidelines: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Rot (in that order) are the foundation of her approach to Zero Waste. She says:

“Refuse what you do not need; reduce what you do need; reuse what you consume; recycle what you cannot refuse, reduce, or reuse; and rot (compost) the rest.”

Here’s what all of that looks like in practice:

1. Refuse anything that will ultimately end up in the trash.

Plastic water bottles? Refuse. Pre-packaged foods? Refuse. Disposable shopping bags? Refuse. Paper towels? Refuse.

2. Cut down on junk mail. 

Rather than sorting your mail and instantly dumping the rejects into the recycling bin, make an effort to cancel the mail altogether. Just cancel the mailings! It saves everyone in the long run.

3. Use reusable everything, and less of it! 

Don’t fall prey to the convenience factor. Make it a habit to always bring a reusable shopping bag to the store. Use cloth bags and glass jars for bulk grocery items. Limit your wardrobe to the items you truly adore and that fit you right now.

4. Don’t give in to future-based hoarding. 

If you have a tendency to purchase and hold onto things for the sake of preparedness, now is the time to cut it out. Can you purchase the item secondhand to prevent waste and manufacturing? Can you borrow it from a friend? Can you donate your old things to someone else in need? Do you remember the last time you used it?

5. Compost (or r0t) excess food bits. 

Find a large container appropriate for composting, that is aesthetically pleasing and as convenient as possible. Peel fruits and veggies straight into your bin, discard table scrappings and scrap into the bin before loading your dishwasher. It should be odorless and easy to maintain!

What solutions have you found that help you to create less garbage and waste? What in this article really struck home for you? Let us know in the comments!


Thomas M
Thomas M11 hours ago

Thank you

Olivia H
Olivia Habout a month ago

thanks for sharing

Frances G
Past Member 1 months ago

thanks for sharing

William T
Vincent T1 months ago

thanks very much

Alice R
Alice R2 months ago


Hannah A
Hannah A3 months ago

Thanks for posting

Emma L
Past Member 4 months ago

Thank you

Maria P
Mia P4 months ago

Thanks for sharing

Paulo R
Paulo R7 months ago


Paulo R
Paulo R10 months ago