How to start a zero waste life

zero waste

Zero Waste stands for living with no (or at least a lot less) waste. Instead of throwing things away that are then burned, you give them a second life. Not only is it better for the environment, it’s good for your wallet too. But where do you start?

The ultimate goal of the Zero Waste movement is to ensure that there will no longer be any harmful emissions caused by waste. And that doesn’t mean that you can’t ever take a shower again; a more sustainable life can be achieved in all sorts of ways. Here are a few handy tips and ideas for those who are interested in it.

The preparation

First ask yourself: What do I find important? Do you want to waste less, or do you want to save money (or maybe both)? Next, consider what—for you—causes the most unnecessary clutter and waste: Do you have a closet full of clothes that you never wear; is your trash bag full of plastic packaging when you take it out; or do you always have food left over? When you know the answer to this, you can take the first steps: Make smaller portions of food, for example, or freeze what you have left for another day. Or go through your clothes and donate or trade anything you don’t wear.

What’s more, you can also look at the things that you do use often and find sustainable alternatives to replace them with.

Ways to live with less waste

Take your own bag

Plastic is by far the biggest problem for the environment. To help combat that, you can easily change some habits in your daily life. For example, take your own (linen) bag when you go (grocery) shopping instead of buying a plastic bag every time.

Use your own bottle

Plastic bottles take 450 years (!) to decompose completely. If you often buy a new bottle of water when you are on the road, it may be an idea to purchase your own bottle that you can reuse. At the end of the day, it’s also a great deal cheaper.

Reuse more

When it comes to sustainable alternatives, the road doesn’t stop at just plastic bags and water bottles. Think cotton handkerchiefs and cotton pads, preserving jars instead of plastic boxes, and tea towels instead of freezer bags. Take your own fork for your salad-to-go and leave the plastic cutlery in the supermarket.

Declutter and buy less

The easiest way to produce less waste is to buy less. For everything you want to buy, ask yourself: Do I really need this? If necessary, make it difficult for yourself and take out the amount of money that you want to spend for groceries in cash, for example, so that you do cannot needlessly throw anything in your basket along the way.


Waste less food

Think about what you have in your house. Has your fruit become soft? Turn it into apple sauce, pear sauce or a smoothie. Dry bread? Make it into croutons for a salad, or French toast. And use your reason (and senses) to determine whether something really is past its date or whether it is still okay to eat.

Avoid plastic packaging

You can take your own bags for bread and vegetables to the (super)market. Or go to special (natural food) stores that sell packaging-free products. Search online to see if there’s a list of packaging-free stores in your area.

Repair stuff

If something breaks, we are more often than not inclined to replace it straight away with a new one. But that’s not always necessary; there are enough places where you can have your devices repaired. For example, find a Repair Café near you and try going there first.


Upcycling is another great way to give things a second life as opposed to throwing them away. With upcycling, you take an old or superfluous object and turn it into something new in a creative way. For example, an old tea cup with a crack is also a cute flower pot. You can sew a new bag or cushion cover from pieces of fabric from old clothing that you no longer wear.

Save water

Less water in your kettle, turning off the tap while brushing your teeth… these little things make a big difference in your water consumption all year round.

Make your own products

A facial scrub, cleaning products or a hair mask: everything is very easy to make yourself. This way you save money and you use less plastic packaging. Moreover, some scrubs, face creams, toothpastes and lipsticks contain microplastics—tiny particles that can contribute to the plastic soup in oceans. Check the label for words such as ‘polyethylene’.

Separate your waste

If living your life entirely without waste is just a step too far, waste separation can already make a big difference to the environment. At home, have a separate crate for glass, a bag for plastic and a bin for paper, and make it a habit to put your corresponding waste in each one.

  • Want to know more about the necessity of living with less waste? In Issue 29 you can read our story A Life Without Waste.

Photography: Gaelle Marcel /

Full story can be found here