How to Prep for Zero Waste Week in September
When Rachel Strauss began Zero Waste Week in 2008, she did so with the hope of promoting awareness of just how much trash people use on a daily basis. For the past 11 years, she’s worked to encourage people to reduce their waste, if only for a week, and seek out more sustainable ways to reduce their footprint. Zero Waste Week is held during the first full week of September (this year it’s September 2nd - 6th) and we’re excited to be participating this year.
The concept of zero-waste is to minimize waste and recycling by reducing consumption of things that can’t be reused. Switching from plastic water bottles that you use once to a glass or stainless steel water bottle, and then only using that is an example of zero-waste.
I’ve found it pretty easy to be zero-waste at home. Almost two years ago, my family went paper-free in our kitchen, and now we don’t even think about it. It’s an oddity when we have paper napkins, which are usually leftovers from takeout. We’ve been able to reduce our waste in the kitchen, and even reduce the number of things we use plastic for, switching to mason jars and glass containers for food storage.
Moving to a zero-waste life is harder, which is one reason I love the idea of a zero-waste week, where you can see exactly how far you are willing to go to reduce your usage of single-use products. Here are some ways you can prepare and join us for a zero-waste week.
- Avoid plastic bags. This one seems like an obvious but still takes a concentrated effort. I find it frustrating when I forget to put my reusable totes or bags in the car for food shopping or when I do grocery pickup and they put one item in each bag. But for this week, I’m going to put the bags in the car after I’m done unloading and opt for shopping by myself – or not at all.
- Buy in bulk, but not in single servings. Convenience and zero-waste don’t usually go together. I’m a fan of buying things in bulk, but I hate the extra waste that those items bring. So instead of buying individual packages of goldfish, I buy a big box and then divide them out in reusable snack bags. I do the same with giant containers of applesauce and I pour them into small containers and send them to school with a bamboo spoon. Those things are second nature now for us, and we cut way down on the waste at lunchtime.
- Reuse glass containers for food storage. Instead of buying food storage containers, wash out and reuse the ones you already have! I’ve used jelly jars for dry beans, spaghetti sauce jars for leftover soup, and even salsa jars for leftovers. Most of them are dishwasher safe and you can even freeze them. Save money and reduce waste!
- Use cloth napkins. Cloth napkins were our first step to a paper-free kitchen. At first, I thought they would create a bigger mess, but they were very easy to maintain. I made some from leftover fabric (another zero-waste win!) and I bought others. It’s second nature to our family now, in fact, we often forget that it’s not the norm when we have guests ask for paper towels or napkins – because we don’t have any!
- Be prepared when you leave the house. The hardest part about living a zero-waste life – or week – is when you leave the house. I keep a few things in my bag to help reduce waste, but sometimes I forget. I’ve gotten better about not asking for a water cup and just using my glass water bottle. I usually remember not to get a straw for my toddler and instead use my stainless steel straw. But during zero-waste week, I’m going to make a more concentrated effort to use what’s already in there.
These are just a few ways you can reduce your carbon footprint. What other ways can you think of to go zero-waste for a week in September? Share them with us so we can all be prepared.
Rebecca Alwine is an army wife, mother of three, and lover of her adorable pirate dog. Over the past 12 years, she’s discovered she enjoys coffee, lifting weights, and most of the menial tasks of motherhood. Her days consist of CrossFit workouts, listening to audiobooks, and pretending to cook while her Instant Pot does all the work. Her motto: work smarter, not harder.