Things you didn’t know were zero waste
Ever feel like everything you’re doing is wrong? It’s easy to feel like you have to adjust your whole life to live zero waste; if you look hard enough, you might even find you’ve been disposing of your hair the wrong way (aren’t you tossing it outside for the birds, environmentalist newb?). Obviously, there’s no perfect way to live zero waste and just as you were probably doing some things without knowing how wasteful they are, you probably already have some habits that are greener than you think.
If you’ve felt distant from your zero waste goals, there’s good news: there are some lazy and frugal habits you may have that are already saving the planet.
Do you drink tap water? I forget that many people drink bottled water regularly and for no good reason. I was reminded again of how common this was recently when I moved and was living with people from cultures that love bottled water, going so far as to buy reusable stainless steel water bottles and using larger, disposable water bottles to fill them.
If you live somewhere with safe and odorless tap water, your active choice to buy and drink bottled water baffles me and hurts the planet. More water goes into the production of a bottle of water than actually comes in the bottle of water you’re purchasing (for whatever reason). Most plastic isn’t recycled, and tons of crude oil goes into the production of unnecessary disposable water bottles. The United States (embarrassingly) ranks six in individual bottled water drinking, which is a shame since Indexmundi, citing the WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) for Water Supply and Sanitation claims that 99.2% of Americans have access to improved water sources (wells, piped water, etc.) and potable (safe to drink) water (x).
Bottled water is estimated to cost as much as 2000 times as much as tap water, with no actual health benefits, increased microplastic content, and even an increased risk of contamination to public water sources. Long story short, if you’re a tap water drinker, you’re doing your wallet and the earth a favor (x).
Anybody else take a stroll by the discount section at the grocery store? I always do, both from curiosity and for the earth. In the USA, expiration and sell-by dates are determined by the manufacturer to indicate when food will be best, not when it is safe to consume. Foods that are preserved already can last much longer than these dates (x)
Buying day-old baked goods or foods near their expiration date prevents them from being thrown in the trash, as stores do with foods that are considered too old.
If you have a clothes dryer, you probably use it; clothes dryers dry quickly and are great when you live in cold or damp places like I am at the moment (Ireland). Still, we all got by without clothes dryers in the past and the appliance hasn’t caught on in many parts of the world; if you’re still hanging dry, kudos. Hanging dry saves however much energy necessary to use the machine, which varies depending on the item and the dryer.
Microwaving your leftovers is greener than heating them in the oven or stove. Microwaves typically use less energy than a stove, hob or oven, plus the energy used to heat the food is concentrated directly on the food you’re heating and less is lost than using a stovetop cooker (x). And as to why this is zero waste, electricity is a resource like any other, and therefore can be wasted. So for the time being, go ahead and microwave your heart out; you’ll save some money and prevent a small amount of fossil fuels from being burnt to make electricity.
I’m not the most efficient person I know but I don’t like to waste time, so when I need to boil water, I always use an electric kettle. Among other things, the faster results of an electric kettle help me go from dried to cooked pasta at a much quicker rater. Beside the point, it’s also more energy efficient to boil water in an electric kettle than on the stove or in the microwave (x). Be careful, though; even if boiling with a kettle is more efficient than on the stove, to be as conscious with your resource waste as possible, don’t boil more water than you need.
Using a dishwasher, if you have one, can save a lot of water, with this estimation going to far as to say it uses 25% of the water necessary to handwash dishes as it does to use an efficient dishwasher (x). A full dishwasher uses the same amount of water as a half-empty dishwasher, so be sure to fill the dishwasher before running it.
I didn’t resist baths as a child, but as an adult woman I’ll do anything to avoid washing my hair. The good news is that greasy roots are actually greener than you think; spacing out hair washes means shorter showers and less water use, plus less energy needed to heat that water, less sadness and less shampoo. From this past week (September 3rd, 2019) over 24 million people in the United States are living in drought zones (x). Greasy hair for green living.
You are probably already doing a variety of things that reduce your resource use and impact without even thinking about it, and if you don’t already do all of the things on this list, they’re pretty effortless changes to make. I hope you feel more confident in the zero waste choices you already make, and happy zero wasting!