Four Tips for Starting a Zero Waste Lifestyle

I spoke for the second year in a row at the Zero Waste Youth Convergence in SF. Last year I did a DIY workshop on making your own lip balm and this year I spoke on individual action. 

4 tips for starting a zero waste lifestyle and become a conscious consumer from wwww.goingzerowaste.com

I have learned quite a bit in my two years of zero waste living and here are some important takeaways I'd want to impart to anyone who's considering reducing the waste in their life. 

buy less:

The average American throws out 4.4lbs of trash a day. For every pound of trash we throw away, 7lbs is thrown away on average in the waste upstream. That's almost 30lbs of trash a day. 

THAT'S INSANE. 

Buying less is the number one thing you can do to produce less trash. 

Before buying anything make sure you really truly need it. I always ask myself a series of questions.

  • Do you really need it?
  • Is it really necessary?
  • Can something else make do?
  • Do you need to own it?

Zero waste is not just about a trash jar. It's not solely about the landfill. Trash is a physical representation of misallocated resources. 

Earth Overshoot Day illustrates this best. Earth Overshoot Day came in the beginning of August last year. It's the day that illustrates how many resources the earth can sustainably produce for the year. 

We're using almost two earth's worth of resources. It's completely unsustainable. So, the best thing we can do for the planet is to buy less. 

buy well:

However, there are still purchases we need to make. If you don't live completely off grid/are self-sustaining, you'll need to make some purchases.

So when you do purchase something, really think about its full life-cycle. Think about where it came from and where it's going after you're through with it. 

Here are a series of questions I like to ask myself when making a new purchase.

  • Ask a friend.
  • Can you find it second hand?
  • Can you find it local?
  • Who made it?
  • Is it made to last/ can it be repaired?
  • What happens when you’re done with it?

Always check the secondhand market first and if you're going to buy something new make sure you're taking everything into consideration.

And, whatever you do don't settle. 

If I've learned anything in two years of zero waste living, it's that settling for something your not 100% happy with inevitably means you will be unhappy with it. Then you'll look for something else which is a waste of money and time. 

So whatever you buy, you better love it. 

find contentment:

We live in a world full of constant advertisements. Advertisers tell us in order to be happy or in order to get the girl or boy we have to have this product. This product will make us happy or loved. 

One of the most rebellious things you can do is find contentment with what you already have. 

Things don't define you. They don't give you worth. Instead of buying things to make you look better or cooler, try spending time bettering yourself. Take a class, learn a new skill, truly focus on self-improvement. 

strike a balance: 

And, like you've heard on this blog a hundred times before, it's not about perfection it's about making better choices. 

Personal sustainability is super important. I've written a whole post about it, you can read it here. It's one of my favorite blog posts I've ever written. 

We live in a society where things are meant to be thrown away. We don't live in a perfect world where zero waste is normal. 

Instead, we just do the best we can where we are. Things are going to happen that don't 100% align with your values and that's alright.

Each decision you make is a vote for the future you want. So, buying package free goods and purchasing products from responsible companies is a vote for a move to a circular economy, where waste is resumed back into the system like nature.  

So get out there, and do the best you can! 

Even if it's one change. Even if it's only buying a lonely banana. Every single step in the right direction is just that, a step in the right direction. 

What would be some of your tips for someone starting a zero waste life? 

DIY, Zero Waste Extra Strength Deodorant

I am about to enter into my third year of blogging. Which is INSANE. I cannot believe it. This can only mean one thing. It's time for another deodorant update.

Learn how to make a DIY extra strength deodorant that's totally zero waste from www.goingzerowaste.com plus it's coconut oil free!

I've consistently had a deodorant update around this time each year. (which I think is pretty humorous.) I am still perfectly happy with my last recipe, but if you're really active it can be too light.

I work a desk job and my idea of exercising is a brisk walk with my dog and a 10-minute sleepy-time yoga routine. I am not very active on a day to day basis. I don't enjoy sweating. If I just described your life, my last deodorant recipe might be *perfect* for you. (However, I am super enjoying the ease of this recipe, so maybe try this one too.) 

I have recently tried very hard to be a little more active. I am personally of the mindset eat really, really well and exercise less. But, alas, I am getting older and softer. Not larger, I just don't have quite the definition I did in my youth. I miss you effortless 6-pack. 

Learn how to make a DIY extra strength deodorant that's totally zero waste from www.goingzerowaste.com plus it's coconut oil free!

I am trying to whip myself into shape, so I look like a super model in my wedding dress - ya feel? 

I know this is slightly off topic, but I seriously HATE exercising. Every. Single. Facet of it. I hate changing clothes for only 30 minutes. I hate constantly showering and washing my hair. I hate how much more laundry I have to do.

It adds SO much extra work to my already packed schedule. All I have to say is thank God for dry shampoo and this exercise-friendly deodorant.

what I LOVE about this recipe: 

  • I love how easily it glides on, very similar to store bought deodorant
  • Without all of the nasty additives in store-bought deodorant. You can read about the additives here and why it's important I avoid them here
  • Has a super silky finish - hello, luxury. 
  • It's super convenient, takes no more time to apply than conventional 
  • I don't have to try and dig it out of a jar, apply with my hands, and then wash my hands. (Just takes way too much time for me in the morning) 
  • It doesn't leave oil stains in the pits of your clothes like some recipes with coconut oil
  • Shelf-stable
  • It works really, really well! (obviously, this was a non-negotiable) 
Learn how to make a DIY extra strength deodorant that's totally zero waste from www.goingzerowaste.com plus it's coconut oil free!

This deodorant finishes so silky smooth and absorbs quickly into the skin. Because no one wants goopy armpits. It's not an oil based recipe rather a butter based recipe so it's very nourishing to the skin as well. 

I feel so fortunate because I can easily get these ingredients package free. I know this may not be the same for everyone. There is a local shop in town that makes their own butters, soaps, bath salts, etc. They make a whole bunch of awesome beauty products. 

I stopped into their store and asked if I could get some cocoa butter and shea butter to go in my own container. They happily agreed! 

If you have any artisans in your town, call them and ask if you can buy some of their ingredients from them in bulk. They will typically order massive quantities which will cut down on packaging waste similar to a bulk store, and you'll be supporting a local small business. 

Learn how to make a DIY extra strength deodorant that's totally zero waste from www.goingzerowaste.com plus it's coconut oil free!

It's worth a shot! 

diy prescription strength deodorant: 

  • 3 Tablespoons of Shae Butter (Bought in bulk from local shop)
  • 2 Tablespoons of Grated Cocoa Butter (Bought in bulk from local shop)
  • 3 Tablespoons of Arrowroot Powder  (Bought in bulk from Rainbow)
  • 2 Tablespoon of Baking Soda (Bought in bulk from Berkeley Bowl) 
  • 2-3 Teaspoons of Vitamin E Oil (Bought in a package from Whole Foods) 

Melt the grated cocoa butter using a double broiler. Once the cocoa butter has liquefied add the shea butter. When the shea butter has liquefied, pull it off the heat. Add in the baking soda and the arrowroot. Stir well to combine making sure there are no lumps. Add in the vitamin E oil.

Pour into an old cleaned out deodorant container or jar if you like, and let it set up in the fridge or freezer for an hour. Then it's ready to apply!

Learn how to make a DIY extra strength deodorant that's totally zero waste from www.goingzerowaste.com plus it's coconut oil free!

You could let it set up overnight on the counter as well, I'm just anxious/impatient. I store it in the bathroom cabinet. No need to keep in the fridge since it's shelf stable! 

Next year, it looks like I'll be working on a baking soda free deodorant for sensitive skin. I've got to keep my tradition going! Are there any other skin care recipes you'd like to see on the blog, deodorant or not? 


AS A NOTE : If this is your first time switching to an all natural deodorant please make sure you detox. You can read more about detoxing in my last deodorant post

10 Tips to Go Zero Waste When You Live with Your Parents

I went zero waste after I left home. I was in charge of my own space, and I was the main purchaser. 

Can you go zero waste when you live with your parents? Here are 10 tips to help you reduce your waste while you're still living at home from www.goingzerowaste.com

If you're living at home, you probably don't have that option. You're probably not the main purchaser for your household. You aren't going to have control over what is bought and especially how it's bought. 

Zero waste is very much a consumer lifestyle choice. I get asked all the time by teens and pre-teens what they can do since they don't have the power. I've thought about it for a while, and here are my top 10 tips for what you can do! 

1. reusable water bottle

Do you have any extracurricular activities? Do you go places on the weekends with your friends? Instead of buying a bottle of water from a snack stand, why not bring a reusable water bottle with you when you leave?

Growing up my extracurricular activities were golf and theatre. I'd always have a reusable bottle at the theatre that I filled up at the water fountain. On the golf course, there's a cooler every three holes where you can fill your bottle up. 

This is a place where you don't have to purchase anything, and you can easily prevent waste. In fact, you'd be saving your parents money.

2. leftovers

Do you go out to eat with family or with your friends? Try bringing your own containers. I have tips for eating out and for getting food to-go without creating any trash. 

If you have leftover food, pop it into your own container to avoid the styrofoam clamshell. And, don't forget to ask for no straw in your drink! 

3. lunch

Do you pack your lunch? I am not embarrassed to say that my mom packed my lunch every day for school from kindergarten to my senior year of high school. 

I wasn't a picky kid. In fact, I had a pb&j every day. Every. Single. Day. And, I loved every moment of it. My mom would always pack my lunch in reusables, until I told her I didn't think it was "cool." All the other kids had disposables, and I wanted to fit in. 

She switched to a brown bag, which I, unfortunately, threw away every day. If I could go back in time, I'd tell myself - reusables are bad ass. 

So, if you're packing your lunch or your parent, opt for a reusable instead of disposables. I have 10 tips for packing a zero waste lunch here

4. experiences

My mom still makes me write out a wish list. My Christmas list must be turned in by June first. My Christmas list is typically a combination of things I really, really need (typically zero waste items) and experiences. 

I would recommend that you write out a wish list and give it to your family. You can get really specific in what you want and how you want it. It is your wishlist after all. 

You can write out all sorts of experiences you'd like and focus on items to help you on your zero waste journey. Maybe one of your wishes is to get your family composting, or a zero waste meal, a new stainless lunch box or water bottle.

Ask for tickets to the movies, a gift certificate, maybe an art class or museum passes. Get some zero waste gift ideas here and a zero waste guide to receiving gifts here.

related post: Back to School Snacks

5. thrift shop

Instead of heading to the mall with your friends, why not head down to the thrift shop? My friends and I were always down to dig through Goodwill or the local antique shop for vintage clothing. 

My favorite piece of clothing I've ever had was an $8 dress from the 60's found at an antique store. It fit like a glove. It was a long sleeve, black lace pencil dress, with a high neck and a low cut back. 

It was perfect in every way. If only hips didn't develop, I'd still have that little baby. This was long before you took pictures for every event, so I don't think I have a single photo of it, but believe me... it was perfect. 

Also, keep an eye out for school supplies like binders at the thrift store too. 

6. beauty products

I don't remember ever requesting food growing up, but I was always able to request my beauty products. I could choose my shampoo, make-up, soap etc. 

Try to go for package free or green products if possible. My number one swap would be for a bamboo toothbrush, but check out my post on 15 zero waste bathroom swaps here

Lush also has a number of awesome beauty products you can buy plastic-free. I remember having a lot of bath bombs in high school. As a bonus, those products are also perfect gifts for friends. 

7. rent formal wear

Let me tell you something. From experience, you will not wear your prom dress again. You won't do it. It will sit in your childhood closet until you donate it.

You will grow hips... probably boobs too. You will become a woman and that dress won't fit. Most of the guys I know rented their tuxes. Take a cue from the gentlemen and give renting a try.

Nowadays there are TONS of websites like Rent the Runway that will let you rent gorgeous designer dresses for a fraction of the price of owning a dress, and you'll save valuable closet space.

8. get involved

See if there's a local organization you can get plugged into around your town or school. Volunteer for a beach clean up or pick up trash around town. Get involved! 

Make the environment, picking up trash, fighting climate change as one of your extracurricular activities. Not only will it look good on that college resume, but your parents are more likely to get involved too just by association. 

related post: Zero Waste School Supplies

9. take responsibility

Take the initiative. Ask if you can cook dinner one night. Ask if you can go and buy the groceries. Ask if you go to the farmers market. Ask if you can handle the cleaning for the week. I'm going to guess your parents would probably be more than happy to let you try your hand at a new task, if they can remove it from their to-do list. 

If you're allowed to take control of an aspect, then you can try it out zero waste. If it goes successfully, maybe your parents will give it a try! But, be warned you might also wind up with a new weekly chore. 

10. talk to your parents

The most important thing you can do is educate your family. Be careful that you don't preach to your parents. Nagging won't get you anywhere. But, when you're truly interested and excited about something, you want to share it. 

Maybe pick a documentary on trash like "The True Cost" or "The Minimalists" or "The Clean Bin Project," when it's your turn to pick the movie on movie night. Always be kind, but make sure that you tell your parents how you feel and why you feel that way. 

They may or may not accept it, but it is important to try and talk to them. 

Your parents, also want to spend time with you. They want to be a part of your life. As you get older, your relationship tends to grow apart. Maybe even try to suggest some family outings like a family trip to the farmers market, to the local co-op or bulk store.

Try a mother-daughter date where you try and make your own cosmetics like mascara, a face mask, lotion, or mouthwash. Get your dad into composting, talk about how zero waste can save your money, or teach him how easy it is to make household cleaners. The average American family spends $42 a month on cleaners! Eek! 


Those are some of the tips I have on how you can go zero waste if you still live at home. I hope you have found them helpful.

Do you have any other tips? Do you live with your parents and there's something else you do to reduce your waste? 

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