All posts by Samuel McMullen

Zero Waste Workflow

School and Work

School and work can be a bit tricky to navigate since many things are out of your control. But there are a few simple things you can do that will really decrease your waste in this area!

The first is to communicate. Talk with your co-workers or classmates about your desire to go zero waste. As always, use humility and humor to talk about it so that they do not feel attacked or just weird about your new lifestyle choices. You may be surprised and they’ll be excited to join you in your experiment!

Then make sure you have all the supplies you need. Get a used fountain pen and a pot of ink and compost your pencil shavings.

No need to buy notebooks, you can make your own from scrap paper! And consider downloading an app like camcard so you can take pictures of people's business cards and send them yours digitally. And ask your coworkers and teachers to email you documents digitally to avoid printouts.

And when you attend conferences or events, politely but firmly refuse all those free pens and notepads you’re never going to use anyways.

And last but not least, start the endless but valiant pursuit of eradicating junk mail! See our action item below on how to start the process!

ACTION STEP:

Go to cataloguechoice.org and unsubscribe from junk mail.

Extras:

Cam Card app

How to make a notebook with scrap paper

Our favorite fountain pen and ink

Script to talk to co-workers/classmates about going zero waste

How to end junkmail

Fun and Entertainment

You can still have fun while being zero waste!

The first step is to inform your friends and family about your new experiment. It’s so important to not be preachy when breaching the subject! Be open, let them know how much they mean to you, and ask for their support.

You can even host a crafting or DIY party to get your friends excited and familiar with the concept of zero waste.

We covered eating out in the restaurant chapter and the same tactics work at bars and on dates.

If you consider going to the mall or shopping fun activities then switch your location to thrift and vintage stores.

Guess what else are zero waste? Getting a massage, having a long dinner with a glass of wine, going to an art gallery, and giving yourself a home spa treatment with a homemade face mask and body scrub. A lot of indulgences are zero waste as we switch from acquiring stuff to having experiences.

Extras:

Script: Having the zero waste conversation (How to tell your friends and family)

Zero Waste Date Ideas

Restaurant script

Pinterest page for diy spa

Zero Waste Living Room

Home

Did you know you can make your own cleaning products? Vinegar and baking soda can be used to clean almost anything! Check out our pinterest page linked below for basic recipes from dish soap to laundry detergent. Most cleaning supplies like brooms can also be found used at thrift stores or you can join a DIY swap in your community. If you can’t find what you need used, try to get products made from natural materials like bamboo so you can compost them when they are no longer usable。

You can also make your own rags from old clothes and towels that are passed the point of mending.

Metal scrubbers can easily replace sponges as a zero waste alternative.

For any other home item, from chairs to art to doilies, you can find just about anything used on craigslist, private local facebook groups, and yard sales.

Zero Waste Clothing

Clothing

Some people don’t care about clothing at all and can wear the same thing everyday without batting an eye, while others live for fashion and find clothes to be a form of creative expression.

Either way, the simplest solution for a zero waste lifestyle is to buy used clothing. You’ll save money and avoid all the pollution and emissions created by the textile industry.There’s a secondhand store in every town, large or small, and you can even scout out higher end thrift stores that feature nearly one-of-a-kind vintage pieces.

Beyond thrifting, the next best option is to buy high quality pieces that you love, will use all the time, and will last forever.

Learning to sew will allow you to give old items a second life. And not washing clothing often will help clothes last longer and is actually where most of the environmental impact lies.

Plan a clothing swap with your friends or community to re-home clothes that no longer bring you joy, and you can find treasures in other people’s closets.

ACTION STEP: Learn how to wash clothes less – without stinking up your social life (https://collectively.org/article/how-to-avoid-laundry-without-stinking-out-your-social-life/).

EXTRA CREDIT: Google for thrift stores near you and schedule a time this week to go check it out (only if you need/want something).

Extras:

How to wash clothes less – without stinking up your social life (https://collectively.org/article/how-to-avoid-laundry-without-stinking-out-your-social-life/)

Why your $8 shirt is a huge problem (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8_oY-5hpt3Q)

Learn how to mend clothing

Plan a clothing swap

Fun Read: You're Washing Your Clothes Too Often! (What to Do Instead)

Baking Soda

Hygiene and Cosmetics

Many products we use in our bathrooms every day either come packaged in plastic and/or contain microbeads, which are tiny plastic beads that get into our water system and damage marine life. So it’s especially important to strive for zero waste in this area of our lives. 

And the good news is that having a zero waste routine can make you healthier, save you money even save you time.  For example, unpackaged soap can replace shampoo, shower gel, face wash, hand soap and shaving cream. Baking soda can be used as toothpaste, deodorant, and exfoliating scrub. Invest in a bamboo toothbrush, a safety razor and a menstrual cup to eliminate disposables from your bathroom.

You can even pamper yourself with simple and healthy homemade face masks and beauty products that are 100% safe and will leave you glowing. Most of the ingredients can be found package-free at your local grocery store. Check out our pinterest page for inspiration.

And as far as toilet paper goes, it’s okay if you’re not comfortable using a bidet you can still use toilet paper. Just make sure to look for recycled toilet paper in paper wrapping.

ACTION STEP: Check out our pinterest page and try one DIY you like!  

Extras:

http://thenopoomethod.com/

Install bidet at home

Zero Waste Restaurant

Eating Out

The simplest place to eat zero waste is at buffet settings at food co-ops or restaurants, however with proper preparation you can eat anywhere and produce little to no waste!

Step one is to take a look around at the other customers and see what types of waste you might encounter. Are there paper placemats? Do fries come in a basket with wax paper? Are sauces in little plastic cups? Step two is communicating with your server as politely as you can and with a big smile that you do not waste disposable napkins, utensils, plates, or straws with your meal. We’ve included an example script in the resources below this video.

If they bring you trash anyways - do not fret, and don’t be upset with your server! Zero waste is not about never going out and experiencing life because you don’t want to make mistakes, it’s about bringing awareness to everything we put energy into. Simply note the experience and learn from it for next time you eat out. Another great benefit of being zero waste when you’re eating out is showing your friends a concrete and simple action they can take to reduce their waste too. Who knows, maybe a couple of them will even ask to get their drinks without a straw too!

Empty Zero Waste Jar

How To Start Living Zero Waste

The Rules:

1. Don't Make Waste

This one is pretty simple, for your zero waste day you’re going to avoid buying new things and creating trash (and that includes recycling -- more on that below)! So that means bringing your coffee cup and water bottle, making sure you ask for your drink without a straw, and bringing your own bags and containers with you if you’re doing any grocery shopping. 

Waste is actually a shorthand for the whole production process. Each new item we buy has all kinds of extraction, transportation, and manufacturing in its past, and this is unfortunately still true for recycling. That’s why we focus not only on decreasing the amount of trash and recycling we produce, but also the amount of new items we buy which are creating tons of trash throughout the production cycle.

2. Collect Your Accidents  

If you do create trash on accident, for example the cashier hands you a receipt even though you said you didn’t need one, don't sweat it!  The point is not to steep in guilt for a day, it's to build your awareness and give you the psychological tools you need to overcome the wasteful habits engrained in all of us. So hang on to any trash and recycling you accidentally accumulate, and you’ll use it for your reflection later.  

What To Prepare

We create more trash from food packaging than any other area in our lives. So you’ll want to be sure to think ahead about the types of things you might need to reduce your trash throughout the day. Here are some things you can stick in your bag that will help:

  1. Travel Mug (if you drink coffee or tea)
  2. A reusable water bottle
  3. A cloth napkin
  4. Cloth bags and containers (if you plan on doing any shopping)
  5. A container for leftovers if you plan on eating out

Eating out:

If you find yourself at a restaurant/cafe on your day out, make sure to let your server know that you’re doing a trash-free day and you’d love it if they could help you out. Remember to be really polite and friendly, they might not be used to your request. But thanking them for their help can go a long way.

A few things to watch out for when eating out:

  1. Ask for your drink without a straw
  2. If you order anything that comes with a paper lining (like fries), ask for it directly onto your plate
  3. If the silverware comes wrapped in a paper napkin, ask for just the silverware
  4. Ask for any hot drinks in a ceramic mug rather than a paper cup
  5. Don’t over order to avoid food waste, but if you do have leftovers, pack them in a container you brought

FAQ:

1. What about cosmetics such as toothpaste etc.? 

For the day pledge, go ahead and use what you already have. During the week, month and year pledge we will teach you how to transition those areas of your life to zero waste?

2. What about food I bought before my pledge?

Try to avoid individually packaged items (such as granola bars) and disposable wrapping (such as saran wrap, tin foil etc.). But don’t feel the need to restock your entire kitchen. Use what you have.

3. What about trash in the workplace that’s out of my control?

If you work in a lab for example, or another workplace where trash is hard to avoid, don’t worry about it for now. Focus specifically on how to decrease the trash you have control over. We go into more depth about strategies for the workplace in the week, month and year courses.

Reflection

Take a look at the trash and recycling you accumulated today and do a quick reflection.

What was the most challenging aspect of your day?

What was the best part of the day?

Did you have any interesting interactions or conversations about waste?

What piece of the trash you accumulated is the most surprising?

What zero waste habit do you think you can continue in your everyday life?

Upload a picture of your trash [option to share on social media and tag us]

Summary:

Do your best to avoid trash and recycling and buying new things. Keep any trash and recycling that you create accidentally. Reflect on your day and brainstorm some ways to keep the ball rolling. What are some things that you can solve today?

Climate One: Featuring Live Zero Waste Founder Samuel McMullen