Sustainability is not for the faint-of-heart because it takes dedication. Staying motivated, especially on those hectic days when you just really want to be lazy, can make life challenging. Trust me I’ve been there and know that it seems like ignoring it all would be easier, but I’m also here to tell you, I did not become “sustainable” overnight, so don’t get discouraged.

Turning your life upside down and trying to adopt a thousand new habits doesn’t work for anyone – I don’t care how type A you are. But sustainability is no longer an issue to be ignored. Our planet is in trouble and it is up to us to make sure our kids, and their kids, have a planet that nurtures and supports who they want to be. In order to do that we all must chip in. We all must start making changes in our daily routines that add up to big impacts.

15 ways to ease into zero waste living | GatesInteriorDesign.com

I started my journey almost five years ago. I mention this because nothing is done overnight. It is a process. My first baby step was becoming a vegetarian. I am a huge animal activist and was sick and tired of seeing how animals are mistreated and abused for the sake of a broken food system. Then I took on the challenge of eating 50% clean. After that I started eating 100% organic, supporting local farmers every chance I got, and refusing anything with GMO’s. From there I moved on to sustainable clothing, all-natural cleaners, eliminating toxic air-freshers, and adopting herbal medicines for everyday illnesses.

Nowadays, my team and I try to find every sustainable product we can to help people make easy everyday changes, like these produce bags. As an interior designer, my goal everyday is to first reuse and repurpose everything I possibly can before anything new is ever purchased. But back when I started on this journey it seemed like there were so many things I was suppose to do and I was totally overwhelmed. I mean, where the hell do you start? Can you do just one thing? I felt like it was an all or nothing kind of game and that I was a hypocrite if I decided to buy dryer sheets from target, rather than make my own. I’m here to tell you that is not the case. The produce bags I mentioned above are a terrific example. By getting three of my friends and family involved in eliminating plastic just from their grocery store trips, we all contributed to preventing 2000 plastic bags a year from going into landfills. Now imagine if you could get yourself and three friends to do the same? We just saved 4000 bags from landfills. See how easy that was? And how quickly this can add up?

So don’t be overwhelmed. It is about taking baby steps to ease into the process, and never feel guilty. Even if you only adopt one thing, you’re still making an impact to reduce your carbon footprint.

Here are 15 ways to ease into zero waste living:

  • Ditch plastic bags. Use reusable produce bags, and canvas shoppers and where ever you go.
  • Recycle everything. Instead of buying items that are bottled in plastic, opt for glass everything. Those bottles can be reused. I repurpose Kumbucha bottles for water bottles. (I can’t tell you how many times I have dropped them on the pavement at yoga – they never break!) Pasta sauce, salsa, drinks – if it has a reusable lid, then repurpose it. Don’t want to buy 10 kombuchas? Here’s a set of 6 glass bottles that can be used for all sorts of things again and again and won’t leach crap into your liquids.
  • Eliminate disposable paper products. Paper towels can be replaced with rags and bulk washcloths. They’re cheap and can be used again and again. Napkins can be replaced with cloth ones. I buy cocktail napkins in bulk and we use those everyday and then wash them. Plates, cups, silverware – get rid of all disposables and start using things that can be reused.
  • Buy bulk. Every store has a bulk isle. Better yet, shop at places like costco. It’s cheaper and you produce less waste. For example, buy ONE large container of yogurt and divvy it up into those re purposed salsa jars we mentioned above. And then repurpose the yogurt container! You can also bring your containers to the store and fill them up. People at whole foods are super creative! I see jars,mason jars
    bags, baskets – and whole foods will credit you .10 cents for repurposing! I have four of these bags and I love them!
  • Make homemade products like cleaners, shampoos, deodorant, bath salts and lotions. Cleaners are filled with toxins that harm your family, pets and the water ways. Buy bulk baking soda and vinegar. It cleans better, is safer on you and the environment and costs hundreds less. I can usually get 18 months out of one large baking soda bag.
  • Buy products that are at minimum 50% post consumer product.
  • Get rid of air fresheners. They are highly, highly toxic, and have been banned in most European countries. Opt for a more natural option.
  • Make your own dryer sheets. You can go to home depot and buy a huge bag of shop rags for about 10 bucks. Pick up some essential oils and douse the rags. Throw in with laundry and voila, homemade dryer sheets. You can also douse in lemons.
  • Use paper bags over trash bags. Those kitchen trash bags and large contractor bags sit in landfills for years and harm our environment. Instead opt for kitchen and yard bags made of post consumer paper.
  • Buy used clothes or join a clothing swap.
  • Buy used furniture. If its vintage or antique, even better. It’s made better and you have an excellent idea of how it will hold up.
  • Canvas shoppers. If you don’t have a canvas shoppers, (get one!) but most grocery stores have their own recycled bags to use instead of their paper bags. Whole foods has bags made from recycled plastic bottles and they are .79 cents.
  • Stop your mail and opt for paperless online bill pay.
  • Buy second hand dishes. Over the past five years I have purchased some of the most kick ass platters, plates, bowls, cups and baking dishes from thrift stores. One of my most favorite pitchers is from my local thrift store. And the best part, most of it is less than 5 bucks.
  • Use a reusable lunch bag, reusable containers, and reusable sandwich bags for lunch.

I remember five years ago when my ex husband and I would take our trash can to the curb. The lid would barely close because we had so much trash – and I can’t tell you how many times we FORGOT it was trash day and ended up with over ten bags of trash sitting in our garage! yuck! Now when David and I put our can out, there is one or two bags in it. We almost hate that we have to pay for weekly trash because we don’t have enough. If it was bi-weekly, it would save resources. But that is a whole other can of worms!

We have adopted all 15 of these practices above into our everyday life, but it took some time. So don’t get overwhelmed or worse, think you should do nothing. Make it a habit to take on one new sustainable practice every couple of months. Ease into it and you’ll see, it isn’t that hard at all, and you’ll feel pretty good about it!

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