When I mention I am attempting to live a zero waste lifestyle, the people closest to me often respond with, “but how,” implying that it is impossible for someone as financially destitute as me to make a go of this. I’ll be the first to admit that a zero waste lifestyle does seem to go hand in hand with a certain level of privilege, and yet it certainly isn’t impossible.
Here are some tips for embracing a zero waste lifestyle on a budget.
1. Don’t try to do everything all at once. Take baby steps. Stick to your budget. If that means that you are only able to replace wasteful items with more environmentally friendly ones little by little, so be it. Don’t stress and just do what you can with the resources available to you.
*You could ask family and friends to gift you with some zero waste essentials for your birthday and/or winter holidays.
*You could choose one item to replace per month, such as replacing plastic toothbrushes with bamboo ones one month, plastic throwaway sanitary products with reusable cotton pads the next month, a reusable water bottle the next month, etc.
2. Trade items and/or buy secondhand whenever you can. I got the most amazing wicker laundry basket because my dear friend had just acquired a new (old) one through free-cycle and I just so happened to mention to her that I was looking for a nice wicker laundry basket. This same friend and I constantly trade clothing, household items, toys, books and more. There’s a toy library in my town where kids can checkout toys—it works just like a library, but for toys. I’ve even heard of a similar system for clothes. There’s not one in my town yet, but I might see about starting one.
3. Shop in the bulk section of grocery store and bring reusable bags. I’ve even found it is usually cheaper to buy items from the bulk section. We get rice, dried beans, lentils, pasta, nuts, seeds, chocolate, dried fruit, seaweed and so much more from the bulk section. We try to buy things we can’t get in bulk in glass containers as much as possible. Sometimes this is more expensive, so just do what you can.
4. Visit a nearby farm to pick in season foods. A lot of farms allow you to come pick your own fruit and veggies. I’ve found it’s usually way cheaper than getting the same type of produce from the grocery store. Sure it’s more work, but it’s a fun experience, especially with kids.
5. Wild forage. If you live near nature, learn to identify plants so you can wild forage. Just be aware of how much you are taking. Always leave plenty. We pick our own dandelion greens in spring and summer, forage for wild berries, find wood sorrel and milk thistle make lovely additions to salads, wild violet flowers and leaves. There is an ABUNDANCE of wild plants that you can eat and that are super tasty and chock full of nutrients!
6. Grow your own food. Even if you live in a city, you can grow some of your own food. Some edible plants don’t even require a lot of sunlight. Just do your research and see what grows indoors. We live in the countryside, but most of our plants are in pots because we’ve had terrible luck growing things in the ground. We bring our herbs indoors in the winter. It’s so lovely adding fresh rosemary to soup during the cold months.
7. Make some of your own products. My son and I bake bread every Monday. It’s cheap and a wonderful activity to participate in together. I make a lot of my own beauty products too. I’ve slowly gravitated to the oil cleansing method instead of using facial cleansers, as an example. My skin feels so much softer and I’m saving a lot of money. Most of the time I just use the same organic extra virgin olive oil we use on salads. Sometimes I use Argan oil too.
8. Do you have a following on social media? Try reaching out to brands for free products. Sometimes eco-friendly brands are happy to trade free products in return for a mention on a blog post or other social media platforms.
9. Reuse! Repurpose! We had a flannel sheet that somehow ended up with a big gash in it (cat scratch?). Instead of throwing it away, I cut it into smaller pieces. These rags have since been used as napkins that we take on picnics, stuffing for my son’s homeschool projects (such as his felt maple leaf). I can even imagine using the flannel scraps for patches, gift wrapping (it’s the perfect pattern and colors for Christmas/Yule season), tiny bags, and more.
I hope some of these ideas have inspired you. Can you think of anything I didn’t mention? I’ll be sharing some of my #zerowastelifestyle over on Instagram @caitsdreamscapes https://www.instagram.com/caitsdreamscapes/ Tag your posts with #enchantedsimplicity 🧡✨
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