How to Live Zero Waste in 2021 (Setting Eco-Friendly New Year's Resolutions)

1. Carpool, take public transportation, or bike/walk instead of driving by yourself in your car as often. Yes, sometimes a car is still necessary, but maybe this year, commit to once a week to taking another mode of transportation. Once it becomes easier and more routine, you might even incorporate it more often!

2. Get more involved politically. That could be different things for everyone, but at the vare minimum, research candidates thoroughly and vote in elections of all levels. But, to take it a step further you can go to rallies (safely), host an online rally, educate others, go to town halls, and write to your elected officials telling them about changes you would like to see be made.

3. Start growing your own food to some extent. You don’t have to grow a full on garden, I wish I had the room for that, but start small! It could be as simple as regrowing green onion scraps in some water in your windowsill, having a few indoor herbs, or maybe you do want to commit to a full garden. Either way, you will be reducing a lot of waste and emissions by growing your own food and eating as locally as possible.

4. Learn how to mend! It can be as easy as watching some YouTube tutorials. You don’t even need a sewing machine and can mend most clothing by hand. But, don’t stop with clothes, either, learn to mend other things like furniture, toys, cracked planters, and so forth. Basically, fix things instead of sending them to landfill.

5. Commit to buying second-hand this year (instead of buying so much brand new). Next week, you can catch my video/blog post about my favorite second hand items and they are some of my most prized possessions as a whole! This encourages a circular economy, saves you money, and saves waste from the landfill.

6. While you’re at it, make it a goal to sell, rehome, and donate your old but still usable goods this year instead of throwing away good items. If you’re sick of a pair of shoes, give them to a better home, not the landfill (that is unless they are actual garbage). I have a video here with a list of other sources to donate to besides your local thrift store. You can even sell broken tech!

7. Clean up your data! This is very easy and completely free but can save a lot of emissions. According to the Department of Energy (DOE), the average power plant uses 600 grams of CO2 for every kWh generated so when transferring/downloading 1GB of data, 3kg of CO2 is produced. Saving and storing 100GB of data in the cloud per year results in about 0.2 tons of CO2 per person. Doesn’t seem like much, but it adds up. So, clear out old photos, notes, voice memos, videos, etc from your phone, computer, tablet, and other gadgets to help them run smoother and save CO2! Not to mention, be responsible with what you download. Don’t download willy nilly, because, as we saw, it can cost a lot of energy. Be mindful!

8. Learn how to recycle properly. Recycling is broken to say the least, so the system needs our help. The more accurate we recycle, the more that can be recycled. I have an entire playlist about recycling different materials with all the tips and tricks as well as a list of things that should not go in your recycling bin. So, take the few extra minutes per day to rinse, let dry, and sort your recycling accordingly to improve the system, but...

9. Reduce your consumption this year, even if it is just a little. Like I said, recycling is broken and it should not be considered the end all be all of eco-living. I highly recommend this great video by Shelbizleee on YouTube about the broken recycling system. I’m not saying you need to go 100% zero waste this year, but start making a few small changes every day like cutting out plastic water bottles, buying fruit and veggies naked instead of packaged, opting for more recyclable materials, and so forth. Again, check out my recycling playlist for tips.

10. Become a conscious consumer. What I mean is, be cognizant of what you are buying, what material you are buying, where it is being made, who is making it, are they getting paid fairly, what is the environmental impact of that item, can you find it second hand first, can you find it packaged differently or locally? There are a lot of questions to ask yourself. But, I encourage you to do these steps before just hopping on Amazon or heading to Target for the latest trend or impulse buy.

11. Along those lines, do a trash audit. This will help you understand what you are buying and help you to become a more conscious consumer. You can learn more about a trash audit in depth here, but briefly, you keep all your non-food trash and recycling for a week or a month or however long you choose and then at the end of the time, you evaluate. You might be able to see what you can reduce, what were impulse purchases, what you can omit altogether, what you can buy in different packaging, and so forth.

12. Do a no-buy month as well. Obviously, you will still buy groceries and pay for bills, but any wants that come up, you don’t buy them. You can write them down for later, but during that month, you aren’t allowed to buy them. This is a practice that really helps you think through purchases and avoid impulse purchases. Something I do too is write down an item I want (even not during no-buy months). If I think about it again and again, I actually want or need it. If I never think about it again, it was an impulse and was a good thing I didn’t buy it!

13. Switch your energy to a green energy provider. Chances are, you are still on an energy provider that is burning coal. Back in my hometown, we didn’t have the option but the one choice, but if you do have the option between say coal and solar or coal and wind energy, make the swap this year to green energy for your home.

14. While you’re at it, switch banks, too. Why? Most of the largest banks in the US finance our money into oil and gas projects. I don’t think you want your hard earned money being invested in big oil. So, do some research into what your bank is investing in. If they invest in oil, find a new bank who doesn’t invest your money into oil! Thanks Sarah for this tip ;)

15. Learn how to compost! First, if your city has a commercial composting system, USE IT and use it correctly! If your city doesn’t have a composting system, no worries, here are some options. If you have a big yard, you can easily just start a compost pile. I learned to compost by lots of self-research and I’m not a pro, unfortunately. But, my yard is tiny and I still managed to build myself a make-shift upcycled compost bin for free, you can check out the full process here. If you live in a tiny apartment, you can even still compost there, too. Shelbizleee has some great resources on apartment composting. Composting is a great new years sustainability goal because putting food into the landfill creates methane, yuck, and instead returning that nutrients to the soil creates more fertile soil and topsoil and creates many benefits to the plants.

16. Ditch the big four. I know, I try to focus on free ways to live low waste and these will be a small investment up front, but once you pay for quality items, you won’t have to replace them for years. What are the big four? They are the four most commonly used single-use items: water bottles, coffee cups, utensils (to include straws), and grocery bags, but I also like to throw to-go containers into the mix because often you don’t have to buy new containers. The trick here is remembering to take these items with you because chances are you probably own at least most of them already. So, this year, commit to brining your reusable big four with you when you travel, to school, to work, to parties, to restaurants, and so forth to reduce more single-use waste this year.

17. Commit to shopping more locally this year. Instead of buying apples from Argentina and roses from Mexico, try apples from a local orchard instead and local flowers for your significant other. This might mean eating more in season which can be a lot of fun to try new foods and new recipes. This reduces your carbon footprint as the food you are eating isn’t traveling nearly as far and it helps boost the local economy.

18. Unsubscribe from junk mail be it physical or digital. Clearly, physical mail requires a lot of intensive resources so you can save a lot of waste by unsubscribing. But, digital mail also has an impact like we talked about earlier, not to mention, the advertising could lead you to want to buy more, having an even higher carbon footprint. So, if you don’t want to be advertised to or you’re sick of receiving their mail, unsubscribe.

19. Shop your pantry before writing your grocery list. Be sure to check if you have a shaker of pepper or a can of chickpeas before adding another one to the list. I once got a box of spices from a friend who was moving and there were at least 6 jars of the same spice in the box. Yes, sometimes extra can be good, but not that much! This can lead to food waste/expiration.

20. Another easy way to avoid food waste this year is to meal plan, not necessarily meal prep. I love planning out what meals I want to eat for the next 1-2 weeks by writing out the exact ingredients I need to buy. This helps me from over buying as well as helps me avoid impulse purchases and therefore food waste and package waste!

21. Lastly, educate others! One of my biggest things I talk about here is to not let this information stop with you. You can share this video, other videos, other channels I talk about, or simply just talk about these ideas and inspire others to set low waste new years goals and low waste goals throughout the rest of the year. We need all the voices we can get in the zero waste movement, so be one of them this year. It could be you starting an Instagram account or YouTube channel too or it could be as simple as just talking to your friends about these ideas.

Thank you so much for reading along, I hope this was inspiring and encouraging as we move into another year of fighting for climate justice. After all, we don’t need 100 people doing zero waste perfectly, but everyone doing zero waste imperfectly. And, our small changes do have a big impact in the long run, especially when multiplied so encourage others to get involved.

Thanks so much for being apart of this team and my journey :)


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