5 Ways to Reduce Waste – Zero Waste for Beginners

The process of reducing waste takes time because it is all about adopting a different lifestyle. There a lot of things we can all do to reduce our waste footprint, at our homes, workplaces and schools but first it is useful to know the 5Rs of waste management: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Rot. Refuse what you do not need, Reduce what you do need, Reuse what you consume, Recycle what you cannot Refuse and Rot (Compost) the rest.


Refuse is the first rule to living a zero waste or less waste lifestyle and (in my opinion) the most important. I generally have a positive perspective about environmental issues and I believe that doing our bit to change our habits is more effective than doing nothing. Therefore, thinking about the clutter that comes in our homes and try to minimise it, is the first step to a more sustainable living.

1. At home

Refuse junk mail, freebies, party favours etc. as most of these items are made cheaply, fall apart after a few uses or are disposable items. To stop junk mail coming through your door: you can register with the Post Office Opt Out service for all unaddressed mail (promotional leaflets etc) and you can register with Mailing Preference Service to stop personally addressed unsolicited mail, (sadly you can still expect to receive mailings from companies you have done businesses with and charities whom you have contacted which you will need to contact directly). Before you do, check their terms and conditions for loopholes in their system.

2. When shopping

Refuse plastic shopping bags and avoid using the supermarkets’ produce bags for the loose fruit and veg. You can either use your own bags or no bags at all (the checkout staff can weigh the products for you).
Choose products in glass jars or cardboard packaging instead of plastic and opt for purchasing in bulk if there is no recyclable packaging option available. For example a 5kg bag of rice creates less waste than 5 smaller packets. Also, avoid products wrapped in individual plastic film (biscuits, cheese portions, fruits etc).

3. Out and about

Refuse plastic straws or use paper or metal ones. Get a reusable water bottle (to replace the disposable water bottles) and a reusable coffee cup (you can save money in doing so). Throw a set of cutlery in your handbag to avoid using the single-use ones.
Finally, prepare your lunch at home to avoid buying food in single-use packaging and replace cling film with biodegradable or reusable food wraps.

4. Personal hygiene

Next time you need a toothbrush think of the 4.7 billion plastic toothbrushes that end up in the landfills and will never biodegrade! Opt for one in a biodegradable or /recyclable material. Also, swap plastic razors for safety razors if possible.
A 2016 CHOICE study found menstrual cups and period underwear have minimal impact on the environment compared to tampons and pads. 

  • The average woman uses 10,000-12,000 disposable menstrual products in their lifetime.
  • Pads take around 500-800 years to biodegrade.
  • Menstrual cups and period underwear have less of an environmental impact.

If you can opt for reusable menstrual products you can save more than 300 pounds of waste from the landfills.

5. Admin

Reduce the amount of paper that comes into your home by switching to paperless when possible. You can do this with your post, your bills, bank statements, your notes and books/magazines. I personally opt for online versions of my favourite magazines and I love borrowing books from the public library or purchasing the e-book/ audio version instead.

Keep in mind that reducing your waste is a process that takes time because it is more about adopting a different lifestyle. Zero waste living dependents on access to specialty shops and also time.

How much you can do to change your habits also depends on your situation, therefore, comparing yourself with others or stressing too much about it, won’t help you to achieve your goals. Remember that every little thing we do towards a more sustainable lifestyle really matters :-).

Are you committed to reducing your waste? What are your favourite tips? Share in the comments below or get in touch with me on Social Media



Elena Daniilidou

Elena is an ethical vegan and minimalist advocating for sustainable and slow living.

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