How Can A Family of 5 Make Almost Zero Waste? ( 15 Actionable Steps)

  • By: greenorb
  • Date: June 27, 2021
  • Time to read: 8 min.

The idea of going green, saving the planet, and being a zero waste family is great and inspirational. 

However, it is also challenging, intimidating, and difficult at the start. Often times we immediately look to expensive upgrades and changes to their home and way of life and this can be a major turn off and make the entire process a challenge from the very start. 

It’s not necessary to start out by purchasing new “eco” products. 

Simply start where you are at with what you have and make small changes and adjustments as you can.

Our actions will create a ripple effect within our family and our community and this can be the start of the universal change we need to save our planet. 

We have so much power and every change that we make and every step we take towards becoming a zero waste family can have a tremendous impact on the world!

Here is the 15 Actionable Steps for Becoming a zero waste Family

Use Reusable Shopping Totes

Say no to animal-killing plastic bags and carry along your own cloth reusable bags on your next grocery trip. 

Remembering to bring them with you is the hardest part for many. So, consider how you can make it easier to get them with you every time you go shopping. 

You can get small bags to fold and keep in your purse or make it a habit to put them in the glovebox once they are washed and ready. 

Also, if you have kids make it their ‘job’ to remember or get the bags each time you go shopping- chances are they will remember better than you and will have fun with their job as well. 

Use Lunch Plastic ware That is Washable

Get rid of excessive waste items like plastic wrap, sandwich baggies, aluminum foil, disposable utensils, and prepackaged lunch fixings. 

Instead, invest a few extra dollars into reusable plastic containers designed specifically for food and meal preps. 

Glass containers will last the longest, but plastics are also good for drink and meal storage to and from work or school.

Commit to Second-Hand Shopping Over Buying New

Control your impulse to buy something new and shiny just because you see an ad for it or you see it in the store. 

New items, especially clothes and kids’ toys create a huge amount of waste- not just in their manufacturing but also in their packaging and in the items themselves as they are often thrown out long before their usable lifespans are actually over. 

Instead, you should opt for hand-me-down toys. Have a stash of exclusively secondhand clothes the pass out when the time is right and when your own kids have outgrown their toys and clothes pass them along to someone else whenever possible. 

Try to never throw clothes or toys in the trash!

Put an End to Food Waste

Keeping food waste at zero is a surprisingly hard thing for many families and individuals to achieve. 

We have the best of intentions but so much of what we buy never gets used and rots away in the fridge and end sup getting thrown out and wasted. 

Start with smaller shopping trips and purchases- it may be better to shop your grocery store down the street twice a week for a while until you determine how much your family actually can and will use in a week’s time. 

Also consider an easily accessible list of what items are still in the fridge that need to be eaten and used before more things are brought into your home.

Fall in Love With Gardening

Grow as much as you can at home to help weaken the cycle of consumerism and to get just a little more self-sufficient. 

Start with a windowsill herb garden, they try a small container garden on the deck or patio.

Kids love gardening and will likely be the best encouragement you can get when it comes to getting out and working in the garden and seeing the benefits of your work. 

The more you grow for yourself the less you have to buy. Also, you are much less likely to waste something you invested time, money, and effort into yourself!

Choose Reusable Straws and Drinkware

It can be hard to leave behind all conveniences all the time. 

So, if you are faced with a situation where you might have to use disposable strays and cups, be prepared by bringing your own. 

Reusable straws are very popular these days and are fairly easy to find. And there is no shortage on options when it come to reusable mugs, cups, and bottles that you can bring with you.

Learn to Mend Clothing and Other Textiles

Teaching your children simple life skills like how to thread a needle will come in handy for the rest of their lives. 

One big source of wase in many families is in slightly damaged clothing and other textiles. 

Avoid discarding items at the first sign of wear or tear or slight damage. 

Learn to fix rips and tears, use patches, and other mending techniques to extend the useable lifespan on many of your everyday textile items. 

Along this same line, you can learn to make your own clothes and basic items such as curtains and pillow cases to further reduce your carbon footprint and become a zero waste family. 

Zero Waste Family of 5

Embrace Recycling and Make it Stick

Learn what your local area’s recycling options and procedures are like. 

Utilize those services as much as possible and commit to buying only recyclable item as much as possible if you do have to buy or use something that is not easily reusable. 

Your kids will learn with you how to identify and categorize those items. 

Making it a family affair is critical as you can encourage each other to keep going- maybe even turn it into a game of who can recycle the most items each month.

Consider the Move to Cloth Diapers

They are not the most favorite choice of parents for obvious reasons, but they are by far the most eco-friendly and most sustainable choice you can make when it comes to diapers. 

sing cloth diapers is an investment but it does not mean you have to use them exclusively.  

Opting to use disposable diapers only while traveling or at night or when going to the pool can still greatly reduce the number of day time at home diapers that you would go through. 

Every reduction helps and over time you may find yourself opting for the cloth diapers more and more frequently, thus expanding your reach and your impact.

Invest in Reusable Table Settings

This may seem obvious when you are thinking about family meals and such at home. But this can also be extended to table settings when you are entertaining friend and family. 

Yes, is makes more work for you once they are gone, but think about all the plates, bowls, napkins and utensils that are not being thrown away. 

It can make a tremendous impact!

Choose Experiential Gifts Over Items and Things

Special gifts are all well and good but many leads to a great deal of waste. 

New clothes, toys, and items bring waste with them just by their sheer nature and how they are made. So instead, choose gifts that are made from experienced. 

A family vacation, special classes, and so forth are much more impactful and memorable than another toy or video game.

Make Your Own Cleaning Products at Home

A great way to take another step towards becoming a zero waste family is by making your own cleaning products. 

DIY cleaning products are typically made with simple materials that are safe and easy to make and use and require fewer ingredients and generate less waste. 

Reuse spray bottles and us cloth rags instead of disposable paper towels when cleaning. 

Be sure you clearly label spray bottles and keep enough on hand to meet all your cleaning and sanitizing needs.

Shop Companies and Brands That Practice Sustainably

You obviously care about the environment if you are wanting to take steps to go green and reduce waste. 

Support businesses who are taking a similar stand and trying to make a difference. 

Shop places that utilize post recycled packing materials and those that are committed to being plastic free and environmentally friendly with their product creation, packaging, and shipping. 

Be Mindful of Holidays an Special Occasions

Even the best laid plans and the greatest of intention can falter during special events and moments. 

Christmas, Thanksgiving, Birthday, and the like can make it so easy to create more waste than we intend to. It is ok, it happens. 

The important thing is to look at where the waste is occurring and figure out what can be done to correct it next time. 

Reusing gift bags year after years, reducing waste with decorations, and changing up traditions and family practices every so slightly can all have a huge impact on how much waste is created during these special occasions. 

Make Energy-Efficient Updates to Your Home

And finally, at the end of the list, we come to the technological upgrade and improvements to the home. 

When upgrades are necessary, choose products that offer improved efficiency to your home. 

These advancements can be done in steps and stages.  Start with the doors in the home. 

Then replace a few windows at a time as you are able to. Switch out light bulbs to LED options one room at a time.

When the AC unit finally needs replacement consider a high energy efficiency one. 

The same goes for appliances when they finally need to be replaced. Little changes make all the difference in the world!


It can be a bit overwhelming to try and make changes like these all at once. 

There are many, many other things families like yours can do to reduce the amount of waste they generate each month. 

The thing to remember is that every change makes a difference and every step in the right direction will lead to another and another. 

It can take time but if you are serious about it and committed to making changes and sticking to them, it is possible to become a zero waste family in the modern world we live in today!

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