Zero waste challenge: A simple way to make a difference in your life

  • By: greenorb
  • Date: June 19, 2021
  • Time to read: 9 min.

For some reason, the word “challenge” always motivates me to put a little more effort into lifestyle changes. 

After reading and researching how to live more sustainably, I was so overwhelmed with the idea of being able to take on all these changes! 

Researching various challenges and zero-waste habits, I was able to not only see all that I was already doing, but a lot of different things I could be doing! 

There were so many options out there, and what worked best for me, was finding a challenge that best fit my lifestyle and made the most change!

I wanted to be able to notice the decrease in waste and not have to spend boat-loads of money in the process. 

This made it so much easier to incorporate future lifestyle changes, and it was more affordable with this route, too! Why use up all the excitement right at the starting line and buy what you think you may need, rather than what you actually need? This can actually end up making more waste in the process! 

So if you’re anything like myself, I dare you to take on this challenge! 

This challenge will focus on what I consider to be the main areas of waste beginners should focus on, as this doesn’t even scratch the surface. 

Instead, it will act as a building block, and a solid foundation in which to grow.  

Getting Started with your Zero Waste Challange

There are a few things I recommend you do to prepare. 

Step 1: Take a quick inventory.

What zero-waste gear do you have already? 

Take it all out. If you’re trying to make these changes, odds are you already have bought a few things! 

However, if you still have an open deodorant you’re trying to use up before your all natural swap – don’t even think of throwing that open one away! 

You made your bed by buying it, and now you’re gonna sleep in it by using it up! 

Step 2: Go garbage picking. 

That’s right. I want to see you elbow deep in the trash can, finding out just exactly you are throwing away! 

You can’t be sustainable if you aren’t aware of how you’re being wasteful. 

Plus, those hours of online research need something to show for it! 

Step 3: If you didn’t do step 2, go back to step 2. 

Taking a look at what you are throwing away is helpful for two reasons. 

So remember to refer back to this helpful hint throughout your zero-waste journey to keep minimizing your footprint. 

  • Realization of how much trash we are each actually producing everyday
  • Seeing what you are using – so you know where to reduce!

Bonus reason: you might find a few recyclables!

Zero waste challenge

Challenge Accepted

So you’ve decided you’d like to go zero-waste. 

You’ve done oodles of research, have a few helpful sustainable items, and are ready to go all in. 

Please be advised that this challenge is meant to act as a tool as you transition to zero-waste! 

Yes, this is a transition; you will not be 100% zero-waste by the end of this challenge, and if anyone tells you otherwise, they’re lying. 

There are many things this challenge will assist you with as you make these adjustments.

  • Grocery Shopping for zero-waste: when living low waste, grocery shopping can seem overwhelming with all the plastic packaging. Learn what items to look for and how to avoid wasting a third of your grocery bill! 
  • Saving Energy: energy consumption is one of the main contributing causes to global warming, and this challenge will help you make mini-alterations to your lifestyle that will have big, positive, long-term effects! 
  • Taking advantage of DIYs: your spending will be restricted, so you’ll need to get crafty with what you already own – or can find! 
  • Knowledge: even if you have to start the challenge over three times because you haven’t done it perfectly – you are making progress – you are making an impact. You’re also learning what doesn’t work for you, getting closer to finding what does. 
  • Zero Waste Hygiene: cleanliness and hygiene are so important to our health, and living a low waste lifestyle doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice either. 
  • Consistency: holding yourself accountable and finishing this challenge to completion is almost guaranteed to help you develop at least one new sustainable habit. 

Quick Rules 

Everyone’s lifestyles are different, and we are all willing to give on some things, but not quite ready on others. 

So please use this info as a guide, and craft your own variation as we’ve instructed below, catered to you and how hard you wish to go. However, these three quick rules are non-negotiable.

  1. No spending. 
    1. Gas, prescriptions, and necessities only, are allowed. 
    2. Try to avoid food shopping until necessary.
    3. This includes eating out. 
  1. Lock away your trash can.
    1. Your trash can is non-existent this month.
    2. Get a glass jar. This is now your trash can. 
  1. Do not empty your jar all month. You only get one. Try not to fill it. 
    1. Recyclables can go in your recycling bin.
    2. For more experienced zero-wasters, challenge yourself to avoid recyclables or limit them.

Step 4: Get Ready to Buckle Down… Pick one (a-f) from each category (1, 2, 3) to Start With 

  1. Dining In – or Out
    1. Avoid going to the grocery store. See how many meals you can create with what you have on hand, and how long you can avoid a big grocery haul. Zero-waste starts with refusing and reducing, so use what you have, first!
    2. Opt for plant based meals – produce often comes with no packaging or can be bought as such. Meatless mondays?
    3. Purchase meat from a butcher or seafood market – bring your own containers and skip the plastic bags. 
    4. Meal prep/plan – avoid food waste by freezing prepped meals, or preparing them before things spoil. Planning meals ahead of time is also an effective way to cut back on waste.
    5. Use vegetable and meat trimmings for stocks and soups. Get all that you can out of that fresh, package free produce! 
    6. Compost food waste to avoid that jar starting to smell and getting full. 
  1. Consuming, Spending, Wasting – with no spending, your only waste should be from essentials and groceries.
    1. NO PLASTIC – opt for cardboard, glass, or aluminum.
    2. No bags – avoid plastic bags and bring your reusable ones. Forgot your bags? Too bad, only grab what you can carry. 
    3. Thrift for any non-essentials only if NEEDED – if you wait a month you probably will realize it isn’t actually needed.
    4. Simplicity – low-waste living goes hand in hand with minimalism. Simplify your life and routine, and you cut back on waste. Are flushable wipes a necessity? Don’t throw things away, but repurpose, regift, donate or sell what you may no longer want or need.
    5. Hem and Sew – favorite work shirt got a hole on the seam? Don’t throw it away, stitch it up! Congrats on the weight loss, have you tried taking your clothes in?
    6. Last minute DIY – forgotten birthday, need for something innovative, whatever the case, check out some DIYs and see what you can come up with. Homemade gifts and solutions are so much better than materialistic and expensive ones! 
  1. Right at Home
  1. Bathroom 
    1. 5 minute shower – save water and energy by keeping things quick!
    2. Turn off water between brushing your teeth – you only need running water for rinsing off the brush, not while brushing!
  1. Cleaning 
    1. Avoid buying new cleaning supplies – vinegar, baking soda and lemons are typically found in every house and can be used to make a great few alternatives. 
    2. Why is your dirt/dust going into the trash – compost, compost, compost. Return dirt and dust to the outdoors. Avoid wipes and paper towels, use un-paper towels or rags around the house. They’re washable!
  1. Energy
    1. Use colder settings on washing machines and hang dry your clothes – save energy and water!
    2. Unplug appliances that aren’t in use – while plugged in, electronics will continue drawing power. Unplug what isn’t in use to cut back on energy usage!

Step 5: Putting it All Together    

  • Pick one Dietary Habit
  • Pick one Consumer Habit
  • Pick one at Home Habit

Stick to these habits and the 3 Quick rules for one week. Successful? 

Great! Add another from each category and make it to the end of two weeks, with all six habits. Add a third, and so on. 

Slowly incorporating these changes will prevent you from being overwhelmed. 

This challenge is designed to open your eyes to how many options are available when you need or want something, and how to acquire it sustainably. 

There are no pre-reqs or costly zero-waste starter kits required. 

To go zero-waste you already have far more than you could ever need. 

You will get from this challenge what you put into it; either a lot of trash or just one jar full. 

Thinking you’re a bit out of your league? That’s why we recommend integrating these habits over time. 

Take two weeks instead of one, or even a whole month before picking a second swap to tack on! This Zero Waste Challenge focuses on the basics, and is perfect for those just starting out on their journey to really help get the ball rolling.  

Mastered all of our suggestions? Check out these other great ideas!  

This one has a different technique for each day! Pick up a new habit each day, and become a master in 30 days time! This challenge cuts back on waste, and focuses on reducing your carbon footprint – a double whammy!

Perfect for intermediate low-waste lifers who are doing all the right things, but just want to take it up a notch. 

This challenge has pointers for taking it to the community, and not just at work, school, or home.

Zero waste challenges

Tips for Getting the Most of out of This Challenge

  • Avoid The Store – Really. Don’t go anywhere near it. Store abstinence is the best way to protect you from accidental spending.
  • Keep a list of Desired Purchases – learn how many things you unnecessarily would have bought, and use the time not at the store to research and find an amazing sustainable alternative!
  • Embrace the power of REUSE – wash and reuse ziploc bags, plastic bags, make your own soap but fill up an empty bottle. 
  • Shop F R E S H – shopping local and from small business increases the likelihood of sustainable, healthier options.

But I’m Already Doing all of This, how can I be BETTER? 

  • Get the family involved with what’s in your fridge Wednesday. Take turns with who is the chef of the mystery meal so everyone takes part in the challenge!
  • Don’t only open the fridge, have a look at the pantry too. What can you make with only pantry items?
  • Enjoy meatless mondays
  • Take the challenge to work!
    • Have differing departments compete to see who can produce the least amount of trash
    • Zero-Waste staff and holiday parties – regift during the yankee swap, or insist on only homemade gifts and food
    • Compete with your coworkers to see who’s jar is the emptiest by the end of the month
  • Revisit your trash; what are you throwing away the most? How can you avoid tossing this stuff away?

Remember, this is a climb, not a race. Even if you “fail” three times, are you really failing? Be sure to spend some time to reflect on all the trash you prevented from entering the landfill during those “failures.”

Alright challengers.

Get Ready, Get Set, GO! 

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