You may feel constrained while living at home when attempting to reduce waste. Like you have little to no control over what enters your home. And there is some truth to that. I’m assuming that you do not buy the groceries for the household, pay the bills, or entirely decide what the family does outside of the home. It’s ok. Just because you have decided to embark on a waste reducing journey while those around you have not doesn’t mean that you have zero power. There is actually quite a bit you can do to still reduce your personal waste and hopefully inspire the rest of your family members.
Let’s focus on what we can control and not on what we can’t.
It’s too easy to get stuck on the things we can’t do. I, too, do it on almost a daily basis and get stuck on my obstacles and my “cannots”. I quickly compare my lifestyle and what I’m accomplishing or NOT accomplishing to others’ seemingly perfect zero waste lives. Why do we do this to ourselves?
Let’s stop. Let’s regroup. Let’s talk through the things we can do while living at home.
How to Go Zero Waste While Living At Home
For this scenario, let’s assume you are a high school aged student. Most of you who ask me this question fall in this category so you all will be my example.
- Ok, so no, you don’t buy the groceries but do you have any input? Are you asked what you’d like for your lunches to take to school or do your parents ask you what sounds good for dinner through out the week? Use this opportunity request foods that come in less packaging like more plant based meals. This will reduce many areas including packaging waste and resources.
- Also, if you take your lunch to school, grab the reusables around the house like a reusable container for your sandwich rather than a zipper baggie. If you usually get plastic utensils put into your lunch box, grab some real ones from the kitchen drawer.
- Take leftovers to school for lunch to minimize food waste.
- Don’t forget that reusable water bottle, too!
- When you go out with your family, bring a reusable container for leftovers from the restaurant and refuse that straw.
Think about the waste you can refuse on your own.
Again, you probably don’t have the power to buy the toiletries for the family and convincing mom and dad to start using a bidet may be difficult. (You should at least bring up the idea – you never know!) So what can we control here?
- Do you buy any products for yourself? If you do, look to buy more sustainable brands like bamboo toothbrushes and shampoo bars. If you are buying your own things, you have the ability to make swaps on your own. Check out my post 10 Zero Waste Bathroom Swaps for more ideas around that.
- You also have the ability to take fewer showers for shorter periods of time. Water waste counts, too!
- Let your hair air dry if you can – reduce that hair dryer electricity.
- I’m sure at this point you do have input on the clothing you get and I’m sure a lot of you even purchase your own. Suggest to your parents that you’d prefer shopping second hand instead of getting new clothing. I don’t think you’ll have much push back on this idea. We are constantly pushed to be fashionable and to be wearing the latest trends. That pressure is even greater when you are young. Fight it. Be your own person and have your own style. You don’t have to look like everyone else to fit in. That’s just boring. Shopping second hand reduces considerable resources as well as takes new clothing out of the waste stream. It’s such a huge win.
- Wear your clothing longer before putting into the wash. You don’t need to wash your jeans every time you wear them – that’s extremely wasteful and hard on your clothing.
- If you have the ability to, line dry your clothing. That will save quite a bit of gas or electrical resources.
Outside the House
It’s the decisions we make and what we purchase outside of the home that ultimately causes trash. So my best tip to reducing waste is:
- Buy less – seriously, if you are prone to buying a lot and succumbing to impulse purchases this is a good area to work on. Each year, American teens collaboratively spend a whopping $259 billion. That’s insane. The latest cell phone, the hottest trendy outfits, and more are causing a lot more harm than we truly realize. Really assess whether you need something before you buy it. If you can get this habit started now, your adult self will high five you.
- Refuse things you don’t need. Straws, paper napkins, freebies, etc. This will save additional unnecessary waste.
- Drive less if you can. Ride the bus, your bike, or walk more.
- And honestly, just put the phone down for a minute. Go outside. Go to the park. Grab your friends and go on a hike or a quick trash pick up. Disconnect from technology and connect with nature. This will give you so much more motivation to keep being that Eco Warrior you always knew you were.
Again, let’s focus on what we can control. Every day we should assess what we are doing and think if there is a better way to do it. We can do quite a bit more than we realize despite living at home. Who knows, maybe we’ll even convince our families to jump on the sustainability bandwagon?
Do you live at home? What do you do to reduce your waste?