10 Zero Waste Tips For a Simplified Life

Between New Year’s and spring cleaning season it seems we’re constantly on the look out for ways to stay more organized. But keeping waste to a minimum should be a priority as well. We asked Amy Korst, author of The Zero-Waste Lifestyle, to give us a few tips that will help us keep our green priorities while we get our house in order. Here’s Amy…

We all want to simplify. Eat healthier, shop locally, reduce our reliance on artificial flavors and chemicals. What if I told you one lifestyle change could help you achieve all this and more?

A zero waste lifestyle, where you reduce the amount of trash you make through a combination of strategies, lightens your impact on the planet and leads to a more satisfying life. New Year’s is a great time to start your journey down the zero-waste path. Here are 10 tips to get you started.

1. Buy whole fruits and vegetables instead of prepackaged varieties: Prepackaged apple slices, baby carrots or salad mixes may be convenient, but they are expensive and create a lot of unnecessary trash. Instead, opt to cut up your own apple or mix your own salad.

2. Recycle unusual paper items: This may seem like a no-brainer, but do you recycle the inner cardboard tubes in a roll of toilet paper? What about receipts, price tags, straw wrappers and shredded paper? Submit all paper items to the “tear test” – as long as they tear like regular paper, you can recycle the item at hand.

3. Eliminate paper towels: This may seem drastic, but it’s really not difficult. Replace paper towels with rags for cleaning counters, mirrors and other household surfaces. Cloth napkins can be used in place of the paper variety, too.

4. Make food from scratch: This applies to more than just staples like bread and cookies. Recipes abound online for simple homemade foods such as ricotta cheese, sour cream, bagels and crackers. Take a look at your garbage, determine what pantry item creates the most waste in your household, and see if you can make a delicious homemade variety instead.

5. Donate used greeting cards to St. Jude’s Ranch for Children: This organization recycles cards by detaching the front of the card and gluing them to a new blank card. For more information, go here.

6. Switch from liquid soap: Bar soap, which comes wrapped in paper, and powdered dishwasher and laundry detergent, which comes in a cardboard box, are better choices than their plastic counterparts. Just be sure to recycle the packaging.

7. Think about trash before you make a purchase: Check out the packaging of a product before you put it in your shopping basket. Is all the packaging recyclable? If so, you’re good to go. If not – do you really need that particular item? Can you find a variety that produces less trash?

8. Think green when giving gifts: As a personal rule of thumb, I give gifts that fall into one of four categories: the best gifts are experiences, homemade, benefit charity or antiques.

9. Switch to a fountain pen: Dried-up ink pens are nothing but garbage. Bring a touch of elegance back to your life by switching to a refillable pen or fountain pen. Remember to compost your pencil shavings, too!

10. Remember your reusables: I keep a “to-go” kit of reusables in my car and desk drawer. This way, I always have several canvas tote bags, a reusable water bottle, travel coffee cup, cloth napkin and set of silverware at my disposal, just in case.

Begin your own Zero-Waste Lifestyle and win a copy of Amy’s book!

The The Zero-Waste Lifestyle was released just last month and we’re giving one lucky reader a chance to win a copy! Just leave us your comments below and include your best tip for obtaining a low-waste life. May the best reader tip win.

Bottom banner image
From our friends


  1. I love these tips! I’m alway striving to reduce my impact and it’s difficult sometimes in a grab and go society, where everything is wrapped in packaging. My biggest tip that I picked up along the way is that it is important to remember that when you throw something ‘away,’ it doesn’t just disappear. ‘Away’ is somewhere else where there’s already too much waste collecting and the idea of contributing to that is often enough to keep me from buying or using things with so much non-recyclable packaging. Thank you for this article!

    Claire | 01.24.2013 | Reply
  2. always carry a reusable bag. they have folding varieties that can tuck into a purse. you never know when you may stop in and pick up a few items!

    kendy | 01.24.2013 | Reply
  3. My hubs is pretty awesome at composting. Between that, recycling and buying thoughtfully we’re able to keep our trash to a minimum. Good article!

    Tate | 01.24.2013 | Reply
  4. Continuing education is a great way to maintain and increase the sustainability of my lifestyle. There are so many great docs out now about food, plastic, glaciers, animal rights, and the list goes on. After watching these docs it’s hard not to make changes that stick, and if the changes don’t last, just watch em again, eventually the new habits will become second nature.
    As well, I find meditating and taking time to fall in love with myself on a regular basis, helps me feel fulfilled and not needing to fill a yearning inner void with too much consumption of precious goods, resources and relationships. Loving myself means giving to myself what I need (like regular exercise, getting outdoors, eating healthy, connecting with friends and family in meaningful ways), not what I desire on a whim, depending on my mood. Often actions on a whim are directed by media’s messages and not what our highest desires are for ourselves. Ex, going for a latte at 3pm when really our body wants to move about and stretch.
    This is a great article and I’m so stoked for Amy and her book! Nice work getting the word out there!

    Kim Klassen | 02.26.2013 | Reply
  5. I am so happy there are people like Amy writing books on this topic. So many people are in the dark about recyclables and don’t realise how easy it is nor the impact trash (or better, lack of trash!) makes. I guess my top is recycle, reuse, and revisit publically. If you see trash on the sidewalk, thow it away (always keep your health in mind, firstly, of course). If you work in a restaurant that doesn’t recycle everything make a point to take home excess paper or plastic jugs. When offering to go contines to tables I present them as a compostoble or recyclable option. It opens people’s eyes as well as avenues for conversation. I keep a cardboard box in my car so I can take the burden off someone’s hands (such as my restaurant’s, even if it’s only a little something). Encourage coworkers to use washable mugs for coffee, water, and so on at work. Give away an old thermos! Anything to help fold people into this line of thinking. As someone else said, education is important. If someone asks ‘Why?’, try to have a solid, reputable answer. Hopefully one that is easily digestible too so that it might affect the inquirer. Be open and honest with your care for the environment. If you enjoy doing it, you may inspire someone to join the ranks.

    Taylor | 01.15.2015 | Reply
  6. if you cannot cook everything from scratch…. (Sometimes we need an off day.)
    1. Stock your freezer with ready to eat things… Like burritos, etc. (you can make them ahead)
    2. double those from scratch meals.
    3. if you must get take out, (sometimes it happens!) ask them for no silverware, plates, and napkins

    Dawn G. | 02.11.2015 | Reply
    • (I know this was posted a while ago, but I wanted to add my own tips for the readers!)

      Dawn G. | 02.11.2015 | Reply
  7. Great products

    Lynda | 02.19.2016 | Reply
  8. Great ideas! I went to City Hall and got our grade school two large recycle bins. One is in the cafeteria and one is in the teachers’ lounge. We need to start teaching our children good habits while they are young. It will be a better world for them!

    Susan | 08.04.2018 | Reply

Leave A Comment