How to Start Your Zero-Waste Lifestyle Journey
Updated: Oct 21
Filled with ethical, vegan and sustainable products, zero-waste shops around the world are paving the way to a better world.
Over 12.7 million tonnes of plastic are dumped in the ocean every year, and by 2050 it is predicted that the ocean will contain more plastic by weight than fish. This means that reducing our plastic use and producing less waste is more important than ever before. We are in need of rapid conscious change and more ethical decision making. In London, zero-waste (also known as plastic-free) shops like Greener Habits, Re:Store, and Source Bulk Foods are doing just that.
The Meaning Of “Zero-Waste”
There are a number of definitions for the term zero-waste. The Zero Waste International Alliance defines it as “The conservation of all resources by means of responsible production, consumption, reuse, and recovery of products, packaging, and materials… with no discharges to land, water, or air that threaten the environment or human health.”
This means that by incorporating zero-waste, or low-waste, decisions into your life, you can actively choose to protect our environment. Whether that’s by buying in bulk, washing and repurposing glass jars as food storage containers, shopping for loose produce instead of plastic-wrapped at big grocery stores, or by taking your own bags to the shops, every decision helps eliminate tonnes of waste from our world.
The Art of Planning Ahead in Zero-Waste Living
When going on a journey, being prepared with cotton bags to get snacks from a refill shop, or making sure you take your own water bottles and coffee cups are small steps that can change the amount of waste you produce, whether you’re headed out for your daily commute or on holiday.
Here are a few of the tips and tricks the whole Going Green team swears by to help you to start on your zero-waste journey:
1. Get composting!
It’s not just packaging that can be wasteful, food waste is also a key part of learning to live a low- or zero-waste lifestyle. Did you know that the UK throws away around 9.5 million tonnes of food in a single year? This causes rotting food to generate enormous amounts of methane–a gas with 80 times the atmospheric warming power of CO2.
In composting, the process traps nitrogen, oxygen, and methane in order to help break down food, without harming the surrounding atmosphere, and creates nutrient-rich organic matter to aid in the growing of plants. If you’re interested in learning to grow your own food, creating your own compost is an incredible way to prevent food waste in your household and benefit your blossoming garden.
If you can’t or don’t want to start composting at home, look into local composting programs and initiatives created to help communities combat food waste. If you’re in the UK, you can search to see if your local council has a compost collection program!
2. Give those containers new life!
Sometimes it’s easy to think that the takeaway box from last night or the face cream you just used up was always destined to be thrown out.
Before making the decision to bin it, do a little research into the ways you can reuse it. Can it be used as food storage containers for freezing leftover veg? Or can you paint the tub to act as a jewellery storage container?
There are countless ways to up-cycle old containers, like these 24 ways you can repurpose plastic water bottles or this amazing Pinterest thread on crafts for the whole family using old containers. Get creative!
3. Make reusable your default!
We know how simple this sounds, and that’s because it is, but it also can have a massive impact! Did you know that you can save on average 150 bottles annually just by using a reusable water bottle?
Reusable bamboo or stainless steel cutlery, food storage containers, reusable coffee cups, tote bags, beeswax wrap, and more are easy swaps to keep in your purse, gym bag, or work bag so you can forgo getting anything single-use while living your busy life!
Here's a great list of some of the best products to help you on your zero-waste journey.
4. Choose low-waste and environmentally friendly personal products
Besides food and drink, cleaning supplies and beauty products are the things we buy most frequently, so finding low-waste alternatives makes a huge difference.
At many zero waste shops, they offer large tanks where you can fill up your own bottles with products like washing up liquid, laundry detergent, all-purpose cleaner and more. If you don’t have a shop like that near you, here is a great list of zero-waste cleaning products that can keep your home fresh and clean, without harsh chemicals and without producing waste.
In terms of beauty products, we know it’s hard to resist trends. But remember, what’s best for your body is almost always best for the planet too. When researching hair and skincare products to use, research brands that are cruelty-free, vegan, and potentially have a container-recycling or refill program! Like Rhode Skin, The Ordinary/DECIEM, and Stella McCartney.
Spotlight: London’s Zero Waste Shops
Greener Habits - Walthamstow
In East London, Greener Habits, is taking a holistic approach to reducing waste in the world by running its shop from inside a shipping container. This is one of the many exciting, sustainable businesses at CRATE St James Street, a shipping container community of creatives, retailers, and food outlets in the heart of Walthamstow. Shop owner, founder, and overall girl boss of Greener Habits, Hannah, chooses to put the planet, people and animals over profit.
Founded in 2018 as an online shop and selling only a small range of products, Hannah began to attend eco-events and saw just how many others also wanted to change their habits into being more sustainable. Today, Greener Habits offers a huge range of plastic-free food products including pasta, rice, beans, lentils, herbs and spices available in recyclable paper bags. They also have oils, vinegar, oat milk, peanut butter, cleaning products and even a Kombucha tap!
Re:Store Refill - Hackney Downs
Located in the heart of Hackney Downs Studios, Re:Store Refill is an incredible, woman-owned zero-waste shop encouraging its community to reduce its impact on the planet by buying in bulk. Re:Store was founded by owner, Megan, who recognised the need for more conscious shopping in her area, and wanted to actively involve local suppliers and support co-ops by bringing together their products all in one place. Offering everything from pantry staples to snacks, oils and vinegars to cleaning products and personal hygiene products, Re:Store is a must visit if you’re in the area.
The Source Bulk Foods - Multiple Locations
Started in Australia, this franchise has been one of the UK’s best-kept secrets since 2018. With locations in Chiswick, Battersea, Crouch End, West Hampstead, Putney, Richmond, and Brighton, The Source Bulk Foods offers sweets, grains, nuts, seeds, dried fruit, and spices galore! Their Source Savers range even allows customers to buy pantry staples for cheaper than what you would get them for at big-box supermarkets. Saving the planet while also watching your pennies? Check.
We hope this has inspired you to be more conscious of your impact on the earth, and that you can start to take steps to reduce your waste. If you have any more tips on reducing waste, let us know in the comments below!