Lighten Your Load for Zero Waste Week

September 5-9 is Zero Waste Week for 2022, when countless individuals, businesses, schools and other organizations challenge themselves to produce less waste. But don’t let the name scare you away – the goal isn’t to create absolutely no waste for a week, because that would be nearly impossible! Zero Waste Week is simply a call to spend a few days lowering your excess energy use and trash output by making choices that work for your household’s budget and lifestyle.

It began in the United Kingdom in 2008 as a way to encourage greener living, environmental awareness and community-building. The idea soon spread to other countries, and during the first full week of September each year, events are held locally, nationally and online to bring people and organizations together for education and waste-reduction efforts.

If you’d like to participate in Zero Waste Week, here are a few tips to help you get started! (You can also find more information, including a history of the initiative, at the official Zero Waste Week website).

Stash a reusable bag – or several – in your trunk for shopping trips, and fill up reusable bottles or mugs with your favorite beverages. If you order takeout or delivery, ask the restaurant to skip the plastic utensils and use your own. Reusables are the easiest way to reduce your single-use plastic (and paper) usage.

If the shopping bug hits, go secondhand. Thrift stores, garage sales and especially estate sales are full of useful, like-new items and cool vintage finds. New clothing requires a lot of chemicals, carbon and water (up to 700 gallons for one t-shirt!) to produce; plus, you can fit a lot more treasures into your budget buying resale items.

If you’re having a Labor Day gathering, keep recycling containers close at hand and clearly marked for your guests to recycle cans, bottles and plastics. You may want to note that paper products with food contamination aren’t recyclable, which brings us to our next tip …

Many of us believe we’re doing the right thing by recycling, but don’t realize we may actually be “wishcycling.” Taking the time to research a few basics can help your local recycling agency process recyclable waste efficiently.

Want to level up your daily caffeine fix? Treat yourself to a reusable coffee filter for your morning brew. Made of metal or mesh, these are easy to clean, save money in the long run, and don’t filter out all the oils that make a coffee-shop cup taste so good!

Choose recycled paper for your printer or other needs (it will be marked as “100% Post-Consumer”), and recycle any paper or cardboard that doesn’t have food or oils on it. You can even reign in paper waste at the mailbox. Sign up for paperless billing or bank statements, if available; some businesses will even give you a discount if you do! And here’s a win-win situation: If you’re tired of all those unsolicited credit card offers and other junk mail (is someone “trying to reach you about your car’s extended warranty”?), you can opt out online or by phone and have less unwanted waste delivered each day.

Wait to run your washing machine and dishwasher until you have a full load. You’ll get more items clean with the same amount of water and energy that you would use on a smaller load.

Follow #zerowasteweek on social media. You’ll find plenty of tips from others who, like you, are participating in the challenge!

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