It’s easy to start a new habit but it’s also easy to get over-motivated and stop what you started the next day. Trying to eliminate your trash all at once can get you caught up overwhelmed, intimidated and can lead to not doing it at all. As we celebrate National Zero Waste Month this January, here are 9 tricks to help you dive into the joy of cutting down your waste:
1. Find your reason.
It’s always best to think of reasons why you want to start doing something. Reasons that will make you stand on your ground and do what it takes for better habits. For me, it started with having to watch a video showing there could be more plastic than fish in the ocean by the year 2050. I was alarmed to see the facts, especially when I got home and play with my nieces. I felt guilty of not doing anything for their future, they too have the right to live with a clean environment. I fully understand my responsibility to leave Earth better, the more I know what and why I’m doing this for the more I find confidence in doing what I thought was really difficult.
2. Start simple.
Don’t turn your life completely changed in one day. If you want to live zero waste, start by bringing your own reusable and build on that.
3. Commit to doing the 30-day challenge.
It is said that you only need 21 days to make something a habit and afterward it becomes much easier to sustain. A month is a good chunk of time to adapt changes since it easily fits in your calendar. Here is a guide that helped me do the challenge: https://www.goingzerowaste.com/30-day-zero-waste-challenge
4. Establish your non-negotiables.
When we say yes to something, we also have to know what nos we should take along the way. For me, I definitely had to say NO to convenience out of crap.
5. Knowing the benefits and rewards.
Now that you already have clarity on why you got to live zero waste, it’s time to know what you can get from it. Published author Dan Buettner’s research with the National Geographic Society found that the Greeks who take into consideration how their lifestyle should be turn out to have a healthier and longer life. For example, they made their homes with stairs so it’s hard to get through the day without walking up 20 hills. Another health factor at work might be the unprocessed nature of the food they consume – most greeks eat greens from their gardens and fields that they consume fewer pesticides and more nutrients. Letting go of single-use plastic has made me so creative, resourceful and active! I get to eat whole foods (without packaging) from the farmer’s market and I because I compost I already have a mini urban garden where I get my (organic) herbs and root crops. Bringing my own reusables like water bottle made me hydrate more than ever and I get to eat MY DIY nutritious and delish foods, add to that the calories I shed off on making, cooking and bringing them – Yep sustainable and active is key to a healthier and longer life!
6. Spend time with role models you can follow.
Learning things by yourself can be costly and can take forever. I was lucky that when I started living zero waste, I got a job with Haribon Foundation of training communities with proper waste segregation and how to turn their biodegradable wastes to compost and also how to put up their own garden. I learned a lot from my manager how to do things right and also from our partner agriculturist how to make fertilizers down to picking the right seeds. You don’t have to find a job like this (if you can then why not), but the important thing is you have to find mentors to help you put things all together. It can be virtual or someone in the community who has been doing it for decades. Ask a farmer or your barangay waste officer on how to make compost and you’ll save a lot of time than doing things on your own.
7. Know the pain and accept realities.
It took a lot of tries before I was able to muster the courage of saying no to single-use, (I still fail some days ‘til now by the way) and reminding myself of the downsides kept me motivated to try over and over again. There were and will be a lot of compromises and consequences but having learned that my overall wellness got higher because of not focusing much on “things” but the value of what I’m doing also helped me to stay on track. It could be very taxing to live in a world where a system of convenience has made almost everybody dependent on making more and more trash, so don’t be too hard on yourself. If you find yourself so low for getting your favorite snack with its flashy single-use packaging, remind yourself that you’re just human and you can strive for better the next time. Remember that’s just one of out 10 you avoided. Keep trying until you make it. Enjoy the journey and see how it transforms you, your choices and your lifestyle.
8. Join a community.
It’s the age of interconnectedness, and why not take advantage of social media platforms to learn from a pool of people doing the same things, here are some of the communities online that I follow: https://www.facebook.com/groups/buhayzerowaste/ https://www.facebook.com/groups/plasticfreesupport/
9. Write it down and share it.
Writing down your struggles and progress can help you objectively analyze your own past and helps you remember the lesson you learned. While sharing your story gets you to practice courage by admitting your own failures. You can also shine a light for others with your story and by saying that, I hope this article lit up that courage within you. There’s a whole year to make up for all the wastes we tossed (unmindfully), and now is a high time to start for a greener and more livable planet!