The Zero Waste philosophy is first and foremost about being aware of how you lead your lives as consumers. When you buy something, where will it end up? How will you discard of it? The movement is about rethinking your habits and reducing the waste you produce daily.

There are 5 steps you can follow right now to avoid sending waste to the landfill. In the following order you can Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Compost the things entering your life. We have especially gathered for you some examples that you can put into practice today to lower your environmental footprint!

1) Refuse the plastic you don’t need

The first and most important step is to refuse what you don’t need. For example, in your daily life you are constantly confronted to plastic items: a plastic bag when you go grocery shopping, a plastic water bottle when you don’t have access to tap water, plastic cutlery when you are enjoying some take-away food etc. Anytime you are leaving your house remember that you will be offered those single-use alternatives for objects you already own. Let’s bring some forks, knives and a reusable water bottles we have at home when we are eating out!

2) Reduce the clothes you are buying

As Coco Chanel once said: ‘Fashion fades, only style remains.’ Trying to be trendy in fashion is an endless race. Why not just embrace the items you already have in your closet? If you dig through your clothes you will rediscover pieces that you love, that you will wear and enjoy for a long period of time. No need to go on a shopping spree! Moreover, in contrary to the popular belief spread by advertisement, no amount of clothes will be able to make you fully happy! You can find other ways to spend your time (and money). What about volunteering? You are lucky, you can find many opportunities out there!

3) Reuse what you already have at home

Zero Waste has become a trend and can make you think that you need bamboo cutlery or the latest stainless steel straw. In reality, you already have plenty of cutlery and – let’s be honest – you never really use straws. You will be surprised to realise that you have sustainable treasures in your own home! The movement is aiming to reconsider the way you consume, so buying things to become Zero Waste is a bit counterproductive. You most likely have in your kitchen cupboards all the essentials items you need: bags for groceries, boxes for storing whatever you want, bottles etc.

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4) Recycle what can’t be reused

If after the 3 first steps you still have things in your hands, consider recycling them! Something is broken or worn out and is not repairable, here comes the “Recycle it” option. For maximum effectiveness of this method, inform yourself locally about your possibilities. If you live in Germany, you are lucky because recycling is a religion here. Yellow bin, blue bin, brown bin… you still have to check what it means in your local area. And with the Pfand, you can recycle bottles and get some money back: double benefit!

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5) Compost your food waste

Give back to nature what comes from nature. After reducing your actual food waste, compost the rest. You have a garden? You don’t have a garden? Either way, you can compost your food and other compostable items. Find a shared garden, install a composter at your grandparents’ house (they will agree, you are their grandchild, after all), or even on your balcony. Today composting is easier than ever and, a great additional benefit: you will get humus for your plants afterwards!

This article is part of our #VolunteerForFuture month, if you want to read more about it, stay connected on the blog and follow us on Instagram!

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isa lys

About the author

Isa-Lys is a member of the Communications Team. After finishing a Master’s degree in Public, Non-profit and Cultural Communication, she arrived in Berlin for an internship at GoVolunteer. She’s enjoying the cultural exchange, the language struggles and the awesome people!