Know all the basics of zero waste already? Feel like you’re more expert than beginner?
Great! You’re ready to take things to the next level. That often involves making a bigger impact and taking a look at improving your community. Here are 11 advanced zero waste tips that will help make you, and your community (or campus), a more circular economy.
11 Advanced Zero Waste Tips – Table of Contents
- Host or Join a Local Cleanup
- Get Your Community Onboard with Composting
- Join or Start a Community Garden
- Host a Zero Waste Workshop
- Contact Businesses About Their Plastic Use
- Start a Facebook Group For Locals Interested in Zero Waste
- Get Involved in Politics
- Organize a Zero Waste Meetup
- Start a Blog, YouTube or Podcast
- Print Out Recycling Tips For Your Neighborhood
- Take a Class
1. Host Or Join a Local Cleanup
Have you noticed a certain area of your town full of trash and litter? That’s a problem: Any trash that’s in the environment poses an immediate threat to wildlife, water quality and soil health. The solution? Host or join a local cleanup!
If you’ve never hosted a cleanup before, your best option is to see if there are any local cleanups happening near you already.
However, sometimes hosting your own cleanup is the better option, especially if you have a specific location in mind. If you choose to do this, you can begin by enlisting your friends and family, but definitely extend the invite to others as well.
It’s ideal to plan at least one or two months in advance so you have time to get everything done. Choose the spot you’d like to clean first, then start finding people who’d be interested in helping you. And make sure to set a date and time you’re thinking about doing it to tell people.
Next, you’re going to need supplies so be sure to think ahead. Often times you can reach out to local officials, and they’ll be more than happy to supply you with protective gloves, bags and trash pickers. In order to ensure everyone stays safe, these are essential – last thing you want is someone going to pick up something with their bare hands.
2. Get Your Community Onboard with Composting
Does your neighborhood or apartment complex compost? If not, you should definitely look into getting everyone on board. When food scraps go to the landfill, they don’t break down properly which results in methane gas – a greenhouse gas that’s 30 times more potent than carbon dioxide.
Composting helps ensure food scraps get recycled back into the earth. It reduces emissions and the more people doing it, the better off we all are.
Look and see if your neighborhood is eligible for curbside compost, which is very similar to recycling services. It’s pretty hands off – you just dump your food scraps in a brown bin which the sanitation department comes and picks up for you.
You can ask your neighbors if they’d be interested in participating – maybe even have a meeting about it virtually or in person. Then find out how you can all apply to receive curbside compost.
If you live in an apartment, your complex may be eligible for curbside composting as well. Check with the people that run your apartment’s board first before applying.
Another idea for community composting? See if there’s an area you can setup a compost drop off you all take turns running. If you live in an apartment complex, maybe talk to the head of the board about creating a compost bin on site you all take turns managing. If you live in a home, see if someone in your neighborhood would volunteer to use their backyard/front yard for a compost drop off site. Everyone can take it there!
If everyone is on board with that, see to it that the person(s) taking on the responsibility know how to make compost. And once it’s made, you can offer it up to members of your community to use in their own gardens. It will all come full circle that way.
3. Join or Start a Community Garden
Community gardens are wonderful because they teach us where our food comes from and how it’s grown. We learn about soil health, plants and ecosystems every time we step foot into a garden. And, we get access to fresh, locally grown produce with no pesticides or plastic packaging. What’s better than that?
Real food is package free but the grocery stores will convince you cucumbers need a layer of plastic film to “protect them.” As if they don’t have skin for that very purpose?
When you join a community garden, you’re re-connecting with your food in a way you can’t get at the grocery store. And you connect with people in your community too. It’s a great way to meet people who think alike.
I joined a community garden in 2020 and I renewed my plot for 2021 because I loved it so much. There’s often a small fee that comes with purchasing a plot but they usually provide all the seeds and sprouts for you, so it pays for itself. You also get access to all the gardening tools on site, so it’s very budget friendly. Plus, there are other experienced gardeners there to help you out if you have any questions – very helpful if you’re a beginner like me! If you’d like to start a community garden in your neighborhood, here are some helpful tips to consider.
4. Host a Zero Waste Workshop
One of the best ways to get others on board with zero waste is to expose them to it – and a fun way to do that is through a workshop! You can host one at a local café or library for free or for charge – but you’d have to talk to them about it first to setup a time and date.
The workshop topic can be about anything regarding zero waste, but the ones that go over best are interactive workshops. Having your attendees create something is always a great idea. I recommend something easy that you can whip up in minutes, like zero waste toothpaste, body scrub or hair spray. Of course they’ll get to keep anything they make, which adds to the experience.
Other workshops that go over well are demonstrations – for example, demonstrating how to do zero waste gift wrapping is a great idea for holiday themed events. You could show them how to do furoshiki wrap or wrap things with just paper and twine (minus the plastic tape).
The whole idea is to teach them something about the zero waste movement that’s accessible and fun. You want it to be very inviting.
To get sign ups, be sure to share about the event on your social media accounts. See if the place you’re partnering with will create flyers for it too to get more potential signups.
5. Contact Businesses About Their Plastic Use
Sometimes, businesses use a lot of excessive plastic to package their items. If you’ve ever ordered something and been appalled by the amount of unwanted plastic your order came with – you’re not alone. And you can actually do something about it.
I suggest emailing brands directly about their packaging waste. You can start by saying what it is you like about the brand so it doesn’t come off harsh. Then go into the problem you’ve noticed. Give a potential solution and sign off by telling them you look forward to hearing from them.
You can also DM them on Instagram and have a conversation through there about their packaging. In a similar way, say how much you like their brand but wish they’d ditch the plastic. Offer a solution (like switching to reusables or a refill program), then sign off nicely. The trick is being kind but assertive – never rude. And if they don’t respond right away, it’s okay to follow up at least once.
6. Create a Facebook Group For Locals Interested in Zero Waste
Wish your local community was just as impassioned for zero waste as your online one? Well, you can actually use technology to connect with locals who have similar interests! I recommend starting a Facebook group exclusively for people in your town or city interested in zero waste.
To do this, make sure it says very clearly in the name of the group what town/city this is for. So, for example, “zero waste NYC” may be perfect if you live in that state. You can get even more personalized and smaller than that of course – like naming your city or town – it’s totally your call.
Once you have it created, invite some of your local friends and family members to join. And tell your neighbors about it too so they can join as well. You may be surprised that people find you on their own too.
Once you’ve created the group, think about how you’d like to use it. You can use it to talk about zero waste topics, offer tips and reminders, or even schedule events. The possibilities are limitless.
I just created a group for my local community and I’ll be posting location specific questions and prompts in there to get the conversation started. Then I plan on using the space to plan events like group cleanups and workshops.
This is a great place to build connections with your neighbors and learn what waste problems are present in their lives. That way, you can better help them solve it.
7. Get Involved In Politics
One of the most powerful things you can do is voting. Voting for elected officials that take climate change seriously is so important if we want strong climate policy in place. This is important on a local scale as well – not just voting for the president.
You should also consider following your local officials on social media to see what they’re up to. This is also a great way to reach out to them about issues that matter to you.
I also advise going to town hall meetings, checking your local .gov website, and finding a board (or commission) to share your ideas to. If you want to implement plastic bans in your city, it’s essential you find the right people to contact.
You can email or DM any local official but make sure you come to them with a plan.
For example, let’s say you want to organize a drop off location for pumpkins to be collected after Halloween or Thanksgiving to be composted.
Tell them the locations you’re thinking would be ideal and where you think would accept them for composting (a local farm or community garden perhaps).
Going in with a plan makes their job easier.
8. Organize a Zero Waste Meetup
Sometimes it’s nice to meet people in person who are as passionate about zero waste as you. And, it’s also nice to exchange tips and tricks you might have never thought of. Organizing an in person meetup is totally worth it.
You can do this by making a private Facebook group where members must request to join. I mentioned this step in #6 on this list – so once you have that setup, you can make a post in there about organizing a zero waste meetup.
A great place for an in person meetup is a local café that wouldn’t mind a crowd of people coming in.
If you have a newsletter, you can also do a virtual or in person meetup – just email them a time, date and place. If it’s virtual, a zoom link will suffice.
The idea of the meetup should be to discuss all things zero waste and get to know each other. Who knows what epic zero waste friendly skills your neighbors are holding out on? For example, someone in your neighborhood could be amazing at sewing and repairing clothes, while someone else could be gifted at canning the produce from their garden.
We all have gifts and skills we often don’t realize are connected to sustainability – so learning and connecting with others who possess them is important. It fosters a sense of community and can help you learn even more valuable skills, all while simultaneously passing on your own.
9. Start a Blog, YouTube Channel or Podcast
Consider yourself a zero waste expert? Start a blog, YouTube account or podcast! Whatever way you feel comfortable expressing yourself. Personally, I blog over at Greenify-Me because I enjoy the act of writing. But that might not be your thing, and that’s totally cool.
The whole point is – you have skills and experiences you want to share with the world. So why not do it? Putting yourself out there can be a little intimidating but think of it like this – your words and advice could really help someone else.
I can sleep easy knowing my blog has helped at least one person by the end of the day. And activism can take many forms – written word is just one. But you should absolutely get vocal about the issues you care about. Including zero waste.
If you do start a blog, YouTube, or podcast – be sure to also start getting active on social media too. You want people to be able to find you after all! Make sure to think of a great name and stick with it to brand yourself. And it’s okay if tons of people don’t flock to you at once – often it takes time to really build an audience. What matters is the impact you make on the people who do choose to follow you.
10. Print Out Recycling Tips For Your Neighborhood
Recycling is a messy business. And it doesn’t help that lots of people get confused as to what they can and cannot recycle. This is a recipe for disaster and often ends with wishcycling – aka, when you toss something in the recycling bin and hope it can be recycled (when often times it can’t).
You can help your neighbors out by making a list of what’s recyclable in your state and printing it out. Consider handing them out to passersby on the sidewalk, asking businesses to hang them up, or posting it on your apartment complex’s lobby wall. Sometimes people need the reminder!
Plastic recycling is specifically flawed – only 9% of it actually gets recycled. The reason? There are too many kinds of plastic (there are seven main kinds, called resins).
Generally, plastic resin #1 and #2 are the most widely recycled and accepted forms of plastic so keep that in mind when creating your printable PDF.
You can create a PDF in word document very simply. Or you can get fancy with your designs by using Canva. Either way, save the file as a PDF and it can also be uploaded online in local Facebook community groups. The more people recycle correctly, the less waste is made!
11. Take a Class
Feel like you’re an expert? Put your skills to the test and take a class! It doesn’t have to be a zero waste class per say, but something that correlates to the movement. For example, sewing and mending classes are invaluable and correlate directly to the zero waste movement (repairing is a huge factor in reducing waste after all).
Here are some other class ideas to jump on:
- Cooking from scratch
- Candle making
- DIY Skincare
Anything that’s on topics like these will offer you valuable life skills that contribute to a more circular economy. There’s no wrong answer as to which class to take or how many to take.
You can find classes online practically everywhere, but Skillshare is a good place to start. You can take classes at your own pace this way and not rush into anything.
What do you think of these advanced zero waste tips? Which ones would you be willing to try?
About the Author:
Ariana Palmieri is the founder of Greenify-Me, a blog dedicated to zero waste living and sustainability. Her work has been featured on Going Zero Waste, Mother Earth Living, Green Matters and several other publications. Get her free e-book “10 Ways to Reduce Trash” by signing up to her newsletter and learn how to reduce your waste today.