8 Weeks to
Waste Free challenge
8 weeks to waste free!
Going waste free is a process. It needs to be eased into. Old habits have to be broken, new habits need to be formed, the mind needs to be reset, and there is a lot of learning involved – how can I get THIS waste free and where can I buy THAT waste free are questions that you’ll be asking yourself over and over again.
It is definitely challenging at times. And, it is even more challenging if you try to cut all waste from your life immediately.
This is why we’ve created the Reusable Nation 8 Weeks to Waste Free Challenge.
Going zero waste over eight weeks allows you to take the time to break old habits and form new ones and to slowly learn how to be waste free, so that you don’t become frustrated and discouraged. After these eight weeks, you’ll feel confident about your ability to reduce waste and carry on living your best life waste free AND stress free.
And, it is not about being perfect; it is all about doing the best that you can in the circumstances. No punishing yourself for failures! We’re here to celebrate the wins! Good luck! You’ve got this!
Week One: No single-use plastic bags, water bottles or coffee cups
Officially join the Reusable Nation by having at least one reusable on you at all times!
This week, and for every week after, take reusable bags with you when you go shopping. Remove plastic, single-use shopping bags from your life by only using reusable shopping bags or just carrying your groceries/clothes/goodies in your arms if the amount is small enough.
Whatever you do, refuse any offers of plastic bags everywhere you go, so you start getting into the habit of refusing them. Also, make a habit of always having a reusable shopping bag ready for use in your bag and/or car.
This is the easiest waste reduction step, a no-brainer, and one that many of you will have already mastered.
Similarly, carry a reusable water bottle and coffee cup with you every day for all your rehydration and takeaway caffeine needs while on the go this week and all weeks of the challenge.
No more water from single-use, plastic water bottles and no more coffee from throwaway coffee cups!
Get into the habit of always having these on you or always thinking about whether you need to pack them in before you leave the house, so you don’t get caught without them when you need them most i.e. for a takeaway coffee before work and for rehydration on a sweltering day.
This week’s mantras:
“No bag, thank you.” “I have my own cup.”
Week Two: No single-use straws or napkins
No more single-use straws or paper napkins from this week onwards!
This is harder than it sounds. It is actually a hard habit to break, mostly because waiters automatically stick a straw in your drink and you find yourself sipping away for a second before realisation hits.
They also automatically place a single-use napkin under your cutlery or hand you one with your order.
You’ll have to start getting used to saying to service staff up front that you don’t want a straw or a napkin else you will get one.
You don’t need a straw for most drinks and you can buy a reusable straw for those that do (after reading our 4 Things to Consider When Choosing a Reusable Straw article!).
You can pull this out straight away and say, “I have my own straw” to show that you won’t be needing a straw.
Depending on your level of messiness (mine is expert!), you may not need a napkin, you could just visit the washroom to wash your hands, or you can carry your own fabric napkin with you, which I find useful for loads of things, not just wiping my hands and face.
This week’s mantras:
“No straw, please.”
“I won’t need a napkin, thanks.”
Week Three: Plastic-free grocery shopping
It is time to stop buying food items that are packaged in plastic and to start filling up your kitchen cupboards and fridge with food free of plastic packaging.
In this week’s grocery shop, and for every grocery shop afterwards, avoid buying anything that is enclosed in plastic and buy food in your own container as much as possible.
Get into the habit of seeking out products in glass rather than plastic (we also always choose products that are in big glass jars as these jars are more useful and can be reused for bulk shopping and storage of food or cleaning products like washing powder) and start finding out where you can buy in bulk and waste free in your local neighbourhood.
Go to markets, small delis and bakeries, and your local bulk food store or coop, rather than large supermarkets, as it is much easier to get package-free food in these places and they are much more likely to accept you bringing your own containers. To prepare yourself for your first plastic-free food shop, read our article on how to do your weekly grocery shop zero waste.
You’ll need to know what you’re going to put each item you’re buying in before you head out.
This week’s mantras:
“Rather get it in glass.” “Can I use my own container?”
Week Four: Start composting
The point of being zero waste is to send as little waste to landfill as possible. This includes food waste, which makes up a large portion of landfill waste and is just as bad for the environment as other waste.
Enter composting! Even if you don’t have a garden like us, you can collect your food scraps and find somewhere to compost them. Firstly, check if your council accepts food waste. If not, look for a community composting hub in your area where you can add your scraps to the compost heap.
Alternatively, the ShareWaste app enables you to find someone in your area who is willing to let you add your organic waste to their composter or worm farm. Other options for small spaces include a Bokashi bin, which can be kept inside, or a worm farm.
If you have the space, you can have your own compost bin, which a large amount of organic waste can be placed in, however you do need to turn the contents regularly and the input needs to be balanced.
Research which option will be best for you, make a plan to implement it and start composting all your food scraps this week.
Also take a look at your food shopping, storage and cooking routines to make sure you are wasting as little food as possible.
This week’s mantra:
“Food either feeds me or becomes fertiliser.”
Week Five: Get a takeaway meal waste free
Getting takeaway usually creates loads of waste, so it is generally better to cook at home or to go to a restaurant and eat there to avoid the mountain of single-use materials that come with a takeaway order.
However, sometimes you have to or want to take your meal with you. This is why it is good to learn how to and where you will be able to bypass the big brown bag filled with waste as well as food.
Delivery is not an option; you’ll have to go and get it, because you’ll need to take your own container.
For success, make sure your container is clean and the right size and go when it’s on the quieter side. You can even call beforehand and ask if you can bring it.
This is a great way to force yourself out of your comfort zone and to start getting used to asking for a waste-free option, which can be nerve-wracking, especially when everyone else is just going with the grain and grabbing their grub in whatever it comes in.
You will not always be understood, and this will not always be possible, so you will also have to be prepared for possibly hearing no and learn how to respond to a no without getting flustered (although the answer is yes more often than not!).
It also forces the food service industry to start thinking about waste and how they could reduce it.
This week’s mantra:
“Can you please put it in this?”
Week Six: Start making sustainable switches in the bathroom
After the kitchen, the next room in your house that needs an eco-friendly overhaul is the bathroom.
As you run out of a beauty product that comes in plastic packaging or is made of plastic, replace it with a more environmentally friendly alternative – a natural product that comes without packaging or one that comes in compostable or reusable or recyclable glass or steel packaging, or a homemade version.
For example, replace your deodorant in a spray can with deodorant paste, replace your plastic toothbrush with a more sustainable option, replace plastic razors with a steel razor and blades, and start buying homemade soaps minus packaging from markets or learn how to make your own.
Avoid buying anything that comes in plastic packaging from here on out. Start seeking out alternatives when levels start getting low, so you are prepared to replace it before it is finished. It is important to do your research as to which natural alternatives work well as we’ve found that not all of them are effective.
This bathroom clear-out can take a while, so you won’t get it done this week, but start going through your beauty products and donate those that you have never even opened, use up those that you hardly ever use or give them to a friend who will use it, start finding and testing out natural alternatives and refine your beauty regime to only include products that you really need.
This week’s mantras:
“Do I really need this?” “Is there a better option?”
Week Seven: Start cleaning the natural way
As with your beauty routine, begin finding more sustainable, package-free alternatives for your cleaning routine as the products that you have been using are finished.
Start exploring the options available – what you can buy in bulk and what you can make yourself – and cut out any cleaning products you can do without.
Again, avoid buying anything in plastic packaging especially and buy what you can in bulk in your own containers, for example washing powder in a glass jar or the box that your previous washing powder came in and multipurpose cleaning solution in a reusable spray bottle.
Also, seek out more natural, less harmful products. As with your beauty products, it is important to do your research as to which natural alternatives still actually do a good job though.
This is especially the case when making DIY cleaning solutions, as there is debate about whether some actually work, like soap nuts, for example, the use of which is heavily debated (read our blog post on these controversial nuts before buying them).
This week’s mantra:
“Is there a natural alternative?”
Week Eight: Enjoy a zero waste weekend away
Being zero waste takes more effort when you’re on the road! When traveling, you are far away from the bulk stores and friendly local traders you have come to know and love over the past weeks.
You also become more relaxed when on holiday and it is way easier to let all the good routines you have built up fall to the wayside.
However, you don’t have to do anything differently, you just have to implement everything you have learnt and achieved in each challenge so far.
Pack your zero waste essentials (we share what we have in our zero waste survival kit in one of our blog posts), beauty products and sustainable clothing choices (no fast or new fashion – buy second-hand clothing if you need something new for the trip), fill up jars and reusable containers with bulk snacks, encase some sandwiches in some beeswax wrap and hit the open road!
On the way, take note of anything you didn’t think of and where you go right and where you go wrong. The learning never stops! And, that’s a good thing!
This week’s mantra:
“I’ve got this!”
From 8 Weeks to Always!
For more advice and encouragement, check out our blog and keep an eye out for our e-book, which will soon be available for download.
And, be sure to share your wins with us on Insta, where we send out inspiration from our hometown of Melbourne, Australia.
We are also more than happy to answer any questions and help you out in any way that we can. DM us on Insta or email us at email@example.com.
Welcome to the Reusable Nation!