TOP 5 Mistakes Beginners Usually Make when Going Zero Waste

Written by
Iryna Komazova
April 13, 2022

All of us have a unique path towards sustainability, but a lot of people who try to pursue this lifestyle alone make pretty much the same bad decisions. But fear not, we can help you learn from others’ mistakes to prevent you from potentially burning out or facing uncomfortable situations. The personal experiences of our team and advice from “veterans” of the war against trash will help make your path to a waste-free life easier. Check out these common mistakes and try to avoid them.

1. Trying to Be Flawless

The power of the zero waste movement lies not in individual perfection but in the amount of effort made overall. A million people trying to produce less waste every single day are much more valuable than a dozen who produce no waste at all. Don’t try to match your (or somebody else’s) expectations about the ideal zero waste lifestyle. There is always room for improvement, but hating yourself for not doing as much as you could is destructive. Praise yourself for new achievements and empower yourself towards new goals instead.

Eco-friendly girl smiles
Who’s built one more eco-friendly habit? Who is fantastic here? Me!

2. Letting Small Things Bother You

We know that receiving a drink with a disposable straw in a restaurant (when you’ve asked for one WITHOUT!) is annoying. But one accidental straw is not worth a terrible mood for you, your dinner partner or the restaurant staff. A total of 8 million tons of plastic enter into the ocean every year, and straws comprise just 0.025 percent of that. (Fishing gear, on the other hand, accounts for more than 40 percent). You can always take the straw home, wash and use it multiple times.

Though don’t get us wrong, we’re still convinced that single-use plastic is devastating for the environment. But we urge you to avoid over-focusing on tiny details which might distract you from bigger, more impactful goals. Direct your attention to the actions that will enhance the sustainability of your lifestyle overall. Make fast fashion vanish from your life, for example.

A glass without a disposable straw
We wish fishing nets got as much media attention as plastic straws

3. Buying Up all the Cool Zero Waste Alternatives

There are no universal zero waste swaps. An obvious example that springs to mind at once is the menstrual cup (useless to half of the planet because of, um, anatomy). You may also not need a thermocup if you rarely take coffee to go. So of course, buy only those items you need, and only replace non-zero waste things with sustainable ones when you have used them until the last drop. It goes without saying that throwing away a half-full shampoo bottle and buying a new solid shampoo bar is a little beside the point.

Besides, a lot of swaps you will find you already have: an empty glass jar or plastic food container can be repurposed for food storage and shopping. Reusing durable goods is always preferable to recycling even if they don’t meet the zero waste aesthetic of your favourite Pinterest board!

Glass jars
Glass jars eclecticism

4. Trying to Produce Zero Waste Overnight

Zero waste is not a destination but a journey. This long and exciting path should not start in the ruins of your old life. Replace your consumer habits with new ones step-by-step, otherwise you risk giving up too early. Start with things that cause no big changes in your behaviour. For example, say no to merchandise freebies or save those lonely bananas left off the bunch in the store.

Girl is thretened by plastic waste
Drastic changes can lead to anxiety

5. Forcing Loved Ones to Follow Your Rules

Forcing is not effective in any area of life. When you push new habits on your partner, family or friends who are not ready to break their old ones, you’ll get the opposite result. Sure, it would be much easier to change your habits with the support of your loved ones. But setting a good example of how to be more eco-friendly, and gently share your views and feelings without imposing your mindset on others, will be more successful in the long run. Try watching a documentary or a popular film on ecological topics together with someone close to you and discussing it after.

Family picking up trash
Leading by example works best

Have you noticed any other mistakes that are hindering your progress? Share your experience on social media, and maybe you’ll be the one to help your friends move in the right direction. Don’t forget to tag us on Instagram and Facebook. Let’s see how many of us, imperfect but inspired, there are!

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Avoid the 5 most common mistakes almost every beginner makes. Let your zero waste lifestyle start without a hitch!
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