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Could you fit an entire year’s worth of trash into a Mason jar? Blogger Kathryn Kellogg can, and she’s using her website, Going Zero Waste, to help other people do the same thing. After a medical scare, she started to rethink what she was putting into her body, leading her on a journey to healthy eating and making her own household products. Soon after, she became more aware of the trash littering our planet and made a pledge to work toward cutting the plastic from her life.

On average, Americans generate over 250 million pounds of trash every year — an estimated five pounds per person per day — and only about 34 percent of it is diverted from landfills by being recycled or composted. It’s polluting our land and air, and our oceans are filled with so much trash that by 2050, they will contain more plastic than fish.

Increasing recycling efforts is one way to combat the issue, but we need to look at the bigger picture. In an interview with AccuWeather, Kellogg said, “Recycling should really be viewed as a last resort rather than the first line of defense.” So, instead of buying things knowing they can be recycled, we should focus on buying less instead. Take water bottles, for example. Sure they’re recyclable, but the production of plastic bottles uses 17 million barrels of oil every year. Add that to the fact that only 23 percent of the 50 billion water bottles used in the U.S. annually are actually recycled, and you can see why they’re a bad choice for the planet.

The thought of fitting all of your trash in a jar might seem unattainable for most, but advocates like Kellogg are showing us that with a few changes, we can all work our way towards adopting a “zero waste” lifestyle.

Ditching Disposable for Reusable

Kellogg‘s “Top 10 to Get Started” list provides people with reusable swaps for everyday items like paper towels, Tupperware, and toothbrushes, just to name a few. You can get a start in your kitchen by reusing glass jars to store leftovers, as well as homemade cleaners, lotions, and soaps. Using glass is a healthier option than toxic plastic that leaches chemicals, and it doesn’t stain or retain odors.

Carrying a reusable water bottle and utensils eliminates the need for disposable options, and you can keep coffee cups out of landfills by brewing coffee at home (then use the grounds to make a DIY body scrub) or bringing a reusable cup to the coffee shop. And with Americans using 500 million plastic straws every day, it’s best to use a reusable straw or just skip it altogether — the marine life will thank you.

Working to Eliminate Unnecessary Packaging

A quick walk through the grocery store will show you how addicted we’ve become to single use items. Each year, we’re disposing of enough coffee pods to circle the planet 10 times, and virtually everything in the store is wrapped in some sort of packaging.

For waste-free grocery shopping, ditch the single-use items and buy in bulk instead. Most grocery stores have bulk bins for nuts, seeds, grains and snack mixes that can be placed in a reusable bag and then transferred to a glass jar when you get home. Making your own nut milk and fresh-squeezed juice also helps save on plastic, as does buying produce by the pound instead of in pre-packaged bags and containers.

Replacing Everyday Products with DIY Versions

A lot of household and personal care products contain chemicals and are tested on animals. You can avoid this, and help eliminate unnecessary packing in the process, by making your own products.  Use items like baking soda, vinegar, and citrus to clean your home, and add customized mixes of essential oils to leave your home smelling fresh without the use of chemicals.

Make your own deodorant, styling products, and more to save packaging and take the toxins out of your personal care routine. They work just as well as items in the store, plus you know exactly what’s going into them.

A Zero Waste Lifestyle is Attainable

Adopting a “zero waste” lifestyle is about being more conscious about what we’re buying and eliminating the excess from our lives. Start small by using the tips mentioned above and before you know it, you’ll notice that you’re throwing out less trash.

For additional tips on how you can reduce waste, check out these other articles from One Green Planet:

Lead image source: Going Zero Waste/Facebook

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