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zero waste

Zero waste is not about producing absolutely no garbage, or fitting your trash for the year in a jar. It's about being conscious of what you’re purchasing and what you're throwing away, and then making an effort to reduce your garbage output where you can.

At Zero Waste Chicago, we focus on making small changes that, combined, have big impact. Zero waste looks different to everyone who practices it, and we're here to help you figure out how to get started in a way that feels doable for you.

Want to get started? We're here to help! Here are a few places to start:

Zero Waste Living for Beginners

  1. Learn to love your reusable bag and water bottle. Keeping these on hand is a simple way to ease into replacing single-use plastics and disposables with something that's reusable. They're versatile for many occasions - plus, bringing your own bag will save you 7 cents in Chicago.

  2. Learn what items are actually recyclable. Greasy pizza boxes and styrofoam cups aren't recyclable in City of Chicago blue bins, and when non-recyclable items are placed in those bins they make the recycling process less efficient. We've got resources for learning more about what you can and can't recycle.

  3. Consider composting. Organic materials - namely, food - can't break down naturally in the landfill. So if you can, stop throwing that food away! Compost allows food scraps and other organics to break down into rich soil. There are many options for composting in Chicago, even for folks who live in an apartment or don't have any outdoor space. Learn more, and choose a method that's right for you, on our Where to Compost page.

  4. Be mindful of your grocery purchases. Many grocery stores offer common food items in bulk, so you can bring your own jars or containers from home to fill. (Find our list of bulk-foods spots in here). Or, if you can't make it to a local bulk section, consider investing in reusable cloth produce bags to replace plastic produce bags, or choose to buy foods in recyclable or plastic-free packaging when possible.

  5. Try to repair items before automatically buying replacements. Fixing buttons on shirts or soles on shoes is a great way to save money and prevent broken items from ending up the landfill. Find out a little bit more about how to repair things - or find someone who can - here.

Of course, these are just a few of the ways that you can reduce how much waste you produce. For more ideas, you can follow us on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter.

And, if you’d like to learn more about how you and your community can reduce waste, we'd love for you to contact us with questions or to schedule a workshop.