by Rebecca Rockefeller
Do you want to shift to a life with less plastic and less waste in general? Wondering where to start? Feeling overwhelmed? We’d love to help!
We’ve learned a lot about how to change our own habits and perspectives over the past three years, and we’d like to offer this bit of advice: Please, don’t try to do everything at once! Choose just one step, the one that seems the easiest or most appealing to you, and give that a try. Adapt our ideas as necessary for your own household and lifestyle and keep at that one first change until it’s second nature, or until you’re excited to add another.
Remember that joy and pride are much better motivating emotions in the long run than guilt and shame. Find one first step solution here that addresses something you’d be happy to change because it’s driving you crazy, or something that you’d be proud to accomplish. Find the joy and humor in taking control of your stuff, and celebrate every little change you make. Over time, these small steps add up and can have a profound positive impact.
Here are our Garden Solutions. Find your own next step – Pick one thing and start with that:
- Whether you have a single container on a windowsill or a backyard farm, you can reduce your use of water – When you run the tub spout to heat things up for a bath or shower, catch that water in a bucket for your plants. Save leftover black tea and coffee for your fuchsias, roses, rhododendrons, and other acid-loving plants. All plants love cooled water from hard-boiled eggs (it offers a welcome hit of calcium).
- If you have a non-toxic roof, catch your rainwater for your garden. Many cities offer rebates on rain barrels, and many rain barrels are made from reused materials such as olive oil kegs. Look into your area’s greywater regulations, and harness as much of yours as allowed – Greywater Action is a helpful online resource for the basics about greywater and simple systems for its reuse.
- Reuse what you’ve got or what you can rescue from your neighbors’ trash and recycle bin. For instance, metal gelatin molds from thrift stores and garage sales can adorn a garden wall or fence and come down from their nails to double as plastic-free beach toys in the summer.
- Plastic produce boxes make perfect mini greenhouses.
- Campaign signs hold up well as building material for chicken coops and tractors.
- Cracked plates, bowls, and mugs can funk up your vegetable beds and provide habitat for beneficial insects (or be filled with beer to become beautifully deadly slug traps).
- Plastic mesh berry and tomato containers become seedling guards, and that’s just for starters…
- For a wealth of other reuse ideas and garden design inspiration, visit our Garden Thrift and Reuse board at Pinterest – You’ll never want to buy new plastic garden implements again once you discover all the ways you can reuse household items in your garden.
- Plant seeds in soil blocks instead of buying starts in single-use plastic pots.
- When you’re in need of a new garden tool, invest in metal and wood items. They’ll last longer, saving you money in the end and creating less waste all along the way.
- Do you have the magic touch with greens, but don’t so well with beans? It’s likely someone near you has a complementary situation. Start a group to extend your local gift economy and to encourage people to grow what does well in their own beds. Bainbridge Barter holds a free Garden Potluck in the Park every Saturday morning from spring through fall, so that neighbors can bring what their excess produce to share and come home with things they can’t grow well. Read more about it here – The founders are more than happy to share their tips to help you start your own group.
- Have a flock of chickens? Partner with a local school to reduce their organic waste and your own feed costs. Set up a chicken bucket brigade so that students can put their food waste into a pail that you can pick up and feed to your backyard hens.
- Looking for more low impact gardening inspiration? Please visit our Trash Backwards app, where we have hundreds of ideas to help make your gardening even greener. Here’s a sampling of what’s there:
As always, we’d love your input! This is just a sampling of the many zero waste garden tips out there – Please share your solutions with us below so we can grow this as a resource for everyone.