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How to Adopt a Zero Waste—And Reduce Your Impact

There are small steps we can take in order to reduce our impact. We spoke with Kathryn Kellogg about going zero waste. Here's what you need to know!

Written by
Brightly Staff

According to the EPA, the average American produces around 6 pounds of trash each day, with only 1 and a half pounds of that trash ending up in the recycling bin. The problem is clear: we need to be less trashy. One solution is to go zero waste… but exactly does zero waste mean? In the latest episode of the Good Together podcast, we were thrilled to invite Kathryn Kellogg of Going Zero Waste to share all things related to living with less waste. Kathryn’s approach to sustainable living is all about making bite-sized changes that have a big impact. 

Kathyrn started on her zero waste journey because of some health issues that required avoiding endocrine disruptors, such as those found in plastics, beauty, and cleaning products. She started making some small changes that eventually changed her lifestyle completely, all for the better.

Now, she’s one of the leading voices in the zero waste movement! She shared lots of practical ways to incorporate zero waste principles into our daily lives.

How Kathryn Started Going Zero Waste

Kathryn originally grew up in Arkansas and eventually moved to California as an adult. She started Going Zero Waste as a way to stay in touch with friends and family back home. 

She soon realized that she had a unique opportunity to write about a zero-waste lifestyle for middle Americans. Wellness & lifestyle blogs are so often geared towards people on coasts who have more access to packaging-free stores and the latest ethical beauty brands. Because of her childhood in Arkansas, Kathryn knew that a large chunk of Americans didn’t have that same access.

What is Zero Waste?

By definition, zero waste living means sending nothing to a landfill—no packaging, tags, old clothes, used furniture, paper, or bottles.

Kathryn has a more holistic approach and wants to “write waste out of existence.” For her, this means using her time, energy, money, and resources in the most effective way possible. 

This can mean being more mindful about what you’re purchasing with a bit more research, or it can mean planning your week carefully so that you don’t spend extra time in your car because of a missed errand.

Easy Zero Waste Tips for Your Life

Use What You Have

So much of what we see on Instagram is beautiful products arranged in a cute flat lay. It can be tempting to throw out everything you have and buy all new sustainable items.

Kathryn, however, suggests using what you already have and making small changes as things break down. While cheap furniture and fast fashion may be aesthetically pleasing, taking the time to repair what you already have and use it until it is unrepairable is better for the planet and your wallet. 

Buy Things New-to-You

If you have to buy something for your home, try and find a used item! Websites like Craigslist, Next Door, and your local Buy Nothing group are great places to start when looking for a new piece. Local thrift shops are an option too, especially for clothing and housewares. 

Kathryn adheres to the principle of “the one” when shopping. If it isn’t “the one,” as in the coffee table or the dress, she doesn’t buy it. 

Of course, this means being patient and waiting for the right item to come along and a price you can afford. But it’s all sweeter in the end when you have the perfect, second-hand item in your space!


Not everyone is naturally crafty, but there are lots of online tutorials you can follow. There’s almost always a way to make something yourself. Pinterest is a great place to start if you’re looking for some inspiration.

Buy Less Stuff

This might seem obvious, but bringing less stuff into your home means less waste! 

Kathryn has a 30-day buy ban to help her buy less stuff overall. If she falls in love with something, she makes herself wait 30 days to buy it. If she’s still thinking about it, she can buy it once the 30 days are up. 

No Straws in Your Drinks

Single-use plastic straws end up clogging our waterways. Animals end up mistaking them for food and then injuring themselves when the straws are ingested. Plus, for most drinks, they are just unnecessary.

If you enjoy drinking with a straw, try bringing your own along. There are lots of excellent stainless steel options as well as foldable straws that are quickly tossed in a purse or pocket.  

Take an Insulated Water Bottle Wherever You Go

Not needing to buy a plastic water bottle whenever you’re thirsty is good for your wallet and great for reducing your plastic waste. Insulated bottles are fantastic because they maintain the temperature of your drink, whether hot or cold, for hours at a time.

Kathryn likes her bottle from Dopper because the top can be used as a cup, which is an excellent feature when she’s out wine tasting. She also uses it for coffee on the go. Single-use coffee cups are usually lined with plastic and therefore aren’t recyclable. Getting her coffee in her water bottle means that she avoids a plastic container.

Avoid Plastic Bags At All Costs

Plastic bags are incredibly difficult to recycle, suffocate ocean animals, and are a significant source of the junk in landfills. As of last year, China is no longer accepting and reusing the majority of the plastics we “recycle” in the United States, so it’s more important than ever to avoid plastic if you can. 

The easiest way to avoid plastic bags is to bring your own bags to the grocery store. You can buy bags that have tare weights included on the tag for products sold by weight, as well as larger reusable bags for taking everything to the car. 

And remember, so much of the produce we buy comes in its own packaging—bananas, onions, oranges, and other foods with a peel don’t need to be bagged. 

Take a Small Step Today

There’s always going to be a way to be more mindful of our daily consumption. Taking some small steps towards a less wasteful lifestyle will help the planet and make you feel good to boot. 

We want to make sure you’re empowered to take some small actions from these tips. It’s better to have a million people doing zero waste to the best of their abilities rather than a thousand people doing it absolutely perfectly. We hope you’ll be able to use some of this advice and start on your zero waste journey!

In This Episode

  • [2:15] Kathryn’s journey to going zero waste
  • [5:33] Zero waste as a concept
  • [6:56] Everyone interested in less waste should consider going zero waste
  • [9:16] You don’t need to buy a bunch of stuff to go zero waste
  • [16:00] Tips on getting started with a zero-waste lifestyle
  • [25:18] Recycling is great, reducing your consumption of plastic is even better
  • [33:43] Kathryn’s favorite zero waste products

Resources We Mentioned