Welcome to Boston Zero Waste! This site is a resource for finding package-free and environmentally friendly products and services in the Boston area. I will include companies that align with the zero waste movement (such as repair shops) in the future. Look for new store profile pages as I visit shops and markets around Boston.
What is “Zero Waste”?
“Zero waste doesn’t mean producing or consuming nothing. It’s about carefully and intentionally designing, producing, and consuming without waste as an end product.
The term zero waste is referring to an industrial model of design and manufacturing called a circular economy (zero waste). This is where we design products from the very beginning without waste as an end product. Currently, we live in a linear economy, where we design, manufacture and consume with waste as an end product.”
As consumers, we can work on reducing our trash by purchasing food and items package-free whenever possible, buying secondhand, repairing instead of throwing away and re-purposing to prevent resources from ending up in the landfill. Our goal should be to divert waste and resources from the landfill.
why should you reduce your trash?
- Save Money: You can cut down on your spending by switching from disposables to reusables (like using cut up t-shirts instead of paper towels or tissues). Many reusable items are expensive up front, but save money in the long run (like menstrual cups). Starting with small changes or using what you already have can help you save up the money to invest in these items.
- Be Healthier: Packaged foods are usually more processed and less healthy than fresh, package-free. Plastic packaging can also leach harmful chemicals into the food they are holding.
- Save Resources: You can reduce the amount of raw materials that need to be harvested by reusing items that have already been manufactured. This eliminates energy required to produce more new items and prevents old items from being discarded and sent to the landfill.
- Save the Earth: Instead of sending waste to the landfill you can refuse single use/disposable items, reduce your waste, reuse items before discarding them, recycle materials and compost food scraps and organic materials.
- Consumer Power: You can vote with your wallet and send a message to companies that people want safer, more sustainable and less wasteful products with minimal packaging.
How can you reduce your trash?
- Perform a home trash audit to see what you are throwing away.
- Try to find reusable alternatives to items that you use frequently. For example, if you use a lot of tissues, consider replacing them with cloth hankies or t-shirt rags that you can throw in the laundry and reuse. Some common “Zero Waste Swaps” can be found on the “Zero Waste Gear” page.
- Refuse packaging, single-use and disposable items. Prevent them from entering your home in the first place. Say ‘no’ to shopping bags, freebies, etc.
- Plan ahead! If you are planning on going out for dinner, bring your own container to take leftovers home instead of using a disposable container provided by the restaurant. Your leftovers will be ready to go for lunch the next day!
- Make your own cleaning products to cut down on plastic containers and harmful ingredients. Baking soda, vinegar and lemons can be used to clean most areas of your home. Take a look at some examples on the DIY page.
- Give composting a try if you’re able. Make a compost pile in your back yard, take advantage of municipal composting services or make a worm compost bin for your apartment. Check out the Composting page to learn all about composting in the Boston area.
- Repair clothing or household items instead of throwing them away. Buy secondhand whenever possible to reduce the need for new clothing or household items. Head on over to the Secondhand page to see where to shop for secondhand clothing and goods in the Boston area.
- Swap with friends, have a tag sale or donate unused items or clothes.
- Adopt changes over time. Don’t plan on eliminating all trash overnight or else you’ll get discouraged. Any change, no matter how big or small, is a positive change!
- If you’re looking for more tips, check out these great resources:
- Zero Waste Home’s Tips
- Be Zero’s “How to Make Less Trash” Guide
- Going Zero Waste’s “Top 10 to Get Started”
- Zero Waste Nerd’s “30 Days to Zero Waste”
- Life Without Plastic’s “10 Easy Tips for Living with Less Plastic”
- My Plastic-Free Life’s “100 Steps to a Plastic-Free Life”
What are common reusable items or “zero waste gear”?
- Handkerchiefs, bandanas or rags instead of paper tissues
- Reusable plastic containers or glass jars instead of disposable food containers (especially styrofoam!)
- Reusable shopping bags instead of paper or plastic bags
- Cloth or mesh produce bags (or no bag at all!) instead of plastic produce bags
- Insulated mug instead of disposable coffee cups
- Glass, metal or sturdy plastic water bottles and tap water instead of disposable water bottles
- Utensil kits instead of plastic, single use utensils
- Stainless steel, glass, bamboo or paper straws instead of disposable plastic straws
Check out the Zero Waste Gear page for more ideas and for a list of stores that sell these items.
WHAT DOES “BULK” MEAN?
Typically when people hear the phrase “buying in bulk” they picture buying huge packs of paper towels or large boxes of cereal at stores like Costco or BJs. People usually shop at these stores because they save money by buying products in large volumes.
In the zero waste community buying “bulk” means purchasing products like flours, nuts, grains, spices, etc. package-free and out of a large container at a store. These bulk stores have utensils like scoops, tongs or spoons to help customers transfer products from store bins into their own reusable bag or container. If a store offers bulk liquids, like shampoo or maple syrup, they may be dispensed out of a large jug with a pump or a container with a spigot at the bottom. Essentially the bulk store is buying the large volume of product and the customers get to take as little or as much as they need.
There are many benefits to buying bulk products:
- Customers are able to buy only what they need which cuts down on wasted food and money
- Customers are able to test out a variety of new food items without committing to a large volume of product
- Usually products are less expensive per unit price than at a regular store
- Shopping this way creates little to no packaging waste
UPDATE 10/4/18: Sadly the only member-owned food co-op in Boston, Harvest Food Co-op, will be closing within the next 1-2 weeks because of the spread of natural/organic chain stores over the last several years. Please see their letter on their website.