Setting Realistic Zero Waste Goals

I remember when I started my Zero Waste journey. I was so excited, and I was sure that I’d be able to eliminate all trash out of my daily life within days. Not weeks or months, but days. I was so confident, that I even prepared to start taking photos of my ‘zero waste trash jar’. I didn’t understand much about Zero Waste, but I felt I’d researched enough and was ready to jump into the deep end. Setting realistic zero waste goals never even crossed my mind.

Within a week I was utterly demoralized.

Not only had I not eliminated all the trash out of my life, like I’d hoped, but I wasn’t even half of the way there. I couldn’t understand what I was doing wrong; at least, not at first. There was a lot of self-loathing involved. It wasn’t until I had a talk with a friend of mine that I realized I was trying to do too much, too fast. I needed to set goals – realistic goals, and try to stick to them.

How Do You Set Realistic Zero Waste Goals?

1. Understand what is right for you.

This is very important. Before you start setting any zero waste goals, you need to evaluate your lifestyle. Being single can have a significant impact on the goals you create, as opposed to having a family of four, for example. Do you live in an apartment, a house with a small garden, or on a large open plot of land? Do you spend most of your time at home, or do you have a full time job? Time, space and the amount of people can all impact what you can change, and how much. It’s one of the reasons a lot of zero wasters still use tools like carbonfootprint.com to offset their footprint. (At the moment, all prices are in Dollars, Pounds or Euros, but the offset options are very affordable and you get to subscribe to any project worldwide that draws your attention.)

Sometimes aiming for a big goal can be motivating. Other times, having something unachievable stare you in the face every day can be a massive demoralizer. For example, I really wanted a compost heap when I started out, as well as a full herb and produce garden. It didn’t matter that I didn’t have the space, or that the compost heap would really tick of my extremely close neighbours. But when I couldn’t make either happen, it was a pretty big blow.

It took time, but I finally live somewhere I can grow food and herbs, have a compost heap, and even have a few chickens running around with the dogs.


In the end, only you can determine what would work best for you and your current lifestyle.

2. Begin small and work up to larger goals.

I know that you want to make a big change, and you want to make it now. But it’s not going to happen. At best, you’re going to end up demoralized and start over. At worst, you might just give up completely. That’s one of the most important reasons to set realistic zero waste goals – so that you can keep going.

One of the easiest things I can recommend is making a Zero Waste Kit. It’ll help you say no to a lot of single use plastic. Step 1 is Refuse, after all! You can also try and plan your shopping trips more carefully to Reduce the number of things you buy that you don’t really need. It also helps to understand where most of your trash comes from, and then planning on how to target your waste reduction.

Once you know what you need to target, and you’ve got your plan set to Refuse and Reduce, you’re ready to move on!

3. Reward yourself and enjoy your victories!

Think of Zero Waste living being almost like a diet. But, instead of cutting out food that’s not good for you, you’re going on a trash diet! A lot of healthy eating plans now include a reward system, such as if you reach a certain weight, you get a new pair of jeans. You get the idea – and you can do the same with your zero waste goals.

If you’ve accomplished something, celebrate it. Reward yourself for a job well done. Keep in mind, just because it’s a reward, it doesn’t mean you should go on a ‘blow-out’ spree that undoes all the work you’ve done. But get yourself something nice from a local market, or support a local crafter, like a jewellery maker. Personally, I love to go to vintage shopping!


Whatever you do, make sure that you go at your own pace. It’s better to take your time, than to give up completely. And remember, I’d love to celebrate your victories with you! Please share your stories and your photos with me – and love to hear about your journeys.

You can also follow me on Facebook or Instagram.

Until next time, stay Greenish!

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