How to Go Imperfectly Zero Waste (for Families)

imperfectly zero waste to solve plastic pollution

It’s becoming a known statistic that scientists are predicting that by 2050 – just 30 years away – there will be more plastic in our oceans than fish.

Looking at this quote probably has you feeling like you should do something to help, right? 

You probably already know in your heart that you want to make a change and that you want to do better for our planet, but can you actually be a zero waste family? 

Going imperfectly zero waste could be the answer for you! 

Many people feel that going zero waste is unattainable or out of reach. It would be hard to make a change like this on your own, but how can you possibly do this for your entire family? 

Or maybe you wonder if it’s even worth trying if you can’t do it 100%.  People like Bea Johnson from Zero Waste Home are certainly inspirational but is that kind of zero waste lifestyle achievable?  How did they possibly make it work for a family of 4?  I certainly am not doing what’s she’s doing! 

Are these some of the thoughts running through your head? You may be thinking of giving up before you have even begun! 


In fact, I am here to say that it’s ok to be imperfectly zero waste.  


Maybe your beginning stages of zero waste research had you scrolling through Pinterest or searching on Google for ways that your family can make the transition to a zero waste lifestyle.  

You may have been hit by all the picturesque zero waste images and natural products that seem out of your budget.  

Or maybe you have read stories about other families or people who are 100% zero waste and you are thinking to yourself that you will never be able to be perfectly zero waste like they are. 

Here’s the good news… You don’t have to be perfect! 

The zero waste movement isn’t about being perfect.  Most of us that are striving for a zero waste lifestyle are far from perfect. I am not perfectly zero waste, nor is my family.  

In fact, I am proud to be imperfectly zero waste!  

I am proud to be concerned enough about the fate of our environment and planet that I am making a change and reducing waste as much as possible every day.  

You can do the same! Focus on making progress over perfection.  Can you change one thing in your lifestyle to reduce your waste today?  Just one thing! Start there and focus on making progress over time.  

If everyone could be imperfectly zero waste, then our environment and our planet would be much better off! 


Imperfectly Zero Waste

Being imperfectly zero waste seems more manageable and achievable, doesn’t it?  You can give yourself permission right now to be imperfect and flawed on this journey.  

So instead of focusing on eliminating all of your waste right away, focus on what changes you can easily make first.  

Can you stop using plastic, single-use straws?  This was probably the first change our family made in our home.  We previously went through about 6 disposable plastic straws per day. 

Instead of buying 100 disposable straws at the grocery store for $0.99 to $1.99 which would typically last our family about 16 days, I went online to Amazon and bought a pack of 12 silicone straws in October 2018 for $7.95 and have never needed to buy straws again.  We now use them twice daily for our girls, wash them, and reuse again the next day.  

It was a simple, easy zero waste swap for our family to make.  Yet it makes a big difference overall.  It the course of one year, we have eliminated about  2,190 straws from entering the oceans or landfills – and we have saved money!  

This makes a big difference since plastic, disposable straws cannot be recycled and harm marine life in oceans. To learn more, I recommend reading more at For A Strawless Ocean

Are you reading to #stopsucking

What zero waste swap would be easiest for you to start with?  I have some ideas and tips for you to consider but please also think of what will work best for you and your family.  

Related articles: 

Zero Waste Lifestyle Tips (A Guide for Beginners)

9 Zero Waste Swaps (Every Family Can Make)

Want to save time and money finding the zero waste swaps for your family? Download the FREE guide to 9 Zero Waste Swaps Every Family Can Make!



When you get into a green mindset and focus on reusing and repurposing, you are already well on your way to be imperfectly zero waste

Start thinking of how you reuse or repurpose items in your household that would have otherwise ended up in the trash or recycling.  The more we can keep out of the landfill, the better since 91% of plastic ever produced has not been recycled,” according to the Loney Whale

For example, instead of recycling the plastic mint container, that may not end up getting recycled after all, you can turn it into a personalized earbuds case! 

upcycled earbuds case made from a plastic mint container

Additionally, when you are looking to buy new household items, for example, try to buy reusable items instead of single-use or disposable. The more you can do this, the more you can cut down on your waste.  

For example, purchase a good quality glass or stainless steel water bottle and skip single-use plastic water bottles from now on.  It’s a simple, cost-effective zero swap that will keep hundreds of water bottles out of landfills, or worse, the oceans.


Bulk food - zero waste

At the time of writing this post, we are still in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic which has taken a toll on the zero waste movement. Many grocery stores and other shops have temporarily prohibited their customers from bringing in their own reusable containers to buy bulk food and even from bringing in reusable grocery bags. 

The goal is to limit the spread of the virus (and public health obviously comes first) but it has left a lot of zero wasters wondering if they should just skip the bulk section altogether for now.  Is it worth it if you can’t bring your own container and have to use a disposable plastic bag instead?

Any time you can buy in bulk – even if it’s packaged in plastic – you can still reduce your waste.  

Again this is imperfectly zero waste, but by purchasing larger quantities in bulk you automatically reduce the amount to plastic packaging overall.  

So instead of buying individually-wrapped snacks at Costco, buy the largest bag of snacks possible and package them yourself in reusable snack containers.  You’ll be throwing away a lot less packaging this way! 

Is it perfect, no? But it is better than the alternative! 

Once you start thinking of these imperfectly zero waste ideas as you do your shopping, you’ll be cutting down on your household waste a lot! Imagine if we all could make these small changes?


1. Buy Secondhand

Buy secondhand as much as possible! It not only reduces the demand for manufacturing new products but also keeps someone else’s perfectly good items out of the landfill. 

2. Reusable Towels

Ditch paper towels and clean up your messes with reusable towels instead. Even if you buy new towels for cleaning, reusable products will always be a better choice than disposable and you will avoid all the plastic packaging that paper towels typically come wrapped in.  

3. Reusable Glass Spray Bottles

Make some of your own cleaning products using glass spray bottles. Check out the recipe for DIY Lemon Vinegar Cleaner and other natural cleaning tips to lower the waste from conventional cleaning products. 

4. Dishwashing brushes

Plastic sponges are disposable and not recyclable.  Swap yours out for a plastic-free dishwashing brush or any of these other zero waste swaps for sponges. 

5. Dumpster Diving 

Well, maybe you shouldn’t actually go dumpster diving but sometimes you can find goodies left on the side of the curb.  Sometimes someone’s trash is another person’s treasure! We got one of our kid’s bicycles this way.  It was in great shape and it saved us money too. 

6. Plastic Bags

Right now, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, I can’t use my reusable grocery bags and am unfortunately coming home with lots of plastic grocery bags instead.  I plan to recycle them at the grocery store drop off, but you could also reuse the plastic bags in many ways, such as small trash can liners, make them into plastic yarn or “plarn”, or even make a basket out of plastic bags

7. Compostable Planters for Herbs

I am constantly looking for ways to reduce my waste. So when I saw my herbs offered in compostable, plantable containers, I snatched them up right away.  Choosing options like this over conventional plastic containers reduces a lot of waste!

8. Compostable Coffee Pods

Our family is not yet composting in our backyard (although it is a goal for this summer), I am composting in a less conventional way.  

I have had a Keurig coffee machine for several years but realized how horrible it is to be tossing the disposable k-cups in the trash every day.  When I stumbled upon a new alternative called Tayst coffee pods and learned that they have a “Down to Earth” Compost Return Kit, I was hooked. Plus they have great tasting coffee – coffee with a conscious! 

9. Cloth Pads

Reusable feminine napkins and other feminine products are a great way to lower your waste and protect your health too! You’ll eliminate all those harmful toxins from coming in contact with your body too. 

10. 100% Recycled Toilet paper

A lot of people in the zero waste movement use zero waste toilet paper options such as family cloth, which is a reusable cloth wipe that replaces toilet paper.  While this is a goal of mine for our family, my children and husband weren’t totally on board with it yet.  So instead we opted for 100% recycled toilet paper from Who Gives A Crap. It’s made without cutting down any virgin trees and is plastic-free! 


Remember that every small step you take to reduce your waste makes a substantial difference for our environment and planet. The good news is that being an imperfectly zero waste family means you can relieve yourself of the stress that you have to do it all “right” and instead make progress towards your goals.  

In the words of Anne Marie Bonneau, the Zero-Waste Chef, “We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly.” 

Go be one of the millions doing zero waste imperfectly! 

Want to remember this post? Pin it for later!

Imperfectly Zero Waste Pinterest Image

P.S. – Want to save time and money finding the zero waste swaps for your family? Download the FREE guide to 9 Zero Waste Swaps Every Family Can Make!



  1. June 23 / 11:21 AM

    I love the message here, every little helps and we can all make simple switches that benefit the environment! I have been working to go zero waste (imperfectly) in my beauty products and love posts like this to help me out!

    • Rebekah
      June 23 / 2:00 PM

      So glad you found it helpful, Elizabeth! Please let me know if there is anything else I can do to help with your (imperfect) zero waste journey!

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