Must-Read Zero Waste Books

Zero Waste Home by Bea Johnson

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An ultimate guide to eliminating household waste, Zero Waste Home is the first book to open when beginning the zero waste journey. Johnson provides practical advice for reducing waste in every room of the house as well as when shopping, traveling, raising children and taking care of pets. Her family of four produces less than a quart of garbage per year using her methods.

Garbology by Edward Humes

It may sound like the opposite of a page-turner but Edward Humes' history of trash and present-day challenges is fascinating look at what really is "away." Humes explores ways to reduce our reliance on trash and highlights what others are doing in the movement toward a healthier relationship with waste.

Plastic-Free: How I Kicked the Plastic Habit by Beth Terry

This unintended zero waste book focuses on the how and why of reducing plastic in everyday items. Beth Terry's tips are practical, well-researched and inspiring to even the most plastic-dependent readers.

No Impact Man by Colin Beavan

Humorous and insightful, No Impact Man shares the year-long experience of a man reducing his ecological impact to the extreme while living in Manhattan with a unsuspecting wife and 3-year old daughter. It's laugh-out-loud humor makes for a quick, light-hearted read that's real. It may even nudge you to do more than just recycle.

Reusable Hand Warmers & Hot/Cold Packs

Simple solutions to single-use hot/cold packs and hand warmers are available in most kitchens. These reusable options reduce trash and the need to continuously spend money on disposable, one-time-use products such as heat wraps and instant hand warmers. Additional benefits include mobility (no cords), repairability (no electronics), and enjoyablity (no condensation or leaks).  

  1. Choose a natural filler such as rice, dried beans, lentils, etc. (Optional: Adjust the aroma by adding dried herbs or experimenting with different fillers. I use dried lavender petals.)

  2. Find pack materials (worn-out long sock or salvaged cloth & thread/string/ribbon).

  3. Make pack, fill and close.

  4. Microwave 30 seconds to 1 minute at a time or chill in the freezer. Use as you would with a heating pad, heat wrap, hot water bottle, ice pack or hand warmer.


If using a sock, fill. Tie closed using the long cuff.

If using cloth, fold a square shaped piece into quarters and cut into quarter-circle. Unfold, put filling in center. Tie closed using a string or ribbon.


If sewing, fold cloth in half with the inside facing out. Sew two sides, then turn right-side out. Fill with filler. Stitch the remaining side closed.

Homemade Stocks & Broths

Stocks and broths made in the home kitchen are more flavorful than even the most expensive, store-bought brands. Since stock is made by simmering bones and broth is made by simmering vegetables or meat, making them at home can also be less wasteful.



Basic Stock & Broth Recipe

Collect equal portions of carrot, onion and celery tops and peels in the freezer. Add mushrooms stems for vegetable broth or add leftover bones and/or meat for chicken, turkey or beef stock.


When ready to cook, fill a large pot or slow cooker two-thirds full with collected ingredients. Cover with water and add bay leaf.  If using bones, add a splash of vinegar (up to 1 tablespoon). Salt and pepper as desired. Simmer, covered on low for 6-24 hours. (Only simmer 1 hour for vegetable broth.) Strain.


Use as a soup base, liquid for cooking or a warm drink. Refrigerate for up to one week or freeze for longer storage.


Low-Waste Thanksgiving

Only two firsthand accounts of the first Thanksgiving were ever recorded. Although the pilgrims and Wampanoag people likely did not feast on wild turkey according to these sources, one can safely assume no paper napkins or disposable baking pans were present. Embrace this no-waste tradition by reducing waste at your next Thanksgiving celebration.



Bring your own bags. Bring bags for carrying groceries home as well as a water-resistant bag for the turkey to avoid any new plastic or paper bags from being used.

Buy unpackaged produce items. Choose loose onions, potatoes and other unpackaged produce over packaged ones.

Shop loose bulk. Items such as wild rice, nuts, and spices tend to be sold in packages with larger portions than needed, leading the remaining contents to expire before being used again. Buy exactly the amount needed by shopping the loose bulk section of the store.

Reduce drink packaging waste. Choose recyclable containers (glass is preferred), make juices from concentrates, and avoid plastic bottles--especially water bottles. Take it one step further by choosing returnable containers such as beer growlers and glass milk bottles from the local micro brewery, liquor store, and/or grocery store.


Rely on reusable items. Use what you own, use what others own (borrow) or acquire second-hand items (ARC/Goodwill, local consignment, Craigslist, NextDoor, etc.). Any of these options can help allow for enough dishes, glasses, silverware, table linens and cloth napkins so that all single-use items can be avoided.

Decorate with nature’s bounty. Apples, pumpkins, corn, squash, sage, nuts, leaves, acorns, and pinecones add beauty and add sense of “plenty” to the Thanksgiving table. Natural aromas can also be used to add to the ambiance.



Refuse single-use items. Aluminum foil and plastic oven bags are unnecessary and create waste. Bake the turkey and allow it to rest without using these products. Simply bake uncovered and then drape with a cloth kitchen towel as it rests. Steam will escape more easily, allowing the skin to stay crispy instead of becoming soggy under the stream-trapping foil.

Make ice. Avoid a plastic bag by making ice at home.

Reconsider wasteful traditions. Leaving skin on the potatoes tastes delicious, adds nutrition and simplifies preparations. Eliminating unpopular dishes from the menu also reduces food waste and saves time.

Use real baking pans. Ditch disposable foil baking pans and resolve to clean real baking pans instead. 



Use reusable food storage options. When storing leftovers, avoid single-use products like plastic wrap, zip-top bags, and aluminum foil. (Use the Food Storage Basics guide for ideas.)

Make turkey stock. Keep vegetable scraps and turkey bones for making homemade stock or broth. Collect scraps in the freezer until ready to cook using this recipe.

Freeze leftovers. Reduce food waste by allowing food to last longer.

Eat the edible decor.

Compost. Compost organic waste using residential organics recycling or a backyard compost bin.