99 Problems but waste ain’t one How to go zero-waste with 3 simple DIYs

Photo taken by Faith Rahman

In an age of technology and on-the-go lifestyles, it’s difficult to completely evade product packaging and waste. As a student, maintaining grades, personal hygiene, and a positive state of mind alongside additional commitments may be challenging. As such, staying environmentally conscious may bring a whole other realm of complications on its own.

Yet there are individuals in the world defying the odds, transcending the seemingly impossible by living a zero-waste lifestyle. One such person is Lauren Singer, the well-known blogger behind Trash is for Tossers, who started her zero-waste journey with her humble beginnings as an environmental studies major at her post-secondary institution.

Zero waste is a way of life that encourages individuals to consume less, to produce minimal waste – and it may not be as intimidating as it appears. This may be accomplished by buying in bulk and recycling or composting: the garbage can is virtually out of the equation. 

However, even with recycling and composting programs, not everything that’s thrown in the blue and green bins reaches the presumed destination. Although tossing that oily pizza box into the blue bin may be a guilt quencher, doing so may cause more harm than good. “If it’s contaminated, it’s all going to end up in the landfill,” Redmond Naval, the co-chair of Campus Compost at the University of Waterloo, said.

Naval explained that it’s not only about appropriately disposing of your waste. It’s also about going that one step further and saying that, “‘I don’t need those 20 plastic water bottles because I have one reusable bottle with [clean water].’ It’s shifting that focus and thinking about it in different ways,” he said.

Throughout the year, Campus Compost combats increasing the accessibility of compost receptacles and effectively informing and engaging the public, especially beyond the Environment faculty, to adapt to the idea of zero-waste or minimal waste lifestyles. Despite being unable to compost in the winter due to freezing temperatures, they are currently working on “revamping [their materials] … to refocus for the spring and fall,” according to Naval.

He recommended that people consider reusable options when shopping, such as cloth bags for groceries or purchasing reusable metal straws, and to buy less conventional goods and more in bulk.

Zero-waste advocates, such as Lauren Singer, even turn to creating their own home goods to  maintain such a lifestyle and completely eradicate the need for a garbage can.

Other reported benefits of creating your own household and body care products include knowing what is in them, thus eliminating harmful chemicals both for the environment and for yourself.

If you are interested in reducing your waste, the following recipes are simple, zero-waste DIYs for toothpaste, laundry detergent, and a cold remedy to maintain hygiene at home and fight the flu season while helping you start off on the right track.

1)  Zero waste toothpaste

Graphic by Lea Clarin


  2 tbsp of organic coconut oil

  1 tbsp of baking soda

  15-20 drops of your preferred organic essential oil (e.g. peppermint)

To create this toothpaste, thoroughly combine all ingredients in a mason jar or a small container. As the coconut oil has a melting point of 24 degrees Celsius, depending on the room temperature, the consistency may differ, so it may be put into the freezer or run under warm water if needed.

(Original recipe from Trash is for Tossers.)

2)  Zero waste laundry detergent

Graphic by Lea Clarin


— 2 (4 oz.) bars of unscented Castile soap

— 2 lbs of baking soda

— 1.5 (7 lbs) boxes of Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda

— 20-30 drops of your preferred essential oil

Start by grating the Castile soap using a cheese grater or food processor until it becomes very fine before adding in the baking soda, washing soda, and essential oil. Finally, when the mixture is blended, one to three tablespoons of the laundry detergent may be used per load.

(Original recipe from The Zero Waste Memoirs.)

3)  Zero waste cold and flu  Symptom buster

Graphic by Lea Clarin

(Disclaimer: Although the following recipe may aid in relieving cold and flu symptoms, please contact a medical professional if symptoms persist.)


— A few tbsp of apple cider vinegar

— A few tsp of chopped garlic

— A dash of cayenne pepper

— A squeeze of lemon juice

— A tbsp of honey

— A pinch of pink Himalayan salt

— A few drops of Echinacea

— A few drops of oil of oregano

— Some warm water (optional)

For this natural homemade remedy, begin by chopping the ginger and garlic, then simply mix all the ingredients together in a reusable cup, saving the warm water for last. (The warm water is optional should you wish to sip it throughout the day. Otherwise, it may be taken as is.) Afterwards, sip as needed to alleviate cold and flu symptoms since garlic, ginger, and oil of oregano help alleviate flu symptoms.

(Original recipe from Trash is for Tossers.)