I'm not ready to go zero waste. My family has a need for sliced sandwich bread, and I have a need for inexpensive items that prevent me from giving up Costco cheese and things like that. But I am trying to embrace what I will call minimalist waste -- as little waste as possible.
Why is zero waste a minimalism issue? Because minimalism is so much about mindfulness, we need to be mindful of the waste we're making. We can't just ignore the bags we place to the curb each week and assume it is successfully thrown "away." As I simplify meals and simplify the pantry I can also choose foods that are whole, intact and not packaged.
I want to make sure that you know that zero waste is a goal, and reducing waste is the achievable path that we can walk to get to zero waste. Zero waste has to be embraced by producers to truly be "zero waste," or the packaging that gets food to the stores will remain as waste, even if I don't bring any trash home. But I have to start somewhere, and I start at home.
We've really cut out our food waste. That's huge for many families. Statistics say the average American wastes $1500-$2500 a year in wasted, edible food. This does not count the tops of carrots or apple cores. I have a teenage boy, so we never have leftovers, and they never go to waste. The plate scrapings and apple cores go to the chickens, to that's easy.
Our shopping bags, even our produce bags, are reusable. I keep apples and mushrooms in cloth bags in the fridge. (By the way, mushrooms never go slimy is kept in a cotton bag. I was amazed.) I just throw them in the wash with our kitchen towels and cloth tableware, and then out to the car to await grocery day. It's not harder to wrap your produce in cotton than plastic.
Bulk nuts, flour, salt, beans -- all that is not much harder. Close off your bag and write down the code. You always have to write down the code anyway, if you're buying bulk, so write it on your shopping list instead of a plastic tag, and you're done.
Choose glass over paper, because it's endlessly reusable. The choice between metal and glass is harder, because metal may be lined in plastic, but it is recycled at a higher rate than glass. Buy plastic only if there is no other option, and it really is a need, not just a want. Medicine falls in this category. Recycle the plastic, but as there is little market for recycling plastic, and it all moves closer to the landfill with each reuse, the plastic you buy is destined to the landfill if it doesn't end up defacing the environment.
There's a lot written on zero waste. If you're interested in more of the details about how our family incorporates zero waste into our lives, let me know and I will include more details from our individual experience.