How to Ensure You Have a Zero-Waste Garden

a zero-waste home garden for sustainability

Zero-waste is no longer just a buzzword. 

It’s a community of earth-lovers around the world with the goal of conserving environmental resources and reducing waste sent to landfill sites. You can join the zero-waste community by using your garden to help the environment through zero-waste gardening.

Now, you’ve probably heard of zero-waste lifestyle champions who can fit an entire year’s worth of trash in a single jar.

It might sound ambitious, but we want to help reduce your waste significantly by transforming your home garden into zero-waste with these practical waste management tips.

The Benefits of Zero-Waste Gardening

  • Reduce resources that go into conventional food.
  • Reduce plastics used for packaging plant food and gardening items.
  • Reduce food and land-based waste going to the landfill through recycling.
  • Promote sustainability and a green energy system.

The 5Rs of Zero-Waste

These 5Rs will show you how reducing the consumption of inorganic materials, recycling solid waste, and turning your organic waste into useful resources can benefit your zero-waste garden.

the 5Rs to achieve sustainability and a zero-waste living goal
Image source

Refuse

A 2019 report found that only 2.5% of 34.5 million tons of plastic produced in America was recycled. The rest? Landfilled, burnt, or dumped in oceans.

You have the power to say no to plastic packaging.

a man saying no thank you to inorganic materials
Image courtesy

Say No to Freebies

Especially free plastics. Consider the materials and resources used in manufacturing and their environmental impact on sustainability.

Refuse Plastic Packaging

Buy or make reusable shopping bags from biodegradable materials, or use paper bags to carry what you need. 

Join your local gardening community and buy new gardening supplies in bulk to avoid plastic packaging.

Reduce

In 2019, American gardeners spent a record $47.8 billion on gardening supplies, according to the National Gardening Survey. 

A zero-waste garden will reduce your consumption and save many resources and materials that go into manufacturing.

Buy Quality Gardening Tools That Will Last 

Shop from outlets that stock quality and eco-friendly products. Quality tools last longer and reduce the demand and supply for new tools. 

Also, repairing broken tools rather than throwing them away is a simple way to increase their life cycle.

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Make Your Own Potting Mix

Most companies label their potting mixes as ‘safe and natural’.

But are they environment-friendly?

Take peat, one of the most common potting mix ingredients. Harvesting peat releases carbon gases into the atmosphere, speeding up climate change.

Make your own potting mix and replace peat moss with coconut coir for your zero-waste garden.

Drip Irrigate

Stop watering your garden using sprinklers and reduce waste by up to 50%. Unlike sprinklers, which wet the whole soil profile, drippers only wet the part of the soil with roots, thus reducing wastage from evaporation and run-offs.

drip irrigation, recycling water reduces waste of resources
Image source: flickr.com by IWMI Flickr Photos

Recycle Household Wastewater

Invest in a greywater system and recycle wastewater from your sinks, showers, baths, or washing machines into storage containers for watering your garden.

a recycling greywater system in your zero-waste garden
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Collect Rainwater

Install gutters to collect rainwater from your roof into barrels. Connect with hoses to your garden or use watering cans to collect the rainwater.

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Reuse

Before you throw that trash out, ask yourself, ‘Can I reuse it to make my zero-waste garden more sustainable?’ 

Reuse Old Egg Cartons to Plant Seeds

learn recycling old egg cartons as seed starters and save resources in 2020
source: pixabay.com by ivabalk

When the seeds sprout, cut along the carton rows and plant directly into the soil. The carton is biodegradable and the roots will find their way to the soil.

Sprout Your Seeds in Eggshells

recycle eggshells as seed starters in your zero-waste home garden
Image courtesy
  1. Rinse out your eggshells with water.
  2. Make a tiny hole in the bottom of the shells for drainage.
  3. Place the eggshells in a recycled egg carton for stability.
  4. Use a spoon to fill each eggshell with soil.
  5. Plant your seed and moisten the soil (use a spray bottle to avoid overwatering).
  6. When the seedlings sprout, transplant them straight into your garden (eggshells are high in calcium and will add nutrients to the soil).

Reuse Old Cardboard as Weed Blockers

Replace herbicides, plastic paper sheets, and landscape fabric with old cardboard boxes to control weeds.

  1. Cut out cardboard boxes and remove any plastic tape.
  2. Lay them in your garden (start with the weed prone areas).
  3. Wet the cardboard and spread mulch on top to block weeds from sprouting.
  4. Repeat the process after some months (cardboard decomposes in the ground, making them more sustainable).

Recycle

You religiously put your recyclable waste in the recycling bins and hope the government will recycle it.

According to the EPA, even though America can recycle up to 3/4 of its solid waste, only 34% of it is actually recycled. 

For the public recycling system to be efficient, it requires lots of resources and energy – making it a poor choice for solid waste management.

How about recycling your solid waste at home, increasing the product’s life cycle and keeping trash away from landfill sites?

Rot

By the end of 2020, nearly 40 million tons of food waste will fill the United States’ landfills.

Even worse, a 2018 report found that food waste sitting on landfills generates 8% of the world’s greenhouse gases, which leads to air pollution and global warming.

But here’s a secret: you can recycle food waste through zero-waste gardening. 

Rot your food waste and make organic compost for your zero-waste home garden.

Steps to Make Your Compost

  1. Set Up Your Composting Site

You will need a compost bin or an open compost pile for organic waste only. Choose a warm site to speed up the composting process.

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  1. Prepare Your Waste

Mix equal amounts of green and brown waste to get the perfect compost. 

Green waste — has high nitrogen levels which help to keep the compost nice and moist and is mostly from food waste.
Brown waste — has high carbon levels and breaks down more slowly to give your compost a steady structure. Use dry leaves, twigs, old cardboard and egg cartons.

recycling waste from newspaper or brown paper bags; NOT plastic bags or trash bags
Source: pixabay.com by Ben_Kerckx
  1. Mix and Wait

Use a compost fork to mix your waste materials and wait for them to decompose.

Your compost may take 2-3 months to be ready —  depending on how you treat it.

Tips to Speed Up the Composting Process
  • Add worms to the compost mix. Red wigglers love eating organic waste and will speed up decomposition.
  • Turn the compost frequently (every two weeks) to supply oxygen and allow the center to decompose.
  • If the compost mix is too wet, add brown waste to control the moisture.
  • Don’t let the compost dry out as moisture speeds up decomposition.
  1. Feed Your Garden 

If the waste compost still smells like rotten vegetables, it’s not ready to use yet. Ready compost is dark brown and crumbly, with an earthy smell.

Spread the compost and nourish your plants.

One question zero-waste gardeners frequently ask is, ‘Where can I find quality and eco-friendly gardening supplies?’ 

For 22 years, Clean Air Gardening has helped gardeners build and maintain their zero-waste gardens by providing only the best eco-friendly gardening supplies and free gardening tips. Subscribe to our Youtube Channel to see new updates.

Featured image: unsplash.com by Stella de Smit

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