Local Mom’s Guide To Zero Waste At Home


I can still see that woman smiling from my computer screen, holding a mason jar filled with the trash she had produced throughout the entire year. The article was “My Zero Waste Life.”

I remember thinking, “What the heck is zero waste and how does someone actually do that? Surely, she does NOT have kids … or a life?” My mind was blown and honestly, I was annoyed. Here I was, a normal mom, trying not to ruin the planet, but still putting out a full recycle bin and a couple trash bags per week. I decided maybe I could learn a trick or two.

Since then many things have changed around our house. Though nowhere near producing a mere mason jar of waste per year, we feel good about the changes we’ve made. We’re headed in the right direction in a way that works for our family. As a mom of two toddlers, I need things to be easy.

Here’s a checklist of some practical zero waste tips to make it easier for you to try a few new things for your New Year’s Environmental Resolutions.

Zero Waste Bathroom:

  • Refill your shampoo/conditioner/lotion from the bulk section of the store (LA Co-op has a nice one) instead of buying a new bottle. Alternatively, try a shampoo bar or lotion bar that comes without packaging.
  • Choose bar soap instead of body wash and pump soap.
  • Buy compostable dental floss in a non-plastic container.
  • Use a safety razor and a shave-soap bar over disposable razors.
  • Wash your face with washcloths and reusable cotton pads.
  • Opt for compostable cotton swabs over Q-tips
  • Try making Do-It-Yourself (DIY) toothpaste, deodorant, and skincare products.
  • Invest in a bidet, opt for toilet paper made from recycled content that doesn’t come in plastic, or look into family cloth.
  • Women can use a reusable menstrual cup and/or reusable pads – there are many options these days.
  • Buy compostable wooden toothbrushes rather than plastic– they come in kid sizes and kid colors.
  • Keep a bucket in your shower to collect the water as it gets hot. Use it on your plants or for cleaning.

Laundry Room:

  • Make DIY laundry soap or paste and refill your current container.
  • Use wool dryer balls instead of fabric softener. Scent with essential oils for a yummy smell.
  • Line dry clothes to save energy and make clothes last longer.
  • Shop second hand and choose natural fibers when possible.
  • Try the power of the sun to whiten whites and remove stains. It works!
  • Use a stain remover bar instead of those in plastic containers.

Cleaning Supplies:

  • DIY cleaners are easy, save money, and won’t fill your house with toxins.
  • Good quality microfiber-cloths like Norwex work well using only water, and work like a charm on windows.  

Living Room and Bedrooms

  • Purchasing secondhand furniture saves money, reduces exposure to chemical off-gassing, and eliminates packaging.
  • Purchase household items second hand. Local Facebook buy/sell groups make it easier than ever to find new stuff and rehome items you’re not using.
  • When you buy items new, research and buy intentionally from eco-conscious companies.
  • As your light bulbs burn out, replace them with LEDs.
  • Use live plants as home decorations. They look beautiful and purify the air.
  • Repair items that break or repurpose them into something new and useful.


  • Use good old-fashion ceramic plates at meal time and reusable cups, glasses and cutlery.
  • Aim for whole-food and plant-based meals (soups, stir-fry, Buddha bowls, curries…) to help avoid food-packaging waste by buying most of your ingredients in the produce department. If it’s too hard for every day, try for one or two meals a week.
  • Use rags, cloths, or reusable cloth napkins instead of paper.
  • Invest in a reusable dish scrubber and washcloths for dishes.
  • Opt for reusable containers and bags for food storage. Beeswax wraps are a fun alternative to saran wrap and aluminum foil.
  • If possible start a compost pile in your yard for your kitchen scraps.
  • Reduce food waste: Plan meals. Make a grocery list. Eat leftovers. Did you know that 19 percent of the trash we produce in Los Alamos is food waste?
  • Don’t forget your reusable bags when shopping. Invest in reusable produce bags or an adorable produce basket.
  • Swap out your coffee maker for a French press which nixes the need for filters.
  • Fill your pantry with refillable containers and refill them at the Co-op or Smith’s. You can get rice, beans, lentils, nuts, cereals, trail mix, snacks, sugar, flour, oatmeal, spices, maple syrup, peanut butter, oil, and so much more without ever buying more packaging. You simply take your containers and fill them up. It’s actually fun!

Kid Lunches:

  • Invest in the right gear: a good lunch box, a thermos for hot items, a bento box, reusable water bottle, utensils and snack bags. Kids love that they are helping the environment!

On the Go:

  • Keep a kit in your car with reusable bags, water bottle, cloth napkin, coffee mug, bamboo utensils, a reusable straw and some to-go containers. This will save you lot of unnecessary single-use plastic when you’re out and about.

(Special thanks to Lisa Bakosi, tinyyellowbungalow.com, Mind Body Green, and the Los Alamos Zero Waste Team for some of these great ideas).

About the Zero Waste Team

Zero Waste Los Alamos is a working group sponsored by Environmental Services and welcomes participation from community members who want to contribute to the Zero Waste aspect of environmental sustainability.  

Anyone interested in attending a meeting should email zerowaste@lacnm.us for more information.