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Going Zero Waste Successfully: How to Set Goals and Track your Progress

Just like anything else, to make changes in your life it’s best to set goals in order to be successful. Here's your road map to track your zero waste journey! Follow these next steps, and you'll be set for reducing your waste successfully:

  1. Chart your path forward

  2. Set goals

  3. Create milestones

  4. Track progress

  5. Recommended advanced steps

For more tips on going zero waste, read the book and head to zero waste 101!

Chart your path forward

Choose where you want start reducing your waste. It doesn’t happen overnight, and when you’re beginning this journey, it’s easy to want to tackle everything at once.

Here are some recommended first steps:

  1. Learn your waste management system and start sorting properly if you aren’t already

  2. Undertake a trash audit to determine how much trash you are creating on a daily basis

  3. Assess your kitchen with a pantry audit

Break down transitions to zero waste room-by-room or by category:


  • Kitchen

  • Bathroom

  • Bedrooms

  • Living Room

  • Office


  • On the go

  • Shopping

  • At work

  • Holidays & Gifts

You can also create a list of items you’d eventually like to swap out. You can think of this like a wish list; when you run out of the disposable option, you can invest in or make the reusable version.

Here are zero waste swap ideas:

  • Plastic Wrap > Beeswax Wraps* / Soy wax Wraps

  • Plastic Baggies > Silicone bags

  • Disposable Cutlery & Paper Plates & Cups > Real / Reusable Cutlery & Plates & Cups

  • Paper Towel > Cloth Towels and Tea Towels*

  • Paper Napkins > Cloth Napkins or Swedish Sponge Cloths*

  • Tissues > Handkerchiefs

  • Dish Soap Bottle > Solid Dish Soap Bar or Refill Your Bottles

  • Disposable Razors > Safety Razors

  • Shampoo & Conditioner Bottles > Shampoo & Conditioner Bars

  • Body Wash Bottles > Soap Bar

  • Cleaning Solution Bottles > Homemade Cleaners

  • Disposable Takeout Containers > Zero Waste Kit

  • Disposable Gift Wrap > Furoshiki Gift Wrap*

*sponsored content or affiliate links

Set Goals

Once you’ve determined what you want to work on first, it’s best to follow that up with setting some goals for yourself. If you’ve conducted a trash audit (recommended), it will help you to have a benchmark from which to measure your progress.

For example, if you collected and sorted your household waste for a month, you know how much you waste in a month and what type of waste you create (e.g. recycling, organics, garbage). Use this information to set goals to reduce your waste output.

SMART goals are the best goals! Consider using this method to develop your goals:

S: Specific

M: Measurable

A: Achievable

R: Realistic

T: Timely

For example, if you fill a 55-gallon trash bag each month from your household waste (landfill waste), your goal might initially be to cut that in half within 3 months. Let’s go through the SMART goal setting process:

  • Specific: To reduce monthly trash output from 55 gallons to 27.5 gallons within 3 months

  • Measurable: from 55 gallons to 27.5 gallons

  • Achievable: It’s achievable because the path forward has been mapped out

  • Realistic: It’s realistic because it’s within a budget that works, and low waste alternatives are available

  • Timely: within 3 months (i.e. hitting the goal in the 3rd month)

Create Milestones

In order to achieve your SMART goal to reduce your waste, it’ll be good to further define next steps. Here are some examples.

If you don’t already compost, this will help reduce the waste you send to the landfill. One step you might want to take is to participate in your municipality’s compost system, but if that’s not an option, find ways you can compost at home or in your community.

Milestone: Starting to compost

  • If you plan to make a dent in your kitchen waste, use the pantry audit to determine exactly what types of waste you create in the kitchen (plastic bags, plastic wrap, Styrofoam trays, for example) and outline alternatives that will help you reduce those types of waste.

Milestone: Shopping for groceries zero waste for X amount of time

  • If getting takeout is creating a lot of trash in your waste bin, you may want to develop challenges for yourself. For example, give yourself a time frame (maybe 1 or 2 weeks) where you don’t get any takeout in disposable containers. You either have to bring your own containers or make your own food at home.

Milestone: Making it two weeks without takeout trash. Once you reach this milestone, start again! Or create a new challenge.

  • Set trash bag milestones over the 3 months. For example, the first month you might want to aim for 85% of your original waste output. Your second month you might want to aim for 70% of your original waste output. Your third month you should have the swing of things, so you’ll aim to reach your goal of 50%.

  • Month 1: 85% of waste output

  • Month 2: 70% of waste output

  • Month 3: 50% of waste output (to achieve your goal!)

Track your progress

Check in weekly to see how you’re doing. Knowing your goal is to reduce your waste output, measure your trash each week to see if you’re reaching your milestones.

In addition, ask yourself a few questions:

  • What have I achieved this week?

  • What could I have done better?

  • What was most challenging this week?

  • What barriers do I still need to overcome to continue progress?

  • What am I most proud of?

Recommended advanced steps

If you’re already well into your zero waste journey, the steps above may be less relevant. However, we can always improve, learn more and continue to make progress regardless of where we are.

Here are ideas for your next steps:

  • Trash and recycling audits are always relevant! You may want to revisit your waste output again to inform next steps

  • It’s great to reduce trash, but reducing your recycling is another challenge. Find ways you can reduce the amount of recyclable materials you’re producing each week.

  • Find some of the bigger challenges you have yet to tackle. If you’ve achieved success in some areas, but if you’re still struggling to remember your reusable mug for your daily coffee, then that’s the perfect place to start with your next challenge.

  • Maybe it’s not as simple as remembering your reusable coffee cup. Perhaps your next steps might be revisiting your toiletries cupboard and creating new and less wasteful products and routines. Find out what your next area is to tackle, and go for it!

For more tips on going zero waste, read the book and head to zero waste 101!


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