Zero waste is not about producing absolutely no garbage, or fitting your trash for the year in a jar. It's about being conscious of what you’re purchasing and what you're throwing away, and then making an effort to reduce your garbage output where you can.

At Zero Waste Chicago, we focus on making small changes that, combined, have big impact. Zero waste looks different to everyone who practices it, and we're here to help you figure out how to get started in a way that feels doable for you. Whether you’re looking to start your personal zero waste journey, bring zero waste to your office, or overhaul the systems you’re a part of in your community, we can help!

Ready? We're here to help! Here are a few places to start:



  1. Learn to love your reusable bag and water bottle.

    Keeping these on hand is a simple way to ease into replacing single-use plastics and disposables with something that's reusable. They're versatile for many occasions - plus, bringing your own bag will save you 7 cents in Chicago.

  2. Ditch that single use plastic in your daily life.

    Whether that’s skipping the coffee cup for your morning pick-me-up or swapping out plastics in your in your kitchen, bathroom, or on the go. Zero Waste Chicago offers locally-made zero waste lifestyle products that can help you take the next step towards a zero waste lifestyle. You can view all of our products right in our store.

  3. Learn what items are actually recyclable. 

    Greasy pizza boxes and styrofoam cups aren't recyclable in City of Chicago blue bins, and when non-recyclable items are placed in those bins they make the recycling process less efficient. We've got resources for learning more about what you can and can't recycle.

  4. Consider composting.

    Organic materials - namely, food - can't break down naturally in the landfill. So if you can, stop throwing that food away! Compost allows food scraps and other organics to break down into rich soil. There are many options for composting in Chicago, even for folks who live in an apartment or don't have any outdoor space. Learn more, and choose a method that's right for you, on our Where to Compost page.

  5. Be mindful of your grocery purchases. 

    Many grocery stores offer common food items in bulk, so you can bring your own jars or containers from home to fill. Or, if you can't make it to a local bulk section, consider investing in reusable cloth produce bags to replace plastic produce bags, or choose to buy foods in recyclable or plastic-free packaging when possible.

  6. Try to repair items before automatically buying replacements. 

    Fixing buttons on shirts or soles on shoes is a great way to save money and prevent broken items from ending up the landfill. Find out a little bit more about how to repair things - or find someone who can - here.


Do you work at an office, restaurant, school, hospital or any other place of business that produces waste? Then we can help your organization take steps towards a waste-free work environment.

  1. Do you have an environmental or sustainability committee at work?

    If you don’t, that’s a great way to start considering ways to be more environmentally-friendly at work. It also helps congregate like-minded folks that want to make a difference.

  2. If you have a commissary or produce any food on-site, consider composting services.

    We can help you find the right service for your business and provide training for any employees and staff within your facility.

  3. Invite Zero Waste Chicago to come in and provide a lunch & learn for your office!

    We can chat zero waste lifestyles and also provide some start-up steps for going zero waste at work.

To view all of the services that we offer, please visit our zero waste services page to learn more!

These are just some quick tips for getting started. Feel free to get in touch with us if you have any questions or follow us on social media @zerowastechicago to stay up to date with all our latest ideas and services.