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Zero Waste Home Improvement

August 24, 2019

Eliminating, substituting, and/or reducing the waste from our home improvement and DIY projects.



I have been continuously, if sporadically, working on the self-sustaining tiny home that we built two years ago, and am swaddled with all sorts of home improvement bits and bobs, from paints to cabinet doors to nails and screws scattered all over the place.


The house that gets bombarded with my home improvement schemes 



Looking at all the mess, I find it difficult to imagine a zero-waste way of doing home improvement. And I’ll the first to admit that I did a terrible job of it with my own home build.


But just because one cannot fully eliminate waste doesn’t mean one can’t make a large dent in reducing them, so below are some things I wish I had done, and that we can all do when we’re about to tackle a home-related project.







When plotting your home build or home improvement project, anticipate ahead the waste that will come out of it: 

  • is there a way for you to avoid creating that waste (avoid disposables, buy just enough, etc)?

  • if not, is there a way for you to reduce the amount created by purchasing just the right amount? 

  • can you come up with other uses for the waste?

  • can you think of other people or organisations that could use the waste?


Knowing in advance how you will be handling any waste that comes out of the project will make it easier for you to deal with them at the end of the build or project.







Buy just enough


Whether you’re building an entire house or a cabinet for your kitchen or simply embarking on a quick paint job in the living room, you will already have a list of materials you will need, and a good idea of how much of each you will need. When possible, buy exactly just enough for what you intend to do, with a small extra in case something goes wrong. Avoid buying excessive amounts that you will not know what to do with later.


Save the extra


Some products, like paint, come in standard amounts, and is difficult to customise to your needs. But the good news is: when properly stored, the extra paint can last in storage for when you want to refresh your walls or project again. Same thing with extra wood, nails, screws, rope, etc - if you are a DIY-er, these things are always handy to keep. Check with the hardware store on the viability of storing excess material, and ensure that the product is properly sealed after use before putting it into storage.


Use in other projects 


Any leftover material can be the building blocks of another project! Use scrap wood for small projects like keychains or cobble them together to make a gorgeous cutting board. Use the extra bricks to line a boundary in your garden, or to form an outdoor Jenga game. All the unused tiles can be made into a tray or turned into coasters. Get your creative juices up!


Donate or share with others 


If you are no DIY-er and have no intention of making use of the leftover materials, then find others who will! Advertise your extra stuff on localised sharing platforms like Freecycle or Buy Nothing Project, and someone somewhere will snap them up. 







Borrow instead of buy 


Tools can be expensive to buy, particularly if you’re only an occasional handyman or DIY-er. Rather than purchasing tools that will only see the light of day once or twice a year, find a handyman friend who already has these tools and borrow from them. More often than not, people are happy to lend their tools and give you tips on how to use them - and if not, a small bribe of food will usually work! 


Buy to last 


If you find yourself with no choice but the purchase the tools, either because nobody you know owns them or because you will actually be using the tool often enough to warrant buying it, then buy a good quality one that will last years. Don’t buy cheap, disposable tools - even if you don’t plan on keeping the tools at the end, buying a good quality one means you can gift it to someone else who will appreciate it!