The Zero Waste Hierarchy


zero waste hierarchy chart

Examine what you typically buy, from furniture to a cup of coffee. Do you really need that item? If so, is it single-use, or is there a durable, reusable alternative? How is it packaged, and is there a way to purchase the product without the packaging? In order to bring reusable items for your daily activities, do you need a bigger backpack or one with more pockets?


  • Say "No, thanks!" to plastic bags – bring your own bag!
  • Don't accept swag at events unless the items are useful and needed.
  • Avoid buying products that use excessive or unnecessary packaging.
  • Don't accept paper flyers; take a picture of the info, or make a note on your phone.


  • Buy products in bulk to avoid excess packaging.
  • Buy quality clothing and housewares; avoid cheap materials that don't last.
  • Avoid purchasing fad or impulse items.
  • Buy local and bring your own bag. Buying local creates local jobs while reducing packaging waste from shipping.


  • Get a reusable water bottle and bring it with you wherever you go.
  • Bring a reusable mug when you plan to purchase coffee or tea, and get a 25 cent discount at campus coffee shops!
  • Bring a set of metal or bamboo utensils in your backpack and avoid single-use plastic.
  • Bring your food in Tupperware, glass, or reusable wraps instead of plastic bags.
  • Get a plug-in battery charger and use rechargeable batteries instead of disposable ones.
  • Save unwanted clothing for campus clothing swaps, or donate for reuse.

Lastly, learn how to properly recycle and compost by reading more here!