5 Inspiring Examples of Zero Waste Gardening


The zero waste movement is about not throwing anything into the landfill. It is based on five basic principles; reject, reduce, reuse, recycle and rot (and in that order).

While zero waste is best known for plastic-free grocery shopping and personal care products, it can also be used in the garden. Gardening without waste means getting the most out of things that would otherwise have been thrown away and avoiding waste of any kind when creating and maintaining a garden.

Most sustainable gardeners will have taken a zero waste approach to some extent. You can already help reduce food waste and stop organics from rotting in the landfill by making your own compost at home.

You can also use old yogurt pots, plastic trays, toilet paper tubes, etc., when sowing and growing. You may even have reduced the waste by growing vegetables back from leftovers.

But there are many other things you can do to get your garden done without waste. Here are some stories that might help you think outside the box.

Homesteaders use old cabin building materials to allow year-round growth

Marcelo Costa Barros / Getty Images

An inspiring zero waste story is about a homestead that had an old, run-down cabin that was no longer operational. But the materials from the cabin could be used. The home residents could avoid buying new materials for a new covert growing area. Instead, they used the old windows and doors, wooden beams, even old nails and screws to build a new greenhouse from reclaimed materials. Using old windows and doors to build a greenhouse for your own garden might be considered.

Community upcycles pallet wood to overhaul the wasteland

You may already be familiar with old wooden pallets for making bed edges for new raised beds. But one church went much further. When they decided to create a new community garden on a brownfield site, they used pallet wood for everything. They didn’t just use pallet wood for bed edges and fences. They also built vertical pallet gardens for a south-facing wall, a pallet wood play area for local children, seating for pallet wood, an outdoor kitchen area, and even a wooden pallet pole for their yard. You too could use upcycled wood in your garden. (Just make sure that when choosing pallet wood, you know what the pallets were used for and whether or not they have been treated.)

Continue reading: This is how you can tell whether a pallet can be safely reused

The lost property office of a school becomes a new container garden

Simon McGill / Getty Images

Another great story of reuse comes from a school garden. Teachers who wanted to create a new garden for the children to produce food on a small budget searched the school’s find area. There they found a number of never-reclaimed lunch boxes, school bags and old clothes, with which they built a new, strange container garden for a small corner of the school grounds. School bags, plastic lunch boxes, and even a pair of old rubber boots turned into planters. And one of the teachers used old clothes and sewed a vertical fabric garden with planter bags that was hung on a sunny wall. Even the strangest items can be reused to grow food in a little corner outside.

Zero Waste Craft Beer Company uses old bottles to make new beds

A craft beer company took steps to create a new garden around their bar and brewery. They used spent grain to create new growing beds and built the walls of the beds with old glass bottles. They also used glass bottles to line a path that led to a seating area and in the heat retaining base for a new pizza oven. You, too, might consider reusing glass bottles in your garden in a variety of ways.

Old smartphone repurposed for wildlife watch / allocation security

Finally, I would like to mention a cool zero waste idea. To reduce waste, we all need to make sure that our devices and electronic technologies stay on for as long as possible. An old smartphone might be ready to be upgraded, but an older phone doesn’t necessarily need to be sent for recycling just yet. One idea is to install a webcam app on an older phone and use it to monitor your garden. You can simply use it to monitor wildlife visiting your space or, as in an example I know, set up a camera for allocation security.

There are of course many other examples of litter free gardening. But maybe the ideas mentioned here inspire you to reduce waste and use things that would otherwise have been thrown away.