Six Essential DIY Skills for Zero Waste Living
Updated: Jul 9, 2021
Sewing, crocheting, knitting, woodworking, gardening, canning, creating, and repurposing in general… there are so many amazing things to learn and so little time! While we all know someone who seems to know how to do EVERYTHING, the rest of us probably have fewer hidden talents. Since going Zero Waste, I’ve can’t help but think about all the skills I wish I had. I’m sure we’ve all had thoughts like...
If I knew woodworking I could repurpose these boards into a garden bench!
If I was better at sewing, I could fashion these old shirts into a new dress!
If I was a better gardener, I could grow more of our own food.
If I knew how to can food, I could do something with the 18lbs of tomatoes I bought at the farmer’s market.
If I could knit or crochet, I could make sweaters and hats for my family this winter.
Of course, there is only so much time in the day and it takes time to learn new skills. If you’re hoping to learn new skills to help you repurpose and create items to support your Zero Waste journey, my suggestion is to first pick the activity you think would be the most interesting and enjoyable to learn, and start there. If you still can’t decide, assess which activities will most help you produce less waste. Also, look at which would be the most affordable or attainable. For example, acquiring some knitting needles may be more affordable than getting woodworking tools (though you may be able to borrow some or get some second-hand).
Below I list six skills that can really help cut down on waste and help you live more sustainably: sewing, knitting, crocheting, woodworking, gardening, and canning. I feel like they tackle three of the biggest waste problem areas: clothing, food, and furniture.
As we continue along this journey, I’m hoping to collect and master more skills to support our Zero Waste Live style. I'm also hopeful I will also be successful in teaching these skills to my own children so they can go on to live their own sustainable lives when they become adults. Currently, I’m taking the time to improve my sewing skills so I can mend, repurpose, and fashion more clothing at home. I’m kicking myself for not taking the time to listen to my mom--who is a fabulous seamstress--when she offered to teach me as a kid.
No matter which skill(s) you’re hoping to learn, here is a list of great free online resources to help you learn to become more self-sufficient, live more sustainably, and produce less waste. For each skill, I’ve tried to find both written and video instructions to support different learning styles.
You may even discover a new hobby that you love!
Crazy Little Projects: I love this site’s instructions. The tutorials are well written out and they cover all of the basics so you can learn the skill you need to mend, maintain, and sew garments.
Farmhouse on Boone: This YouTube channel teaches sewing through 10 easy hands-on projects. These videos are great if you prefer hands-on, project-based learning.
Craftyminx: Craftyminx Crochet School covers all the basics and more with a combination of written and video tutorials. As the Craftyminx herself says, Crochet School will always be free as long as the website is around.
The Crochet Crowd: The Crochet Crowd Youtube channel is full of tutorials and patterns to keep you learning and creating from the beginner level and beyond.
Sheep and Stitch: With a combination of written, picture, and video instructions, this site will get you off to a great start. Once you master the basics, there are several beginner projects to get you knitting right away.
LoveCrafts: LoveCrafts' beginner YouTube video covers all the basics, and the accompanying blog has additional help and information for knitting and for other crafts. While the site does sell yarn and other items, their yarn guides, needle guides, and other informational guides are all free.
Instructables.com: This free course gives detailed instructions to help the absolute beginner learn basic skills such as making straight cuts, drilling holes, sanding,and more. All of the tutorials utilize handheld tools only, so you don’t need a lot of fancy power tools or equipment.
Woodworking for Mere Mortals: Steve Ramsey’s YouTube channel features a series of Woodworking Basics videos as well as videos with more advanced information and projects once you start to master the basic skills.
And of course, if you’re going to try woodworking, it goes without saying you should follow all relevant safety precautions & advice.
Oregon State University’s Intro to Permaculture: My husband took this free course and we were really impressed. I still can’t believe this course is free for everyone as a Massive Open Online Resource. Permaculture is a method of gardening/landscaping that essentially tries to create a closed system so that everything in the system thrives. The idea is to make ethical and sustainable farms and gardens that give back as much to the environment as they take.
Alison.com. Alison.com’s course on growing organic food sustainably covers a lot of ground, including specific information for growing carrots, cabbage, lettuce, and more, as well as how to make compost, create a raised garden bed, and more. Be advised there are quite a few ads in the free version of this course.
Clemson University’s College of Agriculture, Forestry, and Life sciences: This straightforward guide contains step-by-step instructions for the two different methods of canning. It’s not flashy, but the information is good with links to additional resources.
Homesteading Family: The Homesteading Family has several comprehensive posts and videos on canning for beginners and beyond!
Whether you’re already a master of some of the items on this list or a complete novice to them all, hopefully you find some inspiration to continue growing and learning as you continue on your Zero Waste journey.
If you're looking for more information on creating and crafting more sustainably, don't miss my series on Sustainable Crafting.