Striving For Zero Waste

A few years ago, we ran across the story of Bea Johnson, through her blog, Zero Waste Home. At that time, we were living in a home that was too large for us, spending money on things that we didn’t need, and living a wasteful life, though we felt that since we had a rain barrel, and we recycled, then we were pretty mindful of being good stewards for the environment. Then we read about Bea and realized we could do so much better.

If you are unaware of Bea’s story, she and her family live a zero waste life, in every sense of the word. She is an inspiration! Her website is also one of our Lifestyle Resources at the bottom of our website. What she has done, and continues to do, is truly admirable. She, alongside her husband and children, accumulate so little waste, that it fits inside a small jar for the entire year. She also speaks about her practices and educates others on how you can do the same, or at least, just do better at being less wasteful.

Zero-WasteWhen I started to read her blog regularly, I began to notice little things I did on a daily basis that started to make me feel really crummy about the way we took advantage of the Earth and environment around us. There were small things, like using our Nespresso coffee maker and the pods we went through each day (even though they have a recycling program, it is still quite a lot of waste, and energy that goes into that whole process), the amount of laundry we were doing each week with just the two of us, to the amount of paper we had in our lives from mail, magazines, and paper towels. We started to make small changes, then of course, once we went tiny and minimized our lifestyles, we just became motivated to do so much more. While our household is not zero-waste by any means, we strive each day to be as close to it as we can, and just do better. It’s actually kind of fun to find new ways to reduce the stuff, and waste in our lives.

Here are ways in which we made changes, and you can do the same:

  • Eliminate paper towels– this is the first step we made, and the easiest! We use cloth napkins we’ve had through the years that used to be “only for entertaining” napkins. You can also cut up cold towels and made a rustic-feel napkin for yourself. We do the same for our cleaning rags. It’s always funny to see people come to our home and look for the paper towels. When we point out that we don’t use them and hand them a cloth towel, they seem really confused. Trust us, you can live without them. Paper towels entered people’s homes in 1930, and before that, people survived.

    This is our cloth caddy- napkins and for cleaning. The green cloth hanging is for washing produce, so there is no need for plastic produce bags. You are going to wash your produce anyway, so don’t be afraid of just placing the produce in your cart.
  • Bring your own bag, or jar– We never go into a store without carrying our own cloth bags. We also have jars for bulk purchase items like nutritional yeast, oatmeal, etc. Seriously, don’t take any more of those plastic bags. They are terrible for the environment and if you need help ditching this terrible habit, Google the whale mom who cried for a month as she toted her dead baby alongside her- who died from getting caught in a fucking plastic bag! There is a reason they are banned in many cities.

    Our glass containers- they are easily stackable, transport easily for lunches, and from restaurants for leftovers.
  • Avoid take-out containers– we always have 1-2 little containers in my purse to bring home extras from our meals, so that we don’t have those styrofoam, or plastic containers in our household. It’s also handy since your next meal or snack is already sealed, in the fridge without having to transfer the food to a container that will keep it fresh longer. It’s also healthier since restaurant portions are so large.
  • Borrow items– we needed a shovel recently and since we downsized, we no longer have one. We put a request on the Nextdoor app that we would like to borrow on, and voila, there it was! No need to purchase items when you are only going to use them a handful of times.
  • Stop buying plastic wrap– use reusable wraps, or glass containers for storing. You can reuse them, unlike the Earth-unfriendly plastic wrap.
  • Ditch your straw– or in our case, only use metal straws. A few years ago, we purchased a stainless steel straw and just reuse them, washing them regularly to keep them clean. Straws, along with plastic bags, are the worst for our ocean-friends.

    We use our stainless steel tumblers (Yeti, Ozark, etc.) for water during the day, and always use our stainless steel straws. No plastic straws in our household.
  • DIY soap and detergent– there are so many recipes on Pinterest to do this, you really never have to buy any hand soaps or detergents when it is so easy to make your own.
  • Use your own dishes– really? In this day and age, people are still using paper (and styrofoam) plates and cups? Why?! We don’t have a dishwasher in our tiny abode, but we have no problem hand washing what we use. Since it is just the two of us, we also minimized our dishes and the amount that we have, reducing the space that we need.
  • Ride your bike (or walk)– fortunately we live in a bike friendly town, but when you don’t try walking where you need to do, or use public transportation. You can also think about combining your trips and errands. Plan for when you are out to run errands that are in the same area, rather than make little trips with your car. When biking, use a basket that easily attaches to your bike for transporting items you may need.
  • Use bamboo toothbrushes– they are compostable, and so much better for the environment, rather than those plastic ones that you just throw away.
  • Compost– we live in a tiny area, and we still do this. Again, Pinterest can be helpful with this if you don’t know where to start. Composting prevents many scraps from entering the landfill, but also allows you to have a very rich stock of soil for your gardens and plants.
  • Recycle– it’s sad I need to even include this, but even at work, I have had to start a recycling can. I cannot believe the places I go where people do not recycle. This seems so obvious, but sadly, it’s not as widely practiced as it should be.

    We have a rule- once we are home, we don’t get back into the car until the next work day. It forces us to plan, and to ride our bikes if we need to go somewhere. Of course, bike riding is also a fun (and free and healthy) activity.

Even if you just pick one of these to work on, you are doing better. Again, it can be fun to try to find ways to not be so wasteful.

It should be noted that we added our vegan lifestyle to this movement. There are many ways in which veganism helps reduce waste from the need for less packaging, reducing animal-waste and land that is used to feed and raise them, etc. You can read more about that in another blog we wrote.

We continue to work on reducing waste in our lives and strive to one day, be a zero waste household.

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