Want to hear something shocking? According to an article on Salon. “If you’re an average American, you produce 4.4. pounds of trash every single day, significantly more than the global average of 2.6 pounds. In a nation of nearly 324 million people, that amounts to more than 700,000 tons of garbage produced daily — enough to fill around 60,000 garbage trucks.”
Every day more people are becoming more mindful of the way they live. Some are choosing to concentrate on making a smaller footprint. Over the last couple of years, my family has been more aware of the waste we create. Recently “zero waste” articles started popping up all over the internet. If you have been hiding under a rock, the zero waste philosophy involves repurposing the life cycle of an item so that every part of the item is reused and zero trash is sent to a landfill.
My family didn’t decide to start aiming towards zero waste because we are especially environmentally conscious, (although we are becoming so) but out of the economy of space. We simply do not have room for trash in our tiny house. Sometimes creating less waste is inconvenient, but every day we are finding ourselves producing less waste. We aren’t perfect, but we have made a significant difference in the amount of trash we are contributing to our local landfill. We have become so keenly aware of our contribution at home, that we have even become more mindful in public. If you are thinking about shooting for less waste, here are 13 ideas to get you started.
1) Ask for no straw in your drink order when out. Plastic is the second largest contributor (food is first) to our landfills. 91% of plastic is not recycled. We actually invested in some stainless steel straws. I keep one in my bag and one at home.
2) As you can imagine we don’t have any room for plastic bottles. We don’t leave our house without a full reusable water bottle. Environment aside, bottled water is toxic. Although companies often use BPA-free plastic, it is still contaminated with other chemicals that can seep out if bottles are exposed to heat or sit around for a long time. Some of the chemicals are possible endocrine disruptors. Grab an insulated stainless steel water bottle. They keep cold beverages cold and hot beverage hot for a long time. If you are looking for something in glass, I am in love with the Keep Cup. It’s BPA free, durable; fully-tempered soda-lime glass, recyclable, microwave safe and lightweight.
3) Turn down free promotional items. They tend to be cheap and break easily. Most of those things are garbage anyway. I should know, I use to order thousands of them for conventions. Honestly, you don’t need them.
4) Buy food without packaging or minimal packaging and in bulk. We carry reusable grocery bags. My very favorite are Bagpods from the Grommet. We take them everywhere. I also have reusable produce bags. Not only use the bags for produce but also for bulk foods like granola, beans or rice since our grocery store has a nice bulk food selection.
5) I know this is crazy, but I stopped using shampoo a year and a half ago. I have an autoimmune disease that was wreaking havoc with my hair. After I switched to baking soda and vinegar my hair stopped falling out. You can find a ton of home-made shampoo, conditioning and lotion recipes on Pinterest. I only wash my hair three times a week, and I condition with coconut oil once a week. We also use bar soap in a hemp bag. The hemp bag acts as an exfoliator, eliminating the need for a plastic shower scrunch ball. The result is that our skin feels cleaner, I don’t have all shampoo and scum going into my gray tank, and I have eliminated shampoo, conditioner and body wash bottles.
6. Swap disposable pads and tampons for cloth pads or a menstrual cup. There’s a learning curve with this one, but eventually, everything works out just fine. Check out Etsy for some fun pads. Look into the Diva Cup if you are looking for a reusable menstrual cup. Not only will you cut down on your waste but you will save HUNDREDS of dollars. It took me a while to get my head around these, but now I am hooked.
7) Meal plan to avoid food waste. Food waste is the number one contributor to landfills. I am so much more mindful of the food I buy and the things I make. I have cut down on the amount of food I make, so I don’t have as much left over. If I do have leftovers, I freeze them in single size portions for lunches. That way they don’t go off in the fridge. Reduce your meat consumption, try Meatless Mondays.
8) Dump the plastic shower loofahs for a natural loofah or a bamboo bath brush. They won’t develop mildew and are very easy to clean and maintain. They are biodegradable, which is more than you can say for the plastic stuff.
9)Vote with your dollars for a sustainable future. We live in the new era of consumer activism, buyers are sending strong signals to companies. Support businesses that use less packaging are ethically sourced and support sustainability.
10) Use natural fiber dish towels and reusable “paper” towels. You can find them on Etsy or Amazon. I used to go through a ton of paper towels. Now we just reuse our paperless ones and toss them in the laundry. I do the same for “wet wipes.” I got a bunch of these. I use them for everything from dusting to removing makeup.
11) Wash your clothes in cold water when you can. According to Smithsonian.com, “Roughly 75 percent of the energy required to do a load of laundry goes into heating the water. Using cold water saves energy, putting less pressure on electricity grids. It can also save you some money. A recent estimate from Consumer Reports suggests that using a cold-water detergent and setting your machine to 60 degrees Fahrenheit (compared to 75 degrees Fahrenheit) can save you at least $60 annually in utilities. Second, cold water can make your clothes last longer. Heat can break down dyes in the clothes and cause shrinkage. Thus, by washing clothes in cold water, colors last longer and clothes retain their size and shape.” You can produce less waste by making your own laundry soap too. I have been doing it for years.
12) Go paperless! Get hooked up with online banking and ask for your bill statements to be emailed instead of paper. You can access your information from anywhere and find information quicker. I know in my house, bits of paper, bills, statements, flyers, and documents fill the trashcan quickly. I have eliminated virtually all of these. Remember zero waste is less about recycling less and more about not creating waste to start with.
13) Swap tea bags for loose leaf tea in a reusable bobbin. We drink a ton of tea at our house. Probably a fifth of our garbage was tea bags. We switched to loose leaf tea, which is compostable. You can get a much more exciting array of teas in loose leaf than you can in teabags. Check out Art of Tea, they even have a Tea of the Month Club. You can get organic teas to help you relax, teas to energize you, and teas to make you happy!
We are still a work in progress, but I feel good about where we are headed. We might not be able to change the world at large, but we can positively impact the immediate world around us. C’mon, it can’t hurt if we all do a little bit better, right? We all have a duty to live life more responsibly.
What are your zero waste tricks or tips? Let me know in the comments below. I am always up for hearing new ideas to implement at home!
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