Stay ahead of the mom curve with me & also, learn to save money for the important things in life, experiences with the ones you love. Remember, this is a transition, so you probably won't do everything all at once, and neither have I. So if you see me using a paper towel, don't judge me, and I'll do the same for you!
Benefits of Zero Waste Living
- You will save money
- Your family will be exposed to fewer toxins
- Less packaged goods equal more real food which in turn makes you healthier
- Your home will be more zen because clutter is not zen
- The less stuff you have the more time you have to enjoy life
- Your kids are being taught this stuff at school, so you will have something to talk about
- Preserving resources for the next generation
Going Zero Waste: follow the 5 R's
Ok, so maybe we won't achieve “zero waste” but in an attempt to reduce waste and be more earth friendly I have listed some suggestions on the subject. Let's say “Zero Waste Effort” okay?
- Cancel junk mail subscriptions, all the catalogs you throw away weekly, and start paying bills electronically
- Watch portions on the kids' plates. I try to start with an amount slightly less than I think they will eat. Then I will happily give them seconds. If they are full, at least I didn't throw anything away. Use your judgment with your own kids, of course!
- Wash your dishes instead of buying disposables, especially styrofoam. If you absolutely must buy disposables, opt for plates that are compostable. Unless I have a huge crowd, I enjoy using our nice plates and cloth napkins. Washing them is usually at least a two-person job, so I get one on one time with whoever volunteers to help me: BONUS! There is a point, say over 15 people when this is simply not feasible, in that instance get truly compostable plates. (Check to see if how and where you will compost them, do they need to be taken to an industrial waste facility or can they be composted at home?)
- We stopped ordering sushi takeout because our favorite restaurant puts each roll in a separate styrofoam box. When you do order takeout, ask them to skip the cutlery if you have your own handy.
- Download music digitally instead of buying DVDs and CDs when possible, same with books when you can, or borrow them from the library.
- Shop the farmers market so you won't need all the packaging that comes on foods at the supermarket
- Speaking of veggies, you can use the broccoli stalk, carrot tops, kale stems, and other bits and pieces you might normally discard, and make a veggie broth with them. Pour this into your own containers and you have veggie stock to improve the flavor of soups and other dishes!
- At the office, take notes digitally, don't print unless absolutely necessary, and use email, text, etc. to reduce the consumption of paper
- Try powdered toothpaste or deodorant in a compostable container instead of plastic. Native deodorant is one many people love. (Or detox your pits and go without deodorant!)
Zero Waste Mini-Workshop
This 7-day project is perfect for individuals, families, and even classrooms. Anyone can implement the steps outlined in this starter project to reduce waste. In fact, it’s laid out in such a way that you can’t go wrong! I’ve eliminated the “where do I start” and will empower you to say, “I started my Zero Waste Effort TODAY!”
Parents teaching children at home will find this is an excellent Earth Day project. Just download the project plan, watch the video, and get started.
- Wash your kitchen towels, rags, and napkins instead of using paper towels.
- Consider grocery shopping online in bulk or in even in person at bulk stores.
- When possible buy foods in bulk, split with a friend, store in mason jars or other containers like the ones I use:
- Stop using cling wrap by making your own beeswax sheets to cover food, or buy your own from Bees Wrap. I love the Bees Wrap, I got the 3 pack large years ago and it still works.
- Wearing second-hand clothing solves two problems, it saves adding more bulk to the landfills and reduces your exposure to pesticides in fabrics. Cotton is the most sprayed crop in America (1) Shop local or online thrift stores.
- An oxidizer installed on your washing machine will cut down on how much laundry detergent you use, or if you can afford a whole house water softener, over time it will pay you back as it reduces the amount of soap and detergent needed to get the job done.
- Only buy what you can really eat at the grocery store, then make sure to eat all those leftovers; I often pack leftovers for my husband's lunch the next day. American families toss just under half of the food they buy, according to statistics. That's too much waste.
Reusing items when you can is an excellent way to keep landfill waste to a minimum at home. Food scraps become compost. Yogurt containers can become seed starting pots. Avoid single-use plastic when at all possible, but when you can't, at least use the item multiple times, then recycle!
- Coffee cups are a good example of an everyday item that can be reused to save mountains of waste. Reusable coffee cups, stainless steel water bottles, and straws are the gateway to the zero waste movement!
- Reusable shopping bags are the in-thing, get some and keep them in the trunk of your car. Some stores will even give you points or money off your purchase for bringing your own tote. Win-win. Set your own personal ban on plastic bags. I like to collect reusable bags when I go out of town; I have Trader Joe bags from several different states that I have visited.
- DIY your own produce bags by knitting or crocheting them with cotton yarn, even better, upcycle yarn from an old sweater.
- Make cloth bags out of old t-shirts or other discarded cloth.
- If you can't stop your plastic bag habit, at least reuse them in your trash cans. The less trash you create the less need you will have for plastic trash bags.
- Speaking of trash bags, if you are still producing trash for the landfill you could at least use biodegradable can liners. I know it's not perfect, but it's a step in the right direction.
- Get yourself a super trendy reusable water bottle and not only will you reduce waste, but you'll also save money as well. More than 60 million plastic bottles are discarded daily. Get a reusable one for yourself! Like this one:
- If you really want to be super hip, stop buying disposable straws and start using Glass Straws, they are beautiful and you will be so trendy chic, see:
- Donate your used clothing items to a rescue mission. Unless they are full of holes, in which case they make great rags for cleaning
- Try to wear clothing items more than once before washing to reduce water and detergent usage.
- Clean with non-toxic cleansers that are available in refillable bottles. Alternatively, you can use vinegar and baking soda for so many cleaning jobs!
- DIY beauty products and store them in glass bottles, if you don't care to make your own, buy from a company that does not practice greenwashing. When possible buy locally.
- Pack your children's lunches as well as your own and your spouse! Get everyone involved, from selecting items to pack, prepping the food, and packing it! My favorite zero waste lunchbox is the Planetbox although I do have others, I use the Rover and the Launch every single day! I truly enjoy packing these so much that I bought one for my husband and adult daughter. Yes, I even pack a lunch for my working 19-year-old!*
- Shop for food in jars, like pasta sauce, honey, peanut butter, and others. Besides being recyclable, glass does not contain BPAs or leach metals into the food it contains as plastic and cans do.
- Get a rain barrel for watering your yard, flowers, and gardens, or make one of your own (if it's legal where you live)
- Offer unwanted items to other people who may need them through your local Freecycle group, or donate them to a charity
- Explore the many ways to save water. There are lots of simple ideas like turning off the water while you lather up in the shower, turn off the faucet while brushing your teeth, and installing efficient toilets.
- Reuse glass jars (from marinara sauce and peanut butter) to store leftover soup and such. Reusable containers are one of the most budget-friendly zero waste habits you can implement. My parents and grandparents were doing this before it was a “thing”
- Pick up a menstrual cup to avoid disposable feminine hygiene items in the landfill.
- In the recommended section of this website, you'll find my favorite shampoo bars and conditioner bars which are an excellent way to reduce plastic waste as most haircare items come in plastic.
- Switch to silicone reusable zip bags for storage instead of single-use plastic.
- Install a bidet to cut back on your toilet paper use – trust me, once you start using one you'll never want to go back to just toilet paper. Listen to this podcast episode all about bidets!
- Shave with a reusable safety razor instead of all those plastic ones that get tossed!
Recycle What You Can
- Milk cartons are lined with plastic and can be used for wet and messy trash. Unless you've already made the milk bottle switch:
- Milk and other beverages can be purchased in glass bottles which can be returned for a deposit.
- Serve finger foods, or use compostable plates and drinks in glass bottles that can be recycled, remember to clearly mark your recycling area so guests know where to put their recyclables.
- There are loads of toothbrushes and other personal care items on the market made from recycled plastic. You could make the switch to bamboo or another compostable type of toothbrush.
- Phase-out plastic containers! As they become old, worn out, and unusable, replace them with glass or stainless steel tiffins instead
- Support recycling by purchasing recycled products! For example Who Gives A Crap toilet paper is made from 100% recycled fibers.
Recycle Please Printables
Want to reduce waste and recycle as much as you can so you can lower the volume in your waste stream? Use these printable reminders to get your room mates, family and friends on board. Just print the ones that you need and post them near your waste area or trash can.
So how can you keep items out of the landfill longer and avoid replacing your stuff all the time? Repair them! If you've never heard of planned obsolescence, do a bit of research and you'll be so mad! We're conditioned to expect to need to replace items after only a few years.
If you're old enough to think back to when phones were connected to the wall via wires, you'll know what I mean. My grandparents had the same phone all my life. They never replaced it. Why? Because back then, the idea was to build things that would last as long as possible! Now we are expected, almost forced, to replace phones every few years.
While you might not be thinking of repairing a phone, you technically could hold onto a phone until it truthfully can't keep up anymore. Then consider buying used tech to save money. Refurbished items help the environment by reducing the demand for brand new items.
So before you toss that vacuum cleaner, blender, or lamp, ask yourself if it can be repaired.
Rot (Wait, what?)
- Start composting, it's a great educational experience for children. My eight-year-old son loves to carry out the compost. This is the 4th “R” which is being taught in schools now.
- Food Waste should be reduced as much as possible, but compost what doesn't get eaten to reduce what ends up in the landfill.
- If you can't compost, consider a foodcycler to handle your inevitable food waste and leftovers that don't get eaten, etc.
Keep your eyes open for other zero waste alternatives and attempt to go package free.
Zero Waste Lifestyle
Focus on the things that you can change first and gradually add more zero waste habits to your current lifestyle. Remembering that you will face difficulties along the way anytime you make a change at home. Have a family meeting and ask your children for advice on reducing waste, many schools teach students and some even have zero waste lunchroom policies.
You might start by asking kids what they do with trash. Most will respond, “throw it away.” If they do, ask them where “away” is. This is a mind-blowing concept if you have never put much thought into where your own trash ends up.
Each day after school I ask my kids, “did you eat your lunch?” Mostly because I want to make sure they are eating well, but also because I really dislike throwing away food. I find it disturbing how much food gets thrown away at schools. To see for yourself, watch Parent's video to see how much gets thrown away at one school. All the more reason to pack a lunch you know your children will really eat, even the picky ones.
Go Zero Waste Goals!!
Even though I know I will likely never be 100% Zero Waste, I do make an effort to be low waste. I don't obsess over it, but it does concern me. In particular plastic waste. We used to make smoothies and everyone had plastic straws. I don't buy or use straws at all anymore. Keeping sustainability in mind will help you to stay focused on your goals.
I make it a point to educate my children so they can form habits now that will create less waste in the future. When I need an item, I check out our local thrift shop first.
To read more and begin your own zero waste journey check out my local waste-free website where we discuss all things sustainable living. My goal is to convert my community into zero wasters!
For a laugh about a serious subject, you can watch Bag Ban Conspiracy.