As we move into the new year and decide as a household to become, or move toward the ultimate goal, of being a zero waste we have a seemingly daunting task ahead of us. Attempting zero waste can seem crazy, radical, and even a little mental. We have been sitting on this idea for a while, and now we have settled that this is going to be something that we are actively doing and working towards. While it may seem like something out of the ordinary and difficult to do, it really isn’t. Okay, it’s out of the norm to do this but it’s not as difficult as it seems.
Now if you’re reading this and are thinking that this is impossible, that it’s crazy or that we are just some crazy tree hugging earth loving people who don’t bathe then let’s take some time to talk about why we decided to do this and the benefits that it holds for our household. And we still bathe, I promise.
It started a while ago when I had watched the documentary (warning, graphic images of dead birds in the trailer) Plastic Paradise. I tried to find the full movie but it looks like it has been taken off Youtube, however you can rent it I believe and it is well worth the watch. Basically, we live in a single use world. Obsessed with ease and comfort we have mass produced plastic as a norm and it clogs our oceans and collects in many places. One of these place is The Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Plastic is mainly a single use items in things such as cup lids, straws and even in our shoes/clothing and many other daily use items. It doesn’t easily biodegrade, if even at all. It clogs our oceans and causes damage to the world and animals. By our obsession with ease and comfort we have created a plant of plastic. And with items we don’t even need to live in our everyday life.
After watching this, I felt hopeless as to what I could do. I looked around at what we had and half of the products we own are plastic. Now that isn’t to say we need to turn around and trash those items. That would be so pricey having to replace all those products we own and they would just end up in a landfill sooner. Instead we are currently focusing on using up all the items we have that are plastic while refusing to bring any more into our home. Our end goal in this is to eventually find that we no longer need a trash can.
Wait, what? That is so CRAZY! I know right? I agree, but it’s crazy good. Think about it, if we in turn stop all flow of plastic into our house we have no packaging that needs thrown away. We don’t have plastics that need recycled (we are focused on only recycling those items that are infinite like glass,metal and aluminum) and we have officially set up a compost for for everything else in our life. Eventually we will have no need for trash bags and even no need for paper towels if we switch to reusable and washable items.
Okay, so that is a lot. And it seems super crazy. Like insane. I know how crazy it can seem, having been on this thought of zero waste for quite some time I had already told people our goals and gotten the responses of how crazy this venture is. And in a world obsessed with the easiest products it certainly is a goal that seems to have no feasible way of actually being attainable.
So what does zero waste even mean for us?
Firstly, stopping the flow of all plastic. That means refusing anything plastic. Bringing our own cups, saying no straw, buying only bulk and unpackaged items and bringing own containers or composting the ones provided in stores. No more plastic containers, instead we opt for glass ones or metal cans etc. We have to bring our own grocery bags (not to bad since it’s more and more common) and our own produce bags. We have to take extra steps though by refusing plastic straws that are automatically dropped onto tables and into drinks. 500 million straws are used everyday, to give you an idea of just how large this problem really is. Instead we got reusable metal straws, which we mush be vigilant in bringing with us. We will need to prepare ahead and bring our own utensils/plates if we know that we are going places that won’t offer those items.
I invested in a safety razor with refillable blades; I have recipes for homemade cosmetics, toothpaste, mouthwash etc. We are using up the last of our shampoos/conditioner and I have switched to unpackaged bar shampoo/conditioner and deodorants well as unpackaged soap. I have bought recyclable or unpackaged face care products that I do need. I made myself some reusable cotton pads out of an old t-shirt, which was a heck of a lot of sewing let me tell you. I plan to make reusable cleaning cloths, paper towels and handkerchiefs. We have several options with toilet paper, as that traditional ones come in plastic, we could buy bulk from a hotel or other bulk seller or we could invest in a bidet which is the most cost effective one. The rest of the toiletry items I have I am using up, after I do so I will decide which items I need to buy such as lotions, perfumes etc.
These are just the small steps we are taking to achieve this lifestyle, just a start to a long journey which will be so worth it in the end. While we still have so many items that are plastic I feel that it is best to either keep them for the time being and use them until they are no longer good or donate/sell those items that we no longer need. The hardest steps will be refusing, especially around holidays or with mail. Also gift giving will become a lot harder, nowadays it’s extremely difficult to find items that are unpackaged. Buying clothes will change with more trips to a thrift store to find untagged items. Wrapping gifts is a new task to tackle but we can wrap items in cloth or newspaper. So please, I ask people that are close in our lives be patient and understanding as we task ourselves with this new journey.
So why are we doing this? And what are it’s benefits? We have tackled what plastic does to our environment, but why specifically are we wanting to do this? Simply because I feel that as a Christian woman I still need to take care of what we are blessed with and for me this means that I will no longer be a contribute to the pollutants of this world. It’s a healthier lifestyle anyways, with ridding ourselves of the majority of chemically made plastics and opting for natural biodegradable items instead.
The benefits include a cheaper grocery bill, while many people claim buying fresh and bulk is not cheaper if we opt for things in bulk that are unpackaged and buy only those fresh items we need and use in a timely manner we save a lot more money than if we bought all the packaged items we think we need. That means a lot of making our own foods, but I find that I enjoy the fresh items a lot more now than packaged and preserved items. We still buy canned goods but those can be bought for about 40 cents a can. We also save money by not buying trash bags, paper towels, disposable cleaning items, cleaning supplies (I make my own natural ones) new clothes or new items in general. The only thing we have not found a solution for yet is pet food and liter. I am working on that however and if I find a sustainable solution I shall gladly share. For now, the containers we buy those items an can be recycled or upcycled.
So this is the biggest goal that we have for this new year. It’s a task, it’s daunting and it certainly will be some work right now. But I feel passionate about this, and it’s very doable. So we are attempting to be a zero waste house. Feel free to ask any questions about this lifestyle, I am no expert but I have been making switches in my life and doing a ton of research on this top. I am happy to share anything that you guys might want to know.
Resources to check out:
Clean my Space (not zero waste but great for making your own cleaning items and general organization.)