It's been nearly a year and a half since I've done any kind of Zero Waste update - so I thought I'd share an overview of everything I've/ we've changed since my last posts. You can catch the recaps below.
We started our Zero-Waste journey in December of 2015, so it's been a little over two years. We aren't to the level of having all of our trash fit in one mason jar for the year, but we've made HUGE strides.
We probably put our trash & recycling out every 6 weeks as opposed to every week for trash and every other week for recycling. This is going to be hard to track now that I've started my business, The Podge Co., and started doing In-Home Sessions with people - bringing home everything they've decided to part with and properly sorting it for recycling, composting, donations and lastly - trash.
I've also started picking up trash on the street and during hikes and disposing of it at our home. So our trash isn't all OURS anymore.
I have a goal of at least tracking MY trash better this year and sharing how I'm tackling each item - but to be honest - I haven't figured out how to do that yet... so more on that later.
Alright - let's get to the update!
Like I said, it's been a LONG time since I've done an update and I know we've done SO much so, hopefully I'll be able to remember them all. Instead of focusing on everything we've done since my last post, I'll just do an overview of everything we've done from the start and separate them by room // category.
We started in the kitchen with our Zero-Waste journey because that's where most of our waste was coming from.
We stopped using Ziploc Bags of any kind and switched to reusable lunch containers and jars for food storage.
We stopped using cling-wrap of any kind. We've also stopped using aluminum foil. When we moved into our house 5.5 years ago, the previous renter left LOADS of it - like 750 ft of it - something ridiculous like that. We finally finished it off and haven't repurchased it in several months. We also don't use the beeswax wrap that a lot of Zero-Wasters use as an alternative to cling-wrap, this is because we don't eat a lot of cheese or bread or anything that would need to be wrapped using those. Our [free] jars work perfectly.
We've purchased two packs of mason jars over the years - but most of our pantry jars are repurposed from food we already buy. We save coconut oil, olive, mustard & pickle jars that we use over and over again to stock our dry bulk or to use for meal prep, leftovers, whatever. Using reusables doesn't have to be expensive. Use what you have and use what you're already purchasing - just rinse it out and Bam!
I've started giving away gallon pickle jars [Carl LOVES pickles!] with scoby inside over on the Charlotte FreeCycle page for people to start making their own kombucha!
We make our own kombucha - when we remember...
We stopped using paper towels [for the most part.] I purchased some un-paper towels, that I wouldn't say are necessary, at the very beginning. Half the time they're dirty and I end up just using a rag to clean things up. I've kept a roll of recycled paper towels to clean up gross pet messes, but our fur babies have passed on, so we very very rarely use the paper towels. I bought two to start with in December 2015 and we still have 3/4 of one left. In 2.25 years we've used 1.25 rolls of paper towels.
We stopped using paper napkins entirely. We've noticed that when you stop using napkins and paper towels altogether [rather than replacing them with a reusable option] you don't get as dirty. Obviously there are exceptions, but for the most part, neither one of us needs to wipe our hands or face when we're eating. If something gets too messy, we get up and rinse our hands in the sink. If you have a napkin, you'll use it - if you don't, you won't. That being said, we have reusable cloth napkins in a drawer for when we throw Zero-Waste parties and I carry one in my purse.
We started composting. Now all of our food scraps and organic matter gets composted, turns to dirt and used in our garden.
We started a garden! Food started growing out of the compost with ZERO help from me, so I plucked out the plants, planted them in a raised bed [that used to be a photo backdrop that I upcycled] and let them do their thing. I had no idea what was going to grow but it was all food we liked and ate since it came straight from our compost. We got spaghetti squash, butternut squash, tomatoes, and beans [that my friend Page gave me,] from our first attempt. I'd like to get better at being more intentional about the food we grow this year.
We buy the majority of our produce loose. I go to our Farmers Market first then go to Trader Joe's, Fresh Market, Healthy Home Market [before they closed] and Food Lion to get our groceries. I don't go to every place every single time I grocery shop - I know what I can purchase in bulk and loose at each place and shop according to what we need that week and where I can get it loose. SKIP THE PLASTIC PRODUCE BAGS - I REPEAT - SKIP THE PLASTIC PRODUCE BAGS! You don't need them. You only use them out of habit and out of a false belief that they keep your produce clean. You don't even need cloth produce bags. There are a lot of people out there telling you to buy those mesh or cloth reusable bags for produce but they are an unnecessary swap. The only thing I use cloth bags for is small dry bulk like coffee beans, beans, grains, spices, etc. My apples, potatoes, onions, tomatoes, etc. go straight in the cart and I've never been healthier!
We've started recycling plastic bags and film. For the things we haven't found unpackaged, we recycle the bag or film it comes wrapped in. I recently discovered that there is a program that accepts these and there are drop-off locations around the country that take them. I don't know HOW they recycle them but it's a good temporary solution until we can get EVERYTHING out of plastic packaging.
We reuse the egg cartons from our farmers market and I bring back any rubber bands, twisties and plastic bags from our veggie farmer - I also bring them any other rubber bands or twisties I come across that week so they can reuse them to bundle their veggies. If for whatever reason we're out of town on the weekend and miss the Farmers Market, I get Organic, Cage Free eggs from Trader Joe's and compost the carton.
We've essentially gotten all of our kitchen waste down to meat packaging, produce stickers, square plastic ties that come on bread bags and other produce bags like potatoes, tissues and the occasional take-out container [we still do take-out on those nights we're too tired to cook.]
I'm a little over a month in to veganism. I'll write a whole post on this soon, but essentially I did it for health reasons and figured that if I cut out meat that would eliminate the meat packaging and tissues in one fell swoop. [I've already been 90% dairy free for 2.5 years.]
As I mentioned under Kitchen, I use reusable shopping bags and cloth bags to purchase bulk goods and carry my groceries in. Our cloth bags are super cute but our tote bags are nothing to write home about. I use three Trader Joe's bags, two totes I used as purses in HS from Hot-Topic - one has Alice on it and the other is covered with spoons, and a beach bag I bought on our Honeymoon because I forgot to bring one.
I don't shop a lot - like ever - if I buy things, it's usually online. I haven't been in a Wal-Mart for well over 2 years and I haven't been to Target in close to two years, a part from that one time I went there to purchase a wedding gift off of a registry.
I buy my clothes second hand from Buffalo Exchange, sometimes people give me clothes, very rarely I'll buy something first hand, like my feather kimono from Beautiful Idiot and THE HAT from Free People but both of those were a few years ago at this point. I have one of the most common shoe sizes, so I've never been able to find a pair second hand before because they fly off the shelves so quickly, so I buy my shoes from DSW with coupons. [We're also on a budget, so don't give me grief for shopping at DSW - we do what we can with what we have - when we have more, we'll be able to DO more.]
If I buy something first hand and I'm at the register, I refuse their packaging as best as I can. No extra bags or tissue paper for me. I'll carry the items out of the store with my receipt or put them in one of my tote bags - but like I've said, I don't really shop so I can't remember the last time I did this...
I've gotten rid of all of the harsh chemicals in our home. We use vinegar, baking soda and castile soap to clean everything from our hands and dishes to our sinks, toilet & tub and everything in between.
We were using the "green" laundry detergent from TJ's regularly, but as soon as the one we have runs out, we'll make the switch to using castile soap for laundry too.
I cut up old T-Shirts from HS that I had memories attached to but didn't wear any longer to use as rags - that way I wouldn't have to part with them but they'd get used. Now when I clean, it makes me happy to see and remember my former days of being the queen of the message tee.
We wash our dishes with compostable dish brushes. I finally bought this reusable one that comes with replaceable heads a couple of months ago. We stopped using synthetic brushes and scrubbers pretty much immediately and went to natural sponges and compostable dish brushes - both of which last WAY longer than the cheap, fake stuff. The sponges still came in plastic, and I didn't like that I was composting the entire brush when we needed a new one, so I made the switch.
I use an old plastic / synthethic brush to scrub the tub with and to get any stains out of clothes because I'm not going to throw something that's perfectly usable out to the landfill so that I can have a pretty all natural version. That's not the point of Zero-Waste. I buy the pretty, natural options when my not-so pretty options have been completely used up and need to be replaced.
We still have a plastic toilet brush as well [it's a nice one, but plastic all the same.] Finding a compostable toilet brush with replaceable heads has been a hassle and I've still not found one. The plastic one we use has replaceable heads, so that's what we're currently doing.
We don't spend a lot of time cleaning like we used to. We have less stuff and we are bothered by mess WAY less. We definitely let the cleaning go but can easily get the house in a presentable state in about 20 minutes.
BATHROOM // BEAUTY
I've mentioned what we do with cleaning the bathroom already, so I won't go over that again.
We use compostable tooth brushes.
We've tried tooth powder and hated it and went back to the toothpaste from Trader Joe's, but I found a recipe for homemade toothpaste, bought the ingredients and will share how that goes after I make it.
I use a Diva Cup as opposed to pads or tampons. I LOVE it and you can read more about that in my second zero-waste post HERE.
I also use Thinx underwear in combination with my Diva Cup when I'm on my period to get completely away from panty liners. My period is officially a completely zero-waste period and has been for around a year or so. [Insert empowered woman dance here.]
I use bar soap to shower with and have for close to three years at this point. We also use bar soap to wash our hands on the bathroom and castile at the kitchen sink. When my face wash is gone, I'll be going back to bar soap for that too because I haven't noticed any difference in my skin and would prefer to avoid the packaging and cost.
I still use shampoo out of a bottle, but I've been washing my hair once a week since June 2017 after dying my hair purple [not a zero-waste thing to do] and am so used to it now. That has saved me so much time as well as money on shampoo.
I use dry shampoo once or twice a week around day 4 or 5. I recently discovered that I can use cacoa powder in my dark hair instead of dry shampoo, so I'll be doing that fully once my dry shampoo runs out. I purchase cacoa powder in bulk, so that saves me money and packaging.
I use CC cream, 1 palette of eyeshadow, eyeliner and mascara for my make-up. I go a lot of days without any make-up at all, especially when I'm working from home and home on the weekends. I've also recently purchased ingredients to make my own eyeliner and mascara thereby saving money and packaging. The products I don't make myself are as eco-friendly as I've had the energy to research and afford.
I also purchased ingredients for DIY deodorant, so I'll let you know how that goes...
I don't take a lot of baths and I already have a lot of bath salts and essential oils, but I've found places that sell salts and things in bulk if I ever want to venture out with that.
We stopped buying tissues a long time ago and use toilet paper now. My goal is to make the switch to hankercheifs once I FINALLY get my allergies under control.
We're also purchasing a tushy soon to cut back on our TP usage overall. I've said this multiple times and still haven't done it yet because I'm trying to figure out which model will fit our toilet - I need to just take the 30 minutes or less and just do it already!
I recycle all of our toiletries like make-up, shampoo, toothpaste, etc. packaging at Origin.
I've gotten my wardrobe down to a very manageable size and I shop second hand for the majority of my clothing - as mentioned under 'shopping.'
We needed a new bed and upgraded our sheets to a set of organic linen sheets, duvet cover and pillow cases from Parachute. We also got a new mattress and two pillows from Casper. I looked into Zero-Waste, all organic options but given what I found, our price range and not wanting to sleep on hay / sticks, we went with Casper. It's not the BEST option, but it was the best option we could do and our bed is a complete dream now - I LOVE it!
We still use condoms - not trying to have those babies just yet. We're using up the last few from a Trojan pack and then will order from Sustain - an all natural condom company. They also make wipes, lubes, tampons and pads if you're interested.
I carry a cloth napkin, utensils and a cloth bag with me and Carl has a cloth napkin, water bottle and utensils at work so we can avoid single-use plastics. I'll admit, I'm not great about remembering a water bottle all of the time, but I also don't use plastic water bottles so that's probably why. I find a glass I can use whenever I'm out and I order my drinks 'for here.' I've also NEVER carried my own to-go container with me. Generally speaking, I eat all of my food - it's a rare occasion that I bring food home, unless we've ordered carry-out.
My friend Page and I are the first team ambassadors for Be Zero! We organize the Charlotte chapter and run monthly social hours for people to come learn about Zero Waste and meet other like-minded people! It's awesome - if you're in Charlotte, come hang! We post our social events on our Instagram and Facebook page. If you're not in Charlotte - find a city near you on the Be Zero website.
When we go out to eat I ask for my drink with no straw - sometimes I forget and sometimes they bring me a straw as they are coming to the table, so I can't ask to not have one.
That's everything I can think of at the moment. It's a very broad and general take on our experience so far and I KNOW I left things out. I'll be sharing more specific posts on Zero-Waste in the future so that I can get into more details and specifics.
This is how far we've come in a little over two years. Very little of this happened over night, except for making the decision to make less trash and immediately stopping certain purchases - everything else we learned over time.
Zero-Waste can sometimes be a controversial topic [yes - really - it blows my mind too] because it's often viewed as expensive - but I promise there are things you can do to reduce your trash that cost ZERO dollars. A lot of our changes and progress have been simply from not purchasing certain things anymore - see, right there - saving money!
You can EASILY get caught up in the expensive "green" // "eco" vibe but zero-waste is ultimately not about that. It's about creating less waste and promoting a circular mindset - using what you have and doing the best you can with what you have.
It shouldn't be viewed as an elitist thing or a white people thing [so much history here, will dive more into this later on] or a feminist thing or whatever. So many different groups have latched onto it claiming it's theirs and shaming other groups for doing it and not giving credit where credit is due - woo... [again, I'll get more into that in a later post.]
My goal is to not get involved in any of that mess, to recognize that I didn't invent this concept but to also recognize that I played a role in bringing about the necessity of Zero-Waste going mainstream and should be doing whatever I can with what I have regardless of that fact.
I want to help encourage others to see how they can make less trash.
Waste is a HUGE problem in this world - HUGE - and we need to do whatever we can to solve this problem. Not everyone will have the same access to resources as everyone else, but it's still possible to make changes given your own set of circumstances.
It's important to keep spreading this message so that we can come up with solutions to make zero-waste options accessible to everyone!
UPDATED LIST FROM ZERO WASTE ESCAPADES // 01
Switch to toilet paper instead of using tissues - CHECK
Swap chemical cleaning products for non-toxic options - CHECK
Quit junk mail - HAVEN'T DONE THIS YET
Cancel magazine subscriptions - CHECK
Continue donating // selling into secondhand market - CHECK
Start composting - CHECK
Recycle LESS. [Purchase less packaged goods // use reusables.] - MUCH BETTER AT THIS - STILL ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT
Experiment with making my own beauty // skin products - INGREDIENTS PURCHASED - JUST NEED TO MAKE THEM NOW
Start some kind of garden - TRIED & FAILED - TRIED AGAIN AND SUCCEEDED!
Purchase cloth bags and totes for all shopping purposes - CHECK
Switch to one soap for laundry, dishes & hand soap - CHECK
Switch to one bar of soap for face, body & hair - NOT DOING THIS
Try a straight razor with coconut oil for shaving - PURCHASED BUT HAVEN'T TRIED IT OUT YET
Set-up Recycle, Donate, Action & Out stations at the door - CHECK + COMPOST & DROP-OFF RECYCLING STATIONS AS WELL
Thank you for reading and please, if you have any questions, please reach out - I love talking about this!
Love & Blessings,