A month ago I started keeping all of our trash instead of throwing it out, as a visual reminder + a way to stay accountable for our waste. It’s also a way to document our journey and hopefully be able to recycle some of these items some day (teracycle is doing some interesting work here). I wanted to share it to hopefully inspire you guys to reduce your waste and also to show you that we are not perfectly zero waste BUT IT’S OK, we are doing our best day after day and you can, too!
*As a side note, we are an average family of four, living on essentially a single income, and we live in California. I’m a busy mom and I work 2 days a week in addition to volunteer work. My husband works full time. My point is, I’m not a magical unicorn with tons of time and money at my disposal. I’ve just learned over time to make small changes to lessen our waste.
- Produce stickers- I try to buy most produce from the farmers market but I do buy bananas and sometimes avocados from my co-op and sometimes they have stickers.
- plastic cocktail pick- this was from a weekend trip, we went to a bar and I requested “no straw” which they obliged, however, this pick made its way into my drink unfortunately.
- Plastic safety seals- these were a) from a glass jar of coconut oil and I’ve since found a source to purchase it in my own container and b) from a B12 supplement which I thought wouldn’t have one because it was already sealed in a cardboard box. Ugh.
- safety seal sticker from a glass jar of coco yogurt- I’ve been making my own now.
- price stickers from a few glass jars I bought.
- plastic tags from clothing- we shop pretty exclusively at thrift stores, but sometimes they still have these plastic tags.
We used to make a huge amount of waste compared to this, just even a year ago. Here’s some of the big ways in which we’ve cut out waste:
- stopped shopping at Costco and Trader Joe’s // switched to shopping exclusively at my local co-op and farmer’s market, which both offer a multitude of plastic free, bulk, foods that are seasonal and local.
- stopped buying essentially all processed and packaged foods // bought whole foods instead for snacks, like apples and almond butter, nuts, chocolate, carrots, dates, popcorn, and olives.
- started making my own cleaning products // switched from many different bottles of specific cleaners to just one cleaner: white vinegar cut 3:1 with water + some essential oils for smell and anti-bacterial properties
- simplified our beauty routines // in our shower, we just use bar soap (Dr. Bronner’s which comes in paper) and refill old kombucha bottles with natural + organic shampoo and conditioner from a local store. I’ve heard Lush makes a great shampoo bar too. For the ultimate option, the lovely Paris To Go only uses water on her hair and it’s perfect.
- ditched our expensive and wasteful plastic razors // bought this bad boy here + these blades
- stopped buying toothpaste // made our own : 1/3 cup coconut oil, 1/2 cup baking soda, 1 tablespoon stevia, 2 tablespoons bentonite clay, 40 drops peppermint essential oil or gum blend oil. We also use compostable floss .
- stopped using plastic bags // I use these cotton bags when I shop for produce, this mesh tote for hauling them, and these bags to keep greens and veggies fresh in the fridge.
- stopped using tampons // switched to a menstrual cup this is the one I’ve used for years
- stopped buying plastic water bottles // bought a reusable water bottle I love this one
I want to point out that all these changes took place over a year or so. It took a WHILE to get into a routine that works for us. It’s easy to get discouraged when you’re first starting out, because everything seems so unmanageable and so many things to remember. Truly, though, it becomes second nature when you practice it. Just like veganism, once I knew the TRUTH about plastic pollution, there was no way for me to NOT change. With the knowledge came responsibility and I had to make changes, no matter how small. They snowballed over time and here I am today, producing hardly any trash and feeling a deep sense of satisfaction and peace from living my values.