Hello! Sorry for my lack of posting yesterday, it’s been a super busy week and last night I “taught” my first zero waste class at Refill Madness along with Sloane. If you’re in the Sacramento area we will be holding these once a month. Please contact me if you’re interested they’re free! I say “taught” because I mostly just opened it up to questions from people that were there because I think thats the most important way to learn- asking pertinent questions and getting answers tailored to your specific concerns.
Not any one of us is the “leader” in this community, I believe that we are simply here to share our experiences and help one another gain awareness just as we ourselves have been taught at the beginning of our journey. We learn through positive uplifting allies, and no one person can claim to be the all in one leader of this movement, especially when zero waste 1) is actually an industrial term explaining a circular economy approach where everything get reused, and 2) has its roots in indigenous culture, and more recently, poverty- people doing “zero waste” practices without even realizing it because of NECESSITY.
I’ve gathered together some of the most common questions I received last night about the ways I know to reduce waste. If you are able to make any or all of these changes in your life, please consider doing so.
1. bring your reusable bags with you- both a shopping tote and produce bags. There are so many of these available for purchase in local stores, online, handmade on Etsy, and in thrift stores. If you can’t afford to buy one OR feel compelled to make your own, you can knot one together from an old tee shirt, crochet your own produce bags. I keep a few in my car and purse so I don’t forget!
2. bring your own container- when ordering pre made food and drinks on the go, bring a mason jar or other reusable vessel with lid for drinks, and a container for to go food or leftovers. Something like this stainless steel container or this tiffin (same one we have) are great to replace worn out plastic tupperware. For further reading, check out this post: zero waste: on the go kit. I know this can be hard to get used to and can be a barrier for some who have anxiety or are shy (it was one of the hardest parts about going zero waste for me!) but just keep trying if you can, its so worth it and gets easier.
3. Store your food without new plastic! Click here for a comprehensive guide to storing everything waste free from my friend Ariana. Continue to use what you already have until it breaks- I’m still using glass snaplock and pyrex bowls (both have plastic lids) from pre zero waste. Mason jars are awesome for storing leftovers too. Glass containers or jars for storage are fairly common in thrift stores too, at least in my own area.
4. visit bulk and farmers market whenever possible. These places offer many food items without packaging. For tips on how to shop without a bulk store, click here. Choose the most sustainable packaging you can- paper, fabric, glass, and metal are all more sustainable than plastic. If choosing plastic, choose hard plastic if possible which is more likely to be recycled.
5. compost your food scraps. click here for a post on that, with many different ways to do so. If you’re in Sacramento, theres a compost drop off location at The Plant Foundry. You can keep the scraps in your freezer until you have time to drop them off.
6. respectfully say no to things like straws, free pens, business cards, plastic wrapped free candies, those tiny bags of mini floss and toothpaste from the dentist. By accepting freebies we are effectively saying as consumers, “YES! I love free single use plastic items, please make more of those!”
7. make the switch to cloth napkins and rags instead of paper napkins and paper towels. I bought a bunch of mismatched cloth napkins about 5 years ago on clearance at world market and they’ve saved me so much money over the years. I cut rags out of old t shirts, and wipe up with those instead + a super simple cleaning “solution” of white vinegar steeped in citrus peels and diluted with water.
8. use knit scrubbies (or crochet your own) or wood dish brushes or copper scrubbies to clean dishes. This costs a lot less than sponges, and you can compost or recycle at the end of life. I buy my dish soap in bulk at refill madness (a local refill shop). Here’s how to DIY. If you still buy conventional dish soap, please consider switching to a palm oil free option. Whats the problem with palm oil?
9. make your own toothpaste or buy toothpaste in a recyclable metal tube. Heres a post I did with more info: package free: toothpaste. Compostable floss: made in USA refillable glass bottle with silk floss and made in AUS recyclable container vegan bamboo floss. I use a bamboo toothbrush too.
10. make your own nut/seed/grain milk, its really easy, relatively cheap, and much healthier than store bought. I have a step by step tutorial on my saved stories on my instagram page of how I make almond milk. Check out this post by minimalist baker too about nut milk. Theres so many reasons to cut out milk even if you’re not vegan, for environmental reasons alone. Check out this WWF post with lots of info on how dairy affects the enviroment and this NYT post on the same subject (both non vegan info sources).
11. take steps to reduce junk mail. This is a great all in one post for that which has helped me reduce our junk mail to almost non-existent levels.
12. try out refillable/plastic free makeup brands like Elate Cosmetics (vegan), RMS beauty (beeswax), dirty hippie cosmetics (vegan), meow meow tweet tweet vegan lip balm in a biodegradable tube, or DIY your own. Recycle any kinds of cosmetic packaging through Origin’s awesome program. Send mascara wands to Appalachian Wildlife where they use them to remove larvae and fly eggs from rescued animals fur.
13. If you have a baby, consider using cloth diapers and homemade spray +cloth wipes (recipe here). We did this out of necessity when Vin was a baby as he got terrible eczema and it was amazing, and not hard like I had imagined. We line dried (yes even in winter, with an indoor drying rack near the heater vent). Green Mountain Diapers is a great small company resource for this with TONS OF info here.
14. Reduce your reliance on animal products, they are one of the hardest things to find waste free and they also contribute in huge ways to deforestation, carbon emissions, and pollution not to mention the ethical reasons. You don’t have to go vegan (although it would be awesome!) just try cutting back as much as you can to save resources. Check out the documentary Cowspiracy for so much great info on this, and Stevie’s post “Lower Your Foodprint” for much more concrete ways to do this. Check out my vegan meal plans too!
Thanks so much for reading- for further zero waste and vegan resources, please check out this page.