no food waste

Garden potatoes

Hi guys!  Hope your week is going well.  Today I woke up with a super hoarse voice and itchy throat, coincidentally it’s super windy today and I think it’s an allergy thing.  I feel super tired, not sleepy but just fatigued.  I never used to get allergies until the super bad years with my rheumatoid arthritis, it’s like it triggered allergies in me that way.  So odd.  I gargled with salt water and used my Neti Pot (haha) and that seems to have helped a lot.  Sometimes when I feel bad it is really easy to feel focus on feeling bad…you know what I mean?!  Like once you’re focusing on something negative it’s really easy to focus on and find more negatives.  I’m trying to break that and focus on positives.

I just planted some tomatoes in the garden (hello summer!) and I had to go out to water them.  Vin, my little garden man always, has been begging me to pull up the potatoes the last few days.  If you’ve never harvested potatoes, it’s so fun- like a treasure hunt!  Basically you wait for the above ground part of the plant to die.  Then, carefully poke around in the soil for all the little jewels- the new potatoes!  These potatoes were extra special because I planted them from spoiled potatoes.

garden garlic drying

garlic drying from my garden

Months ago, I had forgotten about a couple potatoes in the back of my cupboard and when I rediscovered them, they were super sprouted, definitely inedible.  In the past I definitely would have tossed them in the trash without a second thought.  But a great tool I’ve learned on my journey to less waste is resourcefulness. So, I cut the potatoes up into chunks- one sprout or “eye” per piece, let them sit for a day or two to scar over, and planted them.  I promptly forgot about them, but here we are, months later, with many more potatoes than I started with and a delicious side for dinner.

Plants garden

more plant friends!  Tomatoes, basil, and a ficus elastica (variegated variety).  I bring the plastic pots back to the nursery for reuse.

Thinking and ruminating on the gratitude I felt for seeing the potatoes come full circle again was more than enough to lift my mood- and it also reminded me of how, a while back, my friend @rubysunn tagged me to talk about how I eliminate food waste in the kitchen.  Repurposing food scraps is definitely my favorite way.  So many parts we usually throwaway are actually good and usable and tasty!  Here are my top tips for reducing food waste (bonus: they also saves you money!).

stop peeling veggies and fruits.  Eat the whole thing!  The peel is where the nutrients are concentrated, so throwing it away is like throwing away all that.  Obviously things like mango and pineapple should be peeled, but most don’t need to be!  Kiwis, apples, carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes….leave the peel on.

fruit bowl

skin on kiwi: delicious!

use the whole thing.  Eat the greens of beets, turnips and radishes, the stems of broccoli,  kale (cut it finely and it’s a delicious crunch!), candy the citrus peels or make cleaning vinegar with them.  If you’re making a smoothie with strawberries, throw the whole berry in- greens/leaves and all!  Make herbal tea with pomegranate skin.  Save water from cooking pasta or beans for a delicious base for soups.  Save your veggie scraps and make stock (I keep adding them to a paper bag in the freezer and when I have enough I add them to THIS recipe for a delicious vegan stock).

Veggie stock

food scraps for stock

eat your leftovers.  Repurpose these guys into a new meal, eat for lunch, roll them into a wrap, make soup with them.  Just eat them.  I should do a post on transforming leftovers because I’m the leftover queen haha.  If you’re going out to eat, order an appropriate amount; or bring a container and take home leftovers.  I work in a restaurant and the amount of food I see getting thrown away from people not eating it is disgusting.

Cabbage soup

clean out the fridge soup with leftovers: the “recipe” is saved in my story highlights on instagram if you want to make this

don’t buy more than you can eat.  experiment with your shopping trips so you know what is the right amount to buy for your household.  This way you don’t buy too much and it ends up rotting in the fridge.  Meal planning can be helpful in this regard.  If there’s something you buy too much of, freeze it, pickle it, can it, make jam with it, or share with neighbors/friends!  Berries, fruit, greens, zucchini, cooked beans, tomatoes, soup and more can all be chucked into the freezer to prolong its life.  I freeze in mason jars (just don’t fill all the way and make sure they’re room temp before they go in the freezer).

regrow it!  Like these potatoes.  Some people do this with green onions, celery, pineapple, lettuces, basil and more.

rethink your standards.  It’s ok if fruit or veggies don’t look perfect or uniform!  That’s how they naturally grow.  The uniform produce you see in stores is only because of store demand- they want their apples to be perfectly shaped, similar sized, no bumps etc.  If you’ve ever grown food at home you’ll know that it doesn’t naturally look like that!  Odd shapes, colors and textures are beautiful and not an indicator of poor taste- actually I find the opposite to be true.  Embrace the imperfection and buy “ugly” produce.  THIS article says it so well:

“From measuring the millimeters of a cucumber’s curve to fearing a bird-like tomato, industry standards and consumer perceptions determine what produce is pretty enough to sell. This is a surface-level judgment that fails to consider the item’s nutritional value and the 48.1 million food-insecure people in the US who would benefit from the energy, vitamins and minerals on the inside.

In a country where nearly 40% of the food supply is never eaten and 20% never even ends up in grocery stores (primarily because it looks bad), the number of food-insecure people is unacceptable. Our hunger issue is partially an image problem. The millions of Americans who support anti-hunger initiatives believe this, too. Yet our collective efforts to end hunger are often undermined by the inefficiencies before food even reaches the consumer.”

I see this a lot with spotty bananas or sad looking pineapples being thrown away by grocers when they are actually the sweetest ones!  Also, I have to say I’m not above buying plastic wrapped food sometimes that’s on clearance- because what’s worse, plastic in the landfill or plastic + food in the landfill?  And you know they’re not separating the plastic from the food to recycle.

vin farmers market cart

that’s a day old bread in plastic- personally I feel it’s better us eat it and recycle/reuse the bag than it all go into landfill bread and all if no one buys it.

Food gratitude (my kids call this grati-food haha- we go around the table every night when we sit down to dinner and express this gratitude to pause before eating) is so important especially when many, many people in the world don’t have food security, access to clean, fresh, affordable, non toxic foods.  Don’t waste this beautiful gift!  Any food waste tips I missed?  Leave them below!  I’d love to hear (and I’m sure others would love to read too!).  Let’s inspire each other.  Ok off to make dinner now (see what I’m cooking this week HERE)!  Have a great night xx

zero waste inspiration- in the midwest with Jen

Hello everyone, welcome back!  Today we are adding to our zero waste inspiration series today (check out all the other interviews HERE), talking to Jen Rivera Bell.  She is a beautiful and conscious vegan mama to one year old Luna.  Jen is passionate about both human and animal liberation, intersectional activism, empowering through decolonization, and minimalism.

Jen Rivera bell

Jen lives in Missouri, which is exciting because we haven’t talked to anyone in the midwest yet in this series, or anyone with a small child.  My goal is to share regional, cultural, financial, and lifestyle diversity within the low waste/impact lifestyle so that hopefully you can connect with someone that inspires YOU personally and to share that living consciously looks different for everyone.

Jen Rivera bell

You can find Jen on YouTube here (she shares awesome videos on travel, zero waste shopping, vegan eating on instagram @jenriverabell, and her website here.  All images shown courtesy of Jen’s instagram.

Hi Jen!  Can you introduce yourself and share a little about your daily life/routine/ lifestyle?

Hey ya’ll! Well my routine is much like any other mom: try to go to the bathroom without having a toddler yell at you. Ha! But seriously, my life is pretty average. I  am a work from home mama who loves to cook (mostly cause I love to eat), play outside with my little one Luna, and watch documentaries with my husband Zac.

Where are you located and how easy or hard is it to live low waste in your area?

I  am located in the middle of no where Benton County, MO. It can be really difficult to be low waste here, mainly because of the isolation. We don’t even have a recycling center. But we make do with what we’ve got. We typically make a drive into Springfield (which is about an hour and a half for us) to get our bulk goods and drop off our recycling. Luckily there are some pretty awesome bulk stores out there so we are able to get tons of great bulk items.

Jen Rivera bell

Can you share a little about your journey to less waste?  What inspired you + continues to inspire you to reduce your waste?  

Once going vegan (about 5 years ago) I really started to dive in and research everything. I really wanted to have the a positive impact on the world, once I dug a little bit deeper I stumbled upon some plastic documentaries. That is where I was sold. When I  saw the horrific environmental effects that plastic have on our planet I knew I had to do something differently. That’s when I  found the zero waste/ low waste movement. At first it was very intimidating and very overwhelming but after a while I really got the hang out it. I continue to do my best in hopes that my Luna will learn to fight for what she thinks is right.

Jen Rivera bell

For people who may be reading this and are near you, where are your favorite resources in your area for low waste shopping?  Farmers market, bulk store, refill shop etc?

I have only been in the area for a few months but so far my two favorite shops (both located in Springfield) are Mama Jean’s and Lucky’s. They have TONS of package free produce and awesome bulk sections. Once the warmer weather comes around I will be ready to hit all of the local farmers markets. 

What’s your composting approach?  I know this varies so much depending on access, location, city ordinances etc.- how do you compost in your area?

For us almost all of our food waste becomes treats for our companion pig Mowgli. Ha! Since we eat a whole plant based diet she loves eating the ends of our veggies, fruit that may be over ripe, and tons more. And for everything else we are in the process of building our composting bin. 

Jen Rivera bell

What is your biggest source of trash still/ whats been hardest to find a sustainable swap for?

Food packaging was very difficult for us at first, it has gotten a lot better with our access to amazing bulk stores now. We are also eating a lot cleaner now so that is helping out a lot with packaging as well.

For your cycle, do you use a menstrual cup, reusable pads, or other?  If so, which brand(s) do you recommend?

For my cycle I use reusable pads. Ever since first starting my cycle I was always very uncomfortable with tampons and once I was moving to a low waste lifestyle I was nervous about not finding an alternative. I was quite lucky to not have to worry about my cycle for a whole year after Luna was born. Ha! But once it started again my mom got me some reusable pads for Christmas which I love. I am actually not too sure on the brand.

For clothing, do you prefer to buy secondhand, support eco/fair trade/organic companies or both?  Also, what is your favorite brand for ethical undies/bras?

I love buying both secondhand as well as eco brands. For the majority of our clothes and shoes I purchase second hand but I also really enjoy supporting different makers online. (I am a huge Etsy fan). My most favorite undies brand is Pact.  note: shirt pictured is from Brown Wear Apparel.

Jen Rivera bell

You have a beautiful one year old daughter, Luna.  Has it been challenging doing low waste with baby stuff?  I know you cloth diaper and breastfeed- do you also apply minimalism to baby “gear”, toys, clothes etc?

It has been surprisingly easy to stay low waste with her. Since we cloth diaper that takes a huge number of traditional waste completely out of the picture. Keeping her things to a minimal just went along with our values. I can’t imagine it any other way. check out Jen’s baby essentials here.

Jen Rivera bell

Are there any supplements, herbs, foods that you regularly took during your vegan pregnancy and now during breastfeeding?  What about for Luna- do you give her any supplements at this time?

For both my pregnancy and now while breastfeeding I take Rainbow Light prenatal vitamins and eat a ton of whole food plant based foods. Tons and tons of rice and beans and lots of greens! check out Jen’s vegan pregnancy here.

Jen Rivera bell

Is your husband on the same page with you regarding veganism, low waste and minimalism, or do you two peacefully coexist with separate views?

I am extremely lucky to have a partner that is completely on the same page on everything. We started dating when I  was 17 so we have really grown together in life and have managed to teach each other so much. We went vegan together, then found out about minimalism (he is a much better minimalist than me) and embarked on the low waste lifestyle at the same time. 

Jen Rivera bell

What inspired you to make the switch to a plant based diet and how easily did you transition?  Do you have any tips to ease the transition period for someone wanting to make the switch as well?

My inspiration for going vegan was my Mowgli (our companion pig). We got her when she was a piglet and from that day we said we could no longer eat pork. From then we discovered just how incredibly complex and emotional pigs really are. We slowly started to leave all meat behind and then ditched dairy and every other animal product. We transitioned pretty slowly and incorporated more and more plant based foods into our diet. My biggest tip for someone who wants to transition is to really find foods that they love and eat those. I get messages all of the time from people saying they just want to quit because they don’t like what they are eating. If you love smoothies then drink smoothies but if a green smoothie makes you gag you can totally find something to replace it that is also plant based. 

Jen Rivera bell

When you went vegan, was your family supportive?  How did you handle food at family gatherings?  I feel like I get this question so much- especially about older family members like grandmothers that maybe can’t understand the lifestyle, and the feeling of guilt/disrespect for refusing traditional foods previously shared communally.

My family was definitely surprised at first (as was Zac’s cajun family), but they are extreme supportive and now most of my immediate and extend family is vegan. My family and I love to cook, so recreating our traditional family foods vegan style is our favorite thing to do together. As far as family gatherings I would always bring food and share it with everyone.  Zac and I are super blessed to have grandparents who understand our values and they love to make us vegan versions of our childhood favorites.   

What are your favorite go-to easy dinners?

My FAVORITE go to dinner is rice, beans, corn, with avocado. We could eat that for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Ha! 

Your parents are from El Salvador (your mom is so beautiful!) and you have been delving deeper into your true roots.  Can you share a little about your journey with decolonizing, uncovering truth, researching and activism on this front?  

Learning about my true identity has been one of the most impactful learning experiences in my life. I have always loved researching and history so it was almost inevitable that I would embark on my decolonization process. There had been so much history that we have been lied to about that learning the truth is liberating. I have so much to learn and so connecting with other people who are decolonizing as well has really helped me out on this journey. I feel it now my responsibility to stand up for those who are marginalized in our society.  book pictured can be found here.

Jen Rivera bell

I love that you travel, especially with your babe…do you have any tips/essentials for vegan/low waste traveling?

Be prepareeeeeed (sang in Scar’s voice from the Lion King) Really tho. Haha. We ALWAYS have food in our food containers basically everywhere we go. It cuts down on packaging and also money, so it’s a win win. I always have our reusable water containers and cutlery. We usually stay in airbnbs so we typically have a kitchen where ever we go. So the first thing we do is locate a grocery store and get our essentials. 

Jen Rivera bell

What are your favorite simple, accessible steps you recommend for people just starting out to reduce waste?

Ditch the disposables! Saying no to straws and  plastic bags is a HUGE step in the right direction. No step is too small! We all start off somewhere so just start small and with a bit of research you will see how drastically you can cut down on waste.

zero waste mailbox

Junk mail

Junk mail is absolutely the worst- I think everyone will agree- it’s a waste of time, resources, and energy.  All that embedded environmental and financial cost of advertising, water used in paper processing, printing, pollution emitted in transporting, only for it to reach its destination and be trashed or recycled, many times without even being opened.  In this age, postal mail seems archaic; yet, companies are still targeting us via snail mail, urging us to buy and sign up for programs and products that we don’t need.

Here’s some facts to understand why junk mail is such an issue, according to NYU School of Law (source)

  • 5.6 million tons of catalogs and other direct mail advertisements end up in US landfills annually.
  • 44% of junk mail is thrown away unopened, but only half that much junk mail (22%) is recycled.
  • The average American household receives 848 pieces of junk mail per household, equal to 1.5 trees every yearmore than 100 million trees for all U.S. households combined.
  • Junk mail destroys 100 million trees a year—the equivalent of deforesting all of Rocky Mountain National Park every four months.
  • Largely due to deforestation, junk mail manufacturing creates as much greenhouse gas emissions annally as 3.7 million cars.
  • Americans pay 370 million annually to dispose of junk mail that does not get recycled.

So what can you do to stop it?  A lot, actually.  We used to get tons and tons of junk mail.  Now, I get maybe 1 or 2 pieces a week, sometimes none at all.  If that sounds good to you, here’s the steps I took to reduce my mailbox waste:

  1. Go to three websites to opt out of direct mail, credit/insurance offers, and catalogs, respectively.  dmachoice.org (costs $2 to opt out for 10 years) // optoutprescreen.com (free; the online form opts you out for 5 years, mail in form opts you out permanently) // catalogchoice.org (free).  These 3 steps will eliminate 90% of your junk mail, in my experience- it takes a little while to go into effect so be patient.
  2. Make sure you’re signed up for paperless billing/statements for things like insurance, utilities, cell phone, etc.
  3. For anything else that ends up in your mailbox follow these two steps: first, if it’s first class mail or says “address service requested” simply write “REFUSED” on the front and “take me off your mailing list” on the back, and put it back in your mailbox.  If its not first class, open it up to find out the name/contact info of the company responsible.  Then, call or email them requesting to be take off their mailing list.  This is a fairly painless process and usually doesn’t take long at all.
  4. Some items are bulk or “saturation” mailings and do not even have your address or name on them- these are just put in every mailbox by the postal employee.  You can refuse or put a note/ask your mail person to not deliver these types to you, but from what I’ve been told, this has no impact on the actual company/advertiser.  In this case, it’s best to repurpose/recycle it yourself (who knows if it will actually get recycled at the post office plus they have to transport it back there) and send an email to the company asking them to reconsider this type of wasteful advertising.

You may be thinking, isn’t it easier to just recycle it?  It may be easier, but it’s not better.  Not only is there a giant environmental impact, there’s also the annoyance/burden of it.  If you don’t want the mail, and didn’t ask for it, why should you be the one having to deal with disposing of it?  The companies sending it should be the ones that have to deal with it.  By refusing the mail, you are voting for a more sustainable future.

plant berkeley

“zero waste” grocery shopping

zero waste shopping

Today I’m sharing with you my weekly “zero” waste shopping routine for groceries.  It takes less time than before because I’m forced to plan ahead a little more, which greatly reduces stressful last minute trips to the store during the week.  Also, we used to drive 20 minutes each way to get to a Costco so I get that time back too.  In fair weather we bike to the market and co-op to reduce our footprint further.

bakfiet grocery zero waste family

I think I’ve said this a thousand times, so sorry if you’re sick of hearing it, but for all the new people: we are grateful to live in a very progressive area with access to a year round, twice weekly, local farmers market and also a fantastic small co-op grocer who offers many package free, organic and fair trade/direct trade foods.  For tips on how to reduce your impact without a bulk store, click here.  To search for bulk in your area, click here.

Zero waste shopping cart

Some things are more expensive in bulk, and some things less expensive.  I find that it pretty much evens out across the board; and overall our spending is less, because I don’t buy paper towels, garbage bags, ziplock bags, saran wrap, aluminum foil, sponges, and packaged convenience/snack foods.  (click here for a post about our zero waste kitchen to learn more).  Our philosophy: we’ve always prioritized spending on healthy food above most everything else- we have shifted our habits to allow this (although I do realize this isn’t an option for many).  We don’t have a gym membership, cable, Netflix, car payment, or debt.  We drive a used 2006 Prius (low gas, maintenance, and insurance cost), we buy almost everything secondhand (including clothing), and our trash + water + energy usage is low = low sanitation/ utility bill.  Reusables mean we don’t have many recurring expenses for household items either.  Plus, we like having less, which naturally reduces our spending …not that this is the “right” way to do things, I’m just explaining our lifestyle.  I personally value health and high quality food as a priority, and I enjoy supporting my local community and farmers.  For those of you asking, we spend an average of $150-180 a week on groceries for our family of four (and we almost never eat out, by preference- not because of zero waste).  The variation depends on if I buy extras like local ice cream, olive oil, specialty locally crafted chocolate, gluten free bread, pastries.

buying bulk

Zero waste shopping does require planning ahead in order to have everything set for your trip, since you’ll need to have adequate containers and bags for what you plan to get.  Don’t be overwhelmed by the length of my descriptions, I simply tried to be as thorough as possible to answer any questions you may have, but it’s really not bad.  Here’s my timeline (Saturday is my shopping day) ALTHOUGH in summer I buy less on Saturday since we also go every Wednesday night to the hybrid concert/farmers market for music, picnic dinner, and produce (and have a bigger garden).

the “kit”:  I have 2 sets of these cloth bags for produce and dry bulk items, various canning jars (mostly thrifted and/or passed down from my grandma) for wet bulk items, a sturdy basket to carry the jars in, a china marker (currently working through a few old sharpies too) for marking the tare weight, and some canvas grocery totes for carrying it in.  One canvas tote holds all the produce bags so they stay together.  We also have a wagon that we take to the farmers market sometimes- we buy a lot of produce, so it can get heavy to carry.  Also, Vin rides in it.  Cash for the farmers market is also essential- I try to bring mostly 1s and 5s to help out the farmers and give exact change.

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running list throughout the week:  I have a magnetic clip on the fridge, which holds scrap paper thats been used on one side (mostly from my daughter’s school) and a pencil.  During the week, if we are running low on something or I remember something I want to get, I write it on the list.  As I use and empty jars and cloth bags, I wash and return them to my kit.

grocery list

left side co-op list, right side farmers market

friday:   Make a “clean out the fridge” soup, stir fry, or salad with anything left over in the fridge.  This practice has all but eliminated food waste for us.  After dinner, I take 10 minutes to wipe down the fridge drawers and surfaces so everything is clean for new food coming in.  Then, I grab the list from the fridge, sit down and add anything else I need to round out my meals that week.  I don’t “meal plan” per se, but I have a general idea for meals and know approximately what we need to get through a week.  I check the pantry, too, to make sure I didn’t miss anything that needs to go on the list.  Going through the list, I gather appropriate containers for things I need- spice jars for spices, glass jars for wet items like nut butter, olive oil, vinegar, maple syrup, soy sauce, and cloth bags for dry bulk items and produce.  I also round up anything to take back to the farmers from the last week- rubber bands and strawberry baskets, mostly.  This sounds like a long process but I promise it really only takes a few minutes, I’m super impatient and can’t be bothered with fussy routines.

saturday:  shopping day.  Pack the kit in the car (or my bakfiets) and head to the market.  Here, I buy as much of our food as I can, as opposed to buying from a grocer.  It’s usually cheaper, fresher, and supports the farmer more directly.  Plus, you can ask questions and make relationships.

before market cart

before heading into the market (cart is old from Costco)

I buy enough veggies, fruit, olive oil, nuts, rice, bread, and avocados here to get us through the week.  I also buy soap here (a stand makes it from their old unsaleable olive oil) as needed.  Any veggies that have ties or rubber bands on, I try to pull off immediately and hand back to the farmer, who always seem appreciative.

after Market cart

after the market: notice the kale that I already took the rubber bands off of.  After I took the pic, I took off the asparagus and leek bands too and returned them to the farmers.

Next, we head to our co-op.  First, I go to the produce section and buy anything I couldn’t find at the market- which is usually just garlic and onions if I can’t find them, and sometimes imported fruit- mango, banana, pineapple occasionally, although I try not to buy many of them in favor of local fruit.

In the bulk section, I first head to the scale to weigh empty jars (my bags already have their weight printed on the tag) and mark the weight on the jar- this is called the “tare weight”.  If I put my jar on the scale, and it says .88 lbs, I mark on the jar T= .88 OR tare= .88 .

Tare weight zero waste grocery shopping

weighing my jar, the tare is .88

Check your store’s bulk policy first- call ahead or ask an employee before filling.  Some stores only allow bags, no jars.  Some stores want you to stop by the customer service desk or cashier to weigh all your empty jars with an employee first.  Some stores, like mine, have a scale in the bulk aisle for you to weigh it yourself.

buying in your own jar

After the tare weight is marked, fill your container and mark down the bin/item code number next to where you marked the tare weight for jars- for bags, I simply write down the bin number on my list next to the appropriate item.  Don’t forget the olive and salad bars- they can be great sources of unpackaged foods too.

The things I buy here include: oats, spices, olives, nut butters, maple syrup, vinegar, tamari, dried legumes, dried fruits, nuts, seeds, teas and coffee, tofu, coconut and cacao, the occasional quinoa, other grains and flours, salt.  Basically just whatever else I need to round out what I bought at the market.

buying peanut butter in bulk

bulk organic PB

When I am in the checkout line, I put my cloth bulk bags first, in the order of my list with the written bin codes so I can rattle off the numbers for the cashier.  Then my bulk jars (which have the bin codes already written on them).  Then any other items.  The cashier will then deduct the tare weight from the total weight so that you only pay for what’s inside the container.

in the checkout line

Our co-op always asks before they print the receipt, which I say “no thank you” to.  If for some reason, I am somewhere that automatically prints a receipt, I simply refuse it with the same “no thank you” or “I don’t need it, thanks” (if your store does this, consider asking them to switch to asking before printing to reduce waste and cost for them).

Next, back home to put everything away!  For how I store my food and produce without plastic in my fridge, click here.

Please let me know if you have any questions!

zero Waste fridge plastic free storage

note:  For beer and wine, I try to go straight to the source (a brewery for a growler or a winery during “bottling events”) to refill without having to recycle.

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“zero” waste bathroom

Zero waste shower

shower: bulk shampoo + conditioner, bar soap, foraged eucalyptus for soothing steam

Continuing with our “zero” waste home series, lets tackle the bathroom.  After the kitchen, the second trashiest place in the house for us was definitely the bathroom.  Giant plastic wrapped packages of toilet paper, huge plastic packs of q tips, plastic containers of serums and creams and sunscreens and toothpaste and floss.  Having less in the bathroom means less to clean (and an easier time cleaning without having to move a bunch of stuff around), less money spent, and a more peaceful/calm environment.

As with the kitchen, the easiest thing to do here in examine the contents of the trash and replace disposables with reusables or recyclables.  I also simplified a lot, no need to have 10 products when just one does the trick.  Here’s what we did to lower our waste here:

zero waste bathroom

toilet paper:  definitely one of THE most common questions I get.  Yes, we still use tp lol.  I’ve just switched from our giant Costco wrapped plastic package to individually wrapped paper ones (like the ones at restaurants, hotels etc).  I buy a case at my local coop of Natural Value toilet paper and it comes in a cardboard box, is 100% recycled and unbleached, and i get a discount for buying by the case.  They are also sold individually in case you want to try it out before you commit.  We also have this bidet which I’ve been using for 6 years, personally I use it after I pee (tmi?  I have no shame) and then wipe with a reusable cloth wipe from Vin’s cloth diaper days (see a homemade baby wipe solution here if you have babies).  Some people use this after pooping too but I’m not into it.

bathroom sink zero waste toilet paper

under the sink: tp + some bulk clay for masks

kleenex/tissues:  tissues are expensive, wasteful, and not hygienic- as Arianna of Paris To Go points out, “Throw a used Kleenex into the garbage, and the virus remains viable- in fact, rhinoviruses stay infectious in landfills. Compare an embroidered cloth handkerchief to this. Which is grosser?”  I just use squares of cloth sewn or cut from old sheets, I’m sure you could thrift some or put on Etsy.

wipes reusable

reusable wipes

razor:  one of the easiest and most cost effective switches, I simply use this safety razor instead of a disposable one.  It’s NOT scary to use (same as a regular razor) and the blades are super cheap + last forever if you dry between uses.  My husband and I have shared the same one for 6 years, I actually bought it before I even knew about zero waste because I hated paying so much money for disposables.  We deposit the blades in an can and crimp it closed so it can get recycled without hurting anyone.  You can also send them back to Albatross Shaving Company to recycle if your district does not accept blades for recycling.

zero waste shaving razor safety

shaving cream, shower gel, hand soap:  we simply switched to a richly lathering, oil based bar soap.  We used the Kiss My Face unscented olive oil soap for years (comes in paper, long lasting, palm oil free, simple ingredients, widely available) but have recently switched to a locally made olive oil soap which uses their own old/unsaleable locally grown and pressed olive oil (more sustainable).  One bar lives at the sink and one bar lives in the shower and makes for a simple, cheap, and pretty swap.

deodorant:  we use an alum stone for deodorant, like this one.  Other options include DIY, or buying an option in glass, metal, or paper, like this Meow Meow Tweet Tweet baking soda free vegan deo.  I prefer the alum stone as a simple, long lasting swap that I don’t need to make or worry about buying frequently.  Easy to travel with, too.  Some of you have mentioned that you use ACV, tea tree oil, or a lemon wedges applied directly to pits with fantastic results, too.

shampoo and conditioner:  we buy in bulk from Refill Madness in Sacramento, the brand is Griffin Remedy and they are a local to us bay area company.  I buy them in upcycled kombucha bottles with upcycled plastic pumps.  I’ve also trained my hair to only need once a week washing, which reduces my consumption here, thanks to Arianna whose perfect curls are totally water only for 3 years (check out her blog for more info here)  If you don’t have access to bulk, other options include a bar shampoo or conditioner, or Plaine products who sells in refillable and returnable aluminum bottles.  I tried using the baking soda/ACV method for a few months and it absolutely ruined my hair.  Later I found that baking soda destroys hair keratin and ACV disrupts the natural pH.  Some people swear by it though.

toothbrush:  we use brush with bamboo, which is compostable except for the nylon bristles.  When it’s time to get a new brush, I use the old one for cleaning grout.  At the end of it’s life there, I pull out the bristles with a plier (landfill) and compost the handle.

Coconut oil toothpaste

toothpaste:  we DIY our own.  Check out this post for the recipe and a bunch of other low waste options to buy.

floss:  Dental Lace (silk, in refillable glass and metal, made in USA) or Noosa Basics (not refillable, but recyclable, vegan, made in AUS) both are compostable.  I also use an old rubber tipped brass gum stimulator and my old waterpik and a copper tongue scraper (I’m kind of a dental hygiene freak).

makeup:  personally this has been one of the hardest areas.  Check out this post for what I use and recycling information.

makeup zero waste

nail polish:  I don’t use it anymore, I just clip and file my nails and use a little balm for shine.  My nails have gotten so much healthier and strong this way.  Polish and remover are super toxic (even “natural” ones) and I had been struggling with knowing this but still using it for ages.  Obviously this is a personal decision though.  You can find stainless clippers and files package free at most beauty stores.

q tips:  are not good for your ears, really- I personally don’t use them, preferring instead to stick my pinky inside a thin washcloth wrung out in warm water and wipe any excess wax away.  My husband likes them, we are still using up our giant costco box of them.  If you get the paper ones, they’re compostable.  There’s also stainless steel ear cleaning tools that some people like.

tampons/pads:  my 6 year old Diva Cup is still going strong and has more than paid for itself.  I clean in between with soap and water, and boil at the end of each cycle.  It’s so convenient, easy to travel with, doesn’t leak, and is way more comfortable.  A couple months ago I got caught out when my period started and I didn’t have my cup with me.  I had to use a tampon from a restroom dispenser and I couldn’t believe how incredibly uncomfortable it was.  Reusable pads or undies are good options if you prefer that.

hair products:  I find with once a week washing, my hair issues have resolved themselves and I’ve learned to embrace my natural imperfect wavy texture, which leaves me with so much more time.  I run a teensy bit of oil through the ends (the golden elixir from Coco Kind, same one I use on my face).

body:  I’ve been using the Coco Kind oil mentioned above or coconut oil, use what’s available in bulk in your area.  I don’t like lotions because they feel tacky and don’t absorb properly into my skin, personally.  Oils give you a little glow, too.

zero waste bathroom

exfoliating and masks:  I use a washcloth, gently.  My skin hates exfoliating products anyways (it’s sensitive).  Some people use baking soda or finely milled natural grains or moss for exfoliant (like this one in glass).  Sometimes I use bulk clay with water or ACV for a mask.

water saving:  I’ve installed low flow shower heads and low flow faucet aerators, you can hardly tell a difference and it saves a lot of water.  We live in drought prone CA, so this is a must.  I also keep a metal bucket under the sink and put it under the shower while waiting for the water to warm up.  That water can be used on plants or to fill up the back of the toilet.

cleaning:  as with other areas of the house, I simply clean with castile soap, vinegar and baking soda here + natural fiber brushes (similar to this) that can be composted at the end of their life, and lint free cotton towels like these.

I think that’s it…let me know if I’ve missed something or if you need further clarification, I feel like I can’t remember all the stuff we used to use!