be the change in 2016

GandhiHappy New Year! I hope everyone had a great holiday season to end a great 2015. Our holidays were fantastic. Hannah was a blast this year! The rumors are true that toddlers love the box the toy came in as well as the toy itself, if not better.

Every December after Christmas I agonize over my resolutions for the New Year. Last year I didn’t post anything regarding my resolution, but it was basically a decluttering to do list. I did pretty well, actually tackling many areas of the house. I must have made 6-8 donation runs and I sold off quite a few items on Ebay.

What I did poorly, however, is restrain myself from bringing more stuff in to the house; as a thrift shopper I easily justify the bargains. It occurred to me sometime around the holiday preparations that I am overwhelmed with stuff. I am good at decluttering and organizing/hiding things out of sight, so it can seem like we don’t have an excess of stuff. But I fight with it daily. Toys and books and dishes. Wrangling clothes and shoes takes up SO much of my day.

Adding the Christmas acquisitions to the accumulation of stuff led me to another quick clutter sweep of the house earlier this week and another donation run. Just to keep my sanity intact. Between the stuff guilt, there’s the added wastefulness-that-is-Christmas guilt. The boxes, the cards, the wrapping. The made-overseas crap that will get donated over the course of the next few years, but remain in landfills for 1000 years after its useful life. We kept our family gifts minimal and fairly responsible, but it was so obvious on Christmas day just how out of line with our values we can behave on Christmas just because we get caught up in what everyone else does.

One of my awesome Christmas gifts this year was the Kindle Paperwhite. I was excited to download my first book, which has been on my list a while – Zero Waste Home by Bea Johnson. She’s rather famous as being the matriarch of the family that generates just one quart jar of garbage per year. It just seemed like an obvious choice given my guilt over wastefulness. The book is great (I finished it within 2 days)– her entire life is inspiring. Following her on Instagram has led me down a rabbit hole of a whole AMAZING zero waste community. It’s made me feel both uber guilty and incredibly empowered and motivated to change. I decided it’s not enough to do those minimal and easy things I’ve been doing forever and really make an effort in our household.

Zero Waste

So, my goal for 2016 is striving for zero waste.

I have lots of big ideas for the year, many taken directly from Zero Waste Home, and it’s easy to want to jump in all at once, but I am going to break it down because:

  1. It’s less overwhelming for the family (in practicality)
  2. I have products to use up, so I’m phasing them out rather than tossing them for new, better stuff (thus “zero waste” is just the goal to strive for but not an actual reality until the leftovers of are used up and dealt with!)
  3. There’s an initial investment in better quality items (they save money in the long term, but I want to work it into the budget so the impact of the startup is minimal)
  4. Picking a focus each month will help me look at everything I purchase and use (and throw away) more critically, and gives me time to research, helping me find the best alternatives for us.

I’m starting where I can make the biggest immediate impact – getting rid of plastic/disposable items in favor of reusable ones. No more plastic bags, straws, food wraps, etc. Shopping for bulk foods and produce using reusable bags. Bringing my own beverage cups, utensils, etc. Cutting out fast food/convenience food and the wasteful packaging it comes with. Saying no to it all and coming up with another way. There are so many ideas out there for doing this, it’s completely possible!

My 2016 plan is as follows:

Ongoing:

  • Question, research and evaluate everything for the best option.
  • Fight the war against junk mail (make calls, take name off lists, etc).
  • Bring my own containers/bags to the store for bulk items and produce.
  • Eliminate food packaging by buying real foods only, in bulk when possible.
  • Regrow, compost, or feed food scraps to the chickens.
  • If I need something, acquire in this order:
  1. Use what I already have.
  2. Or borrow one.
  3. Or make one/buy used.
  4. Get the most eco/longest lasting option if no other option exists.

January & February –

  • Eliminate plastic food containers, plastic wrap, Ziploc baggies, paper towels, napkins, coffee filters, and straws in the kitchen. Replace them with reusable alternatives and donate the rest to someone who’d buy them anyway (possibly the local shelter).
  • Cut out fast food and soda (except the occasional pizza – the boxes are recyclable).
  • Plan menus to shop only twice a month.
  • Plan menus to cook meat once/week or less.

March and April–

  • Research, plan and execute our garden (planting goes into May).
  • Start seeds if needed (buy in bulk from local shop as much as possible).
  • Build a good outdoor compost bin and implement immediately.
  • Put vinegar in a spray bottle for the weeds.
  • Return plastic nursery pots to our local nursery.
  • Collect wasted household water in a bucket to water plants.

May and June –

  • Replace cleaning products throughout the house with eco alternatives (donate what’s left).
  • Replace dryer sheets with wool dryer balls and detergent with soap nuts or Castile.
  • Replace plastic toilet brushes with wood (I need new ones).
  • Dry clothes with solar- set up a clothes line.

July and August –

  • Replace shampoo and soap in the shower with eco alternatives (DIY).
  • Make my own lotion and deodorant.
  • Upgrade the plastic razor to steel safety razor that can be reused forever.
  • As I use up cosmetics, only replace with eco options or not at all.

September and October-

  • Preserve garden produce and bulk produce – canning, freezing, and drying.
  • Bring herbs in in pots if possible.
  • Use essential oils and natural air fresheners for cleaning the air.
  • Buy air purifying plants.

November and December –

  • Make and buy eco gifts.
  • Make crafts, cards and tags from recycled items.
  • Use eco gift packaging like napkins, tea towels, pillow cases, etc. and decorate with twine and nature items.

My yearly garbage isn’t going to fit in a mason jar. My DAILY garbage might not even fit in a mason jar. But I can get there as I phase out the remnants of my old habits. Maybe 2017 is the mason jar year, but I am starting now.

If you’re still with me here, and care to join me on this, please comment/collaborate with me. I plan to make this blog pretty heavy with updates and inspiration and accountability!

Happy New Year!

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2 thoughts on “be the change in 2016”

    1. Thanks so much for the comment and encouragement. I agree – it will take me a while to get close to zero waste, but there’s already an impact! The important thing is consistency, not perfection. Best of luck to you on your journey – cheers!

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