January came and went, but my zero waste efforts are paying off more and more each day. It’s like I had trash-blinders on before, and now I can’t miss it. Every day has been a mission to simplify my life and detox from wasteful habits. Not that we’ve done perfectly. But we have done so, so much better. And because we didn’t just light a match to our possessions, we will be dealing with them in various ways as we phase them out: using them up, donating them, or repurposing them.
Early in the month I did a massive cleanout of disposable items. Ziplock bags, plastic wraps, plastic containers, straws, napkins, plastic plates/cups/utensils leftover from parties.. I either gave it away to people who’d buy it anyway, and in the case of the random items, donated them to Food Services at the Salvation Army. I also began to aggressively use up pantry and freezer items (we’ve had some weird meals, admittedly) and buying in bulk with reusable bags, or at least in non-plastic/ 100% recyclable packaging. With only a couple of exceptions (like cheese and a starter yogurt to make my own) I’ve been able to avoid plastic. Most plastic getting thrown out (recycled if possible of course) has been from items purchased before January. Every item going out the door is a cause for celebration (with a little guilt of course for buying it in the first place).
For about a week, I felt like a crazy person, examining my trash to part with each item in the best way. I repurposed grapefruit peels by making my own grapefruit-infused vinegar for cleaning. I diligently separated things into the compost bucket, chicken scrap bucket, or recycle bin. Shortly into this, it became second nature. Granted, we already did these things, but not to the level of attention I now put in (the goal being that none of it ends up in the trash or down the garbage disposal).
Our fridge looks a little emptier (this was taken today – the day after grocery shopping!) because I only buy what we absolutely need that week. We have our milk delivered in returnable plastic bottles. I store leftovers in mason jars (along with my DIY coffee creamer). Zero waste produce storage is fun. Fresh herbs and carrots look like little bouquets. 🙂 We generally have a container of scraps for the chickens in there as well, but it’s being emptied today. The box up top is a Bota box of Moscato. Since we don’t have a local winery where I can get refills, a 100% recyclable Bota box is the best alternative. In the produce drawers, loose produce is wrapped in damp towels, or in jars or glass containers if needed.
What you can’t see is the fridge door, full of plastic bottles of condiments from our pre-zero waste life. 😉 Those will eventually get phased out.
Here was a fun victory. Hubby gave our Master bathroom a makeover. He replaced the light fixtures, sinks, towel and toilet paper roll holder, and faucets; plus removed the shower door and replaced it with a curtain. All the items we removed will be donated to Habitat for Humanity. He cut down the mirrors and made frames for them with wood scraps leftover from our mantle.
The only trash generated from this project was the old laminate counter top, the painter’s tape, and a bit of packaging (most could be recycled). It looks so beautiful now! (I just noticed we have a re-purposed Jägermeister bottle hand soap pump next to a repurposed Sangria jug vase. Ha!;))
I have been writing down in my planner, every little zero waste victory or step I’ve taken this month and wanted to share them here. Some are swaps for the long term, and some are just little ways I met a particular challenge that I wanted to keep track of just to see how much those little things add up. January was meant to focus on the kitchen/food packaging so there’s definitely been more progress there then elsewhere, but I’ve been chipping away a bit everywhere. So, here we are (in no particular order:
January Zero Waste Victories
- Menu planning each Sunday and shopping exclusively from list.
- Took bulk bags to local bulk shop (multiple times); store bulk items in jars.
- Got rid of plastic containers, bags, etc. to family and donation center.
- Used jars and glass containers for freezing and refrigerating leftovers, and for storing loose produce (to replace plastic containers, plastic bags, and plastic food packaging).
- Upgraded to cloth napkins.
- Packed sandwich for the office, wrapped in a cloth napkin.
- Made (zero waste) almond milk; used remaining almond pulp to turn to flour, then to bake into Snickerdoodles!
- Made reusable food wrap (to replace plastic wrap).
- Found local glass recycling and used it.
- Replaced nonstick pans with two cast iron skillets (Costco has a great price); replaced plastic spatulas with bamboo. I haven’t done anything with the nonstick skillets yet; I am considering keeping them in the camping trailer.
- Replaced Hannah’s sippies and bowls with this brand. (Still plastic, but a better alternative. We already had the plates and loved them!).
- Looked for glass-packaged alternatives to items normally in plastic. Success with juice, BBQ sauce, white vinegar, and ketchup.
- Making my own yogurt and coffee creamer to avoid purchasing in plastic.
- Emailing local dairy re. switching to glass. Not a win for me, but they did tell me their returnable milk bottles are the safest grade of plastic.
- Air dried dishwasher loads instead of running the heated dry. Refilled the rinse aid compartment with vinegar.
- Learned and implemented loose produce storage tips from the Internet (herbs and carrots upright in jars of water (bouquet style in the fridge), mushrooms in glass containers draped with a wet towel, broccoli wrapped in a damp towel, etc. This article is the best I’ve found.
- Haven’t kicked the soda habit, but I’ve been washing and refilling the same plastic cup all month (I get a fountain soda a couple times a week) and using a stainless steel straw.
- Composting scraps, lint, egg shells, coffee grounds.
- Saving other scraps, bits of food leftover from Hannah’s plate, etc, for the chickens.
- Upgraded to stainless steel water bottles (from plastic reusables).
- Upgraded to stainless steel drinking straws.
- Only a couple of meals out/take-out. It’s nearly impossible to control the waste created by going out to eat! This is definitely something I need to work on – better planning when we go out.
- Revamped the master bathroom with minimal trash generated.
- Bought a wooden toothbrush and made my own toothpaste.
- Made reusable eye makeup remover pads to replace cotton balls.
- Gave unused/unloved makeup to my sister-in-law.
- Purchased shower curtain to replace old shower door; saved the zippered vinyl packaging to use as a toiletry bag for travel.
- Upgraded from dryer sheets to wool dryer balls.
- Made grapefruit vinegar cleaner to replace commercial counter top spray.
- Entertainment via library, Redbox and Kindle books.
- Read: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up; Zero Waste Home; Slow Death By Rubber Duck; Miss Minimalist; and The Joy of Less. (all books regarding zero waste, plastic-free, and/or minimalist lifestyles).
- NYD brunch with friends – shared a plate with husband and Hannah to avoid leftovers (and save $$).
- Hosted two activities for my Mom’s Club that were eco friendly – a library story time, and a book club coffee chat (brought my own mug).
- Scanned and packed up unused CDs and DVDs to sell to DeCluttr (just need to drop off for shipping).
- Eco gift for hubby’s birthday (a Nest thermostat – there’s currently a $100 rebate via our gas company for installing one of these).
- Completed the necessary online forms to take our names off mailing lists; requested our service providers to send us e-statements (most already were, but I needed to make the call to a couple others).
- Using recycle bin contents as scrap paper for lists and notes.
- Donated countless items: unused decor, books, clothing, shoes, toys, bins/containers.. to charity thrift shops.
- Purchased new bed pillows; saved the zippered vinyl bags they were sold in and repurposed as hanging garment bags for husband’s dress clothes.
Thanks for reading this monster post!