zero waste – february recap

February is the “loviest” month, with Hannah’s birthday, my niece Darcie’s birthday, and Valentine’s Day. Lots to celebrate, and this year I felt like we showed the planet a lot more love, too, by keeping the celebrations pretty eco.

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Hannah’s Birthday Gift

For Hannah’s birthday, we made our own yummy baked donuts instead of a cake (knowing we were going to have cakes with each of our families in celebration later), and I took her to the library. She got one gift – a tricycle that she should be able to use until she’s 5 or so (with a helmet – I guess that’s kind of two gifts). No wrapping necessary (at this age it’s silly anyway, I suppose). We just gave it to her assembled. She loves it. A fun and low-key day.

Valentine’s Day has never been a holiday that is super important to me. I don’t want diamonds, I don’t care about chocolates, and if you get me flowers, get me the kind I can plant in the ground, please. 🙂 So this year we didn’t even exchange cards (except the one Hannah and I made for her dad with scrap paper). I shopped the house for red and pink stuff to decorate the mantle and kitchen shelf. That was the extent of it, and while it felt slightly weird to not really celebrate in any (consumer) way, the day after was so nice because it was over with no guilt.

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Hannah’s Birthday Gift

The majority of our household waste before I began this journey, was food and food packaging. Changing the way I grocery shop has made a massive dent in this, to where any garbage generated is very minimal (almost all the kitchen trash generated is from using up pre-zero waste purchases in the pantry and freezer.) Most new garbage is essentially just produce stickers and milk caps (the bottles are returnable but the caps can’t be recycled). As we use up everything bought before zero waste, we have less and less trash each week. Using it all up is a great exercise in patience. I want a zero waste household NOW! But it’s nice to see how far we’ve come in a short time.

Here’s a list of my zero waste actions and victories in February:

Kitchen/Grocery:

  1. Made my own tortillas (since they are impossible to find without plastic packaging).
  2. Made homemade baked donuts for Hannah’s birthday treat.
  3. Made my own sour cream and yogurt (again, these are only sold in plastic, so making my own was an amazing victory!)
  4. Made vanilla extract (when did they stop packaging extracts in glass? :()
  5. Made sauerkraut.
  6. Bought a reusable mug for fountain sodas (a vice, but this way is less guilt-inducing..)
  7. Made cloth napkins.
  8. Got a second-hand bread box for plastic-free bread storage.
  9. Bought bagels in my own cloth bag.
  10. Bought bamboo utensils to carry when we are out of the house.

Cleaning/Household:

  1. Pared down my household cleaners (used up/consolidated). I’m almost out of all commercial cleaners (they are eco brands, but I will replace with zero waste solutions) – yay!
  2. Participated in a seed swap; obtained my garden seeds – Organic and non-GMO – for a small donation to a local seed saving organization. Also learned how to make seed saving envelopes with recycled magazines/catalogs.

Entertainment/Social/Celebrations:

  1. Hannah’s second birthday – kept it pretty ZW (see above). Birthday celebrations included bowling with my family (memories not things!) and a combined birthday party at our house with my inlaws (celebrating 3-in-1 for 2/3s less consumption!). We baked a cake and served it with our regular plates and forks. (The birthday celebrations themselves weren’t completely zero waste, but our contributions to it were).
  2. We had a very zero waste Valentine’s Day.
  3. Made recycled Valentines crafts (toilet paper roll owls and cheerio bird feeders).
  4. Read Plastic Free, Detrash Your Life in 90 Days, Make Garbage Great.
  5. Borrowed audio books from the library for road trip.
  6. For Mom’s club gatherings: brought homemade desserts and cut up fruit.
  7. Started learning to crochet {made a dish rag so far}

Other:

  1. Donated over half my clothes (not as dramatic as it sounds – just got rid of things that didn’t fit well, didn’t make me feel good, etc.) I’m down to about 50 items of clothing total (not including workout stuff, under garments and pajamas). I think I could pare down to about 40.
  2. Bought a pair of second hand jeans I LOVE. I tried on about 40 pairs and found a pair I like a lot (dark wash DKNY flares) for $9. I now have only 3 pairs of jeans I genuinely like, and feel like I have more than enough (whereas I used to have 8 pairs, only 2 of which I would wear).
  3. Implemented one-in-one-out rule. For every item I bring in the house, one has to go out. Generally I stick to the same category unless that doesn’t make sense. This will prevent me from keeping items I replace (if I don’t want to part with them I will rethink the replacement purchase in the first place!). This has saved me from making a couple of impulse purchases already.
  4. Planned ahead for our end-of-the-month road trip to be as zero waste as possible! I will post on this later.

Examining our now biggest generator of waste – away from home – is the next phase. This entails going out to eat, snacking/ beverages when we are out running errands, events, car trips, camping, etc. While this might seem like a lot of stuff to try to change all at once, it’s really not. The requirements are the same: being prepared with reusable items and some zero waste snacks. Having a toddler in tow makes this all the more important. I can live for a few hours without coffee (but barely) or a snack if I’m caught away from home longer than planned, but Hannah is not going to be so forgiving when she wants a drink or a snack. 🙂 And since everything takes approximately 3 x longer with a toddler, it’s safest to just always be prepared.

In Detrash Your Life in 90 Days, Katie Patrick says all the time that the key to zero waste mastery is organization. I have found this to be so completely true (as with all goals, I suppose). The outside world is set up to be convenient and disposable. To succeed, we have to organize ourselves. I will post about some successes later here, but please feel free to pass me any tips that help you!

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3 thoughts on “zero waste – february recap”

  1. Wow! This is great :). Can you share your recipes for tortilla and sour cream? I am still trying to find a good tortilla recipe to replace packaged ones, and also I have made sour cream, but it is not very thick. Thanks!

    1. Thanks for the comment! To make my own sour cream, I followed this simple recipe: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/215240/homemade-sour-cream/. HOWEVER, I didn’t plan in advance far enough for it to sit out 24 hours, so rather than do that I let it sit about 20 minutes (kind of like making buttermilk) and then whipped it with my KitchenAid mixer similar to making whipped cream. The consistency wasn’t like sour cream; it was more like whipped cream. But it was delicious nonetheless, and on a taco, it really didn’t matter.

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