recapping my first 6 months of zero waste.

FullSizeRender(1)It’s hard to believe that 2016 is halfway over! I feel like it just started. I’ve been doing monthly updates about my zero waste progress, and while I’ve made some really good long-term changes, in other areas I’ve faltered a bit recently. If I compare myself to so many of those great zero waste bloggers, it’s easy to feel like I am not doing all I can. There are some inspiring people out there living a zero waste lifestyle. They set the bar and keep me motivated to do more. But it’s all a process. I feel good about everything done so far.

Rather than write a May recap post, I thought I would recap the first half of 2016 and set some goals for the rest of the year. As I looked through my lists of goals and accomplishments, I noticed that not all the things are technically aligned with zero waste, but more general minimalism. I could be a complete hoarder while living zero waste, but that’s not how I wanted to do it. It’s taking me a while to go through my stuff, eliminate excess, and sometimes replace things that will make a long term impact in my waste reduction. My goal isn’t just to stop adding to landfills, but also to simplify my life by reducing clutter (and keeping it out). I still have a ways to go, but I am getting there.

I’ve effectively stopped contributing to the landfill in these areas:

  • Boxed hair color and rubber gloves (stopped using)
  • Conventional tube toothpaste (DIY) and plastic toothbrushes (for compostable)
  • Teeth whitening strips (stopped using)
  • Face moisturizer and night cream (for drops of rosehip and jojoba oils)
  • Most makeup and hair products (stopped using)
  • Shaving cream (using up expired sunscreens and body wash in place)
  • Eye makeup remover pads (for flannel pads and coconut oil)
  • Tampons and pads (for reusable menstrual cup and cloth pads)
  • Dryer sheets, fabric softener, ammonia and bleach (I use wool dryer balls, and stopped using the rest)
  • Commercial cleaning products (for Norwex cloths, vinegar, baking soda, and essential oils)
  • Dish soap (DIY castile and essential oils)
  • Plastic grocery / shopping bags and produce bags (reusables, eliminating purchases in clam shells except on a couple of occasions)
  • Plastic wrapped toilet paper (for some wrapped in paper, shipped in a cardboard box)
  • 75% of plastic and tin food packaging I was previously bringing home(changing my shopping and cooking)
  • Plastic straws (stainless steel)
  • Disposable dishes and utensils (reusables, bento box, metal tiffin)
  • Paper towels and napkins (cloth napkins and rags)
  • Ziplock bags and plastic containers (mason jars and Pyrex)
  • Plastic wrap (beeswax wraps)
  • Coffee filters (metal reusable)
  • Water bottles, soda cups and coffee cups (BYO reusable)
  • Food scraps (compost or to feed the chickens or ducks)
  • Books (library or Kindle)

I’ve made the following lifestyle changes:

  • Experiences over things – I keep my toddler’s toys edited to a *relatively* small number (she still has PLENTY but I try to put a cap on it) and instead we enjoy library toys, play group, her cousin’s toys, toys at the gym daycare, and of course we DO THINGS. Our favorites are the Nature Center, playing in the garden, art projects, parks, picnics, and visiting Grandma and Grandpa. I use her old baby bath tub as a water table on the patio and it’s her favorite! With the toys she does have, I rotate them regularly to keep them interesting.
  • Tiny wardrobe – I’m still working on this, but I reduced my wardrobe significantly to only what I actually like wearing. I am down to about 40 items (not including workout clothing, camisoles, pajamas and underwear). I could do with a bit less, probably, but that is the number I was left with after purging the things I didn’t really love. This works for me since I only have to go into the office occasionally. The biggest change here is I don’t have a seasonal clothing stash hidden away any longer! Everything I own is hanging in the closet and there’s plenty of space to spare.
    IMG_5314
  • One-in-one-out – With all purchases, if I buy something non-consumable, I have to donate or recycle a similarly categorized item. This has been so helpful separating the needs from the wants; now I generally only purchase something if it’s to replace something else.
  • Monthly (sometimes bi-monthly) decluttering – This year I’ve sold or donated tons of clothes, shoes, kitchen items, disposable items I replaced with reusables, DVDs and CDs, books, craft supplies, linens, décor, and just extra STUFF.
  • Almost plastic free – I eliminated plastic containers and baggies (I donated and gave away the unused stuff and still wash and reuse the few I already had until I can invest in more glass containers) and a huge chunk of plastic food packaging. I donated plastic kitchen utensils, colanders, bowls, cups, etc. and replaced with glass. I replaced Teflon pans for cast iron. I purged toys with the most toxic plastics. I’m not completely done, but the worst offenders are out of the house.
  • Essential oils – I’ve been using oils for about 5 years now, but I’m getting more educated on them and practicing with them. I am working toward replacing more products with them and using them to keep the air in our home purified.  Currently I use oils in place of headache meds (about half the time; sometimes they don’t do the trick), bug spray, countertop cleaner, toilet cleaner, floor cleaner, sleeping aids (I used to take melatonin), and perfume. I use them in lots of other ways as well, but those are ways they help with my zero waste efforts.IMG_5323

Goals for the rest of the year:

  • Products I will eliminate or swap for ZW by the end of the year (I’m still using up what I already had):
    • deodorant (by making my own again)
    • lotion (making my own again)
    • razors (switching to a stainless steel men’s safety razor)
    • shampoo and conditioner (not sure what to do here..)
    • most makeup (just by giving most of it up)
    • laundry detergent
  • Lifestyle changes:
    • Cook mostly vegan again. The majority of our garbage is now wrappers from cheese and meat. I can almost completely avoid packaging with all other foods. I need to do this for my health anyway.
    • Be more diligent about zero waste toddler snacks. I’ve given in to simple packaged snacks (yogurt, crackers, etc) too often lately because I’ve been so busy and we’ve been on the go a lot lately. Gotta organize and prep better on the weekends!
    • Gift what I preach. I have a hard time extending ZW to my gift giving. I feel like there are expectations and I don’t want to disappoint anyone. I’ve done a BIT better this year than previously (reusing gift wrap, seeking out eco toys, limiting wastefulness within the immediate family) but I could do SO much better here if I planned ahead. Much of the problem is I don’t begin early enough. Birthdays and holidays seem to sneak up on me. It’s a horrible excuse.
    • Bring my own plates, cups, forks, even my own food if I have to. I’m not great about ZW out of the house when doing social activities.
    • Be a better refuser/be more vocal about my goals. I find it hard not to just graciously accept all things handed to me. To include little old ladies handing out samples at the grocery store, flyers, coupons, free magazine subscriptions (the guilt that keeps on giving), free samples, or well-meaning friends giving me things they don’t want but think I do. I need to learn to say no.
    • Extend ZW to my workplace. I am the card holder so I buy all the supplies for the office. It is TRAGIC to me that I keep having to buy Styrofoam cups and plastic spoons in huge quantities. I am considering a proposal to buy everyone a nice reusable mug and utensil set…
  • Big goals:
    • A really well-planned ZW holiday season. I’m anticipating that it will be the hardest time of the year to keep motivated and focused. But I am looking forward to the challenge!
    • Potty train the kiddo. Fingers crossed, no more diapers by 2017!

The most surprising thing about this transition to zero waste is that it’s not that difficult once you organize your life slightly differently. It took some real motivation and time early on to examine my habits and figure out the best way to make the most impact. It also took patience; I wanted to use up what I already had or get it out of the house in the most responsible way. Most of that work is now done which means I can move on to the other areas of my life. Every little thing makes a difference!

Thanks for reading my monster post! Feel free to ask questions of give me any tops you’ve got. I (obviously) love talking about this stuff.

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4 thoughts on “recapping my first 6 months of zero waste.”

  1. This is great! I wish I had thought of your idea to use expired items as shaving cream, I threw several in the trash a while back not knowing what else to do with them.

    1. Thanks! I am bummed myself that I just thought of it. Who knows how many half full bottles of sunscreen have been tossed over the years! Eventually I will just streamline down to soap only, but it’s a good way to use up all that stuff before disposing of the bottles. Thanks for the comment!

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