I write this post to keep it real. When I follow zero waste bloggers, I can feel like I don’t measure up. But writing my own posts, I want to make sure I’m not only highlighting the victories and practices that I’ve mastered. I just want to write about how I’m being mindful; not perfect, but at least living with the intention of doing better. I have a love/hate relationship with the term “zero waste.” I understand that it’s an intentionally high bar – getting as close to zero as possible is the goal. But it can also make me feel inadequate or hypocritical when I don’t achieve perfection. But truthfully, I don’t even want to. I simply want to be the queen of my own castle. I don’t want toxic plastics, unsolicited junk mail, or sweatshop-made clothes taking over my life. But I’m ok with consumption that feels purposeful and truly makes me happy.
Stationary, journals, planners, scrapbooking.. I’ve always been partial to paper. My favorite gifts are of the paper variety, to give and get. I like tech to a point, but when documenting life or making lists, paper is my go-to. Productivity apps – I’ve tried them all – don’t cut it for me. Partly because my office was in a high-security (i.e. no cell phones and outside gadgets) facility, so I couldn’t fully rely on them. It was always paper and it’s likely that for me, it always will be paper.
I’ve tackled most other household areas by now; paper remains one thing I’m so tethered to. It’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot as I phase out the wasteful products in our household – is it ok for me to justify all the paper? I’ve decided that for me, it is. To a point. But whether it’s good paper or bad paper, it all comes from trees. I’ve decided to take a look at what I feel ok justifying and where I can make some real changes.
- Books. I’ve made a big dent in this already this year. I got a Kindle for Christmas, which I LOVE. My library loans eBooks that deliver to my Kindle, which means my YA fiction can be read on the DL. (It’s a truly great time to be alive.) I still love physical books though, but again, my library is so great. I have donated many books in 2016, but have only bought one second-hand. One strategy that made it easier for me to part with the books taking up my shelf space was determining how difficult they’d be to find at the library. No more hoarding books I may never read (or re-read). The picture above shows the remaining books I own (aside from about 20 cookbooks in the kitchen). This is less than half of what I had a year ago (but let’s not discuss Hannah’s growing collection of books..)
- Organizing/Productivity. My lists. My Filofax. Nothing else does the trick to making me feel in control of my day than keeping a paper agenda and to-do lists; I don’t think it will change. I have used planners since the 7th grade. My notes, calendar, lists, contacts, work info, ideas, doodles, etc. all fit in a small binder, and my supplies in a small canvas riggers bag. As far as hobbies go, it’s a minimalist and functional one that keeps me sane. Sorry, trees. I am, however, trying to lessen my gravitational pull toward stickers and embellishments, instead working on my doodling skills. (A girl’s still gotta decorate all the things.) I also avoid over-printing the fun printables, and use scrap paper for notes instead of post-its and virgin paper.
- Recipes. I am a recipe printer. I know, the shame! I have a binder of favorites, knowing if I save them on whatever device I found it on, I’ll never find it again. I have failed at having a digital method that makes any sense. Not only that, but when people give me hand-written recipes or I tear one out of a magazine, or I copy one down in a notebook, they all have to go somewhere. I need to make it a goal for the near future to tackle this digitally or at least vow to only print recipes that are either zero-waste or absolutely critical to the happiness of someone in the family. 🙂
- Kid Art. This is a legit category in my home already! Hannah loves all things artsy, and I don’t want to ever discourage that. We use the backs of bills and junk mail, and single-sided print outs, and random stuff from the recycle bin, in addition to always having coloring books on-hand. I am going to try to use up everything we have before getting anything new in this category. It’s tempting to, with a desire to support all creative whims, buy all the supplies! I need to remind myself that the alternatives are truly more creative – nature crafts and using what we already have.
- Memory Keeping. No technology will replace physical photographs and albums. I love looking through old albums and I want to pass them on for future generations. I’m currently working my way through preserving memories from our wedding (2005) to present, as well as Hannah’s baby book, using the Project Life system. Scrapbooking can get pretty out-of-hand when it comes to supplies, but Project Life relies on printed papers and pockets for photos so there’s no need for extra embellishment. All my supplies used to take up several totes and drawers, but now fits in an IKEA Raskog cart. My ultimate goal is for all my paper crafting supplies to fit in this cart (I still have some using up and donating to do, but I’m not too far off). My albums are kept on the IKEA Expidit (also shown above).
- Magazines. I am kicking myself for signing up for all those free subscriptions last year! I haven’t cancelled them, as they are all ending soon(ish). But I currently subscribe to 6 or 8 magazines. I read them then pass them on to others (ripping out a few things here and there). I need to cancel them all. I also recently went through all my hoarded magazines, donating and recycling most. I haven’t been able to part with my back issues of Domino (from their first printing life in the mid-2000s). I’m not sure why, but I still love flipping through them! Maybe one day soon I’ll part with them.
- Bills, statements, etc. I have requested e-statements and e-billing where at all possible, but that doesn’t mean we prevent all the paper. It’s crazy that some places offer auto-pay but still send paper statements! UGH!
- Junk mail. Beginning now, and for about 2 weeks, I’m going to keep all junk mail in a stack, then spend a couple of methodical hours demanding that it’s stopped. This means phone calls or returning some forms with their prepaid envelopes. I’ve already put my name on the lists to stop junk mail, but much of ours comes in the name of prior owners of our home! It’s been 5 years! I’ll do a post on this battle later. I also recently found this post detailing how to stop unwanted phone books (which is all of them, as far as I am concerned). I haven’t applied the tips, but I plan to.
- Gift-giving/cards. I’m a re-user of gift bags and tissue paper, so when you receive a gift from me there’s a 98% chance the gift wrap was previously used. As I run short on it now (as my family and friends have so lovingly been gifting me with unwrapped gifts(!), I am not replacing. I have a good stash, so it will be a while before I come up with clever zero waste gift wrap. I also have a pretty good stash of paper (upcycled and otherwise) to make cards from. Until the Christmas season, this will be an area that will be easy to prevent waste. While I love and appreciate beautifully wrapped gifts, I never perfected the art anyway. So I guess now’s the time to practice the art of beautiful zero waste gift-giving.
- Work paper. The final frontier. I wear many professional hats, but all my tasks seems to require so.damn.much.waste. I’ve implemented many electronic systems, but I can’t entirely avoid the paper monster. One way to avoid as much as possible is to print everything possible to PDF and save to my hard drive. I also call vendors who want a faxed PO, requesting to email instead (mostly out of necessity.. I don’t have a fax machine). I do all the supplies ordering for my offices as well, and while I’ll never convince everyone to bring their own mug instead of purchasing those paper coffee cups, I can at least request minimal packaging, buy in bulk to cut down on the packaging-to-product ratio, buy items made from recycled paper, and pick up what I can locally and deliver when I go into the office anyway (reducing the carbon footprint where I can). None of it’s ideal, but at least it’s slightly better. I’ve got a long-term goal of proposing less wasteful practices, but I haven’t actually gotten around to it yet. Does anyone have any tips on this?
As with all categories in my life, this once seemed overwhelming. But now I actually look forward making a significant dent wherever I can (and then continue to refine and improve).
So this is going to be my zero waste focus for the month of August. Here is my to-do list; I will update at the end of the month with how much progress I’ve made.
- Ensure I’ve signed up on all junk mail lists (for myself and my husband).
- Apply the phone book opt-out tips here.
- Hoard any/all junk mail, paper statements and bills for 2-3 weeks, then spend the time making phone calls, sending emails, and returning postage paid envelopes insisting to opt out.
- Cancel all the magazines I am subscribed to.
- Find something to propose cutting out at the office, or at least look into some alternatives to make the office a bit greener (where I can control it).