One of the best things I’ve done since trying to live zero waste is to keep a running second-hand wishlist in my Filofax. As I replace plastic items in my household, wear holes through my favorite hoodie, or think of any random thing I need, I write it on the list to look for a used option (or remember to ask around to borrow).
Today I had a donation run to make to my local charity thrift shop. After we dropped off a good SUV trunk full of stuff, we went in to look for a few things on my running list. Today was a great haul! – I found most everything on there (above), including:
Two laptop sleeves (for my personal laptop and work laptop)
A simple black leather cross body purse (trying to achieve that small and efficient capsule wardrobe..)
A basic black hoodie (to replace the one I parted with that was in terrible shape)
PJs for my growing girl
Wooden cooking utensils
A glass half gallon water pitcher (I just need to find a cork lid)
A ceramic sugar bowl
The total for my haul was a whopping $12.50. Man I love thrift shopping. I am trying to only buy things that will last for the long haul, so it’s taken a bit of willpower to not just buy any/all second hand stuff I like (like I used to do) just because it’s cheap. My 1-in-1-out rule definitely helps.
Another great thing about my running list is that by delaying purchasing things, I will many times come up with an alternative and not need to buy it in the first place. Or the desire for whatever it is will pass. I kind of love it when that happens; it feels like putting money back in my pocket somehow.
The other night I was sipping wine out of a little acrylic wine glass I purchased in a set last summer at Target, and realized a tiny crack had formed along the bottom, leaking wine on me and my table. I quickly poured it into another. Same thing. I’ve had them for less than a year and they have already become useless for their function!
The old me would have made a mental note to pick up some new glasses the next time I was shopping. But my new mentality isn’t to replace an item, but just fill a need. I don’t need new wine glasses; I just need something to drink wine from. And that can be anything. I have a cabinet full of drinking glasses and coffee mugs. I have a second cabinet full of mason jars.
It turns out I prefer drinking my wine from a mason jar anyway. 🙂
This story isn’t really to illustrate that I’m a genius – it was a really obvious solution. It just seemed worth mentioning, because I’m finding that my days are often filled with chances to make more responsible choices. Of course, you don’t have to declare a specific goal to improve your choices. But for me, it took a change in my lifestyle to *really* slow my cycle of consumption.
It is so easy to feel like you need to buy something to fill any and every need, but there are so many other (better) tactics to apply first. I love this “Buyerarchy of Needs” graphic. I mentally refer to it all the time! (Side story: I decided to track down the illustrator of this (not hard; her website is right on the graphic). I discovered she published an amazing project book called “A Bunch of Pretty Stuff I Did Not Buy.” I love obsessive projects, so the idea of illustrating rather than purchasing everything I want.. makes me wish I could draw. I love this idea. Just one more tactic to break the cycle of shopping.)
I obviously love multitasking items like mason jars, coconut oil, and Castile soap. But I’ve been finding lots of creative ways to repurpose what I have. I now mentally prepare for my day ahead and figure out how I might need to avoid waste. The other day I needed to go to the garden center to get plants for the garden (to replace some seed starts that failed). Hauling home plants requires some type of dirt/mess catchment in the vehicle, which previously meant I would accept some of their plastic flats and plastic bags to contain the mess. This time, I looked around the garage for something to haul my plants home in. I had already repurposed our cardboard box stash as weed block in the garden, so instead I grabbed our plastic sled. It worked perfectly! I could even drag the plants to the back yard on the sled, like a little cart. Rather than think “I need plastic trays to haul my plants home” I think “I need something to keep the dirt from getting all over my car.” In this case I reused something I already had.
As for my cracked wine glasses that can’t be donated or recycled – they are going in Hannah’s stash of scooping/dumping receptacles for playing in the dirt and water outside.
It’s been a week on my no-spend; so far, so easy. I had a productive week: taking 4 boxes to a charity thrift shop, starting more seedlings for the garden, doing spring yard clean-up, tidying the shed, washing windows… the weather has been beautiful, and I’m in the mood to spring clean and work outside!
I made a tiny grid for the dashboard of my planner where I can mark off the days for this challenge. I just drew a tiny calendar for the days of the month, and mark them off each time I have a successful day. Since I refer to my planner constantly it’s a little added incentive to keep going with it. This is actually a really good, simple, tool for perfectionists and would be great for any type of daily goal you are trying to achieve. Since I love challenges so much I may try this for another one next month.
I have to laugh that the quote above is about buying (“You can’t buy happiness, but you can buy plants and that’s pretty much the same thing.”) I feel like it’s a true statement! The only things I’m jonesing for right now are plants, but I can wait until May for that. 🙂 This is actually a good time of year to do a spending freeze; gardening season is a time it’s easy for me to justify spending money. But better planning and using what I’ve got is a much better habit to get into. Gardening should be a frugal hobby! So until May, and until I’ve fully planned and prioritized, I’m babying seedlings and studying what’s emerging in my yard from last year, to get my plant fix!
Every now and again I do a month- long spending freeze, and I’m starting another today. I actually really love doing this once or twice a year, because they inspire me to:
slow down and be grateful for what I have;
be more creative when solving problems (make do without, borrow, make my own, etc);
tackle overdue projects I’ve already got the supplies for, explore my city, connect with friends, get rid of excess…basically just channel my energy toward the things I otherwise overlook;
give a new look to old stuff (I like changing things up, and during spending freezes I just rearrange, shop the house, try some different outfit pairings, etc. to get my fix)
I always decide at the beginning, what the “rules” will be. I tend to be a bit of a perfectionist, a downfall of that being that when I mess up, I give up! By establishing what’s allowed, what the exceptions are, etc, I am more likely to stick with a challenge. The allowable expenses this time around are:
Household consumables (items to clean, personal care stuff, etc – though I will make most if not all of this category)
Reasonable “experience” expenses. This is new; typically I also try to avoid these when doing a spending freeze. But this time I will allow a bit of spending for a night out (we have one planned mid-month), Mom’s Club activities (like admission into a museum), a family outing or two, and renewal of our Nature Center membership.
So what is NOT allowed is: décor items, office supplies, makeup, clothing (for any of us), books (for any of us), toys, and random tempting Amazon purchases. Even thrift shopping is going to be a no-go. This month I’m focusing on removing (even more) things from the house and not bringing any in. So I’ll be going through our things again and again to minimize our possessions, selling, donating, and giving away anything extraneous. I’ve already sent countless bags and boxes of things to charity shops over the last 3 months, but I am not finished yet. Though I’m not much of a retail junkie, my thrift shopping tendencies, as well as my always saying “YES!” to other people’s cast-offs has really added up. That, and just the general epiphany that less is more – I am truly feeling more at home the more I get rid of (knowing that most everything left is useful or special).
The only physical item I will allow is new glasses – I need them pretty badly, and April is when my benefits will allow for them. I do also have two birthday gifts to factor in; I haven’t decided if I will purchase gifts or get a little creative..
This time around, I’m particularly excited to see how zero waste will affect this challenge. My spending over the last month has been mainly swapping out disposable or junky plastic stuff for good-quality, sustainable items I can use indefinitely. I’m not entirely done, but the wasteful disposables, most toxic plastics, Teflon, and vinyl (aka, the worst offenders) are out of our lives. We can absolutely make do with what we have now for a while.
I’ve got a little list of projects to do this month, but they aren’t going to keep me up at night. I just have my list in case I get the itch to do something productive and don’t want to be tempted to hit the hardware store or thrift store for a project.
Have you ever done a no-spend month? If you want to join me, let me know and we can trade tips and updates!
I will occasionally find myself doing the hippie-dippiest things and it makes me ridiculously happy. The other day while Hannah was napping, I was making my own face soap. With Calendula petals I dried myself. From flowers I grew in my garden. From seeds. That I obtained from an organic seed swap.
I’ll let you digest all the crunchy goodness of that.
Calendula is awesome for the skin – it brightens and protects it from blemishes. It also fights infections and encourages collagen production. I wanted to share the recipe for this really easy soap. Everything in it is super good for your skin.
ORGANIC CALENDULA FACE BAR
2lbs Castile soap base
1/2 TBS Shea Butter
1/2 TBS Coconut Oil
1/2 TSP Vitamin E Oil
1 TBS Organic Raw Honey
6-8 TBS dried Calendula petals
20-30 drops essential oil (optional). I used Wild Lemon.
Here are all the ingredients gathered up.
Cut Castile soap base bars into small chunks (about 1″x1″). Place in microwave-safe bowl.
Heat soap pieces in microwave in 30-second increments, stirring between, until melted.
Stir in remaining ingredients.
Pour into your mold of choice. I used a cleaned half &half container with the top cut off because I like the idea of small, perfectly square soaps. You could also use a greased muffin tin, silicon soap or baking molds, or silicon ice cube trays for small soaps.
Let the soap sit for at least 12 hours. Remove from your mold and cut into bars. Package any way you like. I like to wrap soap in parchment paper and add my own labels with the ingredients printed, especially if I give them away as gifts!
Here’s the soap poured into my fancy mold. A lot of the petals floated up, giving the top of the mold the most organic matter in it.
Here’s the finished product. Cutting about 1 inch thick slabs, this made 8 bars. I gave most away as gifts, but had a couple leftover for myself. It smells so good!
PS: You don’t have to grow your own Calendula to make this; you can find anything online. I like Majestic Mountain Sage and Mountain Rose Herbs for all the supplies I use (in addition to the grocery store, and DoTERRA for the essential oils.)
I am gradually replacing disposable items in my life with reusable ones to minimize waste and cost. I used to use those little pre-soaked eye makeup remover pads, the cost of which is pretty outrageous! When I ran out, I would use coconut oil until I made it to the store to get more disposable makeup remover pads. ..How dumb is that?? Coconut oil is so dirt cheap and not full of chemical ingredients, you’d think given my DIY and thrifty ways I would have had that DUH moment long ago. Alas, even I am a product of marketing sometimes, thinking I had to buy a specific-use product at a stupid-high price, and that the eco alternative was only to use in a pinch. ANYWAY.
When I made the conscious effort to think through every product and purchase, I ditched the disposable eye makeup remover pads for coconut oil permanently. And because I didn’t want to have to use cotton balls, I made my own little cotton pads from scrap fabric I already had. (What did you do with your New Years Eve? Go out and party? Ha!)
I grabbed a small piece of cotton fabric I had leftover from another project. I hoped to use up the rest since I think it’s so colorful and pretty! For the back I used an old piece of a flannel burp cloth (which had a previous life as a receiving blanket a friend handed down to me… quite the purposeful piece of fabric, eh?)
I cut little squares (about 2×2) of each (one of the cotton and 2 of the flannel for each finished square to make them a little thicker). I made 9 because that’s exactly how many I could get from the cotton scrap. Then I sewed around the edge with a zigzag stitch. No time-consuming turning right-side out and stitching closed – just enough to keep them from fraying too badly. This little project cost nothing and took maybe 20-25 minutes at the most.
They aren’t perfectly square because I didn’t measure or use a ruler, but they are still cuter than a cotton ball!
I just apply a bit of coconut oil to the pad and wipe off my eye makeup, then rinse them out a bit and toss in the towel hamper. Could not be simpler!
I’ve blogged about my grocery-getting routine before and not a whole lot will change since heading for zero waste (other than being more diligent and committed!), but I thought it was worth updating on.
I still use my favorite muslin bags and Envirosax (the pattern I have is no longer available). I’ve added to my zero waste kit these big canvas bags with jar sleeves and mesh produce bags. The canvas bags are so sturdy, and they will also be great for picnics since they hold up jars/wine bottles perfectly!
At the store, rather than use provided plastic bags for produce and bulk items, I use the mesh and muslin bags (I previously only had a couple of each so I’ve added to my stash to completely prevent having to use plastic). At home, I decant the items into glass mason jars or Glasslock containers. I use a bit of Washi tape and a Sharpie to label them. A lot of produce can stay loose in the fridge or fruit basket on the counter. No more ugly bags!
I’ve yet to need bakery, dairy and deli items since beginning zero waste (I am trying to use up things in the pantry and freezer before shopping), but those items will definitely be more challenging. I already have a good practice for some things, or a plan in place to at least minimize the waste:
Milk – We already have this delivered weekly in returnable/refillable bottles.
Almond milk/creamer – I make my own.
Yogurt – I now make my own with milk.
Eggs – We have chickens, so we just collect the eggs in recycled cartons again and again.
Cheese/meats – Hoping I can ask deli counter/butcher block to fill my glass jars with no funny looks or refusal!
Bakery – I’ll ask to have my bread order put into a bag/pillowcase I will bring with me (or just make my own bread). Again, a bit nervous about asking!
Toiletry items – Look for a bulk source (possibly will have to make a biyearly drive to the nearest to stock up?) and make my own as much as I can. This will be a fun challenge to me because I’m odd like that.
Anything I can’t find in bulk – buy in glass or paper packaging. No more plastic!
I’ll do another post with actual photos of my haul next time I do a grocery trip, but so far I have been working on using up what we already had accumulated so I haven’t done a grocery trip since December 28 (and even then for only for 4 items!).
I’m not even close to perfect, but with a bit of pre-planning I’ve already prevented a LOT of plastic waste from heading to the landfill. It adds up so quickly. I’m still beginning and if I can find items I need loose, or in glass/paper packaging I feel like I’m doing pretty well. However, the bar gets higher for myself each day, which is a great thing!