The key to a sustainable lifestyle is reducing waste. This is something I am actively working on. Have you heard of the Zero Waste movement? I am not a Zero Waste Hero yet, but my goal is to change my habits as I can so that I can be there at some point.
Lately, I am making big strides to change those little things in life to a more sustainable home! My oldest son loves this, my daughter is scared I will get rid of the toilet paper.
Not able to go full zero waste yet?
That’s okay, me either! Every good habit we add to our lifestyle is a step in the right direction! If we start with little changes, the big changes won’t be so big later!
Here are some places to start!
Start by decluttering! Once you have cleared out the stuff you do not need, you have a better idea of what you really need! Repurpose, gift, sell what you can! You might no use that waffle iron, but someone else may be looking for one! Also look into Buy Nothing groups in your area! This is a great place to declutter working useful things, and find some of the things you need! By getting used from one of these groups, you save money and reduce someone else’s waste! Maybe you can make a like minded friend too!
Learning to say no…
I used to save business cards for things I will never use because someone else may need it. I am learning to say no to those things that companies want to give us. I found at first it felt like I was being rude, and part of me wanted to take them because it is expected. That is part of the problem!
I have learned to politely say no. I say, “Thank you, but I would hate to waste your card. Save it for someone who can use it.” That seems to go over well because you just saved them money even if it is pennies. If they push, be honest, “Sorry I do not want it and I would just recycle it and I am trying o reduce the waste I produce. ” If they can’t accept that then you are not the one being rude. When offered a freebie, ask yourself, “Will I use this?” If not, decline it!
- You can opt out of mailers in many areas. If you can not, or get them anyway, see if you can use them! For example: Newspaper bags.
- Paperless billing! See if you can set that up! Almost every company prefers it!
- For the ladies, look into reusable cloth pads, cups, or Thinx to avoid the use of tampons. I have been using them for almost 2 years now! They are the best! Want $10 off? The link above gives you $10 off and give me $10 off! It’s always better to get something amazing at a discount.
- Cloth diapers are becoming more popular now too! When my kids were little they were hard to find so we used disposable and potty trained early. (I still support early potty training!) My grandmother said if a kid can walk with confidence they can be potty trained.
- Get rid of paper towels! We kept them around a while for the cast iron. Having them, people used them for other things. When we ran out last time we decided to use the old coffee filters left from before we got the reusable filter. We now use double layer towels made from Tshirts to clean the cast iron (cotton only!!). I soak them in hot water with vinegar to degrease them before washing them. I think they will wear out faster than the other towels but it is a great way to use old Tshirts! I also made unpaper towels from old sheets! These can be used in place of facial tissue too!
- Check out Buy Nothing groups and thrift stores and stock up on towels! You can cut them down to hand towels for spills and cleaning. They are great for repurposing into all kinds of things! I get them free from groups and cut them up and sew them into other things.
- Ditch the makeup wipes and cotton facial pads! I just made a big stack of cotton face cleaners from old washcloths!
- Cotton swabs, if you can’t ditch them, get ones made from recycled materials, or if they are cotton with a paper stick you can compost them!
One paper I refuse to ditch is Toilet paper! I know there are families that use reusable but I REALLY do not want to wash poop. I am already using water to flush it why use water to clean it off the fabric. You can buy “treeless” paper! This is made from non-tree plant matter. You can also buy paper that is made from recycled material. That is what we do. I know you can get paper towels made like that too but paperless ones have a longer life.
Change how you buy!
Buy bulk, and with as little packing as possible. Buy recycled and only buy what you need. Change the type of products you buy too! Be a label reader!
- If you can, Don’t Buy! See if you can get it free at a swap group or Buy Nothing. If not buy used! Try local people before thrift stores!
- Look for Bamboo toothbrushes and hairbrushes with recyclable bristles. You can compost these!
- Soap: Bar soap last longer, and many like Dr. Bronner come wrapped in paper! Read up on Dr. Broner! They have lots of great products and fit my price range! Lots of farmer’s markets have a soap stand and many of those have little to no packaging! (Sustainable and supports small local business!)
- Go no poo! Like for real! It saves money, no bottles, and no toxic stuff in your hair.
- Buy from a Farmers Market! Some areas only have them seasonally but when you can take advantage of fresh produce! You tend to find things you will never see in a store and it grows the local economy!
- Get rid of plastic, ditch the bags and get canvas! As part of my Zero waste efforts, I reuse all plastic as long as I can. Re-purpose what I can and recycle the rest. I am slowly moving to a zero plastic home, but I am not going to toss it all out when it is still usable. Any way that you can remove plastic from your life is a step in the right direction! I live in Austin and we have a plastic bag ban. Always have some in your car, at least on in your backpack, and remember to bring them in the store!
- Diet: buy bulk foods. The more food is processed the more waste, cost, and unhealthy extras. Learn to bake bread and cookies and then you know what is in your food! We buy flour in paper bags, and 25 + pounds at a time. Sugar we buy 10 pounds at a time. Buy bulk meats, and make friends with your local butcher! Grow foods where you can! Even an apartment can have an herb garden! Do you have a bulk shopping area in your store? Ask if you can use your own container? If not still buy that way! It is cheaper too! Not able to buy bulk? Look at the packaging? Buy food in boxes over that in plastic. Can you avoid excess packaging? If so, awesome!
- Carry a reusable water bottle everywhere you go. I keep a full one in my backpack, and a cup, and a coffee cup at my desk at work. Many places will let you use your own coffee cups too! Pack a lunch, with reusable containers. I also keep a spoon and fork at my desk. On the go? Keep a fork, a spoon, and knife with a reusable napkin and cup in your car! Get reusable straws too. I have BPA-free reusable cups with lids, and I always have one with me. If nothing else I can fill it up at a water fountain.
- Buy products that have more than one use! I am all about the multiple uses! The more it can do, the more likely I am to spend my money on it.
DIY what you can!
Not a DIYer? You might learn to be! If you are not frugal, find zero waste people selling stuff!
Here are some basic things I think everyone should know:
- Learn to cook
- Learn to bake bread and your favorite snacks!
- Learn at least basic sewing and mending
- Learn to crochet or knit (optional but a fun hobby that can save you money!)
- Some basic repair work, great for fixing old appliances and fixing your home.
- How to grow food and herbs! (Even a small veggie and herb patch goes a long way)
- It helps to be able to DIY up a batch of homemade beauty products but there is lots of small business and Zero Wasters out there willing to sell stuff!