Monthly Archives: September 2018

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Zero Waste: Getting Started

 

Zero Waste BannerSo when I first began looking at the zero waste movement I felt overwhelmed. There is so much trash out there and anything I did felt like a drop in the ocean. And anyways, where do I even begin evaluating my own life and the trash I produce? It felt like an enormous undertaking to get started. But I had to start somewhere, so I decided to break things down into manageable chunks that I could tackle one at a time. I thought I would just share a little bit of how I went about getting started in case someone else out there is having trouble, is getting overwhelmed, or wants to use my approach. 

The first thing I did was make a list of areas in our house/life. Things like bathroom, bedroom, clothes, and kitchen. This is something that will be personal to each person/family/home. We happen to have a camping area in our lives and cars, but not everyone will have those (I wish we didn’t have to have cars!). 

Then I went through each section, one per day for a week, and wrote down all the things we do in those areas and products we use. This sounds more confusing than it is. Here’s an example:

Bathroom:

  • body wash
  • shaving cream
  • shampoo/conditioner
  • face wash & scrub
  • razors
  • underwear
  • socks
  • underwear
  • toilet paper
  • q-tips
  • cotton balls
  • toothpaste
  • toothbrushes
  • mouthwash
  • lotion
  • deoderant
  • floss
  • neosporin
  • sunscreen
  • supplements

Next, I revisited one of those lists, one per week until I got through all of them, and researched options for each product or activity. Looking back at the example above, I researched sustainable toothbrushes and floss and toilet paper. For shampoo/conditioner I researched water-only hair washing (I had other reasons to do this too). I also decided some products we used were not necessary. It’s really important to remember at this step that you may have limitations that prevent you from adopting pure zero waste products and strategies AND THAT IS OKAY. DO NOT feel bad about them. Zero waste is not actually possible yet and while it that can feel sad, it’s reality. The point of a zero waste lifestyle is to reduce your footprint not erase it. 

I think the important thing to remember here is that if you try to tackle too much at once, you’ll just feel overwhelmed. Yes, it takes some time to work through all these areas and steps and I understand the impulse to jump right in and start living with less waste as soon as you become aware of the issues. But by breaking it down and moving through it methodically you will do a better job implementing the principles of a zero/low waste lifestyle and you won’t burn out or stop because you’re so overwhelmed. It’s a marathon, not a sprint, so take your time. 

Now that I had a game plan in place, more or less, I started implementing the new actions, like packing the dishwasher more efficiently, and switching over new products as I used up old ones. Don’t go throwing out useable product! Use up what you have and make the switch when it’s all gone. So we still haven’t gotten through our toothpaste tube. When it’s done I’ll switch to the product I’ve chosen. Ditto Ziploc bags (I rewash those too). 

To summarize: 

  1. Identify all the areas in your house/life that need to become zero waste. 
  2. Within those areas, list out all the products and activities in them.
  3. Research products and activities and determine what you can replace.
  4. As you use up product or do activities start implementing your new strategies and products. 

Friday Five: Back to School

Friday Five BannerFriday Five is a series that suggests five books around a theme. You can use them to jump off into a themed homeschool unit, guide your reading around an interest, or just as a ready-made set of books to read. 

Back to School

School's First Day of School1. School’s First Day of School written by Adam Rex, illustrated by Christian Robinson

This book is equal parts funny and sweet. A recently built school worries about the first day of school and meeting the children. While waiting for that fateful day it talks to the janitor. When the first day finally arrives things don’t go exactly as expected, but the school learns a lot and comes to appreciate his place. 

A Hand to Hold2. A Hand to Hold written by Zetta Elliott, illustrated by Purple Wong

A little girl takes comfort in the solid presence and support of her dad. They go everywhere together, the store, the library, and one day, school. But here the girl learns that her dad won’t be playing with her. At first she’s sad and scared, but the teacher steps in a pairs her up with another little girl struggling. Fortunately the little girl knows just what to do to help both of them feel brave enough to run off to play. Just try not to get misty eyed by the end of this one. :) 

I'm New Here3. I’m New Here written and illustrated by Anne Sibley O’Brien

Three immigrant children narrate their experiences of starting out at school in the US. They don’t speak English, can’t read or write in English and haven’t made friends, but come to jump all these hurdles with the help and encouragement of their peers and teachers. This one isn’t technically the first day of school, but it is about starting out in a new school. 

First Day Jitters4. First Day Jitters written by Julie Danneberg, illustrated by Judy Love

This is an older book, but it’s great for the first days of school. It flips the traditional narrative of kids afraid to start at a new school and follows a teacher worried about all the same things kids usually worry about (getting lost, not knowing anyone or anything, etc.). The fact that the character is the teacher is not revealed until the end of the book and makes for a good laugh when kids realize they aren’t alone in their fears. 

5. Ming Goes to School written by Deirdre Sullivan, illustrated by Maja Löfdahl

This is not technically a back to school book, but a book that follows Ming through the school year. The text is very spare and simple, but makes for a really beautiful story of Ming growing up through the year at school (parents, get your tissues ready!). The illustrations are just beautiful watercolors that make the story feel that much more sentimental. The soft lines and bright flowing colors really give you a sense of the passage of time. Well worth a read at the beginning of each school year. As a side note, Ming may be adopted? She looks Asian (she’s fairly generic) plus her name is Chinese, but the man, who drops her off, looks white. And the first part of the text says that school is where she learns to say hello which could simply mean she’s shy, but to me seemed more literal. Just a thought. That could be more of an interpretation based on the illustrations combined with the text rather than something actually implied by the text. She could also be bi-racial. My point being, children may be able to read a little more diversity into the story and see some representation.