Tag Archives: Zero Waste

Zero Waste: Backpack Kit

Zero Waste BannerAs I’ve been transitioning to a zero waste/low impact lifestyle I decided to kit out my backpack/baby bag with some zero waste essentials. Here’s a run down of what I keep in there.

  • dish towel- for drying hands, wrapping up food, I don’t alway have this on me
  • canvas tote bag- I have a ton of these at home that I’ve collected over the years, I take them with me separately to the grocery store, but sometimes I stop and don’t have the bags with me, this saves me from balancing items or from taking a bag
  • cloth diapers- we have some all-in-one diapers that I’m not wild about for using around the house, they function like disposable diapers in that they’re single use, so they’re perfect for out and about, wrap the wipes up inside them and tuck them into a wet bag, no need to worry about soaker pads or wet outers
  • food container- for leftovers or take out, ours flattens out which makes it easier to carry around when not in use
  • bamboo utensils- my husband and I each bought a set of these years ago to use for lunches at work, I have packed them in the backpack to use when we go places that only offer plastic ware or if we happen to need some flatware
  • reusable straws- again, for places that only offer plastic
  • coffee mug- I don’t always keep this in the backpack because with the diaper essentials and the weight of the cup it can get tight and heavy, but if we’re ever out and we need a cup for water or for coffee I like to have it, something lighter weight like those reusable Starbucks cups that cost $2-$3 would probably be totally fine

These are just some ideas for what you might want to carry with you to help reduce your waste while out and about. There are plenty of other zero wasters/low impact folks out there with additional or similar ideas. You might want to look for those to get some inspiration for other things you may want/need to carry with you. This is just a starting point. You may also want things that are more minimal or collapse down if you aren’t carrying around a large purse of backpack all the time.

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. 

Zero Waste: Trash Collecting

Zero Waste Banner

Cam and I have recently started taking walks in the afternoon. It’s not ideal in the heat of the day, but we can’t seem to make it out at any earlier or later. Cam is also such a homebody that getting her to cross our threshold is like pulling teeth. The compromise is that we do two brisk walks around our block and she gets to push the baby in the stroller (I walk the dogs if it isn’t scorching hot out). 

On one of our first walks, though, I noticed a bit of trash blowing around in the gutters. Around the same time I saw a zero waste post on Instagram that showed a storm drain clogged with garbage and a note about how the water drains into local oceans. I put two and two together and remembered that our storm drains empty into out local streams and rivers. In fact we’ve had plaques above each drain that says “No Dumping! I drain into the river” or something to that effect with a picture of a fish. 

So I used this as a learning and service opportunity with Cam. I pointed out the plaque and talked to her about what that meant. Then I pointed out some of the trash we were seeing lying around (there’s often several pieces after trash pick-up day) and asked her if she thought maybe we should help our community and ecosystem out by picking up the trash and making sure it makes it into a garbage can instead of the river. Cam was mostly on board, but we put together a little trash pick up kit that includes a reused bread bag (it’s plastic, I know that’s not ideal) and a bottle of hand sanitizer (we’re out with a three month old baby, I’m not picking up trash and then touching her without at least attempting to clean my hands up). 

Now when we go out we pick up the bits of garbage we see lying around- broken plastic cups, random pieces of paper, napkins, etc. 

Zero Waste: Going Down the Rabbit Hole

Zero Waste BannerWith all the time I’ve spent over the last four months nursing a baby, I’ve gotten really into Instagram. I used to follow a lot of social media on my computer, but it’s just too hard to maneuver a laptop while sitting on the sofa and cradling a baby. So while trapped under her for an hour while she was tiny and nursing for long periods of time and frequently I got really into scrolling through Instagram. While cruising around on there I’ve come across the zero waste movement and I kind of went down the rabbit hole with it. I started following a variety of people, researching products, and reevaluating various aspects of our lives.

The underlying principles of environmentalism, environmental justice, and minimalism are not new to me. They’re ideas that I’ve been thinking about and exploring for awhile, but zero waste (which is kind of a misnomer) really gave me a tangible way to live those principles. I’m hoping to use this series on the blog to talk about how I have started to put those ideas into practice and how it’s getting incorporated into our unschooling journey as well. 

The zero waste movement isn’t without it’s issues, though. For starters no one is perfect and it’s hard not to produce any trash. Our economy is not set up for that to be easy. And for now that’s fine, I’m discovering. Some people prefer the term low impact over zero waste because it sets a more realistic expectation.

More troubling to me is how the movement is problematic in terms of social justice. For starters, the idea of zero waste is not something that hipsters started. It’s something that indigenous cultures around the world have practiced for eons, but capitalist, primarily Western companies, have co-opted the idea to sell products. Sure, they’re green, eco-friendly products but they’re products benefiting the company and their founders. Also, it’s hard to hold the expectation that all people can and should be zero waste. Not every one has access to the kinds of stores that allow them to reduce their waste. Many products that are low impact are expensive. Other ideas within zero waste, such as making your own foods, household cleaners, etc. require time and effort not all people can take on. 

All of this is information I’m beginning to research and sift through. I do really like the idea of zero waste and know we can do our part to reduce our impact as a family without having the expectation that everyone will be able to do everything we are. I’ll be sharing here to offer inspiration to others who might want to take the plunge.