I have an extra set of curtains, which I didn’t want to use anymore. I decided to create a sofa armrest organizer with both curtain pieces. Both curtain pieces were 5 foot 10 in length, and 27 inches wide.
I wanted my sofa armrest organizer to sit at a certain height off the ground, but I also wanted the top half to also tuck underneath the couch cushion. I first measured how high off the ground I wanted my couch armrest organizer. Since I needed to hang it over the sofa armrest and then wrap back over the arm to tuck underneath the cushion, that left about 47 inches to tuck underneath the cushion.
I wanted to store books in the first organizer, which would be fairly heavy, so I needed a lot of the material to tuck under the seat cushion to hold it in place. I actually wanted the top part of the organizer to tuck underneath an entire sofa cushion width, due to the weight that would be applied.
FIRST SOFA ARMREST ORGANIZER:
When I measured out my first design, I wanted the pockets for my books to be 14 inches in height. I first hemmed all of the edges and then I folded one edge to create the 14″ tall pockets. I sewed around the edge of the folded piece (yellow arrows) and then divided the pocket in half, and sewed a dividing line down the center to create two tall pockets (red arrow). These pockets will be able to hold my books and paperwork that I’m currently working on. I wanted my pockets to be a bit taller than the standard paper size (8.5″ x 11″), due to the fact that I knew the width of the pocket might eat up some of the height. I also wanted to be able to hide my books and paperwork, so my pockets wouldn’t look like they were overflowing with paper.
To attach the sofa armrest organizer, I removed the couch cushion on the side of the couch, located how high I wanted to hang the organizer, and then replaced the couch cushion. Since the top half of the fabric organizer is tucked under the couch cushion, it stayed in place.
SECOND SOFA ARMREST ORGANIZER:
I also wanted to create a second design, which would have smaller pockets for smaller items. My second design would have 10 inches in height for the books, and 6 inches for smaller objects.
Using the same sewing method as the first design, I hemmed all of the edges of the fabric material, and then measured 16″ of material at one end. I folded up the 16″ material, sewed along the outside edges of the tall pocket (yellow arrows), which created a giant 16″ tall pocket.
I then took the bottom 6″ of the pocket and folded it up, to create a shorter 6″ pocket at the bottom. This 6″ tall pocket also helped create the 10″ pocket behind the smaller pockets. I then sewed on both of the side edges of the fabric piece (red arrows) and then sewed a dividing line (blue arrow) to create a total of four pockets for this design. I sewed the edges of this design, all the way to the top of the pocket to reinforce the side edges.
Using the same method as the first sofa armrest organizer, I located where I wanted the organizer to hang on my armrest and I tucked the top half of it under the couch cushion on the end.
Since these sofa armchair organizers are made of fabric material, I can toss them into the washing machine and wash them easily. I can also fold them up and put them away if I don’t need to use them. Fabric is my favorite material to work with since it can be taken apart and reused multiple times. I love that it is a very flexible medium and I was able to put my old curtains to good use.
The psychological triggers that cause consumerism is a powerful strategy that companies use to target shoppers. As humans, sometimes we make decisions that the heart justifies. When companies know what these heart triggers are, they are in an influential position to offer something your heart will say yes to. Buying decisions are as emotional as they are logical. By understanding why we tend to buy new items, will help in understanding how to curb that need and want.
To understand consumerism, we have to take a step back to understand how we are targeted by big corporations and what tactics they use to catch our attention.
WHAT ARE THE STRATEGIES OF MARKETING
There are a few strategies of marketing that are frequently used. There are many reasons why people purchase new items, but there are the Top 5 reasons why people tend to buy products.
To Belong or Be Relevant. We have an emotional need to want to feel like we belong to a bigger picture and to feel relevant. Some people buy brands when they see ‘cool’ people in the advertisements, because they want mimic them. People unconsciously associate a certain personality with the brand based upon the ads they see, and if this personality is appealing to them, they buy the brand thinking that this action will bring them closer to this personality.
To Be Right or Not Be Wrong. Some purchases are driven by pride. We want to be able to share positive recommendations with our peers that display our own wisdom in having made that choice in the first place. According to the Social Proof Theory, items become more appealing when they are desired by others. This lets people to sometimes buy products that they don’t need, just because of their perceived attractiveness.
To Fulfill One of the Four Basic Needs. These are the four states that humans are programmed to pursue, and these needs drive many of our decisions. Shopping can be a means to reach certain goals.
Health: “I want to drop 10 pounds after the holidays.”
Wealth: “I want to feel more energetic in leading our team and business.”
Relationships: “I want to feel confident and ready to date again.”
Spirituality/Happiness: “Love the skin you’re in everyday!”
To Have Security. To feel safe is an innate emotional need for us. Some people go shopping to escape from bad moods, bad days, a feeling of uneasiness, etc. Others buy brands to attract attention, such as a person who may buy expensive cars to improve their perceived status. Perhaps a person might buy certain clothes to appeal to the other sex.
For Memories and Loyalty. There’s an emotional attachment to our memories. The memories that we value the most, are the ones we will tend to draw from.
WHO THEY ARE TARGETING
People who make purchasing decisions rooted as much in emotional impulses as logical facts.
Purchasing anything, is as emotional as it is logical.
Buyers who have egos.
When making purchase decisions for themselves, buyers will naturally think about themselves and what they stand to gain by buying the product
Buyers who have a greater commitment to fleeting losses than to seek gains.
Pointing out what a buyer stands to potentially gain from buying their product, and what they might miss out on, if they don’t.
Buyers who are naturally suspicious
Selling experts always preach the importance of establishing a relationship of trust and credibility. If they can gain your trust, the sale is almost complete.
Buyers who respond psychologically to visual elements and stories.
The logical side of buyers craves facts and figures, that’s why numbers (price, technical specifications, etc.) are featured so prominently in brochures.
Buyers who crave value
Buyers are perked up by the prospect of somehow ‘winning’ the battle against the seller. By gaining as much value from the sale as much as possible, the buyer will feel that they walked away from the sale gaining more than what was presented.
Buyers who travel in packs
Buyers have a herd mentality, when opting to move together in large groups. They will naturally be swayed by what a great number of their peers have done, as opposed to standing alone.
By understanding what triggers us as consumers into purchasing new items, it helps us recognize where we might be weak when it comes to buying anything. Self reflection is always a process, and it’s an ongoing journey to understand ourselves better. I have had to reflect on my own purchasing habits and tendencies, so I am no different than anyone else.
When I started to declutter my life, I really examined the products and items I no longer used, but I had not let go of. I don’t like to waste my money, and I doubt anyone else does either. As long as you understand what triggers you as a consumer, you can gain more control over your purchasing power and your spending habits.
TerraCycle offers a range of free programs that are funded by conscientious companies, as well as recycling solutions available for purchase for almost every form of waste.
TerraCycle offers free recycling programs funded by brands, manufacturers, and retailers around the world to help you collect and recycle your hard-to-recycle waste. Simply choose the programs you’d like to join; start collecting in your home, school, or office; download free shipping labels; and send us your waste to be recycled. You can even earn rewards for your school or favorite non-profit!
TerraCycle reuses, upcycles, and recycles waste instead of incinerating or land filling it. This moves waste from a linear system to a circular one, allowing it to keep cycling in our economy.
You can collect points, by collecting trash for your specific program and then redeeming your points. You can redeem your points by either receiving a cash value, or you can donate the points to charity. There’s a list of charities that team up with TerraCycle, in which you can choose to donate your points to.
I always donate my points, since I think this program is a great way for charities and companies to get involved with creating less waste, and I really don’t value the cash redemption as much.
Some of the charity organizations I was looking at to donate my points were:
100 points = Help safeguard 1 acre of rain forest for 1 year in the Northwest Gaia Amazon.
300 points = Have a tree planted in an American forest through Arbor Day Foundation
300 points = You can provide one year’s supply of clean drinking water to a person who otherwise would lack access to this most essential element.
625 points = You can help the D’Addario Music Foundation give one child a free music lesson.
2500 points = You can help the D’addario Music Foundation provide a child with 4 music lessons for a week. Kids who study music are 5x more likely to stay in school, graduate on time and apply to college.
100 points = For every 100 points, TerraCycle will send $1 to the American Red Cross to provide aid to those affected by natural disasters.
For this round, I decided to split my points between a couple of different charities. I decided to redeem my points with:
Providing one year’s supply of clean drinking water to a person who otherwise would lack access to this most essential element
If you want to participate in the TerraCycle programs, check them out at https://www.terracycle.com/en-US/select-country to see which programs you can join. The participating companies change often, so check back with the website to see updates. There are a lot of programs to choose from and supporting the partnership between TerraCycle and the participating companies creates more awareness to how much trash we produce, and how companies take responsibility for the trash they pass onto us consumers.
Zero Waste Week is here! This year we have more participants and the event is hoping to reach a larger audience. Rachelle Strauss is the creator and director behind Zero Waste Week, an annual awareness campaign since 2008. It takes place in the first full week in September each year, and promotes awareness in producing rash and the disposal of trash. Zero Waste Week encourages the public to be more aware of how much trash they produce as well has encouraging people and businesses to live and work more sustainable and reduce their carbon footprint. She has been featured in The Guardian, National Geographic and The Sun for her efforts in promoting awareness for a more sustainable future.
This is my third year participating in Zero Waste Week as an ambassador. I’m so grateful and proud to be a part of this movement. There are many others who are and have been a part of this movement long before I came along, you can meet them atZero Waste Week Ambassadors. You can also read all about this week and get involved at Zero Waste Week- About. Use the hashtag #ZeroWasteWeek to show us your progress!
This year, the theme is Climate Change, and our decisions that effect climate change.
Carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases always have been present in the atmosphere, keeping the earth hospitable to life by trapping heat. Yet, since the industrial revolution, emissions of these gases from human activity have accumulated steadily, trapping more heat and exacerbating the natural greenhouse effect.
As a result, global average temperatures have risen both on land and in the oceans, with observable impacts already occurring that foretell increasingly severe changes in the future. Polar ice is melting. Glaciers around the globe are in retreat. Storms are increasing in intensity. Ecosystems around the world already are reacting, as plant and animal species struggle to adapt to a shifting climate, and new climate-related threats emerge.
September 2, 2019, DAY 1:
This year’s topic is climate change.
An overwhelming body of scientific evidence paints a clear picture: climate change is happening, it is caused in large part by human activity, and it will have many serious and potentially damaging effects in the decades ahead. Scientists have confirmed that the earth is warming, and that greenhouse gas emissions from cars, power plants and other man made sources are the primary cause.
September 3, 2019, DAY 2
Reducing food waste and food packaging in the kitchen.
An estimated one third of all food produced in the world, goes to waste; that’s equivalent to 1.3 billion tons of food. This loss of food could be for a number of reasons, such as the fact that the foods never leave their farms, get lost or spoiled during transportation or are simply thrown away. When we waste food, we waste all of the energy and water used to used to produce the foods as well. Here are a few blog posts on my methods to deal with food waste and how purchase my food.
Choosing slow fashion has been a hot topic in the past few years. The textile industry. is one of the most polluting industries, producing 1.2 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent ( CO2e ) per year, which is more emissions than international flights and maritime shipping. Over 60% of textiles are used in the clothing industry and a large proportions of clothing manufacturing occurs in China and India, countries which rely on coal-fueled power plants, increasing the footprint of each garment. It has been stated that around 5% of total global emissions come from the fashion industry.
Fast fashion is produced on shorter time frames with new designs appearing every few weeks to satisfy demand for the latest trends, but with this comes increased consumption and more waste. It has been estimated that there are 20 new garments manufactured per person each year and we are buying 60% more than we were in 2000.
By choosing to shop at thrift shops, or swapping with friends and neighbors, helps reduce the amount of newly manufactured clothing brought into the home, and it helps reduce the amount of clothing that ends up in the landfill.
Below are a few blog posts related to fast fashion, and how I deal with that issue. I love every piece of my wardrobe and I try to repair my clothes as often as I can, to lengthen the life of my garments. I buy new clothes very seldom, because thrift shops offer so much more variety to chose form.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency names phosphorus, nitrogen, ammonia and chemicals grouped under the term “Volatile Organic Compounds” as the worst environmental hazards in household cleaners.
Ammonia is a multipurpose household cleaner that is found in many cleaning products that do everything from degreasing to sanitizing and removing allergens.
Household cleaning seems to be a sensitive subject for many. There are a variety of sanitary concerns and medical concerns. As for me, I use a vinegar and water mix, baking soda and a bristle brush to clean.
You can read more about my approach to household cleaning in the links below.
Zero Waste is for life, not just a week! Plastic pollution, trash pollution, water and soil pollution is an ongoing battle. A zero waste lifestyle does require an awareness of oneself and decisions. There are parameters that some of us deal with, and that others don’t, such as medical conditions, personal health and financial constraints.
The proliferation of single-use plastic around the world is accelerating climate change. Plastic production is expanding worldwide, fueled in part by the fracking boom in the US. Plastic contributes to greenhouse gas emissions at every stage of its life cycle, from its production to its refining and the way it is managed as a waste product
By reducing your plastic waste, plastic purchases, and opting for more environmentally friendly alternatives, can help alleviate the amount of plastic waste you produce. Also, by choosing slow fashion, and more sustainable garment materials, will also help lengthen the life of your wardrobe pieces and not contribute to the fast fashion industry. Additionally, using non-toxic alternative household cleaners, will also help your indoor air quality. Using non- toxic chemicals also will help keep Nitrogen, phosphorus and ammonia out of the rivers, streams, lakes and other waterways.
If you want to read about my moments and lessons throughout my zero waste journey, you can check out the links to my previous blog posts below.
I hope you will want to take the pledge and reduce the amount of trash you consume, and reduce your carbon footprint. If you want to read about my journey and how I got started, you can read that here in, How I Got Started.
September 2- September 6, is #ZeroWasteWeek – Sign up here! goo.gl/oqHvRk. Isn’t it time to ReThink Waste? We think so! Join @myzerowaste for this year’s #ZeroWasteWeek goo.gl/oqHvRk. Come participate with all of us!
At the end of the week’s festivities, it’s time to take all you’ve learned during the week and start/continue your own plastic free and climate change journey. There are a lot of Pinterest boards, Facebook Groups and forums that offer tips to start a zero waste lifestyle or tips for different experiences with the zero waste lifestyle. You can check out my own social media boards and follow me, or you can follow the Zero waste Week community on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.
Committing to a Zero Waste lifestyle, does take a good amount of preparation. If you look around your kitchen, bathroom and even your bedroom, a lot of our world is made of plastic.
BEFORE TRANSITIONING TO A ZERO WASTE LIFESTYLE:
The easiest way I can instruct someone to go about transitioning to a Zero Waste Lifestyle, is to go room by room, and I would start with the kitchen. It’s not quick, since you have to go through every drawer, cabinet, closet, shelf, and the storage container. I would technically audit each room in this order:
Kitchen – We tend to buy the most items for this room, and food items frequently circulate in and out of this room
Bathroom(s)- We use quite a bit of personal care items, which have expiration dates, so I think this room also has a slew of products being brought in and thrown out
Storage closet(s)- Some households store extra supplies in closets, so I would go through and make a list of items I frequently stock up on.
Bedroom(s)- Specifically, clothing and other disposable items that are bought, used and kept here
Living Room & Dining Room- Check cabinets or drawers where you may keep extra supplies of items, and list them
Garage- This might be a big audit, since people use their garages for a variety of things. But I would go through and find all of the single use, disposable items and then find other bottles/jars/canisters that will create waste once the product is used up.
DURING THE TRANSITION TO A ZERO WASTE LIFE STYLE:
During the process of transitioning to a more zero waste lifestyle, there will be a slew of products or foods, you will end up using up and finishing up. A big part of this section of the process, is a countdown to the day you finish using up that shampoo bottle, bag of rice, toothpaste tube, nail polish, nail polish remover, etc. Although, waiting until the end of the life of a product can feel frustrating, it buys you time to research on products you plan on replacing the action with.
Keep in mind that investing in products made from sustainable materials and have been proven to last a long time, are better investments for your wallet. When I was going through my transition, I came to realize that I don’t really care what zero waste looks like in my home. I’m more concerned about the function of the products I invested in. Some people do care about style and that’s perfectly fine; I am simply the type of person that does not. I don’t have a glass cup for every type of occasion, or have very specific dishes to use for certain occasions, but that’s just how I like to live. I like living a minimalist life and my zero waste lifestyle reflects on it as well.
I like investing in products that I can clean easily, durable and can be used for a multitude of uses. I don’t have glass bottles of olive oil, balsamic vinegar and liquid amnios, but I do have refillable glass mason jars for olive oil, balsalmic vinegar, honey and liquid amnios.
If I can’t clean and reuse the new product easily, it’s a no buy in my opinion.
AFTER THE TRANSITION TO A ZERO WASTE LIFE STYLE:
Remember the FIVE Rs: from Bea Johnson, author of The Zero Waste Home, “Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Rot”. Refuse what you don’t need, reduce what you do need, reuse what you can, recycle what you can and rot (compost) the rest.
Maintaining a zero waste lifestyle takes a great sense of self awareness. Refusing to buy food, products and items you normally purchase, takes restraint and intent. You’re changing the way you live, by altering what you purchase and how you purchase products. To this day, when I walk into new restaurants and drink shops, I will ask if they will accept my water bottle to contain the drink, and sometimes I get turned down. But I respect their policy and simply take my business elsewhere. I still want to know if other restaurants will accept my reusable utensils and Tupperware, because than I know I can return to the establishment.
I also drive around with a “To Go Carry Out Kit“. The kit helps when I stop by a restaurant to pick up food, before I get home. It also comes in handy for impromptu picnics and dropping by family and friends homes to join in on a potluck.
In my day to day routine, I carry around a reusable utensils kit and reuseable water bottle. I tend to buy more vegetables and fruit, than I do with bulk grains and dry food. I occasionally will snack on almonds or pecans, but it’s rare. The majority of how I set up my weekday meal plans, are simply green salads and salmon. I don’t eat much grains anymore, except a bit of brown rice.
So basically the main steps are:
Use up everything you purchase that comes in plastic or non recyclable packaging.
Find alternatives for the “absolute must need items” you use.
Refuse any items you don’t need, such as single use disposable items, freebies, etc.
Set up a bulk buying system for your kitchen, bathroom, garage, etc. needs.
Carry around a reuseable utensils kit with a reuseable water bottle.
SPREAD THE WORD.
Don’t worry about the naysayers. I started this lifestyle back in 2010, when it wasn’t popular at all. I got the weird looks, comments, jabs from friends, family, co-workers and on social media. Doing something different and starting something new, will always bring more questions. Just stay on the road, and steer straight ahead, you’ll get there.
Sustainable fashion is a movement and process of fostering change to fashion products and the fashion system towards greater ecological integrity and social justice. Sustainable fashion concerns more than addressing fashion textiles or products. It comprises addressing the whole system of fashion.
There are seven different routes to sustainable fashion. There’s more than one answer to be fashionably responsible. Not all of the methods to approaching sustainable fashion, suits all people equally, because we all have different needs and preferences.
There are seven different moving sections to sustainable fashion.
Sustainable Fashion can be broken down into seven categories:
On Demand & Custom Made
Made to order
Green & Clean
Keeping a green and clean production process throughout the products life cycle
High Quality & Timeless Design
Fair & Ethical Fashion
Fair Trade: According to Fair Trade USA, products that get to bear the “Fair Trade” logo “come from farmers and workers who are justly compensated.”
Ethical: The Ethical Fashion Forum says that “Ethical fashion represents an approach to the design, sourcing and manufacture of clothing which maximizes benefits to people and communities while minimizing impact on the environment.”
Repair, Redesign & Upcycle
Repair clothing so that you can give it a longer life
You can redesign clothes to customize it into a unique piece
If you don’t plan on wearing or using the clothing item, you can upcycle it into another use
Rent, Lease & Swap
Rent or lease formal wear, so you can keep your wardrobe quantity under control, and you’ll get to choose from more options
Swap clothes with your neighbors, friends and family
Secondhand & Vintage
Shop at second hand stores or swap with neighbors, friends and and family.
These multiple methods to support a more sustainable fashion industry, and can be adopted by everyone. There really isn’t one “correct” method to the sustainable fashion route. I wanted to mention these seven methods, because I know I’ve written about creating my own DIY clothing from existing pieces, as well as shopping at thrift stores, but I’ve never listed all of the different methods to support a more sustainable fashion industry.
Under the accordance of sustainability, recycled clothing upholds the principle of the “Three R’s of the Environment”: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle, as well as the “Three Legs of Sustainability”: Economics, Ecology, and Social Equity. To change the existing fashion industry into a more sustainable system, we need to practice reducing waste, reusing textile materials, and recycling old textiles. The balance between the social, economic and environmental responsibilities needs to be taken into account as well.
Sustainable fashion takes a lot of self awareness from the entire fashion industry. It means actively working with the countries and farmers who take care of the materials we source, to create our textiles. We also need to make responsible decisions that won’t damage our resources or harm our environment. I buy a lot of clothing from thrift stores because I like the variety of options I can choose from. Walking into a thrift store, is like walking into a time capsule, and it’s a fun experience for me. I also upcycle a lot of my clothing pieces that have reached the end of their life. For clothes and textiles I want to keep, but I don’t want to wear, I will upcycle the items into something more useful for my life.
If you want to support a more sustainable fashion industry, consider adopting and practicing at least one of the seven methods that support the sustainable fashion industry. You can choose more than one method to support this much needed system. If possible, try to implement all seven methods into your wardrobe collection.
If you read about my Fast Fashion post, it relates to this one. If not, please go check it out. Even though I do by thrift store items, I will still mend an item to save it from a donation. Sometimes I will mend my items and then I donate the item. For instance, I found an old shirt at my aunts house. It had a few holes in it but overall, I liked the color and I didn’t mind the cut of the shirt. The color went perfectly with my color palette for my capsule wardrobe, so I really wanted to save it from being donated. I just needed to mend the shirt, so it would be decent to wear.
Now I have an almost new shirt.
Whenever I upcycle clothing, I always keep scraps of the leftover clothing item. In my Reusing Fabric and Thread blog post, I wrote about keeping my fabric scraps in a small bag. I literally have a bag of scraps. I love fabric, and the use of fabric in different products, (depending on the thread count, material, and the way fabric is sewn together,) can be a very durable material.
Some shirts have higher thread counts, which lends them to become excellent candidates to upcycle into grocery bags, or other heavy duty bags. The smaller scraps that I keep, I always try to find a use for them. Whether it’s going to be upcycled into a small project or large project, the one thing I can count on is that I can throw it in the washing machine to clean it.
If I had a choice to make, with picking and choosing reusable products, I prefer to choose items that I can wash easily. I don’t like to buy items which require a special cleaning method or liquid to clean. I like to sew and mend items, because the product that I’m usually mending, only needs to be washed with soap and water.
If you reflect on the products that you use daily, the majority of them are probably sewn together: your clothes, handbags, wallets, car seats, bedding, upholstery, etc. Knowing how to sew and understanding how to repair fabric products has been a life saver for me. I actually learned how to sew by hand, and didn’t learn how to use a machine until years later.
Learning how to mend items can save you money, time and stress. Even the simple act of sewing on a button is helpful. You can save a simple dress shirt, like I did, from sending it to a donation station.
The zero waste lifestyle is a 24 hour a day commitment. I’m not gonna lie, but you do have to be conscious of it. I’ve slipped up a few times, because I wasn’t aware of how a restaurant packaged their food, or that the restaurant automatically gave me disposable utensils (even after I asked them to not include it). I’ve walked away from restaurants, with a plastic drink container, because I forgot that my water bottle at home. (I hang onto the cups to contain my smaller trash items.) but it is so easy to slip up and make a mistake, so don’t feel bad if you do. There are disposable utensils, cutlery, napkins, sauces, wrapping, etc. at every restaurant in the United States; usually comes in the form of take out. Some of the disposable items do serve a purpose such as, sanitary situations, but more than likely they are used for a very short amount time and then tossed into the landfill.
If you’re anything like me, you’re probably carrying around one of these reuseable utensils kits. This kit will likely include a reuseable spoon, fork, knife, chopsticks, a metal straw, a cloth napkin, and perhaps a cloth handkerchief. I will also carry around a water bottle and sometimes my coffee tumbler too. Most of the time, my water bottle is empty in case I want to go get coffee, and then I just use my water bottle to contain my coffee.
Being aware that the zero waste lifestyle is a constant commitment, means that it influences where you decide to eat, what you decide to eat and even where you decide to go to spend your time. Even though it is a conscious effort, and a lifestyle commitment, it does become easier over time.
I have my favorite restaurants that I go to, and even coffee places that I go to. I also have “go to” food choices that I will pick at certain restaurants, because I know that the food item doesn’t come with packaging. One of the easiest places to go look for zero waste packaged food, is the grocery store; specifically, the deli section. Your menu is the entire deli.
At my local grocery store, I have a variety of different pre-mixed salad options, a variety of meal solutions, sandwiches, sushi rolls and wraps, soups, meat choices and cheese choices. There is also a section for fresh baked bread and fresh donuts, that’s also freshly made each morning. It’s a great place to search for a quick solution for dinner.
The good thing is, as long as you’re aware of this zero waste commitment, and you try to stick to making small changes, you are making a difference. The zero waste community is vast and continues to grow. Around the world, we are presenting our methods and solutions to our every day issues of plastic packaging, wasting resources, and the growing plastic pollution problem.
As long as we are conscious about what we choose, and how we choose to spend every dollar, we are telling our story of our commitment. We are telling our neighbors, our friends, or family that this is a problem that needs to be addressed.
I don’t like using a lot of harsh chemicals to clean my house, because of the dangers that chemicals can cause to our physical well being . So I tend to use a combination of natural products. For scrubbing, I like to use a combination of Dr. Bronner’s liquid peppermint soap, as well as baking soda as an abrasive. I like to use a simple brush to scrub services, because those are easy to rinse off.
I’ll use a combination of water and apple cider vinegar to wipe down surfaces as well. I will use old cotton wash clothes and cotton rags to wipe down surfaces.
For cleaning my toilet, I will usually use apple cider vinegar, and a simple toilet brush to scrub the surface. If I need to use an abrasive to scrub my toilet, I’ll use baking soda to do so. I do get nervous about harsh chemicals be in the home because I don’t like the idea of inhaling toxic fumes. I think that now that we know more about toxic chemicals and how harmful they can be, we have the power to make better choices about what we use in our homes.
When it comes to cleaning the hardwood floors, I have a dust mop and also a floor broom and dust pan set. I do have a vacuum that I use, but it’s only once a while that’ll pull that out.
If I need to clean the surface of the floors, I’ll first use a combination of Dr. Bronner’s liquid peppermint soap and water to dilute the concentration of the soap formula. I’ll first wipe down the floors with the soapy liquid, than, I’ll go over the cleaned floors with a clean wet rag, to pick up the soap residue. I just wipe down the surface with rags. I do it by hand because the floor seems to be cleaner with this method.
For the rest of the surfaces, dust is really the only issue when it comes to cleaning my other furniture services. I can wipe down the surfaces easily with a simple rag.
I have a fairly simple cleaning routine, and it really doesn’t take much time to get through it on a weekly basis. It also helps to not own many items and keeping my surfaces clean, also speeds up the process. But I’ve been fairly happy with my cleaning routine, and by using non toxic chemicals, I can sleep better knowing that I’m not creating a toxic indoor air environment for my family.
Even when I buy items in glass jars because I can’t find a refillable version of it, I always end up with these plastic shrink bands. It seems that zero waste is never an absolute. Sometimes when I do buy produce that is free plastic packaging, I’ll still end up with rubber bands or twist ties. The good thing is I can actually reuse those items, but it’s preferred that I don’t have to.
Most of my dry goods are sold in bulk bins, so I am lucky that I have the privilege to buy package free dry goods from bulk items.
During the process of transitioning over to a zero waste lifestyle, I knew that I would end up giving up a lot of foods that I enjoyed. I personally love potato chips to snack on, but it was one thing I knew I had to give up, since the packaging wouldn’t fit my zero waste lifestyle. I gave up a lot of snacks such as packaged cookies, packaged crackers and packaged candy. There were alternatives to these packaged items, such as certain bulk options.
When I realized I had to give up certain foods, I also sought out alternative food substitutes. There are good substitutes out there, but sometimes, seeking out the alternatives require more work than expected. Once in awhile I will indulge in a packaged food, and then that packaging will get added to my pile of trash for that year. During my journey, I did come across a company called TerraCycle. They team up with certain companies who participate in different recycling programs with TerraCycle. These companies offer recycling programs through TerraCycle, in which customers who purchase their products, can join their recycling program, and send back the packaging to the company for free. It’s an option, and the program change frequently, so checking their website updates is helpful.
I’m extremely lucky to have local bulk grocery stores, who provide the option of bulk shopping, so I can continue this lifestyle. Only once in awhile, I’ll need an item and the glass jar will have the plastic shrink band on it. If I can, I try to only need and use items that are only sold in bulk.
I definitely have plastics in the bathroom. I did try to transition to glass bottles for my bathroom products, but the glass was too slippery and didn’t seem efficient. When it comes to products are used in the bathroom, I do have a set amount of items that I can refill. However, there are items that do come in plastic packaging and plastic bottles, that end up being recycled or go into the landfill.
I have bottles that I refill for my Dr. Bronner’s liquid peppermint soap, my body lotion, and my conditioner. I use bar soaps a lot, so I buy bar soaps that either don’t have packaging at all, or come in recyclable paper packaging.
For the items that do come in plastic packaging, that includes my sunblock, my face moisturizer as well as dental floss.
My bathroom isn’t completely zero waste. I do use plastic containers and refill them as needed. And for specialty items, they come in plastic containers. I wish sunblock didn’t come in plastic containers, but so far, mine do. I think it’s entirely possible to have zero waste bathroom though; mine just isn’t. When it comes to my conditioner, I will transfer some of it into a larger stainless steel water bottle, and add water to dilute the formula. I’ve noticed that my hair responds better when my hair doesn’t have residue left over from the conditioner. For my other items that come in plastic containers such as dental floss, face moisturizer, I haven’t found a good alternative is for my skin yet. I’ll keep looking though, I think the battle is always on going when it comes to striving for a zero waste lifestyle.
When H&M came to the California, specifically the Bay Area, word spread quickly. H&M started in Europe, and finally arrived here, to the states. The clothing looked like good quality, and the prices were low, cheap even. It felt like consumers hit the jackpot with this retail store, on the surface. This isn’t the first retail store to offer cheap clothing, with what looked to be good quality clothing. But if you dive right below the surface of what retailers are marketing, you might find the harsh reality of what consumers are benefiting from.
In the past decade, fast fashion has become a growing problem. The Fashion Industry has sold us the idea that instead of four seasons each year, we have 52 seasons each year. Style and clothing becomes outdated as soon as you buy it. Fast Fashion focuses on speed and low product prices, so that they can deliver frequent, new collections inspired by celebrity styles or runway styles.
As you might guess, fast fashion’s marketing strategy includes creating vibrant prints, vibrant colors and eye catching prints to be more appealing to the consumers. However, much of these fabrics are treated with toxic chemicals in order to achieve the final product. The pressure to reduce the time it takes to get a product onto the retail display floor, results in more environmental pollution. Water pollution, the use of powerful toxic chemical and the increase of textile waste are a few of the negative environmental impacts.
Garmets that are made of fabrics such as polyester and polyamides shed microfibers into the waste waste, which continue to contribute to the increasing plastic in our ocean. The demand for more production, increases the amount of waste produced as well as increases the amount of clothing consumers subsequently buy and then get rid of.
The fashion industry feeds our addiction to garments, and they’re very good at it. The low prices and latest trends are great selling strategies. “Newer, bigger, better, faster, etc.” are emphasized in commercials, advertisements and all over social media. Fashion moves fast, and therefore, must continue to develop and market new products. We, as consumers, have a tendency to buy, because buying something new gives us some form of fulfillment (that’s another topic I’ll write about in the future). The combination of companies pumping out new products and our addiction to fulfill that want for new products, creates a perfect storm in creating excessive textile waste and the destruction of the environment.
There are quite a few companies who have been called out for their practice of discarding unsold clothing and garments by cutting them up, destroying them or even pouring paint on them, so they can’t be worn. In January 2017, outside of Nike SoHo, in New York, there were bags of shoes found that had been slashed with a blade. Ex employees of Michael Kors, Juicy Couture and Henri Bendel have come forward in revealing that they were instructed to smash watches, cut up track suits and tear up silk dresses before discarding. Ex Urban Outfitters employees have admitted to being instructed to destroy “dime-outs”, which is a term used for merchandise that didn’t sell. H&M, Zara, JC Penny and even Victoria’s Secret have come under fire for these types of wasteful practices. Their defense in the the destruction of unsold merchandise, is that they are protecting the brand and are worried that donating the unsold clothing would undercut their brand. By not donating the extra merchandise, consumers won’t be able to purchase these items for a discount at outlets and thrift stores.
Americans throw out 25 billion pounds of clothing each year; 15% is recycled, and the rest ends up in a landfill. Not only does “fast fashion” damage the environment, it also disregards the rights of its workers. Fashion retailers such as Zara and H&M search for cheap manufacturing labor in countries like Bangladesh and others.
Here comes some ugly truths about fast fashion.
The fast fashion industry emits 1.2 billion tons of CO2 equivalent per year.
The fast fashion industry is responsible for producing 20% of global wastewater.
In 2015, the fast fashion industry used 80 billion cubic meters of freshwater.
Production of textiles uses about 3500 different chemicals.
Cotton is one of the most resource-intensive crops out there.
We make 63% of clothes from petrochemicals.
The fast fashion industry produces 97% of our clothes overseas.
40 million people work in the garment industry today.
Dangerous working conditions exist for garment workers in the fast fashion industry.
Fast fashion is predicted to increase ~60% by the year 2030.
Between 1992 and 2002 the time we keep our clothes decreased by 50%.3
We buy 2X more clothes than we did just 15 years ago (2015 data).
The fashion industry produced 92 million tons of waste in 2015 alone.
85% of our old clothes end up in a landfill.
Only about 1% of textile waste is truly recycled.
With current technologies, it would take 12 years to recycle what the fast fashion industry creates in 48 hours
Fast fashion is a huge contributor to plastic pollution.
There are a lot of people and factors involved, when considering the timeline of producing a garment. From the farming of cotton fields, to the workers who work to create the bales of cotton fibers in the cotton facilities, then dying and creating the fabric, or using the screens to print images and patterns on the shirts, than to the manufacturer selling and sending the product out to distribution centers; there are a lot of people involved in this process.
There are real dangers for garment workers, who work to help push out production for big companies. In 2013, the Rana Plaza building in Balngladesh, which housed the Dhaka garment factory, collapsed and left 1,134 people dead and left approximately 2,500 people injured. It was a an eight story building and collapsed due to a failing structural system that included an additional illegal three stories above the original permit. Even though an engineer had requested an inspection of the building, since it was deemed unsafe, unethical administrative players in this case, passed the building off as safe, and told the workers they should return to the factory and continue to work.
There’s speculation that perhaps the pressure to have the workers return to the factory the next day, was to continue to complete the garment orders on time. The demand for the garments were still flooding in, so slowing down production was not an option for the managers. The demand for fast fashion, low-cost clothing by clothing brands, dangerous conditions, non-union representation and low wages, is what the fast fashion industry creates.
Our resources for producing cheap and fast clothing is taking a toll on the environment, and people are starting to speak up and speak out about it. The bigger the industry is, the more impact it has on our natural resources. More companies are looking towards more sustainable materials such as hemp, linen, and wool.
Hemp material is a favorite of mine because it is a more sustainable material. It’s a very durable material, has UV protection qualities, water absorbent and breathable, no chemical fertilizers pesticides required during farming, naturally biodegradable, and highly antimicrobial. It grows quickly and can be grown in all different climates.
Linen is derived from the flax plant. Linen is 30% stronger than cotton and is known to be the strongest natural fiber. It’s thicker than cotton, but linen lasts longer than cotton too. Linen can absorb 20% moisture before it starts to feel damp. It has a natural ability to prevent bacterial growth, yet can move air and moisture through it’s hollow fibers easily.
There are options when the choice of introducing new garments into your wardrobe. You can shop at thrift stores, choose more sustainable materials for your wardrobe, or even choose to not buy clothing as often, to alleviate the textile waste created by the fashion industry. Apparel retailers such as Zara and H&M dominate the world of fast fashion, with Zara owner Inditex making 3.44 billion euros ($3.9 billion) in profit in 2018.
The second hand apparel market was worth $24 billion in the U.S. in 2018, versus $35 billion for fast-fashion, say the figures from GlobalData.
However, by 2028 the used-fashion market is set to skyrocket in value to $64 billion in the U.S., while fast-fashion will only reach $44 billion.By shopping at thrift stores, you can help keep clothing out of the landfill.
Even better, is to stop buying cheap clothing, invest in sustainable fashion clothing and stop buying unnecessary amounts of clothing.
My trash doesn’t fit in a jar anymore. When I started my zero waste journey, my trash did fit in a 16 ounce mason jar. However, int he past few years, I needed to purchase items that had extra packaging in which would not fit in my nice little jar anymore.
A lot of the time, when we shop at bulk bins in grocery stores, although we don’t bring home trash into our homes, products do get shipped to grocery stores in packaging. We as consumers don’t see it, but it doesn’t mean that the packaging doesn’t exist. Now, I’m not saying that every company is wasteful, but truth be told that is how our products are packaged from the manufacturer and then transferred to the distribution companies.
Trash pollution, plastic pollution is hidden in plain sight. We as consumers, do have the choice to not bring trash into our homes, and that’s a privilege. But packaging does exist, it’s not always compostable, and it may not even be sustainable. We as consumers can still vote with our dollar, and we still need to remind manufacturing companies that our trash pollution is at the highest quantity right now. I do think the tide is turning, but with The daily production of trash in the speed at which it is produced, we’re going out to tackle a very, very large problem and that’s with magnified with an unimaginable speed.
I live in the Bay Area, and bulk food items and products are readily available here. There are plenty of other states and areas, which bulk food is not available. If you can fit your trash into a small jar and continue to do so, I think that’s amazing and admirable. If your trash can’t fit into a jar, just keep in mind, the trash you’re producing and keep putting effort towards living a more zero waste lifestyle. I think using the glass jar as a standard is a bit unreasonable, because not all of us are lucky enough to live and afford certain amenities where we are located.
So my trash doesn’t fit in a jar this year, maybe next year it will be less. If not, I’ll keep trying to continue to strive to live a zero waste life.
When it comes to recycling CDs and DVDs, the information was never really clear as to where to recycle these type of materials. I did some research and found out that there is The CD Recycling Center of America, who provides that exact service.
Each year, billions of CDs and DVDs are manufactured, while millions of these discs end up in landfills and incinerators. If you use, sell, promote, distribute, or manufacture compact discs, it is your responsibility to promote how to recycle them. Compacts Discs, when recycled properly, will stop unnecessary pollution, conserve natural resources, and help slow global warming. Spread the word to help us save the world we all live in.
For those companies that require a certificate of destruction, that service is available as well.
The CD Recycling Center of America collects old CDs, DVDs and cases and securely deconstructs the items. CDs and DVDs contain different metals and materials that should be separated safely. They contain materials such as:
Aluminum-the most abundant metal element in the Earth’s crust. Bauxite ore is the main source of aluminum and is extracted from the Earth.
Polycarbonate-a type of plastic, which is made from crude oil and natural gas extracted from the Earth.
Lacquer-made of acrylic, another type of plastic.
Gold-a metal that is mined from the Earth.
Dyes-chemicals made in a laboratory, partially from petroleum products that come from the Earth.
Other materials such as water, glass, silver, and nickel.
There are different programs offered to different types of business and institutions, so the parameters of how they will receive your recycling material will differ. All you have to do, is scroll down to your category and pick the program that fits your needs. They have programs for:
Individuals / households
Radio & Television
Since I’m recycling as a household, I checked the “Programs” tab, and scrolled down to the “Individuals / households” section, to read my requirements.
They do ask that the broken disc cases be kept separated from the other cases. I separated my shipment into four categories, and labeled them as needed:
So I’ve read online about a few tricks of how people remove sticky labels off of glass jars. I’ve read about the method of using olive oil along with baking soda, and then there’s the method of heating up the glass and peeling off the label. I don’t like to use excess oil to clean, because when you wash off the jar, the oil can clog up your plumbing pipes, over time. I have tried to heat up my glass to peel off the label, but it doesn’t always peel off completely. There is one method I’ve stuck to for awhile, but I don’t see people posting about it. My method is pretty simple and it seems to work for me.
I will first peel off the label so that the only film left is the paper and glue. Some jars use a plastic/nylon label and some use paper labels. I like to get rid of the excess label before I start to remove the glue and label. By removing the extra thick layer of label, the jar cleaning process goes by quicker, without any hangups during the process.
After that, I find an extra cup that my jar will fit into. If you can’t find a jar, at least find a pot wide enough, where the jar can be placed horizontally, inside the pot and completely submerged under the water.
I then heat up water in my stove top kettle. I heat it up where the water is pretty hot to the touch, but not scalding hot. The water doesn’t need to be scalding hot to be honest. The idea here is that the water, mixed with the soap, will loosen up the glue.
I’ll then pour the heated water into the larger cup, in between the larger cup and the jar, and a little bit inside the jar. The heated water around the jar is to help loosen the glue off of the jar and the water inside the jar is to weigh it down. I pour enough water into the cup, so that the label and glue are submerged under the surface of the water.
I’ll then drop a few drops of Dr. Bronner’s Liquid Peppermint soap into the water around the jar. I’ll usually spin the jar in the cup a few times, so the liquid soap is distributed more evenly. The soap, mixed with the hot water will loosen up the glue.
After about 30 minutes, I’ll take the jar out of the soapy water. Please be careful, because your jar might still be very hot from being submerged in the water. If it is still too hot to handle, let it sit for a bit longer so the temperature of the water cools off . DO NOT run the hot glass jar under cold water to cool it down. This will likely lead to your glass jar cracking or exploding under the drastic temperature change.
NOTE: Glass expands when hot, contracts when cold. If the exterior surface of your glass jar cools, while the inside surface of your jar is still hot, that creates an uneven thermal profile. As a result, the surface of your jar is trying to shrink, but the hot inner glass prevents the surface glass from shrinking. This creates a powerful stress profile through the glass — the surface is trying to shrink, but can’t, so it is forced into tension. The hot core is trying to stay the same volume, but the surface is squeezing in, so the core undergoes compression. It’s not hard to figure out which section of glass wins the tug-of-war — the surface fails first. And a crack grows out of some microscopic scratch or flaw, growing and spreading until the stress is sufficiently relieved or the glass is broken clean through.
SO PLEASE DO NOT RUN COLD/COOL WATER OVER YOUR HOT JAR.
Once it is a bit cooler to the touch, I’ll use baking soda to scrub off the glue, using an old toothbrush. I’ll scrub in circular motion, and periodically dip the jar in the soapy water to rise it off as I scrub my way around the jar.
This method has worked for me, when I’ve needed to remove sticky labels off of glass jars.
Also remember, glue is not permanent on glass. So if you’re patient and allow the glue loosen up, and continue to scrub using the baking soda, than you’ll end up with a clean surface. Sometimes there might be a little bit of glue left, but just continue to scrub it off with the baking soda and soapy water.
This was a simple post, but it was a method that I realized I had never talked about, but always used. It’s just glue; it’s not permanent and it’ll come off.