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.
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.
Growing up Halloween has always been representative of dressing up and going out at night to trick-or-treat. As a kid, Halloween was a fun holiday for me because if all the free candy we would receive as we went out at night to go trick-or-treating. I didn’t grow up with much candy in my household so Halloween also meant that I would get to stock up on a large amount but I also had to ration my favorite candy pieces to last for awhile.
When I moved towards a zero waste lifestyle this holiday became slightly tricky. A lot of the joy I experienced came with the inevitable result of producing trash. All of the small wrappers of the individually wrapped candy pieces added up to a lot of trash. I wanted to figure out how to celebrate this holiday but still practice my zero waste lifestyle.
There are three areas of each holiday I like to tackle: decorations, food and entertainment. For Halloween, you can decorate your spaces using
Reusable fall and Halloween decorations which you can pull out each year
Use dried leaves from trees in a bowl or a jar. I usually string rope across areas of rooms and I’ll hang up the leaves using clothespins.
Use fresh fruit or vegetables as edible decor such as pumpkins and then once the holiday is over, you can even make delicious dishes using thm
You can arrange twigs and fall leaves in a vase
You can tie pieces of sticks together and create a wreath to decorate with colorful leaves
Any decoration that is compostable or reusable is a great option
Food options can vary due to location, seasonal fruits and vegetables available.
Look for seasonal fruits and vegetable to make dishes with
Some seasonal vegetables to keep an eye out for: pumpkins, winter squash, broccoli, spinach, lettuce, sweet potatoes
Some seasonal fruit to look for: cranberries, apples, pomegranates, and grapes
Bulk candy is also a great way to sneak in sweets during this holiday. A lot of bulk candy locations have a variety of options from chocolates to sour candies. The grocery stores I frequent have these options but my local movie theater has the name brand candy in bulk, that I love to eat as well.
For Trick-Or-Treaters, consider handing out non-candy options. I’m still a big believer in feeding a child’s creativity so some of these items on the list are geared more towards art than just toys. During this season, children are usually in school, so if you hand out items they can use during school, it’ll also benefit the children. Here are some options other than candy, that you can hand out:
I hope this list is helpful in creating a zero waste Halloween. If you choose to adopt only one of these ideas, you’re still helping the environment by creating less waste. It’s a step away from the standard Halloween traditions but it’s a more environmentally friendly outline for this holiday. Have a great Halloween!
Having an Eco-friendly holiday isn’t as daunting as it sounds. It might sound complicated because the concept is different, but it’s actually pretty simple. So for each holiday there are basic aspects of the holiday celebration I like to check off: decorations, food and entertainment. I don’t always cover all three categories equally and majority of my focus will usually be on the food.
Decorations tend to be covered easily being that Christmas is such a huge holiday celebrated. Honestly, any type of decoration that is compostable or reusable is a good idea. Here are some ideas for zero waste holiday.
Seasonal leaves, fruit, create a centerpiece suing branches and colorful seasonal leaves.
Use existing jars filled with some seasonal and colorful leaves to decorate the table
Use branches and leaves from outside to decorate the table surface
Zero Waste Food
Consider using fresh fruits and vegetables as ingredients in your dishes. You can compost the skin or the non edible pieces after
Buy your ingredients from the bulk aisle or bulk bins
For ingredients that usually come in packaging, consider making your own homemade version or looking for it in paper, aluminum or glass packaging
Share recipes or give the gift of different types of dishes to one another
Gift ideas can be tricky for this holiday since it’s based around an iconic tree as well as what surrounds it on Christmas Day. However, here are a few ideas for zero waste gifts, you might want to consider. Check social media sites (Groupon, Living Social, Ticketmaster, etc.) for great deals for events and activities for family and friends during the holidays.
Food, snacks, bulk candy wrapped in reusable packaging or compostable packaging
Buy bulk foods and create a recipe kit for a gift
Seasonal fruit, fruit basket gift
Gift of Goods and Products
Consider checking out thrift stores to find a gift for the recipient
If you want to give a new gift, look for gifts with no packaging or recyclable paper packaging
Theme parks (check for local theme parks near you or near the recipient)
Outdoor experiences (pedle boating, wind sailing, kayaking, rowboats, canoes, skydiving, zip lining, rock climbing, trampoline time, golfing, etc.)
Gift card or money for food & drinks (breakfast, lunch, dinners, coffee, tea, desserts, wine bar, wine/beer tour)
Gift card or money for activities (cooking classes, yoga, spin class, kickboxing, zip lining, etc.)
Gift card/money for events (museums, concerts, festivals, fairs, movies)
Gift card or money to treat yourself (spa, massage, facial)
Service Ideas (This will differ based on location, so check your local listings)
Volunteer for a charity or organization that will help hand out food during the holidays
Donate toys, clothes, coats, shoes to an organization that will help distribute them this season
Volunteer your time in a hospital, care home, nursing home to those who may not have family near or at all
Reusable cloth gift bags with string to tie bows (if wanted)
Fabric sheets or bandanas to wrap and tie around gifts
For the larger gifts, I’ll use a pillowcase or really large bed sheets to wrap the gifts
For medium sized gifts, I’ll wrap the gift in an extra t-shirt.
Entertainment during the holidays can be daunting as well. Usually families have kids around or simply need entertainment playing while the day is happening.
Movies- if you are able to stream movies, there are a few great resources to stream holiday movies during this time. Check YouTube or other streaming media, they usually have full movies uploaded to watch.
Board Games – Ask your guest if they have any board games to play or would want to bring for the kids to share and play with
Card Games – these games are always fun because a deck of cards can be really versatile
I hope this outline helped to brainstorm ideas for you. This is an overall idea list and if you want to check out other holiday blog posts, check out these holiday blog posts from these websites:
You’re looking at everything I own in my kitchen. That’s all of it, although my silverware and kitchen tools aren’t pictured. Some kitchen items are marketed to have specific uses, but you’d be surprised at how many kitchen items can have multiple uses and how some kitchen tools really aren’t necessary at all. Even when it coms to bathroom items, I don’t have a separate soap for my body and my face (I use separate bars… but it’s still the same bar soap brand). I use baking soda as toothpaste and I don’t use band aids (I use paper tape with gauze).
For those of you who are moving into this lifestyle, I understand the need to buy compostable cotton swabs or a bamboo set of utensils to carry around, instead of grabbing a set from your existing silverware. In order to transition to this zero waste lifestyle, you’re altering your behavior that you’d developed for however many years you’ve existed on Earth.
However, I don’t recommend buying into the “buy all new things because nothing else can substitute it” mantra. The likelihood is that you already have items that you can use, but for different purposes and the transition is simply altering your behavior and mindset. I understand the novelty behind this zero waste movement, but a lot of the times, I’ve noticed that a few bloggers will recommend a lot of new items. Part of this movement is to try to NOT create waste and when you buy more stuff, more than likely you’re producing some form of waste.
For kids, I understand that it make take a few colors and some ownership of their personal products so they can personally take part in this movement or to break away from what they already like and know. Also, a lot of glass and stainless steel items may be to heavy for them to carry around, or that they may not be careful enough to take care of such items. For adults however, I think we should really try to create as many uses for a single product, as much as possible. Products that are designed for a specific use and a certain function, will likely not be as versatile for any other use.
Here are some of the items you don’t necessarily have to buy:
Handkerchief –> Use existing fabric napkin or you can make your own from old pillowcases (just try to make sure the material is 100% cotton)
Cloth napkin in your “To Go Lunch Kit” –> Use existing fabric napkin
Silverware in your “To Go Lunch Kit”–> Use existing silverware (unless you’re going to pass through TSA [Transportation Security Administration] at the airport or some kind of security metal detector, then carry around a set of bamboo utensils)
Eco lunchbox –> Use existing Tupperware
Placemats –> Make your own from old bed sheets or pillowcases (Just remember to layer them up so it’s a thicker pile)
Re-useable Produce Bags –> Make our own re-useable produce bags from old bed sheets and pillow cases (just make sure it’s cotton, with a decent thread count so it won’t fall apart as easily.)
Spice Jars –> Just re-use the space jars you already own (remember to tare the weight before you refill it up. I usually carve the weight into the lid so I never forget)
This list could go on and on, but I’m keeping in mind that each person has a different journey on this path of zero waste. But if you can, reuse what you already own, there’s no point to wasting your money if it’s not necessary. Also, the more stuff you buy and if you’re not purging items in your home, you’re essentially just adding to the amount of possessions you’ll now be responsible for. So don’t give yourself more work, seriously… life will do that down the line… apparently it’s plentiful.. like pens.. stupid free pens.
When it comes to errands, I actually don’t have to0 do much. I don’t have daily errands, mostly because I work long hours and prefer to go home and relax. For my weekly errands, I do buy groceries each week, but mostly the fresh produce items. I’ll stock up on my bulk dry foods maybe once every 3 weeks. I prefer to completely run out of my bulk foods before I go and buy more- this way, I can refill my jars completely.
For fresh produce, I’ll buy local and seasonal items because I know that I’m supporting local businesses, and that the produce didn’t have to travel far to get its destination.
When it comes to my bathroom bulk items, I tend to buy those items once every three months. Because I buy large quantities when I go on each run, I don’t need to make frequent trips. The task of running out of bathroom items is an issue I absolutely dislike dealing with. It’s the reason why I would stock up on items in the past, which also ended up producing even more trash. Now, I simply look under my bathroom sink and my jars are already full and waiting to be used. My jars also tend to hold more product compared to the bottles I used to buy, so each time I pull out a jar to use, I know that it will last awhile.
This is a simple list of what my typical weekly grocery run might look like:
I have a morning routine of drinking coffee and I enjoy it even more knowing that I buy my items in bulk without producing trash. I buy bulk coffee from Sprout’s Farmers Market, Whole Foods or Philz Coffee. I also buy bulk cane sugar from either Sprouts Market or Whole Foods as well. I then will purchase Organic Half & Half from Straus Family Creamery from Whole Foods Market, which I clean out and return to receive a voucher.
It’s a simple routine, but I do enjoy the simplicity of it. It’s also an easy clean up job which afterwards, I add the coffee grounds to my compost pile.
The weather had been nice lately so I thought a picnic was in order before the summer ended. I didn’t pack too much, just enough to fill us up for a bit, but here is what I packed:
Dish: Bean Salad
Side Dish: Boiled potatoes with Nutritional Yeast
Snacks: Wasabi Peas, Smoked Almonds, Olives
Whenever I go out on an outing, I like to pack some snacks so I won’t get hungry later on. Picnics are always a fun way to spend with family, friends, or new friends. Picnics are great when the weather is sunny and cool in temperature and there’s a clean area to set up camp. On this day, I packed a bean salad and boiled potatoes sprinkled with nutritional yeast as the main dishes. I also had some olives from the olive bar from Whole Foods. For snacks we had wasabi peas and smoked almonds and for dessert, we had some peaches.
All of the foods were purchased from the bulk section of the grocery store or in the non-packaged vegetables and fruit area. We used beach towels to sit on and to use the picnic blanket and because I forgot the plates, we ate off of the lids. Of course we ate all of the food so the ‘no plate’ rule wasn’t so bad.
When it comes to using reusable containers to buy or store food in, it became a challenge due to the fact that bulk foods come in a variety of textures and consistencies. After a few trials, I finally found what work and did not work and I came up with these solutions.
32 oz Ball Quart Jar, Wide Mouth:
I use these jars to store my liquids in, and when I say “liquid”, I’m talking about Dr. Bronner’s Peppermint liquid soap. Because those liquids are quite viscous, these jars are easy to fill and clean out when needed.
Ball mason Jars:
I use ’16 oz, Ball Canning Jars, Regular Mouth with Lids’ for bulk seasonings such as sea salt, peppercorn, flax seed, honey and almond butter. I also use these jars for my bulk bathroom products such as my face lotion and body lotion. These jars are great due to the fact that they’re designed to handle wet ingredients over time, and they can also be used for canning as well. You can read more about Ball and the history of the company and their products, click HERE.
I also fill up my mason jars with olive oil, balsamic vinegar and fresh almond butter. In the beginning of this journey when I first started buying bulk liquids, I noticed it was easier to just fill up the mason jars and then just put them away when I got home. I know it doesn’t “look” ideal, but to transfer the liquids into tall and skinny bottles like my Dr. Bronner’s Liquid Soap, is one extra step I prefer not to take.
I also love using Bormioli Rocco Fido Jars for containing my other bulk foods. I use the 1 Liter jars for bulk teas and a variety of snacks and the 1.5 Liter jars for larger supplies of bulk ingredients such as nuts, whole wheat flour, cane sugar, cranberries, mini peanut butter cups and other bulk snacks. I use the 2 Liter jars for dried beans, baking soda and coffee. For my largest bulk items such as brown rice and oatmeal, I use the 4 Liter jars. One of the websites I follow suggests to use these types of jars for wet ingredients, but I’ve noticed that the gasket that comes with these types of jars, absorbs odors and stains easily. If you prefer to stick to only one type of jar design, then I say go for it. However, odors are a nitpicky tick of mine. It just seems strange to me to open a jar almonds and smell lotion, or when you open the jar with cane sugar and you smell balsamic vinegar. By using the jars for dry ingredients, I can switch out my bulk supplies and not worry about leftover odor from a previous use.
When I first researched on different types of canning jars with hermetic seals, a few different brand names popped up such as Le Parfait, Kilner and Bormioli. The reason why I chose Bormioli was because of their design structure for their jars. Most of the jars I researched on are designed with a round base, which actually wastes space. Bormioli uses a square shape base which utilizes shelf space and will organize easily next to one another. Bormioli has a long history of creating quality glassware while using high quality materials. You can read more about their history here Bormioli Rocco USA.
I also use PYREX tupperware to contain items I find at the grocery store salad bar, but I also use these to store my lunches to bring to work. I did bring the 1 cup, 2 cup and 4 cup bowls to the grocery store to carve their tare weight into the lids, because I knew I would use them eventually. It did feel a little strange at first, lugging around glass tupperware, but using the PYREX bowls was essentially the same as using one of the grocery store disposable paper containers. I knew that my extra effort would count in a small way- in the long run. At the salad bar, I’ll fill up my PYREX bowls with olives from the olive bar, hummus, potato salad and anything else I feel like indulging in.
I really like PYREX because it’s made of tempered glass and it’s easy to clean, store and you can use these to cook in toaster ovens as well as larger ovens.
For my spices, it is a collection of many types of seasoning jars I’ve collected over time. I did buy a set of seasoning jars, and those are on the bottom row. I initially did this to test out how to go about recording the tare weight as well as how to fill them up. However, it did seem simpler to just reuse the rest of my seasoning jars. They do all have different tare weights and I carved each tare into each lid. I do suggest to use screw cap seasoning bottles as they are quite secure when closed correctly.
I hope this post clears up how I go about organizing and designating my bulk items per container. I honestly wished I had read about some type of reasoning and method before I started my journey because a few mistakes were made along my journey. However, now that I have figured out my system, I wanted to share it with you. So happy bulk shopping and I hope trips to the bulk sections are more efficient for you.
My bulk bathroom shopping kit consists of mason jars and cloth bags. Buying bulk bathroom products is probably one of my favorite shopping trips that I take. This is also due to the fact that I genuinely like bathroom designs. I think the bathroom is essential in how comfortable I feel in a home or apartment. The bathroom is a place where we clean ourselves, we have privacy and it’s where we can relax. My bathroom is very simple so it doesn’t have a lot of stuff on the countertop, in the drawers or even in the medicine cabinet. However, when I step into my bathroom, the tile feels smooth and warm and the space is clean.
I fill up my 1 Pint Mason Jars with Dr. Bronner’s Peppermint soap and due to its concentration, I actually will dilute it in a small Pyrex bowl when I use it. I use this liquid Dr. Bronner’s soap to clean my sinks, bathtub, toilet, as pet shampoo and even wash dishes. It is an amazingly versatile soap that is mostly eco friendly. I also stock up on Alaffia’s GOOD soaps. I personally prefer the Lavender (white) and Prairie Rose (Pink) scents, but they have seven scents to choose from. I really like using Alaffia’s GOOD soap as body wash and face wash, and their ingredients are openly listed online. If you want to read about them, you can go to Alaffia: Fostering a Body of People and there will be a PDF download to the list of ingredients in their GOOD soaps for each scent.
I stock up on face lotion and body lotion when I go bathroom bulk shopping too. I tend to carve the tare weight into the lids of my mason jars (using the point of a pair of scissors, be very careful if you decide to carve the tare weights into the lids) so that I never forget their weight. When I do fill up each bottle and write the PLU (product look up) codes, I’ll also write which lotion is for my face and which is for my body. (Notice the PLU codes are the same) Lucky for me, I tend to buy white colored bathroom products so I always have to jot down “Face vs. Body”. Although if you do forget to write down “Face” or “Body” the consistency of each type of lotion is also a dead give away. My face lotion is more chalky and is not as viscous as my body lotion so if I ever accidentally apply one versus the other on the wrong area, I’ll notice it eventually.
Also, if you want to ever keep track of how much you spend or use your products, I suggest you keep your receipts or create a graph to track your spending. I know this sounds a bit unorthodox, but I did this for awhile and I saw how much I saved. If you want to buy only Dr. Bronner’s Bar Soaps, or do not have access to a bulk location that sells Dr. Bronner’s Liquid Soap, this link might be helpful, How to Make a Gallon of Liquid Handsoap From a Bar of Soap. I did try this method and it worked. This is also why I included the Ball Gallon Jar in my store tab, under the Kitchen category as well as Dr. Bronner’s Soap Bars.
This is an overall view of what I bring to go bulk bathroom shopping and these items seem to help me in my shopping haul. I hope these items give you an idea of what containers you can use for your bathroom shopping haul. The overall savings of buying bathroom products in bulk will show over time, and I’m personally glad I switched to buying my products in this way.
When it comes to grocery shopping, there needs to be an organized system of how you go about gathering your items. Pre-packaged food gave me this convenience when I hadn’t started on my journey to a zero waste lifestyle, so I had to break down what jars and bags I was going to use for bulk shopping.
My bulk grocery shopping kit consists of cloth drawstring bags, Ball mason jars, Bormioli Rocco Fido Jars and my Lyra Aqua Color Water-Soluble Wax Crayons. I use the mason jars for liquid bulk food such as almond butter, honey, Bragg’s Liquid Amnios and balsamic vinegar. These jars are great for liquids due to the fact that there is very little left over odor from previous products when you need to use the jars for something else. I tried using the Bormioli Rocco Fido Jars, but the gasket on those jars absorb odor quite a bit and they stain as well. For the fine grain bulk foods like wheat flour, cane sugar and sea salt, I use the Bormioli Rocco Fido Jars so that the transfer from my grocery bag to my shelf is much simpler. (I literally just move the jar from my grocery bag to my shelf- yea, unpacking after grocery store trips is that fast). The jars are also great for storing snacks from the trail mix bins section. If the jars are too heavy to bring to the grocery store, then the bags will still be fine to use. The drawstring bags are used for the rest of bulk grocery shopping as well as fruits and vegetables.
When you use the mason jars and the fido jars, make sure you tare the weight of the jars before filling them up. For the mason jars, I usually carve the tare weight into the lid of the jar and for the fido jars, I’ll write the tare weight on the inside of the gasket so that the cashier can see the weight through the lid. I write the PLU (price look up) code and the initials of the bulk food on the lid with the water soluble crayons. I write the initials alongside the PLU code because products with the same consistency and color can be mixed up (ie. balsamic vinegar and liquid amnios). I hope my bulk grocery shopping kit helps in prepping your grocery shopping kit. If you have any questions, I’m more than willing to answer them.
When I first began this journey to live a zero waste lifestyle, although there always seemed to be a list of tasks that I would end up doing; I wish there was a list of things I needed to do in sequential order. There was a lot of backtracking as well as re-organizing when it came down to the sequence in which I should have gone about starting this journey. Because this journey also is adjusted to each person’s lifestyle, my system was not refined for a couple of months. I still wished someone could have informed me about what to do first verses my assumption that the first task was to get rid of all products packaged in plastic.
Begin by making bags from old bed sheets and extra rope/shoelace.
These bags can be different sizes. I made mine into 2 different sizes. Take those bags and weigh them at a store so you can record the tare weight onto each bag. If you narrow down your bags sizes, it’s easier to input the tare the weight and when you shop and you won’t be fluctuating between a variety of numbers. It will be easier on you and the cashier as well.
These bags will also become useful once you start cleaning out your life. Since you’ll most likely be donating or eliminating items from your life, the areas that you’re cleaning out will most likely need something to separate your items in. And these bags will also help in the beginning of your journey into bulk shopping (which takes care of that pesky task of eating to survive).
Sort out your products that are contained in plastic or wasteful packaging.
It’s easier to separate products by room and by use, so go slowly. Then go through and reduce the amount of products.
If you can’t eliminate a product completely, you know that the next tasks is to find an alternative; that alternative also needs to be a zero waste alternative. Unfortunately, that’s also one of the tricky tasks during this journey. Some people may need certain products due to medical reasons or health conditions, so these products take a little bit more time to eliminate and more research as well. Make sure you choose the best solution for yourself.
Invest in jars. I invested in Bormioli Rocco Fido jars as well as Mason jars.
These jars will help you organize your items that need a more sturdy container as well as assist you on your journey in bulk shopping. Food packaging is one of the most wasteful habits we have adapted to, so by investing in these jars, you’re already preparing yourself to take care of the easiest problem.
Also, when you start bringing these jars to the grocery store, make sure you ask the cashier to tare the weight before you fill it. For the Mason jars, I actually carve the tare weight into the lid and for the Bormioli Rocco Fido jars, I write the tare weight on the gasket rim so that the cashier can see the tare weight through the lid.
Go to the local bulk grocery stores near you and find what’s available in their bulk section.
Check out what they sell in their bath and body bulk section as well as the bulk food area. By doing this, you can create a list of ingredients and products that you know are available to you.
Reduce and donate
Although the idea of “tossing out everything” sounds simple, it really isn’t. It takes time and effort. To go from owning a lot of items that you have accumulated in your lifetime, to owning three items is not easy. It takes a lot of evaluation and re-evaluating your routines and habits to adjust to the limited amount of items you now own. The easiest way I knew how to attack this task was to simply ask “Do I need it or do I want it? If I need it, what’s an alternative to it that would not produce waste?”
In time, you’ll notice that perhaps items that you thought you wouldn’t be able to let go of, you can. This process of eliminating and reducing the amount of items in your life changes the way you approach possessions as well as products. It will take time, so be patient with yourself- but always strive to be completely zero waste.
Start a compost.
With all of the bulk items you’re going to buy, I very much suggest starting a compost. If you don’t have enough land to start a compost, look into city programs that may offer something similar. You can even search for local businesses that might be willing to take your compost or buy it.
Opt out of junk mail and use the mail pieces that do get through as scratch paper.
This is an easy task. I used Catalog Choice and Direct Marketing Association Choice which offer a mail preference service for consumers. Granted, the list of magazines and newsletters I have opted out of on both of my accounts are not short. I had to input quite a bit of organizations and businesses, but it’s well worth it in the end.
I hope this list helps those of you who are starting out on your own zero waste life journey. I know it wasn’t a simple and short type of list, where I only listed tasks to do in a bullet point format. I wanted to explain why I chose these seven items to anchor the beginning of the journey for zero waste newbies. Good luck to all and if you have any questions, please email me, my email is in my about section of this website. Also if you want to see what items I have purchased, please check out my store link.
I use old bed sheets and old pillowcases to make produce bags with drawstrings to close the top openings. For this project, I used four pillowcases and two bed sheets. The weight of each piece of sheet varies in thickness, so I know that the tare weight will differ. This project does take a little bit of time, but the payout is immensely satisfying.
To size them up, I first divided a pillow case into quarters and I use extra shoelaces to make the drawstrings. I like to have at least two different sized bags so that I can use one size for my staple bulk shopping and the others to be used for standard bulk shopping. The pillowcase that will be divided into quarters would be the smaller size and I would half another pillowcase to be the larger bag template. I only need four large bags so the rest will be the standard bulk bag size.
The easiest and quickest way to finish this project in a short amount of time is to first measure out the size of each fabric piece, but measure out the pieces so that the fold of the fabric will be on the left or right side of the rectangular template. The reason why I recommend this is that when you sew, you can make one continuous stitch line without ending. If you create the fold of the fabric on the bottom, you have to sew both sides with separate stitch lines. Understandably, if you end up with very linear fabric pieces once you measure out your sheets, having two stitch lines will be inevitable. Keep in mind, the top is left alone for the drawstring pocket.
I usually measure the pocket for the drawstring at 1/2″ width and I pin it in place using ball head straight pins. I then sew the pocket for the drawstring and leave the ends open for the drawstring to be fed through. Then for each fabric piece, I fold the opening edge and bottom edge in about 1/2″ and pin it with a few ball head straight pins. You can also fold this hem over once more to secure the hem as well. Once all of the bags are sewn, I tie off all of the thread ends so that the ends don’t dangle and get caught up in the washing machine. Then I take each bag and feed the drawstrings through each pocket using a small safety pin. Once the drawstrings are fed through their pockets, I tie off the ends so that the drawstring won’t slip out.
Because I measured out my fabric into two basic sizes, I take one bag of each fabric type and size and bring it to the grocery store to record the tare weight. My tare weight for my standard bulk bag is 0.07 lbs and for the larger bag it’s 0.12 lbs. I usually write my tare weight towards the top of the bags due to the fact that cashiers tend to look for twist ties there. However, don’t write the tare weight too close to the very top of the bag, being that once you close the bag opening with the drawstring, the writing gets somewhat lost in the folds of the bag. I usually write the tare weight about 3″ from the top of my bags. I use LYRA Aqua Color Water-Soluble Wax Crayons to write on my bags and I bring them with me to record the PLU codes (Price Look Up codes) right on the bags.
From the four pillowcases and two bed sheets I used in this project, I made 57 bags. I also made two tiny little bags from the leftover fabric pieces, because I really didn’t want to add it to my trash bin. I hope this post helps for those who are looking to make your own produce bags. This was a two day project and although I was exhausted after finishing it, I was beyond ecstatic when these bags were put to use. These bags are used everywhere around my house from using them for lunch bags, to containing my cat’s toys and even using them in the kitchen to keep items organized. So utilize that sewing machine and I hope you enjoy your new DIY bags as much as I do.
Before I went zero waste, I used to buy anything bottled, use sponges in the sink, bought spices packaged in plastic bags and also in glass jars, and the worst culprit of all was that I bought packaged foods.
Whole Foods Market: Bulk balsamic vinegar, Bragg’s Liquid Amnios, raw honey, candy, oats, black beans, whole wheat flour, cane sugar, cranberries, spices and coffee.
Philz Coffee: Loose leaf green tea and chamomile tea (and coffee if I want Philz coffee each morning)
Kitchen Items: 3 pots & pans, 1 grill, 1 set of basic flatware, 1 set of basic kitchen utensils, 1 hand held mixer, 2 silicone bakeware pans, 1 dinnerware set, 1 set of mixing bowls, 1 set of Pyrex storage containers
Dining: Cloth napkins and kitchen towels, Tea infusers, re-useable wine corks, wind-up flash light and I now compost everything
Recyclable products: Soups, baking soda, and occasionally wine
Living Room Now:
Giant/small towels as floor mats and door mats, I hate that the rubber backing on standard door mats falls apart after exposure to weathering.
I buy digital books or I check out books from the library (Fortunately I bought an iPad when I started grad school so it came in handy)
I use an indoor air filtering plant to liven up the space as well as making it functional as well.
I limit the amount of batteries I need/use. I replaced my flashlight with a wind up flashlight and in total I have 3 items that uses batteries. In addition to that, I limit the size of batteries to AAA or AA (it’s really not necessary to have a library of them and it makes attaining them harder when traveling).
Christmas bag: Flour sack towels (28″x 29″) and bandannas for wrapping gifts. If you wrap gifts using basic box wrapping techniques and then tuck the ends within the folds, you can always secure the wrapping. Or check out Furoshiki and check out the techniques they list and their products they have available.
Here are some examples from the website:
I use refillable ball point pens and lead and replace them in my pen/pencil unit
Due to my profession, moving away from rendering materials is quite difficult so I do use colored pencils and a lead holder as well as a Faber-Castell kneaded eraser. (The kneaded eraser doesn’t slough off eraser bits)
I used to keep my work saved on re-writable CDs but now I have a 1 TB external hard drive. I also utilize my emails and use my clouds to store data.
I use a stapleless stapler so now I don’t buy staples for refilling and it’s very efficient
I’ve opted out of junk mail as much as I can but some mail still gets through, when it does, I use the back of the one sided pages as scratch paper (I can’t remember when the last time I bought paper).
Recyclable products: Envelopes, stamps and Christmas cards… There are still items I value and I can’t seem to stray from and hand writing is one of them. I value a hand written letter, the ink/lead on paper denotes a moment in time- a moment in time when the writer touched the document as well as the receiver.
This is an over all view of what my life inventory looks like now. It makes life a lot easier when I have less to worry about. Majority of my time, I think I’d prefer eating food or going on an adventure. Once I got rid of a lot of my items, I noticed that I sleep better now, my stress level seems to lessen because there’s less upkeep with my life. It’s strange how when I used to think of hanging out with my friends meant that we would go shopping (and not window shopping), and now that shopping really isn’t a part of my life- I had to search to find what to replace it with. Even if I had the choice to document my life in photographs, I think there’s still a pressure to do so- sometimes, the memories are enough to take away from that experience.