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.
Truth be told, you start small, start with baby steps. You have to look at this challenge as the fact that you’ve accumulated your items over a period of time, technically, your entire life. Don’t look at decluttering your home all at once as a whole, that’s too overwhelming and no one needs that.
When I initially started minimizing my possessions, I envisioned a goal for myself, that applied to each area of what I wanted to tackle. The vision didn’t include everything that I would end up decluttering, but there was a feeling of peace and tranquility I was seeking. I wanted to see more space between my possessions, clean surfaces, simplistic routines and a more uniform look with my wardrobe. I started out by going from room to room, and I filtered through items that I knew I did not use anymore, or would not use in the future; items that I kept “just in case I need it”. Getting rid of definite YES items was easy, but then I would make a pile of MAYBE items. I always gave myself a few days, and would then return to the MAYBE pile of items, and see how I felt. Almost every time, I returned to the MAYBE pile, I never kept the items. The initial shock and emotional attachment I had when contemplating about getting rid of a possession, was a feeling I had to recognize and get used to.
I started with my bedroom because it was the easiest room to declutter. It’s a lot easier to declutter your personal items versus communal areas. The biggest area to tackle in the bedroom, was my closet, specifically my wardrobe. I created three piles. One pile was for items that I frequently wore, one pile was for items I knew I did not wear at all or that I had not worn in a very long time, and the last pile was the maybe pile. If I was unsure about any items that I wanted to keep, I would hide them from my view. What I mean by that, is I would hide in the closet; literally, a closet. The reason why I did this was because I wanted to make sure that I didn’t need the possession emotionally or physically. Most of the time when I hid my items, I really didn’t need them any longer. I was still emotionally attached to the possession, and that’s what my hesitation was. Hiding items out of view, out of sight is an emotional training method that I use to really test my need for the object. I didn’t end up hiding too many objects.
Also, for my wardrobe, I adopted a capsule wardrobe. A capsule wardrobe is a collection of clothing for a season. There are many different types of capsule wardrobes, and it really boils down to your own preference and climate. Some people have seasonal capsule wardrobes, in which they have a set wardrobe for each changing season. Some people will combine seasons so that they may have a set of clothes for the colder seasons and then one for the warmer seasons. Some have year round capsule wardrobes, which they don’t change out their clothes at all. The set number of garments they have, they will use for the entire year. I have a year round capsule wardrobe. My capsule wardrobe also sticks to a specific color palette, so when I do buy a new piece item, I can only choose from that palette. It actually makes shopping easier, since I only look for certain colors and certain styles. When I started my capsule wardrobe, I started with 30 items, but it’s now become a 40 item capsule wardrobe. I’m more comfortable with 40 items, since life has changed a bit.
For my bathroom, I evaluated my morning and nighttime routine and really set a goal of what I wanted out of those routines. Honestly, I just wanted a simple routine. I didn’t want to constantly buy products and spend my money on questionable personal care items. I didn’t want to spend a lot of time in the mornings to get ready. At night, I don’t mind as much if my routine takes a bit longer, since I’m still trying to wind down; in the morning though, I want to get out the door.
So, I used up all of the bathroom products I knew I didn’t need, or were items that were not ideal for my lifestyle. I invested in vegan makeup and replaced toxic chemicals in my bathroom, with non toxic products. I cleared off my vanity counter and reduced the items I needed to maintain a clean bathroom. The irony was that the more products I had, the more complicated my morning and evening bathroom routines were. You’d be surprised how many products you don’t really need, and how toxic those products really are to your health. By simplifying the items in my bathroom, I was re-setting my expectations and standards for myself.
I went through each room and each area, and applied the same methods. I would first evaluate why I didn’t like the space or wasn’t happy about the space, and then I would envision what I wanted to feel, see, when I entered the room. I would then evaluate each item and really ask myself, “Is this necessary? Why do I still have this?”
Eliminating items can be a difficult process, and it’s not going to be quick. It will feel like a mess when you first start, but it gets easier. And the likelihood, is that you’re going to re-evaluate your items repeatedly over time.
Marie Kondo uses her KonMarie Method in which, she will tell her clients to take all of their items out and lay them in a large pile, for each category. She created this step in the process, so the client could see everything they had accumulated. We’re good at hiding our clutter. We hide our clutter in drawers, cabinets, and inside of other items. Laying everything out in the open can feel embarrassing, even shameful. But it’s a good thing, because everyone is good at hiding their possessions.
To this day, I STILL will walk around my house and go through each drawer, cabinet, shelf, etc. to make sure I still find all my possessions necessary.
My main goal when I started my minimalist lifestyle, was simplicity. I wanted more room and less stuff. I wanted more time in my life, and less stuff to take care of. I wanted non-toxic products in my home and that took time to research and educated myself on alternative solutions. I wanted to feel like my walls were breathing and my spaces were tranquil. That was my ultimate goal. In order to get to that point, I had to break down where my routines and spaces were not bringing me that tranquility.
More time in my life, meant that I could enjoy life and not feel pressured to run errands or maintain a possession. I could go to the beach more, go on more hikes, spend more time with family and friends, or simply enjoy doing nothing… but more.
Living a minimalist lifestyle doesn’t necessarily mean to purge all of your possessions. The concept is to really only keep items that matter to you; the rest is unnecessary. Hopefully this post will help you start living a minimalist lifestyle, if you’re looking to start one. I will say that starting this lifestyle was one of the best decisions I had ever made in my life and there’s no going back to what it was before.
It’s interesting how we pick up habits from our parents or other figures in our lives. When the rain season comes, my mother has always wrapped an old towel across her car mats to absorb the extra water that would get dragged in by everyday use. To this day, I’ll see her break out the towels around the middle of October.
As for me, I never cared for my floor mats in my car. I honestly never liked my car. The car was bought without my input and I was stuck with it thereafter. But recently I did get new car mats, along with a new car, and since I didn’t want to drag a bunch of water into my car, I too, wrapped my car mats in towels. But I soon realized that the towels would get tugged and moved around from the daily use of them. I had to solve this issue. I didn’t want to constantly re-tuck the towels under my car mats, because sometimes they were already dirty and wet.
The front floor mats were a large size and I knew that bath towels would be a perfect fit. I decided to make some towel sleeves for my car mats. Since my carpet in my car is black, I knew I had to find black towels to create my towel sleeves. With the towels sleeves, it would be easier to catch the dirt and rocks that would be brought into my car, and the towels would be easy to clean, since all I had to do was take off the sleeves and throw them into the washing machine.
I found two bath towels that were 52″ long by 30″ wide. Since my front floor mats are about 31″ long and 21″ wide, I only needed the width of the floor mat sleeves to be about 22″ wide. the size of these bath towels would give me 26″ width. I didn’t mind if the towel wasn’t long enough to cover the length of my floor mat because the mat could stick out a little bit.
I folded the towel in half, length-wise and pinned the edges together, to prepare for the sewing process.
I wanted to leave one of the shorter edges open, so I could slide my floor mats in and out easily. In one continuous line, I sewed along the yellow arrows (in the picture below). For the corners of the towel, where the material was thicker, I angled the long sew line and continued on. I then went back and hand stitched the corners, so they would stay together better.
As you can see, the folded towel was still large enough to fit over my floor mat, and there was still extra room.
I placed each of the front floor mats into my car, and folded the edges underneath the floor mats accordingly. You don’t have to fold them under, but I chose to.
For the rear seat floor mats, I found eight hand towels to create the set in my car. My rear seat floor mats are 24″ long, by 16″ wide, so I found hand towels that were 26″ long and 16″ wide. The sewing process for these floor mat sleeves follows the previous steps for the front seat floor mat sleeves.
I stacked two hand towels on top of each other, making sure that the tag was facing inwards for both towels. I then sewed along the yellow arrows around the towels. I left one of the long edges open because I wanted to slide the floor mat in easily. For the corners of the hand towel sleeves, I angled the long, linear sew line to complete the stitch, and then I went back to each corner and stitched them together carefully. My machine doesn’t like it when the material gets too thick, because it can’t pass under the needle easily.
These rear seat floor mats had a lot of extra room around the edges, so I knew that I might have extra floor coverage.
This size hand towel seems to accommodate different car brands and the mats still fit really well within the parameters.
Now, when I need to clean my floors, I’ll just remove the floor mats from the towel sleeves and either wash them or shake them out. I might have to vacuum the edges, but that doesn’t take long at all. These towel sleeves makes my life a bit easier, by allowing me to keep my floor mats clean, and that’s always a good perk.
Zero Waste Week is almost 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 second 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!
Each day has a theme of Zero Waste which focuses on different aspects of creating less waste. For Zero Waste Week 2018, I listed the topic for each day and I linked some of my blog posts that pertain to each topic
September 3, 2018, DAY 1
We will be discussing the difference between ‘necessary’ and unnecessary plastics. The amount of plastic polluting the ocean is astounding. By 2050,plastic in the oceans will outweigh fish, predicts a report from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, in partnership with the World Economic Forum. Herare a few past blog posts which explain how and why I became very conscientious about my purchases.
Auditing our daily personal care routine! Plastic containers in the bathroom are nothing new. However, because we use bathroom items so frequently, the amount of plastic containers we go through can be unnerving when you look at the statistics. As the zero waste movement has caught on, more stores are offering bulk bathroom items and refill stations. If you want to read about some of my zero waste bathroom blog posts, check them out below.
Plastics in the kitchen and food packaging seem to be a huge problem for those starting out on their zero waste journey. To make your kitchen zero waste, can be quite challenging. Creating a zero waste kitchen took time and trial and error in my own experience. To read more about the challenges I faced, check out the blog posts below.
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 method in the link 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. As long as the effort and awareness of product consumption is considered on a day to day basis, reducing trash is inevitable. 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 if you want to read about my journey and how I got started, you can read that here in, How I Got Started. 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 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.
San Francisco, it’s a beautiful city with so much history, it’s mesmerizing. This city made a significant impact on my life because my zero waste journey started with this city. I don’t share this story often, but I thought I’d finally give a background to how I started my zero waste journey seven years ago.
I had moved to San Francisco to attend graduate school. It was a big city with so many places, restaurants and activities to explore, I couldn’t even keep track of everything I wanted to do. At the time, I was working as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) for a large, and well know ambulance company.
Fulton Avenue and Stanyan Avenue path into Golden Gate Park.
I had moved into a studio apartment in the Richmond District and it was on the third floor of a three story building. It was a beautiful studio. With hardwood floors and a cozy interior, I settled in. My building stood directly across the street from Golden Gate Park. It was an interesting location because on the weekends, the park was closed to cars on Saturdays, so the foot traffic was busy. I could also open up my windows on the weekends and I listen to the music performances from inside of the park. Since I was on the top floor, sunlight consistently illuminated my apartment all day and all year long. I lucked out on that part because San Francisco can become very cold and foggy during certain seasons.
One of the Golden Gate Park entrances off of Fulton Avenue. (at Fulton Avenue and Arguello Avenue)
I was raised and lived in the suburbs my entire life so living in a condensed large city was quite a new experience. All of my routines including grocery shopping, working out and even parking was new and took a bit of an adjustment. I parked on the street since my apartment didn’t have a parking lot. This is also how I learned to become a stealth car parking spotter. Understanding and knowing which streets you could park on in the city was a must in order to avoid parking tickets. San Francisco streets are each scheduled for street cleaning all week long on different days and at different hours, so you have to be careful of where you park, or you’ll get a ticket for blocking the street cleaner.
Living in San Francisco also introduced me to trash chutes. A trash chute is a smooth, open shaft in a multistory building, used to convey trash from upper floors to a collection room. My building’s trash chute could only be accessed from the exterior wooden staircase on the side of the building. From each floor, there was an door which allowed access to the staircase. The problem was that these doors were very heavy and never stayed open. It took quite a bit of effort to even open these doors and step out on the balcony in order to access the trash chute; it seemed that they were installed to slam shut. It could have been an issue with the spring on the door, but regardless, it took a lot of force to open the door and hold it open.
San Francisco also separates their trash out into categories: trash, recyclables and compostables. Therefore, I had to separate my disposable items. This is where my problem lay. When I first moved into the apartment, I thought the trash chute was great. It was useful, accessible and being that I was located on the third floor, it seemed convenient for me. However, it only gave access to the trash bin, not the compost bin or the recyclables bin.
When I used the trash chute, my trash bag would bounce around the chute all the way down to the trash bin. It made quite a bit of noise and I thought that wasn’t appropriate since I didn’t know if my neighbors worked night shifts or slept during the day. So I would carry my trash all the way down the narrow exterior stairs. These stairs were very old and were designed to be very narrow. This meant I had to carry my three seperate bags directly in front of me. Some weeks this was not ideal since my bags would be so full, so I had to take two trips. Taking two trips meant that I would carry two bags down together, let the stairwell door slam shut behind me, walk down the exterior stairs and throw my bags away, exit the side yard in order to enter my building from the front. I would then walk up the inside staircase to my apartment, and grab the last bag to repeat this routine. In order for me to throw away all three bags, I routinely had to exit my building twice and enter it twice; all the meanwhile walking up and down two sets of stairs. I didn’t like taking two trips just to throw out trash, so I decided that I had to eliminate one of the bags.
This is where my zero waste journey began. In order to simplify my weekly “taking out the garbage routine,” I decided that getting rid of my trash bag would be the easiest solution. I had to first start swapping out all of my disposable items and figure out how to either replace the items with more sustainable solutions or eliminate them from my life completely. I decided to tackle all of my disposable items in the kitchen first. I started by swapping out my kitchen sponges for smaller washcloths, and then started buying food without packaging. That took a little bit more planning because I had to purchase glass tupperware and change my diet slightly. Changing my diet included giving up certain foods that came in packaging such as certain types of meat, candy, snacks and cereal. I switched those out for bulk snacks such as nuts, granola mixes, whole vegetables and fruit. I started eating whole grains for breakfast and really took solace in my progress towards a zero waste life.
Although swapping out disposable items meant that my laundry load would increase, it really didn’t increase by a lot. I went through my kitchen items and then moved over to my bathroom items. I paid attention to the materials of the items I was replacing my disposable with. I always tried to choose 100% cotton material, bamboo, stainless steel or glass. I then went through my clothes and started donating everything I didn’t need.
My journey to a zero waste life took about a year and half. It sounds like a significant amount of time, but if you think about auditing your entire life, there’s a lot of stuff to go through and get rid of. During my zero waste journey, I also started minimizing my life where I also implemented a minimalistic lifestyle.
I’m writing about this story of how I got started because truth be told, it started because I was lazy. That’s the honest truth. Each blogger has a story of how they got started and this is mine. A lot of bloggers tend to move towards this lifestyle based on their awareness of their own plastic use and it’s commendable that they started living with less plastic. I wanted to write my experience so that my audience may know that not all zero waste journeys need to start with fighting for the environment. Sometimes it happens on a fluke, a chance encounter, but that it’s very possible to live this way. I did notice the benefits of living a zero waste life as I dove deeper and deeper into it and the environmental impacts became more evident as I continued on. But my story doesn’t start with an ethically conscious mindset. It started because the exterior stairs at my apartment building was too narrow to carry three bags down to the trash bin.
This is my story of how I got started to living a zero waste life. #truth