Zero Waste Tips And Habits

08.19.2019

0600

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.

How To Reduce Waste In Your Home

08.12.2019

0600

Reducing the amount of trash that comes into your home is not as hard as it sounds. It might sound like a daunting task because we as consumers, buy a lot of packaged items that we bring into our home. However, it’s a simple process of elimination.

For instance, if you evaluate your kitchen items and everything you buy weekly, monthly, and yearly- that’s pretty much your entire list. For the yearly items, if you can find reusable alternatives, you can essentially eliminate your yearly inventory shopping.

Then, list all your weekly items that you tend to buy, and find reusable, non-toxic alternatives for those items. Your weekly and daily items are most likely the trash culprits. Half of the time, we don’t realize how many coffee cups we buy every day or even plastic packaged lunch items that we purchase daily. Eliminating the daily trash will help greatly reduce the amount of trash that enters your home. There are a lot of reasonable alternatives when it comes to kitchen items. Using cloth napkins in lieu of paper napkins, and using real dishware instead of paper plates can help eliminate the disposable trash output. You can also use real utensils instead of disposable utensils. You can bring a reusable coffee Tumbler when you go to get tea or coffee, so you don’t end up with a disposable cup.

A lot of people don’t know that the paper containers provided for us at grocery stores, and food establishments are lined with plastic, and those containers do not compost or bio degrade. The plastic layer, prevents it from composting completely. It’s a little bit like green washing because you may think your container is completely made of cardboard but it really isn’t. Using reusable items is a much better alternative, because you are in control of how much trash you are producing.

For your bathroom items, it’s the same process as evaluating your kitchen items. Go through your items and figure out which products you use and purchase, yearly, weekly and daily. Slowly replace the yearly items with reusable and sustainable options, as well as a weekly and daily items.

When it comes to medications or anything medical, I suggest that you consult with a doctor before you decide to eliminate certain products. I purchase sunscreen consistently. I live in California, where the sun is strong, and skin cancer is a real concern. I’m very aware that I am producing plastic trash with my sunscreen bottles. However, I would never want to put my health at risk just so I can proclaim that “My lifestyle is absolutely zero waste!”, and I wouldn’t want you to do that either.

Health concerns are very personal, so you know your own limit. If you can eliminate a plastic contained product and opt for a reusable version, than I think that’s great. Right now, I buy my conditioner, body lotion, bar soap, liquid soap, and tooth powder, in bulk. When it comes to sunscreen, face moisturizer and dental floss, those come in packaging.

You can use this evaluation process for the other rooms in your home. The biggest trash producers are the kitchen and the bathrooms. Some people have other rooms where they tend to buy a lot of items for, and those can be also evaluated in the same fashion.

This process takes time, and it takes self awareness to be consistent. Start slow and just work on an area or room in a certain amount of time. If you give yourself a time limit, staying consistent and motivated, becomes easier.

The Zero Waste Lifestyle Commitment

07.22.2019

0600

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.

Zero Waste Take Out Food

03.28.2017

0700

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Ordering take out food is the one thing I didn’t want to give up when I started living a zero waste lifestyle. The concept of always going out to eat when I didn’t want to cook, seemed viable when I first started this journey. Of course, going home, not wanting to cook and  finding the energy to go out to eat was also another challenge. So, after some investigating, and research I had to put together a “Food Take Out Kit”. Most of my research was simply through trial and error with this kit, and finding restaurants willing to serve food in my dishes. I’m lucky that I live in a city that is trying to be more environmentally friendly so I did find a lot of restaurants willing to serve my take out food in my own dishes.

I first called a lot of the restaurants in my downtown area, to see if they were willing to participate in my zero waste effort. A lot of the restaurants were more than willing to participate, but with different methods. Some were willing to take my dishes to the kitchen where they would directly serve my dishes right into my containers, and some were more adamant about bringing the food out on one of their own plates and then transfer it into mine, so to not contaminate their kitchen. Either way, it was fine with me. However, during my research, I did come across some restaurants that were not willing to do either method.

I furthered my research by ordering take out from as many restaurants as I could, when I could. It takes a bit of trial and error, but if you have a Food Take Out Kit, I think it make these trips much smoother. The one thing that seemed a bit tricky was the different types and sizes of side dishes these restaurants offered. Also, I had to slowly gauge what sauces or dips would come along with certain dishes. I didn’t really know what sized to go container each restaurant used, so I used large glass tupperware in hopes that the volume of my tupperware would suffice.

I usually go to the prospective restaurant and order my food with the hostess right then and there, so that I can hand them my glass tupperware dishes to fill up. I had to make a couple of trips to really get this kit down correctly, but here it goes. In my Food Takeout Food Kit, I have:

Food Take Out Kit:

  1. Containers:
    1. Three 54 oz. containers (for main dishes)
    2. Three 35 oz. containers (for smaller portion dishes and side dishes)
    3. Four 1 cup containers (for sauces)
  2. Reusable cloth produce bags
    1. Three medium sized bags
    2. One large bag

I use tupperware by Kinetic GoGREEN Glassworks Series 6-Piece Rectangular Oven Safe Glass Food Storage Container Set 54-Ounce Each for my larger dishes, as well as Kinetic GoGREEN Glassworks Series 6 Piece Square Oven Safe Glass Food Storage Container Set 35-Ounce Each for my smaller dishes, side sides or appetizers. I use Pyrex Simply Store 1-Cup Round Glass Food Storage Dish for sauces or dips that the dishes might come with.

I also will bring my dishes to my local grocery stores, to their deli counter to fill up on whatever I need to. It’s also easy to fill up on cheeses or meats at the deli counter with large rectangular dishes like these. It’s easier for the deli worker to tare the weight of your dish and to fit your choices easily as it’s also easy for them to move around the items to fit more snug.

The downfall of this system is that not every restaurant will allow you to use your own dishes so therefore you either have the choice of eating out at the restaurant or not at all. On the other hand, there is a way to bring that food home which you may have a good selection of restaurants willing to participate in it, and you’re not producing unnecessary trash. I don’t mind that certain restaurants opt out of this participation. They have every right to run their business as they please. However, I’d prefer to buy from restaurants willing to do this though.

If you want to try this Food Take Out Kit, you actually may already have tupperware at home that you could use. If not, I included links to the ones I use. To clear up any confusion, make sure to show the hostess that you already have the 1-cup containers for sauces and dips ready to be filled. I’ve noticed that their concerns are usually associated with the condiments that come with the dishes. The last bonus with creating a zero waste take out food system, is that if you’re not finished with the meals once you bring them home, just place the lids back on and you can save the food for later or eat it the next day. It’s such a simple clean up system!

Yes, I use two bags to carry these dishes around.

Yes, it gets heavy at times.

Yes, it’s worth it, knowing that I’m not contributing to more trash to the landfill.

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Dining Out- Zero Waste Leftovers

08.29.2016

0800

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When I go out to eat, I will bring along a 3-tier Tiffin Carrier or a 2-tier Tiffin Carrier, depending on the type of restaurant I’m going to. If the dishes at the restaurant tend to contain large portions or give a variety in the meal, I’ll take the larger carrier. If the restaurant serves very simple and small dishes, or if I know that there will be a small amount to take home, due to habits, then I’ll bring along the smaller carrier. These carriers are very useful for separating different flavors of foods when desired and it also helps if you’re bringing home leftovers from different people, that way, no one gets their dishes mixed up and there’s no need for separate boxes.

When I first started using the tiffin carrier, I would hide it in my large shoulder bag, and at the end of the meal, I’d basically bust it out. There was a level of awkwardness to this action, but my family understood my intentions. It’s not necessary to use a box JUST for transport from the restaurant to home. I think that’s a waste, because you don’t need that extra box in the first place. You can always move the food from the carrier tray, onto tupperware and heat up later to eat. That extra disposable box from the restaurant to our home is only use for transportation. Granted, you may find a use for the disposable box later, but overall, trash is still being produced and manufactured for this simple step.

I do have two small separate sauce containers that came with the tiffin carriers, but I rarely use them. They’re also made of metal and the lid doesn’t have a tight seal, but I don’t really “bring home sauces”. I usually just pour whatever sauce from my meal right onto the food I’m bringing home. It’s one extra piece of the carrier set that I’d rather use for containing spices or other items at home.

I think these tiffin carriers are a great way of transporting leftover dishes anywhere. You can even pack lunches or small sets of meals in these if you wanted to. You can technically use these carriers for just about everything that involves a lot of smaller pieces. I actually use one as my sewing kit, which I’ll give you the link to right here, My Sewing Kit.
You may feel awkward in the beginning when using these, I certainly did. But it’s all for a good cause and you won’t produce that extra piece of trash (which can’t be recycled due to the oils and food particles stuck to it). You’ll save one less item to throw away which will end up in the landfill.