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.

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Plastic Packaging In The Kitchen

07.08.2019

0600

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.

Zero Waste Week 2018

08.12.2018

0600

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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 at Zero 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. 

  1. Shopping At Thrift Stores
  2. 5 Questions to ask Before Purchasing
  3. My 30 Piece Capsule Wardrobe
  4. Zero Waste Shopping And Why

September 4, 2018, DAY 2

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. 

  1. A Zero Waste Bathroom
  2. Bulk Bathroom Shopping Kit
  3. DIY Simple Face Exfoliant And Facial Mask
  4. Bathroom Update
  5. Toilet Paper Is Not Zero Waste
  6. What I Stopped Buying- Bathroom Items

September 5, 2018, DAY 3

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. 

  1. Bulk Grocery Shopping Kit
  2. Food And Bath Storage Containers
  3. Zero Waste Shopping And Why
  4. What I Stopped Buying- Kitchen Items
  5. How To Store Fruits And Vegetables Without Plastic Bags

September 6, 2018, DAY 4

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. 

  1. Zero Waste Cleaning

September 7, 2018, DAY 5

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. 

  1. A Zero Waste Lifestyle
  2. Seven Tips To Begin A Zero Waste Lifestyle
  3. Zero Waste And Minimalism
  4. Spreading the Zero Waste Word
  5. Sometimes You’ll Produce Trash

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 StartedAt 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

How I Got Started

11.07.2017

0600

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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.

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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.

Golden Gate Park Entrance

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.

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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.

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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

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Handmade Handkerchiefs

10.03.2017

0600

Materials:

  • A few shirts (I used collar shirts for the fact that I like this material and these were extra shirts I found)

Tools:

  • Sewing machine
  • Sewing Kit

 

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So there was a recent heat wave that spread through California, and it was HOT. I only had two handkerchiefs and those were being used up fast. I knew I needed more. Although I could have bought a set of twelve for about $5.00. I thought making my own would be more fun.

I found some old collar shirts, that had never been worn (and would never be worn) to make into handkerchiefs. Since these shirts were dress shirts with a tight thread weave, I knew these would be durable over time and the material was still 100% cotton.

I had no idea how many handkerchiefs I would produce from these three shirts so I was curious about the end product. Most handkerchiefs are square shaped and I knew these would vary in size, so I kept that in mind. My current handkerchiefs were 10″ x 10″.

First I took apart each shirt. this meant I had to tediously unravel each thread that made up these shirts. This took awhile to do since certain parts of the shirts had double layers. I also needed to be able to look at each piece of each fabric that made up these shirts. I needed to be able to size up my handkerchief template accordingly.

 

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Once I took apart all of the fabric pieces that made up my shirts, I started to map out 10″x10″ sections on the fabric. There were pieces that I knew I could not use, such as the cuffs and collar of the shirts. For these pieces, I put them aside for future projects. Parts of the shirts such as the Yoke, would have to be sewn together to create enough surface area for a handkerchief.

part of shirt

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Due to the shape of each piece of fabric, I wasn’t able to make perfect 10″x10″ squares. Instead, the shape of the fabric pieces gave me some very unique shapes to use for handkerchiefs. Who said a handkerchief had to be a perfect square anyway?

For each piece of handkerchief, I hemmed the edges by first folding in the edges in to create a margin of 1/4″ and pinning them down with sewing pins. From there, I simply sewed the edges down and tied off the leftover thread.

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From the three collar shirts, I originally started out with, I was able to make a total of 47 handkerchiefs. The breakdown is:

  • six – 9″x10″
  • six – 11″x11″
  • twelve – 10″x12″
  • six – 9″x12″
  • twelve – 10″x18″ (used for cloth napkins)
  • five – 8″x10″

Because the result of the shirts varied in size and shape, I decided to use the twelve 10″x12″ for napkins instead of  handkerchiefs (Luckily I ended up with twelve in this size).

This was a fun upcycling project that took me longer than expected. Taking apart the shirts was the most time consuming, but it was well worth it in the end. Handkerchiefs don’t need to be perfect squares, but preferably 100% cotton. I hope this post inspires you to give it a try to making your own handkerchiefs as well. I’ve learned that although carrying around a handkerchief is an old tradition and I personally don’t see it practiced too often where I live, having one handy can be a lifesaver. Sometimes I’ll use it as a napkin when I don’t have my reusable cloth napkin available. And sometimes, when a stranger needs a kleenex, I’ll give my handkerchief for them to use. I have so many that I can give it away as well. It’s a gesture out of love and caring for humanity.

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Zero Waste Week 2017

09.05.2017

0600

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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 first year participating in Zero Waste Week as an ambassador. I’m so grateful to be a part of this movement. But there are many others who are and have been a part of this movement long before I came along, you can meet them at Zero Waste Week Ambassadors. You can also read all about this week and get involved at Zero Waste Week- About.

Each day has a theme of Zero Waste which focuses on different aspects of creating less waste. For Zero Waste Week 2017, I listed the topic for each day and I linked some of my blog posts that pertain to each topic:

  1. Monday: Make it mend it Monday – Repairing / learning new skills to extend product life. Look for #makeitmendmonday and you’ll find other resources and tips on repairing clothes and fabric products.
    1. Hand Sewn Repairs
    2. Clothing Edits
    3. Reusing Fabric and Thread
    4. Repairing vs Buying
  2. Tuesday: Trashless Tuesday – Challenging participants to a Zero Waste day to see how little they can accumulate for landfill (considering asking people to carry their rubbish around in a see through bag for the day too!) Look for #trashlesstuesday on other social media sites to see how others utilize their trash.
    1. Sometimes You’ll Produce Trash
  3. Wednesday: Working with Waste Wednesday – Upcycling. Look for #wastelesswednesday to find out how other people upcycle their extra waste items.
    1. Functionality Above All Else
    2. Reuse Items
    3. Upcycling Sleeves Into Reuseable Gift Bags
    4. DIY Produce Bags
    5. DIY Footrest Solution
  4. Thursday: Top Tips Thursday – Tips for making Zero Waste living easy and quick. Look for #toptipsthursday on Twitter, Instagram and even Pinterest to find other tips for living a zero waste lifestyle.
    1. Bulk Grocery shopping Kit
    2. Bulk Bathroom Shopping Kit
    3. Zero Waste Take Out Food
  5. Friday: Food waste Friday – How to utilize all your food scraps so there’s less waste produced. Look for #foodwastefriday on Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest to find other ways to utilize food waste from making compost to creating your own homemade vegetable broth.
    1. Ethylene Producing Fruits
    2. How to Store Vegetables and Fruit Without Plastic Bags

To follow Zero Waste Week and Rachelle Strauss, here are links to her other social media:  Facebook, TwitterInstagram and Pinterest.

Spreading The Zero Waste Word

 

07.04.2016

0800

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As the Zero Waste movement as started to gain momentum in the past few years, it’s important for those who currently practice living a zero waste lifestyle to continue to spread the zero waste word. I’ve been approached a few times in grocery stores and in my work place of how and why I transfer food in cloth bags and Ball Mason jars. I usually take this time to simply explain the zero waste movement, not in-depth but a simple explanation; “To eliminate my trash output into the environment”. In the beginning of my journey, I noticed that I received awkward stares from strangers at grocery stores and very few people asked why I carried around cloth bags. I noticed confused looks as I would fill up my bags or jars at the grocery store though, I tink they might have thought I was stealing the bulk foods as I filled up my bags. The cashiers noticed but they had to by the time it was my turn to pay for my items. A few people have told me that they wanted to start “going zero waste” but it seemed overwhelming and they didn’t know where to begin. That made perfect sense since I felt the same way when I first started. For that reason, I carry around extra produce bags that I’ve sewn to give out to people who want to get started. I’ve already recorded the tare weights on them, so it’s a matter of the customer filling up the bag and relaying the PLU number to the cashier. I made it a point to sew extra bags to give away because I want those who want to start this lifestyle to be able to physically hold an example of how to get started. Granted, anyone could look up on YouTube or Pintrest of how to sew cloth bags, but this is my way of encouraging people with a some small starter cloth produce bags.

Also, when you lead by example, you might be surprised who will follow suite. Sometimes speaking about the zero waste movement won’t fit every environment. There will be environments which everything that is wasted will not be salvaged and easing thi=ose in that environment into the zero waste movement will take time. It takes a lot of effort to start living a zero waste life because there are sacrifices that each person must make and not all will be onboard. For instance my work place uses quite a bit of paper and they don’t compost. I would be great if we could start to compost, but that proposal also involves our building landlord to agree to it and so far he won’t. One of the smaller steps I have taken at work is introducing my Office Manager to the Grounds To Grow On Program by Keurig.

It’s still very important that we continue to talk about this issue due to the fact that we continue to produce and use plastic trash which is doing more damage to the environment than we can recover.

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