I don’t like using a lot of harsh chemicals to clean my house, because of the dangers that chemicals can cause to our physical well being . So I tend to use a combination of natural products. For scrubbing, I like to use a combination of Dr. Bronner’s liquid peppermint soap, as well as baking soda as an abrasive. I like to use a simple brush to scrub services, because those are easy to rinse off.
I’ll use a combination of water and apple cider vinegar to wipe down surfaces as well. I will use old cotton wash clothes and cotton rags to wipe down surfaces.
For cleaning my toilet, I will usually use apple cider vinegar, and a simple toilet brush to scrub the surface. If I need to use an abrasive to scrub my toilet, I’ll use baking soda to do so. I do get nervous about harsh chemicals be in the home because I don’t like the idea of inhaling toxic fumes. I think that now that we know more about toxic chemicals and how harmful they can be, we have the power to make better choices about what we use in our homes.
When it comes to cleaning the hardwood floors, I have a dust mop and also a floor broom and dust pan set. I do have a vacuum that I use, but it’s only once a while that’ll pull that out.
If I need to clean the surface of the floors, I’ll first use a combination of Dr. Bronner’s liquid peppermint soap and water to dilute the concentration of the soap formula. I’ll first wipe down the floors with the soapy liquid, than, I’ll go over the cleaned floors with a clean wet rag, to pick up the soap residue. I just wipe down the surface with rags. I do it by hand because the floor seems to be cleaner with this method.
For the rest of the surfaces, dust is really the only issue when it comes to cleaning my other furniture services. I can wipe down the surfaces easily with a simple rag.
I have a fairly simple cleaning routine, and it really doesn’t take much time to get through it on a weekly basis. It also helps to not own many items and keeping my surfaces clean, also speeds up the process. But I’ve been fairly happy with my cleaning routine, and by using non toxic chemicals, I can sleep better knowing that I’m not creating a toxic indoor air environment for my family.
Even when I buy items in glass jars because I can’t find a refillable version of it, I always end up with these plastic shrink bands. It seems that zero waste is never an absolute. Sometimes when I do buy produce that is free plastic packaging, I’ll still end up with rubber bands or twist ties. The good thing is I can actually reuse those items, but it’s preferred that I don’t have to.
Most of my dry goods are sold in bulk bins, so I am lucky that I have the privilege to buy package free dry goods from bulk items.
During the process of transitioning over to a zero waste lifestyle, I knew that I would end up giving up a lot of foods that I enjoyed. I personally love potato chips to snack on, but it was one thing I knew I had to give up, since the packaging wouldn’t fit my zero waste lifestyle. I gave up a lot of snacks such as packaged cookies, packaged crackers and packaged candy. There were alternatives to these packaged items, such as certain bulk options.
When I realized I had to give up certain foods, I also sought out alternative food substitutes. There are good substitutes out there, but sometimes, seeking out the alternatives require more work than expected. Once in awhile I will indulge in a packaged food, and then that packaging will get added to my pile of trash for that year. During my journey, I did come across a company called TerraCycle. They team up with certain companies who participate in different recycling programs with TerraCycle. These companies offer recycling programs through TerraCycle, in which customers who purchase their products, can join their recycling program, and send back the packaging to the company for free. It’s an option, and the program change frequently, so checking their website updates is helpful.
I’m extremely lucky to have local bulk grocery stores, who provide the option of bulk shopping, so I can continue this lifestyle. Only once in awhile, I’ll need an item and the glass jar will have the plastic shrink band on it. If I can, I try to only need and use items that are only sold in bulk.
I definitely have plastics in the bathroom. I did try to transition to glass bottles for my bathroom products, but the glass was too slippery and didn’t seem efficient. When it comes to products are used in the bathroom, I do have a set amount of items that I can refill. However, there are items that do come in plastic packaging and plastic bottles, that end up being recycled or go into the landfill.
I have bottles that I refill for my Dr. Bronner’s liquid peppermint soap, my body lotion, and my conditioner. I use bar soaps a lot, so I buy bar soaps that either don’t have packaging at all, or come in recyclable paper packaging.
For the items that do come in plastic packaging, that includes my sunblock, my face moisturizer as well as dental floss.
My bathroom isn’t completely zero waste. I do use plastic containers and refill them as needed. And for specialty items, they come in plastic containers. I wish sunblock didn’t come in plastic containers, but so far, mine do. I think it’s entirely possible to have zero waste bathroom though; mine just isn’t. When it comes to my conditioner, I will transfer some of it into a larger stainless steel water bottle, and add water to dilute the formula. I’ve noticed that my hair responds better when my hair doesn’t have residue left over from the conditioner. For my other items that come in plastic containers such as dental floss, face moisturizer, I haven’t found a good alternative is for my skin yet. I’ll keep looking though, I think the battle is always on going when it comes to striving for a zero waste lifestyle.
When H&M came to the California, specifically the Bay Area, word spread quickly. H&M started in Europe, and finally arrived here, to the states. The clothing looked like good quality, and the prices were low, cheap even. It felt like consumers hit the jackpot with this retail store, on the surface. This isn’t the first retail store to offer cheap clothing, with what looked to be good quality clothing. But if you dive right below the surface of what retailers are marketing, you might find the harsh reality of what consumers are benefiting from.
In the past decade, fast fashion has become a growing problem. The Fashion Industry has sold us the idea that instead of four seasons each year, we have 52 seasons each year. Style and clothing becomes outdated as soon as you buy it. Fast Fashion focuses on speed and low product prices, so that they can deliver frequent, new collections inspired by celebrity styles or runway styles.
As you might guess, fast fashion’s marketing strategy includes creating vibrant prints, vibrant colors and eye catching prints to be more appealing to the consumers. However, much of these fabrics are treated with toxic chemicals in order to achieve the final product. The pressure to reduce the time it takes to get a product onto the retail display floor, results in more environmental pollution. Water pollution, the use of powerful toxic chemical and the increase of textile waste are a few of the negative environmental impacts.
Garmets that are made of fabrics such as polyester and polyamides shed microfibers into the waste waste, which continue to contribute to the increasing plastic in our ocean. The demand for more production, increases the amount of waste produced as well as increases the amount of clothing consumers subsequently buy and then get rid of.
The fashion industry feeds our addiction to garments, and they’re very good at it. The low prices and latest trends are great selling strategies. “Newer, bigger, better, faster, etc.” are emphasized in commercials, advertisements and all over social media. Fashion moves fast, and therefore, must continue to develop and market new products. We, as consumers, have a tendency to buy, because buying something new gives us some form of fulfillment (that’s another topic I’ll write about in the future). The combination of companies pumping out new products and our addiction to fulfill that want for new products, creates a perfect storm in creating excessive textile waste and the destruction of the environment.
There are quite a few companies who have been called out for their practice of discarding unsold clothing and garments by cutting them up, destroying them or even pouring paint on them, so they can’t be worn. In January 2017, outside of Nike SoHo, in New York, there were bags of shoes found that had been slashed with a blade. Ex employees of Michael Kors, Juicy Couture and Henri Bendel have come forward in revealing that they were instructed to smash watches, cut up track suits and tear up silk dresses before discarding. Ex Urban Outfitters employees have admitted to being instructed to destroy “dime-outs”, which is a term used for merchandise that didn’t sell. H&M, Zara, JC Penny and even Victoria’s Secret have come under fire for these types of wasteful practices. Their defense in the the destruction of unsold merchandise, is that they are protecting the brand and are worried that donating the unsold clothing would undercut their brand. By not donating the extra merchandise, consumers won’t be able to purchase these items for a discount at outlets and thrift stores.
Americans throw out 25 billion pounds of clothing each year; 15% is recycled, and the rest ends up in a landfill. Not only does “fast fashion” damage the environment, it also disregards the rights of its workers. Fashion retailers such as Zara and H&M search for cheap manufacturing labor in countries like Bangladesh and others.
Here comes some ugly truths about fast fashion.
The fast fashion industry emits 1.2 billion tons of CO2 equivalent per year.
The fast fashion industry is responsible for producing 20% of global wastewater.
In 2015, the fast fashion industry used 80 billion cubic meters of freshwater.
Production of textiles uses about 3500 different chemicals.
Cotton is one of the most resource-intensive crops out there.
We make 63% of clothes from petrochemicals.
The fast fashion industry produces 97% of our clothes overseas.
40 million people work in the garment industry today.
Dangerous working conditions exist for garment workers in the fast fashion industry.
Fast fashion is predicted to increase ~60% by the year 2030.
Between 1992 and 2002 the time we keep our clothes decreased by 50%.3
We buy 2X more clothes than we did just 15 years ago (2015 data).
The fashion industry produced 92 million tons of waste in 2015 alone.
85% of our old clothes end up in a landfill.
Only about 1% of textile waste is truly recycled.
With current technologies, it would take 12 years to recycle what the fast fashion industry creates in 48 hours
Fast fashion is a huge contributor to plastic pollution.
There are a lot of people and factors involved, when considering the timeline of producing a garment. From the farming of cotton fields, to the workers who work to create the bales of cotton fibers in the cotton facilities, then dying and creating the fabric, or using the screens to print images and patterns on the shirts, than to the manufacturer selling and sending the product out to distribution centers; there are a lot of people involved in this process.
There are real dangers for garment workers, who work to help push out production for big companies. In 2013, the Rana Plaza building in Balngladesh, which housed the Dhaka garment factory, collapsed and left 1,134 people dead and left approximately 2,500 people injured. It was a an eight story building and collapsed due to a failing structural system that included an additional illegal three stories above the original permit. Even though an engineer had requested an inspection of the building, since it was deemed unsafe, unethical administrative players in this case, passed the building off as safe, and told the workers they should return to the factory and continue to work.
There’s speculation that perhaps the pressure to have the workers return to the factory the next day, was to continue to complete the garment orders on time. The demand for the garments were still flooding in, so slowing down production was not an option for the managers. The demand for fast fashion, low-cost clothing by clothing brands, dangerous conditions, non-union representation and low wages, is what the fast fashion industry creates.
Our resources for producing cheap and fast clothing is taking a toll on the environment, and people are starting to speak up and speak out about it. The bigger the industry is, the more impact it has on our natural resources. More companies are looking towards more sustainable materials such as hemp, linen, and wool.
Hemp material is a favorite of mine because it is a more sustainable material. It’s a very durable material, has UV protection qualities, water absorbent and breathable, no chemical fertilizers pesticides required during farming, naturally biodegradable, and highly antimicrobial. It grows quickly and can be grown in all different climates.
Linen is derived from the flax plant. Linen is 30% stronger than cotton and is known to be the strongest natural fiber. It’s thicker than cotton, but linen lasts longer than cotton too. Linen can absorb 20% moisture before it starts to feel damp. It has a natural ability to prevent bacterial growth, yet can move air and moisture through it’s hollow fibers easily.
There are options when the choice of introducing new garments into your wardrobe. You can shop at thrift stores, choose more sustainable materials for your wardrobe, or even choose to not buy clothing as often, to alleviate the textile waste created by the fashion industry. Apparel retailers such as Zara and H&M dominate the world of fast fashion, with Zara owner Inditex making 3.44 billion euros ($3.9 billion) in profit in 2018.
The second hand apparel market was worth $24 billion in the U.S. in 2018, versus $35 billion for fast-fashion, say the figures from GlobalData.
However, by 2028 the used-fashion market is set to skyrocket in value to $64 billion in the U.S., while fast-fashion will only reach $44 billion.By shopping at thrift stores, you can help keep clothing out of the landfill.
Even better, is to stop buying cheap clothing, invest in sustainable fashion clothing and stop buying unnecessary amounts of clothing.
My trash doesn’t fit in a jar anymore. When I started my zero waste journey, my trash did fit in a 16 ounce mason jar. However, int he past few years, I needed to purchase items that had extra packaging in which would not fit in my nice little jar anymore.
A lot of the time, when we shop at bulk bins in grocery stores, although we don’t bring home trash into our homes, products do get shipped to grocery stores in packaging. We as consumers don’t see it, but it doesn’t mean that the packaging doesn’t exist. Now, I’m not saying that every company is wasteful, but truth be told that is how our products are packaged from the manufacturer and then transferred to the distribution companies.
Trash pollution, plastic pollution is hidden in plain sight. We as consumers, do have the choice to not bring trash into our homes, and that’s a privilege. But packaging does exist, it’s not always compostable, and it may not even be sustainable. We as consumers can still vote with our dollar, and we still need to remind manufacturing companies that our trash pollution is at the highest quantity right now. I do think the tide is turning, but with The daily production of trash in the speed at which it is produced, we’re going out to tackle a very, very large problem and that’s with magnified with an unimaginable speed.
I live in the Bay Area, and bulk food items and products are readily available here. There are plenty of other states and areas, which bulk food is not available. If you can fit your trash into a small jar and continue to do so, I think that’s amazing and admirable. If your trash can’t fit into a jar, just keep in mind, the trash you’re producing and keep putting effort towards living a more zero waste lifestyle. I think using the glass jar as a standard is a bit unreasonable, because not all of us are lucky enough to live and afford certain amenities where we are located.
So my trash doesn’t fit in a jar this year, maybe next year it will be less. If not, I’ll keep trying to continue to strive to live a zero waste life.
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.
I’ve talked about what I don’t buy, but I thought I’d tell you about what I do buy in relation to my daily bathroom routine. When I go grocery shopping, there are items I do keep an eye out for. These items are the items I will use on a daily basis and keep stock of at home. So here it is…
What I stock up on:
Eyeliner (used often)
Mascara (used often)
Eye Shadow (used often)
Apple Cider Vinegar
Not used often:
Liquid Foundation (Vegan Makeup)
Matte Bronzer (Vegan Makeup)
Lipstick (Vegan Makeup)
Angled Blush Brush
There are other investments that I bought a while back, which did produce some form of trash, but they were only a one time investment.
One time investments:
Set of Dental picks
Set of stainless steel ear pick tools
Morning: Before Workout Routine: In the morning I will wash my face with soap and brush my teeth with baking soda. I’ll then apply sunscreen before heading out, because skin cancer is real and the exposure to the sun’s rays can be very dangerous, so I take precautions.
Morning: After Workout Routine: After working out, I’ll wash my face again and apply some dry shampoo (combination of equal parts cornstarch and Hershey’s Cocoa, here is the link to my blog post about DIY Dry Shampoo). I’ll then apply my makeup, and depending on the occasion, it might be more or less. My makeup is cruelty free and not tested on animals, but it does come in packaging that is not recyclable. The good part about my makeup routine is that I don’t use excessive amounts of it so I don’t use up my makeup quickly.
When I do decide to get more dressed up, my makeup packaging includes all of the following packaging below. All of my makeup will come with the makeup container as well as the makeup packaging as well.
Evening Routine: My evening routine mimics my morning routine, where I will floss my teeth, brush my teeth, wash my face with soap, and then apply my evening cream.
Non-Daily Use Items: There are a few “one time purchase” items that I did invest in, which did produce some form of trash that was not recyclable. However, these were one time purchases and they’ve lasted a very long time. These items include my deodorant crystal, pumice stone, dental pick set and my set of stainless steel ear pick tools. (The Visine is rarely used and I doubt I’ll ever purchase it again.)
For the Bathroom: Products I use to clean my bathroom or need to stock up on, include Apple Cider Vinegar, paper wrapped toilet paper and essential oils. The essential oils does get used, but not often. I always buy toilet paper wrapped in paper so that I don’t produce any extra plastic trash.
Living a zero waste lifestyle can never truly be completely zero waste. Trash will be produced at one point or another; whether it’s in the beginning of the production line or at the very end where the consumer is left with it. When you purchase products in bulk, a lot of the packaging is left for the distributor to deal with.
This post was a transparent view of the reality of my own bathroom trash. Even though I do still produce a bit of trash, I have significantly reduced the amount of my bathroom trash since I began this zero waste journey. Still, to this day, I know I can reduce it even more, but that means I have to give up using certain products or try to find alternative products.
I wanted to revisit my 30 Piece Capsule Wardrobe for this post. And it turns out, I needed to number to be bumped up to 32 pieces of clothing (including shoes and accessories), I realized that I needed some extra pieces of clothing for other uses as well. I added my scarf, hat and gloves (which originally were in my snow bag).
These pieces bumped the overall capsule wardrobe items up, so I thought I should mention it. I also wanted to point out that I do have sport clothes that pertain to specific sports, which I also don’t count.
For my own needs, I also realized that I needed a set of extra clothes because I like to work on my house. I need extra shoes and clothes that are able to get dirty and torn. I don’t count my extra pieces of clothing in my overall Capsule Wardrobe clothing count.
My sport clothes are specific to each sport. For instance, my running shorts are only to be worn when I run. I don’t count my sport clothes and my extra clothes because I can’t wear these clothes for day to day attire.
Capsule Wardrobe: 32 Pieces
Tank Top- Casual- Grey
Long Sleeve- Grey
Short Sleeve- Grey
Short Sleeve- White
Sweater- Light Grey
Jacket- Casual- Tan
Jacket- Dressy- Black
Blouse- Navy Blue
Shorts- Casual- Denim
Skirt- Mini- Black & Leopard Print
Pants- Casual- Denim- 2
Heels- Ankle Boots- Black
Flats- Closed- Blk
Boots- Tall- Blk
Boots- Casual- Brown
Dress- Convertible- Black
Purse- Navy Blue
Necklace- Short- Dressy
Earrings- Dangle- Formal
Bracelet- Silver and Pearl
BEACH- Bottoms- 1
BEACH- Tops- 1
BEACH- Bathing Suit- 2
RUN- Shorts- 2
RUN- Pants- 2
RUN- Tops- 3
RUN- Sneakers- 1
RUN- Gloves- 1
RUN- Hat- 1
SNOW- Pants- 2
SNOW- Jacket- 2
SNOW- Tops- 2
Boots- 1 pair
Sneakers- 1 pair
Sandals- 1 pair
Tank Top- 2
Long Sleeve- 1
Collar Shirt- 1
Sports Bra- 1
My capsule wardrobe also doesn’t include intimates, mostly because I think counting each underwear and bra you own might be a little much, especially since a lot of people have different preferences for these items. I genuinely love my capsule wardrobe because all of my clothing pieces can match each other no matter how I pair them up. It makes picking out clothes in the morning much easier for me.
So there you have it, this is my updated list of my year round capsule wardrobe along with my sport clothes and my extra clothes. For anyone who wants to create a capsule wardrobe, I highly recommend it. Some people prefer seasonal capsule wardrobes or perhaps color scheme themed capsule wardrobes too. The amount of items really a individual preference. I have a pinterest board which also was a great resource when I first started this project years ago, Pinterest Minimalist Capsule Wardrobe . My color scheme is very specific to my own taste, but there are a lot of example of different types of capsule wardrobes on Pinterest.
Storing long ropes can be a hassle, but if you know how to organize the ropes, unraveling them each time won’t seem as daunting. I like to wrap my long ropes in a daisy chain so that when I open the rope, it’s a quick process and it doesn’t get tangled.
A daisy chain is a simple method to store long ropes. It’s also known as a chain sinnet. It’s a method of shortening a rope or other cable while in use or for storage. It is formed by making a series of simple crochet-like stitches in the line. It can also reduce tangling while a rope is being washed in a washing machine. Rock climbers, concert stage workers have used this method in their professions. I’ve found that wrapping the ropes up in a daisy chain can be just as quick as unraveling it once you nail the method down.
First find the middle of the rope and tie a knot to mark the middle point. It’s easier to create a loop while making the knot to make it more distinguishable.
At the ends of the rope, tie knots to keep the rope from fraying.
Before starting the chain pattern, it’s easier to step on the two loose ends of the rope so that the chain is taught when you’re creating it. Take the end with the middle knot and loop the other end over it creating a loose loop.
Then bring the rope through the loop you just created.
Pull the new loop through the opening and bring it downwards so that you can see the hanging rope through the new loop.
Grab the rope through the new loop and bring it through, towards yourself.
Once you grab hold of the rope, bring down the chain so that the loop pattern is more taught. Once the pattern is tighter, you can bring the chain back up and repeat the process.
Once you get towards the end of the rope, just grab the leftover rope and pull it through. Make sure the ends of the rope won’t slip through the opening by tightening the last loop.
When you need to use this rope, simply open this end of the daisy chain, give it a little tug and your rope will unfold quickly and easily. I’m sure there are other methods of storing long rope, but this is my favorite way of storing my own. I usually use these ropes in my Sport Emergency Kit, so it comes in handy when I’m in the snow. This method also allows for a quick unravel for my gloved hands.
I hope this blog post helps you store your long ropes if you choose the Daisy Chain Method.
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
I don’t like to receive freebies and giveaways. I tend to refuse small gift bags and trinkets that are included in them. When I received them from family members and friends, that’s when I came up with a plan that I implemented years ago, when I lived in San Francisco.
Years ago, when I lived in San Francisco, my studio was directly across the street from Golden Gate Park. This park is the largest park in San Francisco and it was approximately 1,017 acres and over 3 miles running West to East and half a mile running North to South. I would visit my family on the peninsula and always ended up bringing back food. I was given Nutrigrain bars, health bars, and even packaged produce. Because I was starting my zero waste lifestyle in San Francisco, I didn’t want to open these individually packaged items. Instead, I would create care packages for the homeless population, who slept in the park after everyone left.
Let me explain, Golden Gate Park is open from 9am every morning, and closes at 5 pm each evening. Since I lived across the street from the park, I was very aware of the public presence in the park. Each night, after the park closed, the homeless population would move in and set up camp for the night. I used to run along the street that framed the park’s north edge. I would run West and head out to Ocean Beach, then turn around and run back, and I would see them heading into the park.
During that time, I worked the swing shift when I was and EMT, so my hours were strange. But I would put together care packages in which I would hand out to the homeless when I can back from work.
I know that those individually packed items still produced trash but I had a decision to make. The dilemma was, either I refuse the items and inevitably they go into the trash, or I can somehow make good use of it. Not everyone can live a zero waste life and I understood that. Not everyone cares to live a zero waste life and I understood that too.
This was my way of trying to make a positive contribution to a situation I was aware of. When the packages were made, I would hand them out. None of the individual packages were opened so the recipients knew that the food had not been tampered with. Most everyone was open to accepting the food and were thankful for the snacks.
I wrote this post because recently I received a few airline amenity kits from a relative who travels on Delta Airlines for work. She travels a lot so she had a bunch stocked up. I decided to go out and find recipients to give these kits to.
In the day-to-day rush that we live through, it’s reasonable that not everyone is noticed or acknowledged. But if you slow down and look closely, you’ll notice a population that sits in the shadows; a population made up of many circumstances and perhaps painful past stories. Living in California, has its risks and high stakes to bet on. It takes a lot to survive here, much less start a family and establish yourself here. I accept that anyone can become homeless at anytime and it’s always an unfortunate outcome.
So my composting procedure is pretty simple, and here is what I use to achieve the composting pile that I desire.
First, I choose a good location for my Lifetime 65 Gallon Composter . I choose an area on level grass or dirt where drainage won’t affect pavement, where it will be convenient to access for loading and where direct sunlight will help heat up the compost.
I then will fill up my small compost bucket with kitchen scraps such as fruit and vegetable peelings, cores, egg shells, and coffee grounds. I also directly add broken leaves and broken wood branches to the Lifetime 65 Gallon Tumbler, along with the items from my bucket. At times, I’ll add in sawdust when I do work on house repairs.
A good compost will have a blend of materials. The blend will consist of brown and dry items such as dead leaves, wood materials, dried weeds, straw, hay, paper materials and green items such as grass clippings, garden remains and kitchen scraps. A successful compost will have a ratio of 20 parts brown : 1 part green.
Over time, the compost will settle. The compost pile will need at least 4-12 weeks to create a good batch. Because this style of composting is a batch process, two composters are usually recommended, so when one is “cooking,” you can continue to add compost material to the other compost bin, to start the second batch. I tend to let my compost cook so long, that I can mix it in directly with soil pretty quickly.
I’ll rotate the Lifetime 65 Gallon Tumbler several revolutions weekly and if the composter is mostly filled with grass, it may need to be rotated more frequently to keep the grass from matting together. The compost is done when it becomes dark brown and has an earthy smell. It can be added directly t plants as mulch or worked into soil.
I usually dump the compost that’s done “cooking” directly underneath the bin, then subsequently move the bin out of the way, so that I can distribute it around the yard.
Composting is my way of getting rid of my food scraps trash and it’s been working for awhile. Our soil is great and I’ll distribute the compost mixture around the yard through out the various dumping occasions. A lot of people have a misconception of compost having a strong odor, but if you keep the compost ingredients within the requirements of what is allowed, it really doesn’t smell that bad.
WHAT TO COMPOST:
KITCHEN SCRAPS like fruit and vegetable peelings, cores, egg shells, and coffee grounds.
LAWN CLIPPINGS can be returned directly to the lawn with a mulching blade or composted
as desired, especially if the grass clippings are too long to be left on the lawn.
LEAVES can be mowed to reduce their size which will speed up decomposition and
increase the amount which will ft in the composter.
WOOD such as branches must be chipped or shredded in pieces smaller than1 inch.
Saw dust must be resin free i.e. no particle board.
PLANTS discarded from the garden, straw and hay.
MANURES from herbivores e.g. cows, rabbits, or chickens. Excessive amounts will also increase the salt content of the compost.
WHAT NOT TO COMPOST:
Meat, bones, greases, dairy products, or bread which attract pests.
Anything treated with pesticides or herbicides.
Black Walnut leaves which inhibit plant growth.
Oak leaves and pine needles which decompose slowly.
Diseased plants or weeds with seeds.
Pet or human waste.
Plastic, foil, etc.
I hope this helps for those who are looking to compost and are also curious about the set up. The assembly is easy and simple and hopefully you’ll be able to get going on it soon. This composter also cut back on the amount of trash that we produced greatly.
My final capsule wardrobe inventory now consists of 27 pieces of clothing. This does not include my running gear, snowboarding or surfing clothing. However, I thought I would share what those pieces are as well . I had posted an earlier version of my capsule wardrobe here My 30 Piece Capsule Wardrobe but this is a more refined version of that wardrobe. In order to finalize this capsule wardrobe, I actually took pictures of each clothing item and compared them side by side on my computer screen. I know that sounds extreme, but when I looked at my color palette up close, it looked fine, like it actually matched. Yet, when I took pictures of each piece, I could see clearly on my computer screen that there were obvious pieces that were no longer fitting my style. Ironically these same pieces were the same pieces that I had not worn in a very long time. I also selected a very neutral and minimal color palette to work with my wardrobe. The only thing left was to find the pieces that would fit into this 27 piece puzzle. So here it goes…
In my Capsule Wardrobe:
Blouse- Light Blue
Jacket- Casual- Tan
Jacket- Dressy- Black
Long Sleeve- Grey
Short Sleeve- Grey
Short Sleeve- White
Sweater- Light Grey
Tank- Casual- Grey
Gown- Convertible- Blk
Pants- Casual- Denim Dk
Pants- Casual- Denim Med
Shorts- Casual- Denim
Skirt- Mini- Black & Leopard Print
Boots- Casual- Brown
Boots- Tall- Blk
Flats- Closed- Blk
Heels- Ankle Boots- Black
Bracelet- Silver and Pearl
Earrings- Dangle- Formal
Necklace- Short- Dressy
Purse- Navy Blue
BEACH- BLUE BAG
BEACH- Bottoms- 2
BEACH- Tops- 2
RUN- GREY BACKPACK
RUN- Intimates- 2
RUN- Bottoms- 3
RUN- Tops- 3
RUN- Sneakers- 1
SNOW- STAR SPANGLED BAG
SNOW- Boarding- Outfits- 2
SNOW- Intimates- 2
SNOW- Tops- 2
TRAVEL BAG- BLUE NORTHFACE HIKING BAG
My capsule wardrobe doesn’t include intimates or nightwear. This is because when it comes down to those categories, personal preference is how most decide on those items. I also don’t think counting each underwear or sock is reasonable for this system; you would run out of clothing options quickly. With this style of capsule wardrobe planning, deciding on outfits is a simple task and even deciding on outfits to go to special events are just as easy. I actually have 3 items that are nightwear items, so in total I technically have 30 pieces hanging in my closet (a few pieces hang off of the same hanger since the pieces are smaller and lighter). I don’t include them because of the fact that a capsule wardrobe is considered capsule due to its ability to interchange with one another to create a variety of outfits. Some people have more pieces in their capsule wardrobes and some have even less, it’s all in how comfortable you are with the amount of items.
I really do recommend this system, it is simple and easy to make, and keeping track of each piece of clothing is easy. You’ll love every piece of clothing you own and you still can create a lot of outfits. If minimizing your wardrobe down to 30 pieces seems too extreme, try hiding half of your wardrobe and see if you are comfortable using what you have left, on a day to day basis. Then go hide half of your spouse’s/partner’s/family members’ clothing too; you can call it “The time when you got into the shower and when you got out, half your stuff had disappeared.” AKA “Involuntary Capsule Wardrobe”. It totally works. You should try it.
For my sentimental possessions, I own a 3″x 12″x 6″ box, which holds just about every sentimental object in my life. A couple of years ago, I scanned all of my photos, drawings from my childhood, awards I got in school, just all of the paper I held onto. I scanned them and uploaded them to my cloud and also backed it up into my external hard drive. I did this because I had the notion in my mind that wherever I was in the world, I could access all of my photos via the internet. I actually tossed out many of my photos after I scanned them, I kept the ones which I knew were important to me.
My sentimental box includes my collection of elongated pennies from different places I visited or vacationed, a few letters from relatives who have passed on, pins from different events during my lifetime, items from important people in my life, etc. Ironically, I did purge quite a bit of my sentimental items before I started writing this post. I had never purged this collection before and I kept only 1 sentimental items from certain points in my life. However, this is how I approached the situation for decluttering my sentimental items.
In the book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, she guides readers through tidying up each section of their home; sentimental items are the last to be dealt with. Her method, which is called The Konmarie Method, tells readers to hold each item and decide if the item brings you joy or no longer does. Then, with the items that no longer bring joy, bid adieu to the item, thank it for being in your life for that period of time and then place it in the trash pile, donate pile or sell pile. This is a great way to approach sentimental clutter because of the dynamic relationship we each have with our items. I don’t have enough stuff to go through the Konmarie Method where there would be a significant volume difference, but I did consider why I wanted to keep each of my sentimental items as I went through and purged.
If you’re thinking of purging your sentimental items, you can check out her book or simply follow some guidelines that I listed below. There are many books on decluttering, however with the Konmaire Method, you examine what you want to keep verses what you want to donate.
Here are some helpful tips to help you declutter your sentimental items:
The key is to keep only mementos that are meaningful for us and for future generations. I tend to keep photos (which I digitize as well), and smaller pieces of keepsakes. I will keep a single handwritten letter or card from people who I hold close to my inner circle. I digitize everything else though, even those paper items, in case anything were to happen to them.
The Quick Purge: Big Stuff
I will purge the bigger items first. Part of the reason why I do that is because bigger items usually give me more room to save more stuff. If I don’t have the extra space, the purge has tighter parameters for me to work within.
Why Did I Keep That?
This question comes up a lot when I start going through my items. It’s the first question I ask myself. You’re likely to find some things you have no idea why you saved.
Display Your Keepsakes
If you want to keep the rocks, shells or spoons you collected from vacations over the years, create a place to keep them where you’ll see them and enjoy them instead of boxed up. Or if you can upcycle some of the items you can’t let go of, at least the clothing/fabric/item will be displayed somehow and integrated into your life.
Stuff Your Kids Made and Other Gifts
This category is a little harder to purge. Too bad all schools don’t make all small project items out of compostable materials. This category varies greatly in how or what small items you want to keep. Personally, if you can take a picture of the item and discard the physical item, that would be the ideal situation. Requesting no gifts is always a good start.
Letters, Cards, Kids’ Paintings and Other Papers
With schoolwork, paper items, awards, etc., I would scan or take a picture of these items and only keep the more important documents. You can create a small binder for each school that they go to so for instance, one binder could be for elementary school, one for middle school and one for high school. Ideally, as kids get older, paper keepsake items become less so the binders tend to be thinner. However, the binder will also give you a limitation of how much you can keep from each school as well.
We have a tendency to equate our memories with stuff, but when you carry so much stuff with you, and you never see it- how valuable is it really? Your memories will always be there; the event did happen. Although, if you have alzheimer’s or dementia- this point in my post would fall flat…
My point is that it’s really up to you. The question is, what are you willing to keep and why. Don’t think of this process as being forced to get rid of everything all at once. Just imagine if you had to fit the most important sentimental items into a 56 quart storage container, what would you keep?
If you want, start out with two 56 quart storage containers, or whatever size container you can handle. Some people are more attached to their items and it will take some time to go through it all. As long as there’s progress, you’re headed in the right direction.
So go… go assemble your Alzheimer’s storage containers, full of memories that you chose to keep. Actually I don’t call my container my Alzheimer’s storage container, it’s just a box, but I do have an external hard drive that I call “My Ut-Oh HD”. It contains everything I ever took a picture of or scanned. It’s my life as a photographic archive. I have yet to screw up the hard drive, and if I do, and everything is erased from the hard drive AND I subsequently have some form of memory loss… maybe I’ll just be a cat. They seem happy and angry- it’s perfect.
My last part in my ongoing list of “Items I’ve stopped buying” focuses on my garage, living room and holiday items. This list is very small in reference to the items I frequently bought. The garage items focus around doing laundry and the items needed to do laundry. The holiday items refer to items I used to buy for wrapping gifts.
Doing my laundry is my least favorite chore and ever since I simplified the amount of clothes I own, it’s not as bad as it used to be. (My capsule wardrobe now consists of 27 items.) But also not needing dryer sheets or dropping my items off at a dry cleaners also make for a simple laundry routine. I have so few items when I do laundry, that I simply hang everything up when I’m done. I used to sit and fold my items for a good amount of time, and had to set aside time to do it.
Admittedly, my simplistic routines have made me slightly lazier, but it’s also saved me time so I’m not packing my days off with things I need to get done. I actually HAVE time to be lazy- it’s weird. But I’ll take it. It’s weird because I’ve been conditioned to constantly be busy or with the tasks I need to get done each weekend or every other weekend. These tasks are supposed to take up a good amount of my day (that way I feel I’ve accomplished something for that day). When you get to the point when you find time to breathe (I mean a lot of time), it’s well worth the zero waste journey.
There’s more planning involved in the beginning and routines to get used to, but honestly….. who doesn’t love naps??
Dryer Sheets ——————-> N/A
Dry Cleaning ——————-> Hang items in bathroom while showering so they can steam.(I’ll iron if I ABSOLUTELY have to.)
Laundry Soap ——————> Paper Packaged Powder Laundry Soap
Candles (Bed Bath & Beyond) ——> Sage leaves
Flower Bouquets —————-> Fresh Flowers from backyard
Wrapping Paper —————-> Colorful Bandanas [wrap and tuck] & old t-shirts made into reuseable gift bags.