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.

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Mending Items Versus Buying Items

07.29.2019

0600

If you read about my Fast Fashion post, it relates to this one. If not, please go check it out. Even though I do by thrift store items, I will still mend an item to save it from a donation. Sometimes I will mend my items and then I donate the item. For instance, I found an old shirt at my aunts house. It had a few holes in it but overall, I liked the color and I didn’t mind the cut of the shirt. The color went perfectly with my color palette for my capsule wardrobe, so I really wanted to save it from being donated. I just needed to mend the shirt, so it would be decent to wear.


Now I have an almost new shirt.


Whenever I upcycle clothing, I always keep scraps of the leftover clothing item. In my Reusing Fabric and Thread blog post, I wrote about keeping my fabric scraps in a small bag. I literally have a bag of scraps. I love fabric, and the use of fabric in different products, (depending on the thread count, material, and the way fabric is sewn together,) can be a very durable material.

Some shirts have higher thread counts, which lends them to become excellent candidates to upcycle into grocery bags, or other heavy duty bags. The smaller scraps that I keep, I always try to find a use for them. Whether it’s going to be upcycled into a small project or large project, the one thing I can count on is that I can throw it in the washing machine to clean it.ย 

If I had a choice to make, with picking and choosing reusable products, I prefer to choose items that I can wash easily. I don’t like to buy items which require a special cleaning method or liquid to clean. I like to sew and mend items, because the product that I’m usually mending, only needs to be washed with soap and water.

If you reflect on the products that you use daily, the majority of them are probably sewn together: your clothes, handbags, wallets, car seats, bedding, upholstery, etc. Knowing how to sew and understanding how to repair fabric products has been a life saver for me. I actually learned how to sew by hand, and didn’t learn how to use a machine until years later.

Learning how to mend items can save you money, time and stress. Even the simple act of sewing on a button is helpful. You can save a simple dress shirt, like I did, from sending it to a donation station.

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.

How To Start A Minimalist Lifestyle

06.10.2019

0600

I’ve been asked this question before,

“How do I start a minimalist lifestyle?”

Truth be told, you start small, start with baby steps. You have to look at this challenge as the fact that you’ve accumulated your items over a period of time, technically, your entire life. Don’t look at decluttering your home all at once as a whole, that’s too overwhelming and no one needs that.

When I initially started minimizing my possessions, I envisioned a goal for myself, that applied to each area of what I wanted to tackle. The vision didn’t include everything that I would end up decluttering, but there was a feeling of peace and tranquility I was seeking.  I wanted to see more space between my possessions, clean surfaces, simplistic routines and a more uniform look with my wardrobe.  I started out by going from room to room, and I filtered through items that I knew I did not use anymore, or would not use in the future; items that I kept “just in case I need it”. Getting rid of definite YES items was easy, but then I would make a pile of MAYBE items. I always gave myself a few days, and would then return to the MAYBE pile of items, and see how I felt. Almost every time, I returned to the MAYBE pile, I never kept the items. The initial shock and emotional attachment I had when contemplating about getting rid of a possession, was a feeling I had to recognize and get used to. 

I started with my bedroom because it was the easiest room to declutter. It’s a lot easier to declutter your personal items versus communal areas. The biggest area to tackle in the bedroom, was my closet, specifically my wardrobe. I created three piles. One pile was for items that I frequently wore, one pile was for items I knew I did not wear at all or that I had not worn in a very long time, and the last pile was the maybe pile. If I was unsure about any items that I wanted to keep, I would hide them from my view. What I mean by that, is I would hide in the closet; literally, a closet. The reason why I did this was because I wanted to make sure that I didn’t need the possession emotionally or physically. Most of the time when I hid my items, I really didn’t need them any longer. I was still emotionally attached to the possession, and that’s what my hesitation was. Hiding items out of view, out of sight is an emotional training method that I use to really test my need for the object. I didn’t end up hiding too many objects.

Also, for my wardrobe, I adopted a capsule wardrobe. A capsule wardrobe is a collection of clothing for a season. There are many different types of capsule wardrobes, and it really boils down to your own preference and climate. Some people have seasonal capsule wardrobes, in which they have a set wardrobe for each changing season. Some people will combine seasons so that they may have a set of clothes for the colder seasons and then one for the warmer seasons. Some have year round capsule wardrobes, which they don’t change out their clothes at all. The set number of garments they have, they will use for the entire year. I have a year round capsule wardrobe. My capsule wardrobe also sticks to a specific color palette, so when I do buy a new piece item, I can only choose from that palette. It actually makes shopping easier, since I only look for certain colors and certain styles. When I started my capsule wardrobe, I started with 30 items, but it’s now become a 40 item capsule wardrobe. I’m more comfortable with 40 items, since life has changed a bit.

For my bathroom, I evaluated my morning and nighttime routine and really set a goal of what I wanted out of those routines. Honestly, I just wanted a simple routine. I didn’t want to constantly buy products and spend my money on questionable personal care items. I didn’t want to spend a lot of time in the mornings to get ready. At night, I don’t mind as much if my routine takes a bit longer, since I’m still trying to wind down; in the morning though, I want to get out the door.

So, I used up all of the bathroom products I knew I didn’t need, or were items that were not ideal for my lifestyle. I invested in vegan makeup and replaced toxic chemicals in my bathroom, with non toxic products. I cleared off my vanity counter and reduced the items I needed to maintain a clean bathroom. The irony was that the more products I had, the more complicated my morning and evening bathroom routines were. You’d be surprised how many products you don’t really need, and how toxic those products really are to your health. By simplifying the items in my bathroom, I was re-setting my expectations and standards for myself.

I went through each room and each area, and applied the same methods. I would first evaluate why I didn’t like the space or wasn’t happy about the space, and then I would envision what I wanted to feel, see, when I entered the room. I would then evaluate each item and really ask myself, “Is this necessary? Why do I still have this?”

Eliminating items can be a difficult process, and it’s not going to be quick. It will feel like a mess when you first start, but it gets easier. And the likelihood, is that you’re going to re-evaluate your items repeatedly over time.

Marie Kondo uses her KonMarie Method in which, she will tell her clients to take all of their items out and lay them in a large pile, for each category. She created this step in the process, so the client could see everything they had accumulated. We’re good at hiding our clutter. We hide our clutter in drawers, cabinets, and inside of other items. Laying everything out in the open can feel embarrassing, even shameful. But it’s a good thing, because everyone is good at hiding their possessions.

To this day, I STILL will walk around my house and go through each drawer, cabinet, shelf, etc. to make sure I still find all my possessions necessary.

My main goal when I started my minimalist lifestyle, was simplicity. I wanted more room and less stuff. I wanted more time in my life, and less stuff to take care of. I wanted non-toxic products in my home and that took time to research and educated myself on alternative solutions. I wanted to feel like my walls were breathing and my spaces were tranquil. That was my ultimate goal. In order to get to that point, I had to break down where my routines and spaces were not bringing me that tranquility.

More time in my life, meant that I could enjoy life and not feel pressured to run errands or maintain a possession. I could go to the beach more, go on more hikes, spend more time with family and friends, or simply enjoy doing nothing… but more.

Living a minimalist lifestyle doesn’t necessarily mean to purge all of your possessions. The concept is to really only keep items that matter to you; the rest is unnecessary. Hopefully this post will help you start living a minimalist lifestyle, if you’re looking to start one. I will say that starting this lifestyle was one of the best decisions I had ever made in my life and there’s no going back to what it was before.

Seven Tips To Begin A Zero Waste Life

03.14.2016

0800

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When I first began this journey to live a zero waste lifestyle, although there always seemed to be a list of tasks that I would end up doing; I wish there was a list of things I needed to do in sequential order. There was a lot of backtracking as well as re-organizing when it came down to the sequence in which I should have gone about starting this journey. Because this journey also is adjusted to each person’s lifestyle, my system was not refined for a couple of months. I still wished someone could have informed me about what to do first verses my assumption that the first task was to get rid of all products packaged in plastic.

  1. Begin by making bags from old bed sheets and extra rope/shoelace.
    1. These bags can be different sizes. I made mine into 2 different sizes. Take those bags and weigh them at a store so you can record the tare weight onto each bag. If you narrow down your bags sizes, it’s easier to input the tare the weight and when you shop and you won’t be fluctuating between a variety of numbers. It will be easier on you and the cashier as well.
    2. These bags will also become useful once you start cleaning out your life. Since you’ll most likely be donating or eliminating items from your life, the areas that you’re cleaning out will most likely need something to separate your items in. And these bags will also help in the beginning of your journey into bulk shopping (which takes care of that pesky task of eating to survive).
  2. Sort out your products that are contained in plastic or wasteful packaging.
    1. It’s easier to separate products by room and by use, so go slowly. Then go through and reduce the amount of products.
    2. If you can’t eliminate a product completely, you know that the next tasks is to find an alternative; that alternative also needs to be a zero waste alternative. Unfortunately, that’s also one of the tricky tasks during this journey. Some people may need certain products due to medical reasons or health conditions, so these products take a little bit more time to eliminate and more research as well. Make sure you choose the best solution for yourself.
  3. Invest in jars. I invested in Bormioli Rocco Fido jars as well as Mason jars.
    1. These jars will help you organize your items that need a more sturdy container as well as assist you on your journey in bulk shopping. Food packaging is one of the most wasteful habits we have adapted to, so by investing in these jars, you’re already preparing yourself to take care of the easiest problem.
    2. Also, when you start bringing these jars to the grocery store, make sure you ask the cashier to tare the weight before you fill it. For the Mason jars, I actually carve the tare weight into the lid and for the Bormioli Rocco Fido jars, I write the tare weight on the gasket rim so that the cashier can see the tare weight through the lid.
  4. Go to the local bulk grocery stores near you and find what’s available in their bulk section.
    1. Check out what they sell in their bath and body bulk section as well as the bulk food area. By doing this, you can create a list of ingredients and products that you know are available to you.
  5. Reduce and donate
    1. Although the idea of “tossing out everything” sounds simple, it really isn’t. It takes time and effort. To go from owning a lot of items that you have accumulated in your lifetime, to owning three items is not easy. It takes a lot of evaluation and re-evaluating your routines and habits to adjust to the limited amount of items you now own. The easiest way I knew how to attack this task was to simply ask “Do I need it or do I want it? If I need it, what’s an alternative to it that would not produce waste?”
    2. In time, you’ll notice that perhaps items that you thought you wouldn’t be able to let go of, you can. This process of eliminating and reducing the amount of items in your life changes the way you approach possessions as well as products. It will take time, so be patient with yourself- but always strive to be completely zero waste.
  6. Start a compost.
    1. With all of the bulk items you’re going to buy, I very much suggest starting a compost. If you don’t have enough land to start a compost, look into city programs that may offer something similar. You can even search for local businesses that might be willing to take your compost or buy it.
  7. Opt out of junk mail and use the mail pieces that do get through as scratch paper.
    1. This is an easy task. I used Catalog Choice and Direct Marketing Association Choice which offer a mail preference service for consumers. Granted, the list of magazines and newsletters I have opted out of on both of my accounts are not short. I had to input quite a bit of organizations and businesses, but it’s well worth it in the end.
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I hope this list helps those of you who are starting out on your own zero waste life journey. I know it wasn’t a simple and short type of list, where I only listed tasks to do in a bullet point format. I wanted to explain why I chose these seven items to anchor the beginning of the journey for zero waste newbies. Good luck to all and if you have any questions, please email me, my email is in my about section of this website. Also if you want to see what items I have purchased, please check out my store link.