It’s a new year, and that means people are starting new resolutions, new journeys, new adventures, new challenges, and new ways of living. If they’re interested in going zero-waste, they’re googling things like, “how to go zero-waste,” or “starting zero-waste,” or “What do I need to go zero-waste?” They will find blog posts from other zero-waste bloggers like a beginner’s guide to zero-waste, top 10 to get started for zero-waste, 10 ways to adopt a zero waste lifestyle, and 30 days to zero waste.
I love these posts because they capture how easy it is to make small changes that have large impacts. And the changes they suggest are almost universally applicable.
However, I have yet to discover a post where someone details what it’s like to go all-in, all at once, and make drastic transitions from a traditional consumer and packaged lifestyle to one that is simpler, slower, and unpackaged.
This is what I did. I went all-in. Maybe I’m an outlier and that is why I haven’t found much on the topic.
Once I learned about the impact of plastic, especially single-use plastic, on the environment and our personal health, I made the switch. Once I finished Bea Johnson’s Zero Waste Home, I made the switch. Once I realized that my life was cluttered with things that I didn’t need, use, or love, I made the switch.
If you’re the kind of person who goes all-in and doesn’t look back, you’re not alone. It can be done. This is a post for you, my friends.
If you’re the kind of person who likes to take baby-steps and test the waters before you leap, this is a post where you can choose from a variety of options and try the ones that best suit you, your situation, your location, and your lifestyle.
My Dive Into Zero-Waste
In June 2016, I read Beth Terry’s Plastic Free: How I Kicked the Plastic Habit and How You Can Too. Then I went on vacation and let the information stew for a month. When I returned home, I read it again…in one day.
The next day, I downloaded Bea Johnson’s Zero Waste Home on my Kindle app. I read it in three days.
And that was it. I was hooked.
I felt informed. I felt empowered. I felt excited. I hadn’t been that excited about any idea since the previous spring when I went full-force into growing my own food.
Within a few days, I had taken my sewing machine out of hibernation, watched a few YouTube videos about how to thread it (which I had not done in, like, nine years), cut-up an old sheet destined for the donation station, and sewed my first cloth bulk bags. This was my first zero-waste switch: upcycled cloth produce bags.
This was the vibration that started the avalanche.
Five Months of Switches
It is now January 2017, and I have been rolling out zero-waste switches for five months. They are:
- cloth produce bags
- cloth snack bags
- cloth napkins
- cloth paper towels
- cloth tissues upcycled from spare flannel baby blankets
- predominately shopping at the farmer’s market
- buying dry goods, pantry items, and spices in the bulk isle
- vintage glass refrigerator containers and bowls for food storage
- homemade toothpaste
- homemade deodorant
- shampoo bar
- conditioner bar
- unpackaged solid soap instead of liquid hand soap
- homemade body butter
- stainless steel safety razor with steel blades
- wooden soap racks to extend the lives of our soap bars
- paper-wrapped toilet paper instead of bulk, plastic-wrapped toilet paper (I would have no problem with “family cloth,” but my husband has his limits : )
- zero-waste makeup replacements in aluminum tins
- upcycled flannel cloth wipes and coconut oil for makeup remover
- menstrual cup and cloth pads (TMI, but honest…and fabulous!!!)
- homemade laundry detergent
- ceramic plate and bowl, with real cutlery, and a glass cup for work
- old T-shirt cloths for my classroom (multipurpose)
- glass mason jars
- stainless steel plate and cutlery, with a mason jar and napkin, for on-the go trips
- bringing our own napkins to dine out…just in case the restaurant uses paper napkins
- keeping a coffee mug in my car at all times…you never know when you might need a cup of coffee
- stainless steel Thermos for water, hot or cold, on-the-go
- loose-leaf tea with a metal mesh infuser
- seafood from the meat counter instead of individually wrapped frozen fillets
- cloth baby wipes instead of disposable wipes
- cloth snack bags filled with homemade cookies for birthday presents
- vintage Christmas presents for the kids
- Christmas presents wrapped in fabric or unwrapped
- more meals at home with real food and less meals at restaurants
- asking for and finding stores that ship without any plastic packaging
- refusing straws
- requesting real cups instead of plastic, disposable kid’s cups when dining out
- refusing gift or product bags with freebies (I did this yesterday when I picked up my new glasses and said no to the plastic bag filled with cleaner solution)
- buying any clothing items second-hand from resale and thrift shops
- drastically reducing my personal shopping trips
- repairing broken shoe heels on a favorite pair of shoes
- using pencil on my blog planner pages so they can be erased and reused
- if it creeps into the home, recycling plastic film at the grocery store
- submitting my name to the no-contact list for credit card applications (less junk mail)
- reusing sticky notes at work until they have no stick left
- using dryer lint as a fire-starter for fires in the winter
- reusing plastic soil and compost bags to store homemade compost
- bringing the rubber bands from my farmer’s market produce to work where they will be used over and over again
- postponing any new purchases for at least one day to curb impulse buys
Decide to Make the Switch
Whew! I didn’t realize just how many changes I have made in such a short time. Yes, I knew I was going all-in; that’s just the nature of my personality when something strikes a passionate cord in my life. But no wonder my husband feels overwhelmed.
As President Obama said in his final address this week, “If something needs fixing, lace up your shoes and do some organizing.”
I saw something that needed fixing. I laced up my shoes. I threaded a sewing machine. I did some “organizing” through this blog.
So, now that you’ve seen what I have done for me and my family, know that you can do them as well. I hope this list leaves you empowered to know that you can change as much or as little, as quickly or as slowly, that suits you and the needs of your family. Comparing yourself to me or others is not the best approach. Instead, think about the items in this list, consider which ones would be the easiest to switch based on your life, and then go from there. It doesn’t have to be five, or 10, or 20. It can be as few or as many as you want at your own pace. Find your own vibration to start your own avalanche.
Remember, be part of the solution, not part of the problem.