Why Did I Decide to go Zero Waste?

There’s lots of articles on the Internet about how to go zero waste and a lot of them have many great tips in common. However, each person’s journey to go zero waste is different and can inspire others. Here’s mine 🙂

In early 2017 I started going through my belongings and purging as I was preparing to move to an apartment for a year and then to move to another state after that. I wanted to have everything ready to go at a moment’s notice. I looked at my clothes, books, mementos and everything I had collected in 23 years and realized I had already amassed a HUGE amount of stuff.

I also had recently lived at my grandparents’ house for a month to help them out a bit and saw just how many things two humans can collect in 80+ years. They weren’t hoarders, were organized, and had already done a large purge when downsizing their house a few years earlier. Just looking at all of the items they had gave me such anxiety that I came home and decided I wanted simplicity and the necessities.

While some people have used the KonMari method, I mostly used my own method of “Do I need this? Do I want this? And, do I even know what this is for?” If I said no to these questions, it most likely hit the donate pile. I also realized that to truly simplify my belongings and to have a more minimalist lifestyle, it wasn’t going to happen with one purge over one day.

Here I am over a year later and I’m still working on downsizing. What I’ve found to be the most interesting change is my mindset. I absolutely grew up with the mentality of, “I want it now so I must get it now”. My purchases were spontaneous and many didn’t give me any long-term benefits. Now, for the most part, I try not to buy things I want unless I truly can give myself a reason for bringing that item into my life.

I’m finding it especially difficult as I prepare to move into my first home. I feel like I have to get everything I could possibly need and I need to get it now. To ease my nesting urges, if I think of something I’ll need I put it in the back of my mind and look for the best possible option for me. For example, I wanted to get coasters (because no one likes rings on their tables, duh) and didn’t want to just buy them from a large corporate store. Instead I thought about how I would love to have them be small pieces of art that involved nature, and of course acted as decent coasters. It’s such a simple thing to look for but I looked for coasters for MONTHS before I finally find a set I liked. They are made from wood, handmade with flowers and watercolor, and are absolutely perfect.

Another mindset change I’ve found is reusing items I already have, such as reusing a beautiful tea container as gift wrap. I think back to my habits in college and I can tell even then I was stressed from the number of things I had. Now my purchases are more thoughtful and I’m more aware of my buying power. I also have come to learn quite a bit about the importance of zero waste for our environment, which has spurned my journey on further.

I went zero waste for selfish reasons and have now come to see it as an essential movement in helping the planet and lowing our impact as humans on our environment. If you have any interest in going zero waste please comment any questions below!

Thanks for reading! xoxo

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Zero Waste Tips You Can Use Today

Become aware

Once you open your eyes to the amount of unnecessary packaging you buy, you’ll never go back. Many products are priced three or four times more purely for the brand and the packaging, which is almost always plastic. Even when you’re out and about, you receive food in non-recyclable and non-compostable containers and you collect plastic bags. Most of this packaging can be easily avoid by being prepared. Try to buy foods in glass. Bring your own coffee cup or takeout container. Stay no to straws or bring your own glass or metal straw. Invest in bamboo utensils to bring with you. Just look around and notice all of the items you can easily switch out or stop using. This first step is instrumental in starting your zero waste journey.

utensils

 

Compost

Composting is a huge way to immediately start cutting your waste. If you have the space, make your own compost bin. If you live in an apartment (like me) or you prefer to outsource your compost, sign up for a pickup compost service! I use Recycled City in Phoenix and love that I’m able to compost while being in an apartment. Recycled City has different pickup schedules (I chose monthly) and their fees are low (I pay $15/month). I also have the opportunity to get back nutrient rich soil once a year. Composting has been one of the largest waste-cutters for our kitchen and I now have my roommate hooked!

 

Make your own cleaning products

This may be one of the biggest eye-openers for me since going zero waste. We have been marketed that we need a different cleaning product for every item in our bathrooms, kitchens, etc. In reality, you only need a handful at most. Currently I use one all-purpose cleaning spray (recipe coming soon!) and then use baking soda, vinegar and essential oils for anything else. Cutting out harmful chemicals and only using ingredients that you know makes for a healthier home.

 

Invest in reusable produce bags

When I decide I wanted to go zero waste, I looked up blog articles (just like this!) and saw a few that mentioned reusable produce bags – AND IT WAS LIFE-CHANGING. I know, pretty dramatic over bags, but it’s true! I realized how many produce bags I used every time I went to the grocery store. We tried to reuse them as dog poop bags, but honestly they had started to pile up. Even if you don’t eat a vegetable-heavy diet like me, you may use around five bags every time you go to the grocery store. Then you go to the grocery store once a week. That’s over 250 produce bags a year that are being thrown into landfills by one person. That number can go down to zero. I purchased my produce bags and never looked back. I also use mine as snack bags as well.

avocado

 

Make your own toothpaste

While this may not necessarily be something you can start today (see note at the end), this is definitely something to keep in mind. Once my toothpaste ran out, I made a simple mixture of coconut oil, baking soda and essential oil. I put the mixture in a old glass baby food jar and have been loving it! My teeth honestly feel cleaner, plus it’s zero waste and costs cents to make.

 

Start buying in bulk

With those produce bags I mentioned above, and with handy dandy glass jars, start buying items in the bulk section. Find stores in your area that sell food in bulk. In Phoenix, I’ve found Sprouts and Whole Foods to be helpful, but if you live in an area with an entire bulk store then go and use that zero waste paradise! Buying in bulk means spending less money on packaging and branding. Plus, it usually means eating healthier foods. You may also be able to find bulk stores that have items such as oils, shampoos, conditioners, and cleaning supplies available.

 

Visit thrift stores

Whether you’re donating unneeded clothes or looking for an item you need, stop by a thrift store first. As a plus-size woman, I don’t have the best of luck in thrift stores as far as clothes go, but it’s great for looking for things you may need around the house at the fraction of the price. I also accidentally stumbled onto the discovery that some thrift stores have half-off on certain days! Anyway, try out thrift stores instead of buying everything brand new.

 

Switch to reusable period products

Over 50% of the world’s population menstruates. In the United States we’ve been programmed to only buy disposable pads or tampons. Using reusable pads and menstruation cups are a huge way to cut down on period waste. First off, you save so much money by switching to a reusable method. Second, disposable pads and tampons are bleached to be white and some have dyes. Using natural fibers for your private parts is better for your reproductive health. At first you might be a bit squeamish, but quite honestly it’s just blood and mucus.

 

Always have reusable bags

Have a reusable bag in your car. In your purse. At your workplace. Just always have a reusable bag. This helps you to avoid using plastic bags and can just in general be helpful to have on hand!

 

Put your money where your mouth is

Become a conscious consumer by buying sustainable, eco-friendly brands that share the values you cherish. This takes research, but is well worth the effort when you know your money is going to companies you truly want to support. Also, when possible, buy local to support your community.

 

 

DON’T THROW EVERYTHING AWAY IMMEDIATELY TO BECOME ZERO WASTE! Use what you have first; otherwise you’re defeating the purpose of your overall goal. Finish the products you have and then once they are gone switch them out for a zero waste alternative. I know how tempting it is to want to start with a clean slate, but be patience. Also, zero waste is a journey. It’s not going to happen overnight, but it IS a great lifestyle to learn.