When I declared to my parents last week that reducing waste was “my new thing,” my dad laughed and said, “NEW?!” He had a point. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been bothered by waste. Before I could drive, my dad sighed about hauling my bin of soda cans and plastic bottles to the recycling center. (Bless you, parents, for recycling for me!!) When he told me he couldn’t recycle my Vogue magazines, I stopped buying them unless it was September or a REALLY good cover. I still say to Robert all the time, “You can recycle that!” and then pull his Gatorade bottle out of the trash.
As we’re getting ready to get married and move into a home of our own, I’ve been easing Robert into the idea of reducing waste as much as we can. We’ve talked about getting some egg-layin’ chickens and starting a compost bin. I might see if I actually have the patience to grow some green beans of our own. Our wedding registry has things like glass containers, reusable produce bags, and a single-serve coffee maker that DOESN’T use K-cups.
Now I’m not some professional on zero waste living, but I have been doing some research. I started with a pretty obvious book (and the only one on zero waste living at my library): Zero Waste Home: The Ultimate Guide to Simplifying Your Life by Reducing Your Waste by Bea Johnson. Johnson is touted on Goodreads as “the priestess of zero waste living,” so I had high hopes.
Guys, this book is wiggidy wiggidy fuh-reaking WACK. Bea Johnson actually turned me OFF of thinking I could even remotely reduce waste in any PRACTICAL, non-time-consuming way! All I kept thinking while I was reading (and then skimming because NO, I’m not going to make my own eye shadow by individually burning almonds, grinding up the ashes, and melting them into an eye shadow paste) was, “Someone needs to make this easier and more FUN.”
So . . . I’m not an expert. I buy things that come in plastic. I use regular makeup from Ulta and Mary Kay. And I use toilet paper. (Johnson suggests USING YOUR HAND as a waste free alternative. This is not a joke.) But I do have some EASY, practical, fun tips if you’re just looking for simple ways to reduce your waste NOW without . . . using your hand.
Commit to NO plastic bags.
It sounds easy, but it can be hard! Have you ever noticed how quickly you have to say, “I have my own bags!” before the cashier starts putting your groceries into plastic? My local grocery store has signs on each aisle reminding baggers to put no more than 6 items in a bag. How absurd is that?! After working at a grocery store during my teens, I can tell you how engrained it is to use a ton of bags because people are so picky (sometimes ahem, RUDE) about how they want things bagged separately, double-bagged, etc. And yes, this is another example of how much WASTE has always bothered me! I couldn’t stand using all that plastic.
For a few weeks, try BANNING any more plastic bags from entering your home. Keep as many reusable cloth bags as you need in your car. I keep mine on the front seat because I always forget. For quick trips to the store, I always say, “I don’t need a bag, I’ll just toss in this big bag!” And then I toss the plastic container of paper cupcake liners in my purse. Baby steps!
Recently, I got this waxed canvas bag from Amazon, and I LOVE it!
I don’t think I get any bills in the mail. My cell phone, electric, health insurance, and credit card bills are all on paperless billing. My bank statements are paperless. Usually you can just check a box on your account to switch, and then boom, no need for a shredder at home.
Another big way to save paper that CAN’T be recycled is to have receipts emailed to you as often as you can. My CVS receipts are emailed because Lord knows those things are the length of a football field.
Use the Library!
I read a lot, and I hate reading on my Kindle. As much as I TRY to like it because Kindle books are cheap and better for the environment, it’s just not the same. So, I REALLY use my local library. You can find the books you want, put them on hold if you have to, and then it feels like Christmas when a new hold comes in.
If I do buy a book or get one from a publisher to review, and I don’t want to keep it in my personal library, I try to sell them, give them away to someone who would like them, or donate them. You can donate to a lot of different places:
- Local library
- Little Free Libraries (if your town doesn’t have one, you could start it!)
- Friends of the Libraries
- Used book stores
- or sell on Amazon!
Say No to Straws
Save the sea turtles! There’s a study that estimates that 8.3 BILLION plastic straws pollute beaches around the world. 8.3 BILLION. Starbucks is phasing out plastic straws completely by next year, so we all need to just get ready and stop the straws. I mean, really think about it. Do you NEED it??
At the end of last year, I bought a stainless steel/silicone collapsible straw and attached it to my keychain in its little case. I used it when I went to Chick-fil-a and to drink my frozen mochas from Sheetz. I even whipped it out (literally) in restaurants around town. It took some getting used to, but I really felt good about saying no to straws.
A lot of restaurants stick straws in your drink without asking, so now when I order, I say, “No straws, please!” The more normal this request becomes, the less we will see straws end up in the trash!
Let’s Talk About Plastic Water Bottles
I drink about 80 – 100 ounces of water every day. I LIKE drinking my water out of a plastic water bottle. My Swell bottle is awesome, but I just don’t like the metallic-y taste. It’s also heavy. Plus, every reusable bottle I have seems to leak if it’s in any position but upright. I.E. while it rolls around in my purse.
So, as I learn new things and try to reduce waste, here’s my new solution: glass. I have this cute little Ello glass bottle, and it’s going well! No leaks, no metallic taste.
Those are just a few easy ways to reduce waste in your every day life! As I learn more and experiment more and find more resources, I’ll tell you guys what I’m learning. Until then, let’s focus on saying NO to plastic bags and unnecessary paper!