Zero-Waste, Minimalism, and technology

I hope everyone has had a great week! I’ve been getting a lot of questions lately on how anyone could possibly be minimalist/zero-waste while still using technology. I guess to be truly “zero-waste”, you wouldn’t use technology except for perhaps shared computers at the library, etc. Or live off-grid in a yurt in the middle of the wilderness…

I don’t know about you, but I’m not willing to go completely off-grid just yet. Mostly because certain parts of my life require access to technology, like my job, as well as for bill paying, etc. Not only that, but technology can make certain aspects of life more convenient. But I do believe there are ways to be more conscious about what technology you use, how much you own, and how long you keep it/how you dispose of it once it’s no longer usable.

Let me start by stating that in my mind technology is usually some sort of electronic gizmo, mostly made of plastic and metals….now this could cover everything from toaster ovens to cell phones, but for the sake of time I’m just going to stick with tech that falls underneath the categories of phones, televisions, computers, videogames, etc. You know, the ones that tend to be a black hole sucking up all our free-time 🙂

Anyway, the best way to keep technology minimal with as little waste as possible is to not have that much of it in the first place. I personally own a cell phone, a tablet, a digital camera, an iPod, and the accessories to go with them (power cords, headphones, etc.). I don’t own any video game consoles or devices, smart watches, fitbits, or the like, and I personally do not own a television myself, though there is one where I live currently.

What Technology you use/How much you owntechnology-1260x840

 

How much/what types of technology you need and use can vary from person to person. One person might have to have a certain type of computer set-up for their job while another only needs access to a landline. One person can live without a cell phone, while others might need it to keep in touch with family, etc.

Ideally I would love to get to the point where I’d only need one or two devices that would fit all my needs, but I’m still working on it. Until then I do my best to keep things as simple as possible.

To keep my personal devices as minimalistic as possible I have a few non-negotiables for each item:

  1. The device has to serve a useful function in my daily life. For example, my phone let’s me call, text, and check my emails on a daily basis.
  2. The device has to be small and easily portable/easily stored. This is why I bought a tablet instead of a full-sized laptop computer. Easier to put away, and easy to take with me wherever I need to go.
  3. The device should serve multiple purposes if possible. Like my phone, which calls, texts, and has the ability to connect me with my emails. (For those of you wondering, it also has a camera, but the camera takes horrible pictures, hence my actual digital camera) *another good example here would be having 1 remote for your television, dvd player, etc instead of 3 or 4*
  4. It has to be able to serve it’s purpose for a long time before breaking down, or at least be easily fixable. I try to cut down on my electronic waste by keeping each cell phone I own until it literally bites the dust and is completely unusable. The same goes for my other devices as well as their accompanying power cords, etc.
  5. When it has finished it’s life it has a way to be recycled or repurposed. Cell phones can usually be recycled at local electronics stores, while my digital camera when dead will eventually be repurposed into a decorative piece of art.

By having these guidelines in mind when shopping for a new device, or even considering purchasing a new device, I can make really responsible choices with my technology.

How long you keep it

Some people run through cell phones like used tissues, waiting hours and hours in line to get the “new” version of what they already own…..I’m not one of those people 🙂

My phone is almost 5 years old. My tablet is already 3. My camera is almost 8 years old, and my iPod is closer to 10.

Why replace something that isn’t broken?

As far as I’m concerned, I’ll be using each of these devices until there is literally no way to use them anymore. If that means having an old sliding keyboard phone for another 3-5 years then so be it. Not only do I get to keep the money I would spend on a new one, but I’m also keeping extra electronics out of the landfill. Good for my wallet and the planet 🙂

How to dispose of them

Disposal is a huge issue with electronics, because when they end up in the landfill they can cause all sorts of trouble. Right now the best option is to recycle them when they’ve outlived their usefulness. I know a lot of stores will recycle old cell phones, some stores will recycle old video game consoles, even BestBuy will recycle old cords.

At least when the device is recycled it can then be taken apart to reuse the metals inside. Did you know a lot of phones have small bits of gold inside?

*If the device is still usable, but you don’t want it anymore….try giving it away to a friend or donating it*

Any way you slice it, technology is going to create waste, and if we’re not careful it can create clutter in our homes as well.

So, to recap..

  1. Refuse random gadgets and useless gizmos that you know you won’t use.
  2. Reduce what you do need/own. Consolidate and prefer multifunctional devices over single purpose ones.
  3. Reuse old gadgets- or in my case keep using them until they kick the bucket.
  4. Recycle those sad gadgets that have finally kicked the bucket.

 

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When things don’t go as planned…

This summer has been quite the lesson in how well-laid plans can go awry. I had a great plan for our garden and how I was going to get a ton of peas and squash and potatoes, etc.

Then the gopher happened…

He’s such a boob. Bigger than my fat cat and easily twice as fast, he currently lives in our neighbors yard and will crawl under the fence to trapeze through ours. He’s cute, don’t get me wrong…just a pest of the worst kind.

Here’s the problem with him. He ate ALL my peas…over 3/4 of my squash plants…the cucumber sprouts…and is now nibbling on my squash bulbs and watermelons…see those bite marks? Those were from him.win_20160925_152801

And last year he ate all my mom’s cabbage.

Thankfully he didn’t touch the potatoes, onions, lettuce, spinach, herbs, green beans, or the radishes or I really would’ve hated him.

So, long story short, my plans for an overly abundant garden fell through…mainly because he ate it. But it did inspire me to try something new…indoor gardening for the winter.

I wanted a way to have some fresh produce here in the colder months, which is pretty much half of the year here. So I improvised.

I went through our current donation box and repurposed a few things…

Like an old glass coffee pot missing the coffee maker…win_20160925_152627

Some glass cups and punch bowl we NEVER used…win_20160925_152632

And a few old surplus baking dishes…

Add a bit of potting soil, a few saved seeds from this year’s garden, and voilà! A cute indoor garden 🙂

Since these babies have been in a consistent temperature, have gotten plenty of sunlight in the window, and are watered on a regular basis, they’ve taken off beautifully. I planted the seeds a week ago and they’re already getting big 🙂

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So now I’ll have fresh leaf lettuce, butter lettuce, green beans, carrots, parsley, and onions through the winter. And when this batch runs it’s course, I’ll simply throw in a bit of compost and start again with new seeds.

It goes to show that you don’t have to have a huge backyard to garden. All you need is a box/jars of some sort, dirt, seeds, sunlight and water.

So my nice plans took a turn, but if they hadn’t I wouldn’t have come up with the idea to try indoor gardening. Wherever one door shuts, a window is opened. The only thing I wouldn’t recommend is starting a watermelon plant indoors… haha here’s how big ours is outside…poor guy’s a bit wilted from the heat but it’s supposed to rain tonight, so he should perk up by tomorrow, fingers crossed*win_20160925_152817

Do you garden indoors/outdoors? What are your favorites to plant? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

XO,

Candice

Defining your Green priorities (a.k.a. making shopping easier!)

Choices. They’re something we make every single day of our lives. What to wear, what to buy, what to eat, and what to do…

Sometimes those decisions are tougher than others, for instance when you go grocery shopping and are trying to both be healthy (by purchasing organic foods) and reduce plastic packaging. In a perfect world I’d be able to do both without a problem, but this isn’t a perfect world and sometimes a choice has to be made between purchasing organic potatoes in a plastic bag vs. conventional (read: pesticide infused) potatoes loose.WIN_20150609_173707

Decisions, decisions.

I’ve encountered these conundrums so many times that I’ve had to take a hard look at my priorities when it comes to food as well as other purchases.

What do you put first, the health of your body, or the health of the planet? The organic potatoes aren’t covered in pesticides, thereby better tasting and much better for my health…but they came wrapped in a plastic bag which isn’t so good for the planet. On the other hand I had conventional potatoes, loose, without plastic, but not as great for my health. Then there’s always the problems the pesticides and herbicides have had on the planet through runoff and poisoning the ground. Organic ones are produced sustainably and so don’t have that effect. But sometimes the miles they’ve traveled to get to my local store are more than conventional potatoes….can you see my dilemma?

Which would you choose?

I went with the organic ones even though they were wrapped in plastic.

Why?

For me it all comes down to my priorities. When I go shopping I ask myself a few things..

  1. How was this item made/grown?
  2. Will consuming it benefit me or hurt my health in any way?
  3. How is it packaged? If it is packaged, is the packaging sustainable?
  4. If it’s not the best packaging (which would be no packaging at all) and I still want to buy it, is the packaging easily reusable/recyclable?
  5. Considering all of the above, do I feel comfortable spending money (which is essentially casting a vote telling the producer to make more of said item) on the item in question?

Now from this list you can see a few things.

Firstly, my health and the health of the planet are my top priorities, but when I have to choose between the two of them, MY health comes first. I’m not saying the health of the planet is a secondary consideration, or unimportant, but when I have to make tough decisions my personal health tends to come first in my own priorities.

So, when I bought the potatoes I was mainly looking at my own health, but I also thought about how them being grown organically, thereby having a much better impact on the planet as opposed to conventionally grown potatoes, was probably enough to offset the environmental cost of one plastic bag and twist tie.

Honestly, when I looked at the bags I figured I could at least reuse it for dipping cat litter, but alas all of the bags had holes in them. So, unfortunately said bag went straight from the store into my measly trash can after removing the potatoes.

Was this the right decision?

Some may say no, that I should’ve avoided the plastic at all costs, and others may say I could’ve found a way around it by buying from a farmers market, etc. (unfortunately 1. Potatoes are not in season at the market, and 2. Most of the vendors at said market spray pesticides on their produce as well)

Anyway, for me it was the right decision, because I have defined my priorities when it comes to consuming and purchasing goods. Take a peek at the top 5…

  1. My health ALWAYS comes first. Period. Simply because I’m a firm believer that we are what we eat, and I would rather avoid the doctor’s office it at all possible. A healthy body is less prone to sickness and disease.
  2. Next is the planet. Now this and number one usually align pretty well, and sometimes it isn’t as black and white as it seems between thinking about shipping miles and packaging and ethical sourcing, etc. But I try my best to put the health and well-being of our lovely planet next on the list. Ex: No packaging is best, but Glass and metal are better than plastic, which is slightly better than Styrofoam, etc.
  3. Budget. Quite honestly some would argue this should be first, but I put it third. Not to say I ever go outside of my budget, but more wiggle things around WITHIN it. For example, I might forgo getting a jar of juice one week in lieu of purchasing the organic apples over the conventional ones, etc. An easy way to stay within your budget is to evaluate every purchase and decide if you really need said item.
  4. Supporting local stores/farmers. It’s best to try and buy locally for many reasons, but sometimes they don’t meet the three above priorities and that’s why they are number four on the list.
  5. When in doubt, make your own. Grow your own food if possible, make beauty products, etc.

This is my list, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it is a bit different from your own. Each one of us has to make the decisions about what is most important to us. It’s not a bad thing if your list is different from my own, just different 🙂

So when I do go shopping, either online or in a market or brick and mortar store, this is the list I go by to make my purchases. I always feel extra lucky if I can at least fulfill the first 3 priorities at the same time, but sometimes sacrifices will be made.

But having defined my list makes shopping much easier, as I now have a definitive ranking system to weigh my options with. So the next time I’m wavering between buying different soaps or pieces of fruit, I will be at ease with my decisions.

I’d love to hear about your lists of priorities when it comes to shopping! Are they similar? Different? What’s your number one priority?

XO

Candice

Ten myths of Zero-Waste

Hey guys,

I’ve been noticing a few articles floating around that, in my opinion, completely misrepresent the lifestyle….hence today’s post on the myths of Zero-Waste.

Here we go…

MYTH #1

Zero-waste is a movement for only middle to upper class Caucasian women who are single and childless.

TRUTH #1

The Zero-waste movement is for ALL people to participate in. Now it does seem as though a majority of those blogging and promoting it do fall into that stereotype, but there are men and other ethnicities as well as parents living the lifestyle. There’s a comprehensive list of bloggers around the world who live it at zerowastebloggersnetwork.com

I personally fall into the stereotype, except for the middle/upper class thing…which brings me to my next myth…

MYTH #2

You need to have at least a middle class income to attempt Zero-waste.

TRUTH #2

I personally skate by each month on a very small income. Zero-waste has helped me lower my spending because I no longer need to buy things like tissues, lotions, hairspray, deodorant, toothpaste, etc.

That’s right, Zero-wasting has helped me SAVE money. Ka-ching!

MYTH #3

You need to buy fancy matching Mason jars, bamboo cutlery, and a butt-load of stuff to start your Zero-waste journey.

TRUTH #3

This one irritates me the most because it’s total bull. You can go zero-waste cheaply by saving glass pickle jars or spaghetti sauce jars and wash the label off before reusing them. Instead of buying a pack of hankies, cut up an old T-shirt and use that. Instead of getting a fancy set of glass jars for storage, check out your local dollar store or thrift store. Easily 3/4 of my containers I got really cheap from both of those places. Or if you have a friend who uses glass baby food jars, ask if you can have the jars when she’s done with them to use for bulk spices.

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jars (The one in the middle used to be a mayo jar) 😉

The order of operations: Use what you already have, ask a friend, thrift, then lastly buy new.

I think I’ve made my point 🙂

MYTH #4

It costs a lot of money upfront to start.

TRUTH #4

The only upfront costs I had were for a few jars from the dollar store, my divacup, cloth pads, and a safety razor. These were all investments that have paid for themselves in the past year since I am no longer buying their disposable counterparts. These products will last for years and years to come since they are resusable, so I expect they will pay for themselves multiple times before they finally wear out.

The other zero-waste purchases like bamboo toothbrushes, soapnuts, and alum stone deodorant are going to be repeat purchases, but their cost is similar or even less than the regular products.

MYTH #5

You are failing if your trash doesn’t fit in a Mason jar.

TRUTH #5

If you are even reading this post you are already winning and one step ahead of the game. Most people simply aren’t conscious of their waste- or, more likely they don’t WANT to be conscious of their waste. So they ignore it. Even if your only step has been to bring your own reusable bags to the grocery store, you are contributing to having less waste. EVERY STEP COUNTS!

My personal trash from the past two months does happen to fit in a small jar, but I don’t include pet waste in that factor because my pets do make quite a bit of litter waste and such. Which, for obvious reasons, I am not collecting in a jar lol.

But like I’ve said, I have been on this journey for over a year already, each person’s situation is unique and individual to them. Some have pets, some don’t, some have kids, some don’t, etc. As long as you are trying, you are pretty awesome in my book.

MYTH #6

You have to have special equipment to go Zero-waste. Bamboo utensils, jars, produce bags, etc.

TRUTH #6

So, okay, I have a glass water-bottle. I also have some jars for storage, and a reusable tote to take to the store. But do I have portable bamboo utensils to take with me to restaurants? No. Have I bought specific bags just for produce? No.

If I want to go out to eat, I pick a place with reusable flatware. If I want to buy produce I put it loose in my cart and loose on the cashier belt, and then loose in my big tote.

Now, that being said. There are things you will find you use and would be convenient to have for Zero-wasting. I personally like my water-bottle, and would it be nice to have bamboo utensils? yes, but I don’t need them right now.

The only things you will NEED to go zero-waste are a few containers that you can refill with bulk purchases, and a reusable tote for going to the store. End of story. Everything else can be improvised. (Except if you’re a woman who happens to PMS, then a menstrual cup or reusable pads are kind of necessary. The joys of being a woman, huh?)

MYTH #7

To go zero-waste you have to give up everything good like packaged chips and candy-bars, and the only way you’ll ever have good food again is if you become Suzy Homemaker.

TRUTH #7

Oy, where to begin. I do not buy chips, personally, since none come in packaging I find acceptable for ME. But I do cut up a potato and throw it into my little deep-fryer I have at home. Or a skillet. A few minutes later, voila, fried potatoes!

I also make things like salad dressing, because it’s easy to make. I have the skills to make my own mayo and barbecue sauce as well, but given that I use so little of them and they have enough ingredients that it is easier to buy BBQ sauce in a glass jar with a metal lid than make it myself, both materials being completely recyclable.

If I want a chocolate bar I make sure to find one that is in paper packaging that is easily recycled. (I simply won’t give up chocolate, sorry guys, I need it for that time of the month 🙂 )

MYTH #8

If you Zero-waste, you must not use contraceptives or toilet paper.

TRUTH #8

Whether you use contraceptives or not is a personal choice, I personally am a fan of not spreading diseases or getting pregnant unexpectedly. The trash that comes along with that is inevitable unless you get fixed, which isn’t an option if you want to have children.

Toilet paper is a touchy subject. I still use it since everyone in my household does. I haven’t gotten up the nerve to look into other options just yet, but I’m sure I probably will eventually. For now the best options are if you can get it wrapped in paper, or at least without the inner cardboard tube. Recycled is even better, but it depends on what your preferences are.

MYTH #9

You have to have tons of free time in order to worry about all the extra “work” that goes along with Zero-waste. I.e. grocery shopping, making products

TRUTH #9

Zero-waste grocery shopping is no harder that regular shopping once you have your system in place. I have little labels for my jars, and except for the first trip to the store where I had to get them weighed, grocery shopping takes me the exact same amount of time it did before. No big deal. You just take your jars or bags (if you are buying bulk items), fill em up, and pay for them. Easy peasy. It just takes a little big of gusto to make that first trip, but once you get the hang of it it’s a breeze.

You don’t have to make your own products to be zero-waste. It’s easy and convenient to make them yourself mostly, but it isn’t necessary. I only make one product regularly, toothpaste. 30 seconds, some coconut oil, baking soda, and peppermint oil, and I’m done. That’s it.

Most things have a purchasable replacement. Like bars of soap free of packaging versus body-wash, an alum stone instead of deodorant, soap nuts instead of laundry detergent, etc. It just takes a little experimentation to figure out what works the best for you.

MYTH #10

There is no point to Zero-wasting because the planet is already doomed and one person can’t make a difference in the grand scheme of things.

TRUTH #10

One person can make a difference. It might not be a ginormous impact, but you can impact yourself and the people around you. I’m not a perfect environmentalist by any stretch of the imagination, but every single time I go to the store I always get asked about my jars, and those two minutes spent talking to another person may or may not end up encouraging them to try it, or it might just remind them to bring a reusable bag to the store.

I might not save the planet, but I’m saving one plastic bag for each jar I use. One plastic bag every time I use my reusable tote. One plastic water-bottle every time I bring my own reusable one. One disposable toothbrush for every bamboo toothbrush. One more bit of empty space in my drawers for every cheap freebie I turn down.

It adds up.

I’d also like to think I help out by spreading the word through this blog, for those of you who read it.

So, if any of you have any comments or any other myths you’d like to share with me, I’d love to hear about them in the comments!

XO

Candice

Plastic free july!

It’s that time of year again, Plastic Free July, a time when individuals are encouraged to forgo single use plastics like straws, cups, bags, etc. in favor of reusable.

Now, honestly, I never really did the whole plastic free July thing when I started transitioning towards zero-waste. But I think its a great place for people to start learning about the impact they can have on their environment.

It amazes me how many people are simply ignorant of their waste, or on the other hand those who ignore it purposely. I was told at the checkout today of my favorite bulk store that I am the ONLY person who brings in their own jars…yep, the only one. Little ol’ me. Everyone else uses the provided Plastic bags. (insert facepalm here)

It made me sad.

Why? Because its so EASY to cut down on your plastic waste and consumption. It just takes a few easy steps to cut out the junk. Here are a few easy beginner tips:

  1. Ditch the plastic bags…they’re ridiculous and entirely unnecessary. I bet if you go look right now you have that one giant plastic bag FULL of other smaller plastic bags. Go take a look at how ugly that thing is, don’t worry I’ll still be here when you get back……………You can’t tell me that horde of plastic looks pretty. Reusable bags are the way to go. I have a big old sturdy canvas tote myself. If you’re afraid you’ll forget, keep some in your car, by your shopping list, fold one and stuff it in your purse. Personally, I write my list and get my bags ready right before I leave for the store so I don’t forget anything.WIN_20150724_120334
  2. Get rid of those plastic disposable water bottles, it is easier and cheaper to get water from the tap. There are different things you can replace them with like metal canteens or water bottles, I personally prefer glass (mine is pictured below during a trip to the park)
  3. Next, let go of your love for disposable straws, stainless steel and glass options are WIN_20160706_114101better for the environment, but they also look better and you kids love them, they even have colored options if that’s more your style.
  4. Here’s another crazy idea for you beginners, leave your fruits and veggies loose at the store, don’t put them in little plastic baggies, let them breathe. I promise, they’ll be just fine. I buy my potatoes loose and put them on the conveyer belt loose, the simple solution is to simply wash them when you get home, easy peasy.

 

All right, some of you are reading this like “I already know this, how bout some tips for those of us a little further along in the journey.”

Here’s some mid-grade tips:

  1. Buy in bulk. Not in giant bulk packages like costco, but from bulk BINS. Big difference. Bins let you get exactly how much or how little you need, no muss no fuss. You may think there are no bulk stores near you, but I guarantee there probably is one and you don’t even know it. I found 2 near me when I was convinced there were none.
  2. Better yet, when you buy in bulk…..bring your own jars or bags! Tare them when empty, write the tare (aka weight) of the empty jar on a sticker or tag. Fill em up, and then they’ll take off the weight of the jar at checkout. (Be warned though that just because they have bulk doesn’t mean all the cashiers will be trained on how to deduct tare weight, if in doubt have them ask a manager)WIN_20160510_162025
  3. For those fruits and veg scraps you have left over, regrow them! Once potatoes sprout you can plant them in a pot of dirt and they’ll regrow into many potatoes. Green onions will regrow if you keep the bulbs in a jar with a bit of water, same goes for leaf lettuce bottoms and celery. Sprouted onions and garlic can be planted to go to seed then you have free seeds to plant for next year 🙂

Now, there are some of you who scoff at those tips above. Those of you that are on another plane of zero-wasting entirely. Here are a few tips for you…

  1. Plant a garden. Window box, potters, or a good sized backyard…it doesn’t matter. You can make space to plant food. Best part, is it’s automatically organic if you keep it clean and don’t use any pesticides or fertilizers. Cheap organic produce is the bomb. I am lucky enough to have a yard where I’ve planted potatoes, onions, green beans, lettuce, spinach, peas, spaghetti squash, carrots, and watermelon. I also have chives, thyme, peppermint, and spearmint that grow back every year on their own. If you don’t want to go gung ho on the veg, try out a small herb garden first. Fresh herbs are the best anyway, and bonus because they don’t sprout out of the ground wrapped in plastic.WIN_20160706_105933
  2. Make your own stuff, whether it be deodorant, apple cider vinegar, salad dressings, or homemade mayo and ketchup. Try out new recipes. I guarantee the first one will probably be a failure if your luck is anything like mine, but don’t give up. I made 7 different BBQ sauce batches before finding ratios I liked.

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    home-made ACV
  3. Ditch the plastic from the rest of your house, I got rid of unnecessary plastic tupperware and opted for glass jars instead. I also ditched plastic storage containers and utensils. If you can’t let all the plastic go, please at least try to keep it away from your food. Nasty leaching chemicals are not good to ingest. Glass and metal are much better for food storage. 🙂

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    jars
  4. Ditch the harsh cleaners. Opt for soap nuts, castile soap, baking soda, vinegar, and bars of soap. Better for you, better for the planet. Cheaper too, which is just an extra bonus.

 

Are you participating in plastic free July? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

1 Month of trash

 

I’ve seen a lot of posts on facebook and other social media platforms where people feel bad about themselves if all of their trash can’t fit into a mason jar. I, for one, am not such a fan of keeping trash around sitting in a jar, specifically because it tends to clash with my minimalist tendencies and look like clutter 🙂

However, that being said, I do like having a visual of how much trash I’m producing. So I decided to keep all of my trash for one month just to see how much I made.

Now, this is not meant to shame anyone, everyone is on their own step in the journey towards zero-waste. It’s merely meant to show everyone, that even after a YEAR of going zero-waste, I still am not at the point where my trash fits into a mason jar for the entire year (mainly because I’m still purging pre-zero-waste purchases and getting rid of unnecessary storage packaging that I held onto).

So I held onto all of my trash for an entire month, and at the end I will say that I had more than I thought I would, but it was WAY less then I made a year ago. (I also recycle, so there were newspapers and a few juice jars that were recycled, but I’m not counting those as trash)

Here we go:

For the entire month of may I filled one small bucket with trash…

The first things were two plastic trays that were nestled in with my art supplies, one from paint and another from pastels. I felt the packaging unnecessary when I went through my things, so I let them go. (I also have a bunch of plastic paint tubes that will eventually hit the landfill, but I intend to use the paint first)

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The next is a plastic bag filled with tiny plastic bags and other bits of plastic…these were from things like the million and one buttons that are attached to new shirts that happened to have made their way to my sewing kit. It finally hit me that the packaging was unnecessary as I could just have the buttons sit in the jar by themselves (Don’t know why I didn’t think of it sooner lol)

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This is a rubber band that I’ve had for almost a decade. It was used for knee exercises, and it finally broke into four different pieces…since I now do dancing exercises, I don’t need it anymore anyway.

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The rest of the bucket has things like old command strips off my walls, rubber bands from bunches of carrots, produce stickers (the bane of my existence), 1 bandaid, and a plastic ring from a lemonade I bought (the jar and lid were returnable to the store for them to reuse, but it had one of those thingies on it like milk jugs do, a part which isn’t recyclable 😦 )

DSC03893

That’s it, one month of trash. I figure once I have purged all the bits and pieces of plastic from my things all that’s left for the trash bucket will be produce stickers and the occasional tag from a bunch of carrots (though I will have a bunch from my own garden this year, sticker free!).

Mind you, I didn’t include cat waste here, mainly because their waste is litter and the bags their special vet food comes in. But technically, that I suppose would count as a part of my trash as well since they are my cats and I’m responsible for them.

In the end though I went from filling a giant kitchen garbage every week by myself, to now only filling a small grocery bag or two in a month (most of it being dirty cat litter)

I feel like goldilocks some times, trying to find the right amount of minimalism and zero-waste that feels “just right” for me. I’m not there just yet, but I’m definitely getting close!

Dealing with pre-minimalist/zero-waste purchases

Hey guys,

I wanted to do a quick post on something that I see questions about a lot…..what to do with those pre-minimalist/zero-waste purchases.

 

I’ll deal with them separately, let’s start with pre-minimalist purchases first:

When holding an item that you purchased weeks, months, even decades ago…it can be hard to let go. Whether it be a piece of clothing from high-school or a set of your great-grandmother’s doilies that sit around collecting dust, there are a few questions to ask yourself.

  1. Is this item being used?
  2. Is this item something that fits my body/current lifestyle?
  3. Do I LOVE said item?
  4. Do I really need it?

If you answered NO to any, or all of the above, then it’s probably time to let the item go. But don’t just throw it away…unless it is actually trash….if you can give it to a relative/friend who actually Wants it…donate it..sell it…recycle it…you get the idea.

Now I know what you’re going to say, “But Candice, I spent a lot of money on this/it has sentimental value/it was a gift…”

My answer, if you don’t love it and it doesn’t fit your lifestyle…then you shouldn’t hang onto it out of guilt.

Onto the pre-Zero-waste purchases

This one is a bit more difficult, because there are things that inevitably have been bought before becoming environmentally conscious that are still in good condition…but they’re plastic or made from something you don’t want near your body or your kids…or they’re hazardous to your health (hello most cleaning supplies, I’m talking about you).

For me, I did a few things.

First, I had a transitional period where I used up what was left of my personal care products like shampoo, toothpaste, etc. I did dispose of their containers responsibly when I was finished. But here’s the key- when I finished them off I found alternatives that were 1. Better for my health 2. Package free 3.or easy to make myself

As for the cleaning supplies, I gave them to family who wanted them. I wasn’t going to keep those carcinogens and neurotoxins near me any longer than absolutely necessary,  I switched straight over to vinegar and baking soda…no need for gloves or surgical masks when using them, they’re edible lol For laundry I switched to castille soap and soap nuts.

As I went through my possessions while I was minimizing, I automatically donated random things that were made of plastic that I was no longer using such as organizing buckets, etc. Since I was getting rid of so much stuff, I didn’t need them anymore.

I did have a few things that were still usable like plastic hangars and tupperware…the tupperware I got rid of immediately because I didn’t want plastic anywhere near my food, switched them all out for glass jars (you don’t necessarily have to go purchase new glass jars, you can always reuse ones from things like pasta sauces and jams, get creative) Same thing with plastic baggies, you don’t need them if you have glass jars. Let them go or donate to a local elementary classroom, they use them quite frequently.

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The hangars on the other hand stuck around for a while, but then they started breaking one by one and I found some wood and metal hangars lying around that were my grandparents that no one was using, and I ended up donating the plastic ones. Now, I did purchase one set of 6 new wood hangars to round out my set, but that was a personal decision. Not everyone can afford to buy new things just to replace their plastic counterparts.

So, to date…. I’ve mostly gotten rid of things as opposed to buying new. There were a few exceptions, such as glass jars, a set of hangars, cloth pads, a safety razor when I ran out of disposables, a new hairbrush when mine broke, and an adult laundry bucket (not made out of mesh!). But that’s about it.

The solution for pre-minimalist and pre-zero-waste purchases really depends on your personal situation, but most of the time they can be donated or recycled.

Keep in mind that minimalism and zero-waste are both journeys. They aren’t meant to be accomplished in one day or even a week, they can take years to switch over to. Look at me, I’ve been at it for a year and am just now starting to get really comfortable with my progress.

It’s all about the baby-steps!

If you have any questions, or any suggestions for future posts you would like to read…lett me know in the comments 🙂

Zero-Waste/Minimalism Grocery progress

Hey hey, I can’t believe it’s been like two weeks since my last post. Life is to blame, I’ve been extra busy these past few week with a sick relative, and time just got away from me.

Besides that, it has officially been 1 year since I started my minimalist/Zero-waste journey!

Anywho, I wanted to share a big win that I had today when I went grocery shopping. I’ve blogged before about the grocery store that I normally frequent and how they won’t let me bring my own jars…but they do let me bring cloth bags. I do enjoy shopping at the Better Health Store still, mainly for organic produce and my juices. But recently I found Fresh Thyme farmers market (which is actually a brick and mortar store, with something like 30 locations in the midwest!), they do let people bring their own jars, tare them, and the biggest bonus…their bulk section is amazing! Not only do they have a few hundred dried bulk bins with everything from coffee, to beans, nuts, flours, granola, and candies. They also have liquid bulk in the form of honey, syrup, peanut butter, oils, and vinegars 🙂

Safe to say, I was extremely excited when I first checked them out. But today I finally went for a big shopping trip so I could stock up for a few weeks. Here’s what I got…

 

Between the two stores, I got:

  • Avocados
  • Potatoes
  • Raisins (in bulk)
  • Watermelon
  • A Tomato
  • Raspberry Lemonade (Glass container with deposit, so i’ll return it to the store for them to reuse)
  • Juice (from the health store, glass jars and metal lids will be recycled)
  • Lettuce
  • Spinach
  • Coconut flour and Garbanzo flour (bulk)
  • Bananas
  • Apples
  • Onions
  • Raw energy bars (bulk) made with dates, coconut, cocoa powder, etc.

And out of all of that I only had this much trash:

The trash was produce stickers (I try to avoid them, but sometimes it is inevitable) and a plastic tag that the spinach was bundled together with.

That’s it.

Recycling: Two glass juice jars, two metal lids, and 1 sneaky little plastic rim that came on the lemonade.

Food waste: All scraps will be composted.

 

It may not seem like such an accomplishment, but as someone who used to produce a huge garbage bag of trash each week a year ago, to now producing…

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…this much trash in over 2 weeks, it’s quite the accomplishment for me. 🙂

Every little bit helps.

The best part is that I no longer am in the rotation for taking the trash bags out at 7am, mainly because I don’t produce that much trash anymore. Not my garbage, not my walk to the curb lol

Besides the zero-waste aspect of it, my diet has now allowed me to incorporate minimalism into my shopping. I can make my grocery trips to two separate stores in less than an hour, since I know exactly what I will be buying and where it is located in the store, it minimizes the time I used to spend “perusing” the aisles looking for something tasty.

I don’t consume processed foods for the most part, and have almost entirely eliminated processed sugar from my diet….except for that jar of lemonade, dear god is it sugary! I never would have even noticed the taste of sugar in it before, but now it is almost overwhelming since I’ve cleansed my palette. It’s something I don’t see myself buying very often, and if I do it will probably last me an entire month.

So to recap, bulk is amazing, produce stickers are a pain, and I have cut down my trash to practically nothing .(except for my cats trash of course, which I will not be keeping in a bucket lol)

 

How have you cut back on waste in the kitchen?

 

5 Things to do with that old Bamboo toothbrush

Hey everyone, I did a previous post on how I switched out my plastic toothbrushes for bamboo ones…and this is the update.

I absolutely love bamboo toothbrushes, I have tried a few different brands in the past year and find that most work rather well. Most recently I have used both the Brush with Bamboo brand as well as Mother’s Vault.

The thing is, that eventually you are going to have to replace your toothbrush, it is inevitable whether you use a plastic one or a bamboo one. I find that it is usually time to replace my bamboo toothbrush when the bristles start naturally coming out of their little sockets. Once two of the sockets are empty I retire the toothbrush and grab a new one.WIN_20150823_084825

What I have found though, is five different uses for the bamboo toothbrush before it eventually ends up in my compost pile. Now, this list may apply to some and not to others, but for those of you looking for a way to re-purpose your toothbrush and get a new life out of it, here we go….

  1. Take the toothbrush, minus any bristles that have fallen out, and use it as a nail brush. It comes in pretty handy after gardening when my nails are full of dirt. It saves me from having to purchase a separate nail brush, which saves money, and it reuses something I already have, which is satisfyingly Eco-friendly. 🙂
  2. Once it has expired it’s life as your nail brush it is time for use #2. As a cleaning tool. I use these babies for scrubbing the grout (we have a very old tile shower that has LOTS of grout to be scrubbed). Or cleaning the floor, or just to get into hard to reach places.
  3. Once it has been a toothbrush, a nail brush, and a cleaning brush, then it has a few options. Option 1 is that it can become a marker for your garden. I like to write down the type of plant on the handle of the brush (after trashing the bristles) and then stick it in the dirt as a cute marker.
  4. Option number 2 after you rip the bristles out it can become a craft stick for some sort of art project. This is a great one if you have kids, they can make a few of them into a stick house or a picture frame….get creative.
  5. Or, if you are like me you probably have pets. I currently have 2 birds as well as 2 cats.

    The one on the left is Honey and the one on the right is Lulu. It was incredibly difficult to get them to sit still long enough for a picture…they aren’t keen on selfies 😀 My birds specifically love destroying things, they rip apart their ladders and branches with a single-mindedness that astounds me. They will tear apart popsicle sticks, cardboard, newspapers, you name it they use it to sand down their beaks. Anywho, I can always stick one of the handles in their cage and they will rip it into shreds within a few days. Then I simply take the remains and compost them. If you don’t have birds, I suppose you could always use it as a fetch stick for a smaller dog…

That’s it. My five tried and true uses for old bamboo toothbrushes. Do you have a use that I missed? If so leave it in the comments! 🙂

Produce bags/spice bags tutorial

Hey guys, it’s been a very interesting week. Before we get to the tutorial I wanted to share a few updates…first off on the vegan challenge…

I failed, miserably..

I think it was more a product of #1 living with other people who eat meat and just happened to offer me some leftovers, and #2 lack of meal planning for the week. I am determined to try fresh this week and see how I do…more updates to come.

On a side note I wanted to share with you that as a family of four (three of whom are not zero-waste/minimalist) we have cumulatively decreased our amount of trash from 3-4 garbage bags per week down to 1 which isn’t even 100% full. I’m pretty excited about this 🙂 The rest of the family is finally starting to get on board remembering what is recyclable/compostable, etc. Yay for baby-steps!

Now, on to the tutorial. It all started when I noticed that most of the “reusable” bags they sell at the grocery stores and such are 1. Not very sturdy 2. Made of synthetic fabrics and 3. Kind of ugly…just sayin.

Then there is always the fact that the stores I frequent do not allow you to bring your own jars…but they don’t have any problem with you bringing bags!

So, being the thrifty person I am I did what any self-respecting eco-conscious person would do…I went shopping in my basement 🙂 As a family we always tend to have things in our home that aren’t being used that I conveniently find new uses for. For example…the extra garbage can that I DIY’d into a compost bin. And now I found a few yards or so of 100% cotton as well as a spool of 100% cotton thread and a bit of scrap crocheting string that happens to also be 100% cotton. So I whipped out my home-made sewing kit and voila, reusable cotton produce and spice bags! The best part is that they are super simple and easy to make.

What you’ll need:

  1. Fabric, natural and eco-friendly is a plus such as cotton, hemp, etc. You can also get really crafty and use old towels or sheets to make your bags…even an old t-shirt will work.
  2. Needle
  3. Thread, again I used 100% cotton, none of that synthetic stuff.
  4. A string of some sort for the drawstring, I used crocheting string.
  5. Pins
  6. Scissors
  7. Sewing machine * optional, Patience is definitely needed if you are sewing by hand 🙂

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First things first I cut strips of the cotton to the size I wanted and folded them over to look like little rectangles. Then I pinned the sides together to hold them while I sewed a semi-straight line down the sides. You can use a machine if you like really straight lines, but I found it easier to hand sew them (that and my sewing machine hates me, it never works when I need it to) WIN_20160224_161903WIN_20160224_164847

Once this part is done there should be three closed sides and one that is still open. There are now a few different ways you can make closures for the opening, firstly you could simply fold over the top edge on both sides and sew it to look like a small pillow case (if you don’t need a closure) I would use this type of finishing for a bread bag or for bags that are going to be larger and hold bigger produce like potatoes, etc. The second way is to do what you would do with the first, but to add a button on one side and a opening on the other for the button to go through. I use these types of bags for lettuce or green onions, etc. Things that won’t easily fall out. 🙂

The third way, which I will show you today, is to take the final edge and make a drawstring closure. It sounds complicated, but all it takes is a little string and a hole. Take a look…WIN_20160224_170136WIN_20160224_170235WIN_20160224_170740WIN_20160224_172436

Once you finish sewing underneath the thread, make sure that both ends of the string are threaded through the little hole and then flip it right side out. You now have a snazzy produce or spice bag depending on the size you made.

Notice that I did not use a ruler or even a straight edge for that matter, I simply eyeballed it, and it turned out semi-symmetrical. It doesn’t have to be perfect since it is just a tool to hold spices and such at the store. If you want you can always be super precise and make them fancier if you like. But for me I enjoy my plain white cotton bags with cotton thread and string. Simple and easy 🙂

The best part? When they finally rip and die I can compost them and return them back to the earth!