Recent [Nearly] Zero Waste Swaps

Recent [Nearly] Zero Waste Swaps

When I first started reducing my waste, I was definitely tempted to toss every piece of plastic in the trash and buy all new wooden toys for my kids, bamboo scrub brushes for my dishes, and cast iron pots and pans for my kitchen…but I knew that was the exact opposite of the zero waste lifestyle I was trying to live. So, instead, I kept using my plastic Tupperware, my kids still play with their cheap plastic toys, and I’ve been scrubbing the toilet with the same plastic toilet brush that we bought nine years ago after we moved in together.

Toilet Brush

But all that changed a few weeks ago when I walked into the bathroom and saw, to my great excitement, that the toilet brush had somehow snapped in half! [Now that I think about it, one of the kids probably broke it, but I don’t even want to know how that happened…]

I’ve never been so happy to see something broken. And since I am unwilling to actually plunge my hand into the toilet to clean it, it was time for a new toilet brush!

This new beechwood brush is a beauty. In this case, eco-friendly is also the most attractive option.

Pull-Ups

I finally conceded that my son needs pull-ups to help with night potty training and my first thought was that we would have to buy disposables. [I know, old habits die hard.] But then I realized there may be a reusable alternative – and of course there is! So I bought a reusable pull-up that works just like our cloth diapers except that my son can pull it up and down to go to the bathroom if he needs to.

This GroVia pull-up works GREAT, but it is very pricey so I only bought one. I should get more so I don’t have to wash it every day. [I also got a set of “pull-ups” that are basically just padded underwear and don’t really prevent leaks AT ALL.]

Reusable 2-Gallon Bags

So, I have a confession. I’ve been using plastic gallon bags for storing and freezing my bread each week.

😱

I know…🥺

I wasn’t buying bags [which is good]. I was reusing them [which is a little iffy]. And let me tell you, they are definitely not made to be reused. But I didn’t have anything else that would keep the bread from drying out or going stale.

I’ve already replaced sandwich bags with wraps and silicone bags, so I decided to see if they have reusable bags in bigger sizes – and of course they do!

I bought these biodegradable two-gallon reusable bags for storing my loaves of bread in the fridge or freezer. I’m very pleased with them!

Handkerchiefs

I haven’t bought tissues in my adult life – other than picking up a box before my dad comes to visit and buying a box this fall for my daughter to take to kindergarten. It is probably unusual, but we use toilet paper for nose blowing. I fully blame my partner for this alternative. We currently compost the make-shift tissues, so I guess it’s not a total waste, but I’ve been dying for handkerchiefs. They are reusable, they are soft, and they kinda have this old-fashioned classy feel to them.

My girlfriend, Megan, made these for me and I could not be happier! I go to her for all of my sewing needs and she never disappoints! Someday I hope to have her teach me how to sew so I can make reusable produce bags from scrap material to hand out for free at my local farmers market like The Zero Waste Chef does.

Ah, well, we all have dreams!

Laundry Detergent Strips

I have spent WAY TOO MUCH TIME trying to find an eco-friendly laundry detergent. I know lots of people DIY this household essential, but I’ve just read too many reasons to trust the experts AND I use cloth diapers so I can’t be messing around with detergent or I’ll end up with unhappy babies.

So, I was SO EXCITED when my amazing cousin, Stacey, told me about these laundry strips by Well Earth Goods!

Half of a square is detergent for one load of laundry. I just put the strip in the drum and run my washer as usual. I think they are great! I was worried that they wouldn’t be strong enough for the diapers, but out of necessity we tried it, and I think it worked fine.

I love that this detergent option has no plastic jug to dispose of and even ships free without any plastic packaging.

This company is great and the store is full of low waste products. While I was there buying the laundry strips, I also picked up toothpaste tablets:

And a laundry stain stick:

I haven’t tried these two things yet. They will each probably warrant their own post with all the details, so stay tuned!


So, basically, what I’m trying to say is, before you go out and buy something that has a single use and will be tossed in the trash and that you have to continue to buy and throw away over and over and over again for the rest of your life….look around for a reusable alternative. There most likely is one. And it will save you loads of cash and Mother Earth loads of trash in the long run.

Reduce. REUSE. And if all else fails, Recycle.

♻️ ♻️ ♻️

Karis

Plastic Free July 2019: My Failures [and Successes]

Plastic Free July 2019: My Failures [and Successes]

No one is perfect, right? 🤷‍♀️

Seriously, though, I’m glad this plastic free business is not about perfection. Our take-and-toss society makes living without any plastic nearly impossible [especially if you have kids] and single-use plastics are EVERYWHERE.

Image from UN Environment

And old habits die hard, folks. But I am slowly making new, more sustainable habits.

Overall, I’ve been doing great with my zero waste goals. I went so far as to not buy anything at all on my entire 12 hour drive to New York…WITH FOUR KIDS! If you have ever taken a road trip with children, you know how tempting those drive through nuggets are so you can toss them into the back seat to keep the kids quiet. But I just couldn’t face the waste.

My three-week-old baby on her first road trip. ❤️

As far as Plastic Free July went, I did pretty well for the month – but, to my embarrassment, I made some rookie mistakes.

These were my commitments for the month:

Refuse plastic straws and disposable beverage cups. For the aforementioned “New York or Bust” road trip, we didn’t buy any drinks. Our one stop for dinner on the way home was at Panera where we brought in everyone’s water bottles and refilled them. We ate out of real dishes with real utensils [one of several reasons that I am a Panera fan]. We also took our own water bottles when we went to Chuck E. Cheese for Evangeline’s 5th birthday.

[Failure #1] BUT when Brett and I went out for a date night and ended up at a local ice cream chain, Brett’s sundae came in a big glass bowl with a real spoon and my low-calorie smoothie came in a plastic cup with [egad!] a plastic straw. I was literally half way through the smoothie before Brett pointed out that I was drinking out of a plastic. I was so concerned about the healthfulness of my choice, I totally forgot to think about the plastic.

🤦‍♀️

Bring my own reusable container for restaurant leftovers. The only restaurants we ate at all month were Panera and Chuck E. Cheese, as I mentioned above. For Panera, we had no leftovers, but at Chuck E. Cheese we had about a whole pizza leftover [Failure #2] and, of course, I forgot to bring a container. We ended up carrying the pizza home in styrofoam.

🤦‍♀️

Since then, however, I did remember to bring a few reusable containers when we went to Red Robin…but of course we had no leftovers. There must be a Murphy’s Law about this…

Buy only plastic-free groceries. Oh man, this was tough – especially when blackberries went on sale for $.88! But I stuck to my commitment and didn’t buy a single thing in plastic packaging all month. [My husband might have – but let’s not discuss it.] I even stopped an employee at the grocery store who was putting handfuls of loose green beans into plastic bags and asked if he could just put them straight into my reusable bag. He looked at me like I was crazy, but he did it! Which made me very happy because I LOVE green beans and my grocer always sells them in plastic bags.

Well, everyone already knows how much I care about this stuff [and I still end up using plastic sometimes] but for all you “no-big-deal” folks out there, here’s why single-use plastics are a big deal.

So that’s how my month went. Anyone else have confessions to make???

Karis

Plastic Free July 2019: My Commitments

Plastic Free July 2019: My Commitments

Plastic Free July is here and [of course] I’m participating! I’ve already been avoiding single-use plastics for a year and have made my stainless steel water bottle, cotton produce bags, and reusable shopping bags a normal habit…but I still have struggled with avoiding the plastic that comes with take out, fast-food, and even dine-in meals.

So these are my three commitments to reduce my single-use plastic waste this month [and hopefully forever]:

Refuse plastic straws and disposable beverage cups. Even though I really hate plastic straws, I do occasionally end up with them in my [or my kids’] drinks. So this month, I am committed to not buying beverages out at all. We will just bring our reusable water bottles and drink water when we go to restaurants. [It is healthier anyway!]

Bring my own reusable container for restaurant leftovers. I have yet to bring my own container to a restaurant for the leftovers – and with four little kids, we ALWAYS have leftovers. So, this month, I will keep a reusable container [or two] in my car for this purpose.

Buy ONLY plastic-free groceries. I’m pretty good about this, but not perfect. I never use the plastic produce bags and I always choose the loose produce over the bagged options – but not all foods can be found package free at my grocery store. My kids love grapes and they always come in a plastic bag. I love berries, but I can’t find them without plastic packaging either. I often end up compromising on some of these items. So, this month, I am committed to doing without any food that I can’t find plastic-free. But it won’t be much of a hardship because I LOVE pineapples and apples and watermelons.

I hope you are joining the cause this month!

What are your commitments?

Let’s save the oceans together!

🌊 🌊 🌊

Karis

8 Zero Waste Swaps that Won’t Break the Bank

8 Zero Waste Swaps that Won’t Break the Bank

If you’ve mastered the 6 free zero waste swaps [which I talked about in 6 Zero Waste Swaps You Can Make Right Now without Spending a Penny], then its time to move on to the advanced course.

But I warn you, these next swaps will start to make you look like a real deal zero waster, and chances are, you will start to enjoy your new zero waste supplies so much, you might actually consider attempting to store your trash in a mason jar…

[Please know that it is not necessary to run out and buy a bunch of fancy stuff in order to be “zero waste.” In fact, it’s best to make do with what you have and see if you actually need to buy an alternative. I waited on many of these swaps til I had used up my current supplies or until I found it absolutely necessary.]

This list is not exhaustive. It is just my personal favorites because they are easy to swap and [relatively] inexpensive. So, here we go.

1. Beeswax wraps instead of plastic wrap.

I ADORE my beeswax wraps. I actually still have a partial roll of plastic wrap in my cupboard that I have absolutely no use for now. I use the beeswax wraps for wrapping everything from half a cantaloupe to my kids’ snacks to bowls and plates. [I wrote more about the beeswax wraps in this post: Zero Waste: Beeswax Wraps.]

2. Cloth napkins instead of paper napkins.

Technically you don’t need to buy cloth napkins if you are handy with a sewing machine – which I am not. There are plenty of tutorials online that tell you how to make your own. I chose to buy a set. This was one of the very first swaps I made, and while I would probably do things differently now, I love my napkins.

3. Handkerchiefs instead of tissues. I remember my grandpa using a “hankie” when I was little. My father used to play a game with us kids called “hide the hankie” – which is pretty gross now that I think about it… but handkerchiefs in general don’t have to be disgusting. Just because we are used to the convenience of paper tissues doesn’t mean that we can’t go back to the handkerchief. I haven’t actually made this swap yet, but I have asked a sewing-savvy girlfriend if I could pay her to make me some. And usually, when my kids get colds, I use our cloth baby wipes instead of tissues because they are softer on their noses. But I’m anxious to have a set of hankies for the family.

4. Bar Soap, Shampoo, & Conditioner instead of liquids.

I wrote about our switch to bar shampoo and conditioner recently [Zero Waste: Shampoo Bars], which is maybe slightly more expensive than buying traditional shampoo and conditioner in the plastic bottles. But while you’re at it, you might as well ditch all the plastic bottles and buy all bar soap. We’ve switched to bar soap for all of our washing needs. I even make my own dishwashing soap using grated bar soap. It is easy to find bar soap without packaging nowadays at nearly any grocery store. Bar soaps are often cheaper than the little plastic pump bottles and last much longer. As always, go for the palm-oil free variety, such as Kirk’s Castile Soap Bars.

5. Wool dryer balls instead of dryer sheets and fabric softener.

I was lucky to receive these as a gift early on in my zero waste journey. I gave up fabric softener and dryer sheets years ago when I first had kids, and dryer balls are the perfect alternative that I never knew existed. In addition, there are plenty of zero waste ways to make your clothes smell good too – I use essential oils on a damp wash cloth and throw it into the dryer.

6. Reusable straws instead of disposable straws.

By now, we’ve all heard how terrible plastic straws are for the environment – BUT we need to remember that the straws are very important for those with disabilities. As I see it, if you don’t need to use one, find an alternative. Some people actually have a real need for flexible straws and so the rest of us should cut back on our convenience habit so that millions of them don’t wind up in the ecosystem. So, get reusable straws [or simply do without]. I have a set of stainless steel straws that I use for the kids when we are out – but I try to always have their reusable water bottles with us.

7. Bamboo toothbrushes instead of plastic.

The hardest thing about this swap, for me, is turning down the free toothbrushes that the dentist always gives you after your visit. This one costs money because before I paid nothing for toothbrushes. However, considering every plastic toothbrush I have ever used in my life is still out there somewhere – I think a biodegradable alternative is worth the money.

BONUS for the ladies:

8. Menstrual cup instead of tampons.

I made this swap last year, shortly before I became pregnant again and since I’ve been pregnant for the last eight months now, it hasn’t gotten much use – BUT a menstrual cup was just a no-brained for me. They don’t need to be changed as frequently, they are comfortable, and they last for years. That being said, they aren’t exactly cheap. So, do your research, get the right size, and be patient [they take some practice]. In the long run, though, they will be a savings – for you and the planet.

I know there are a lot more inexpensive swaps, but these have been most helpful for me.

What are your favorite zero waste swaps?

🙌🏻

Karis

6 Zero Waste Swaps You Can Make Right Now without Spending a Penny

6 Zero Waste Swaps You Can Make Right Now without Spending a Penny

Last year, I began swapping disposable products for reusable alternatives and was impressed by how easy and affordable it was to make my home less wasteful. Many times, I already had eco-friendly alternatives lying around anyway. Now, I just had to make the switch to using them. Once I did, I no longer had to spend money on constantly restocking disposables and that alone actually saved me loads of money over the past year.

Contrary to what some might think, you don’t have to spend a lot of money to make a difference. You also don’t need to be perfectly, 100% without any waste. A little effort goes a long way, and when choosing zero waste alternatives saves you some cash, everyone wins.

Some of these suggestions are going to sound like no-brainers to anyone who is already living a zero waste life, but these are also some of the biggest offenders in the unnecessary waste department, so we’ve got to be better about even these small simple products that collect in landfills [or our oceans and ecosystems] in alarming amounts.

Here are some of the easiest swaps we made:

1. Cloth shopping bags instead of disposable bags. Most people have bags lying around that can be used as shopping bags. If you’ve ever shopped at Aldi then you probably already have a stash for those trips. So why not use them for all your shopping? Turns out you don’t need a special material or a specific size, and it doesn’t have to have some cutesy environmentally friendly slogan written on it. Just grab a bag – any bag – before you head out for your next shopping trip and pass on the store’s bags. If you literally don’t have a bag, grab a t-shirt you don’t wear and make one – tutorial here.

2. Reusable plates instead of paper plates. This one is guaranteed to save you money since the only thing required is to stop buying paper plates altogether. I assume everyone has a set of real plates (even plastic will do – so long as they are reusable). I know it’s convenient – especially for big gatherings and for packing lunches – but it’s not the only way. Create a system for the party so dishes get rinsed and washed. Eat out of your container at work/school so you don’t need a dish at all. Paper plates cannot be recycled because the paper becomes contaminated by food. And with the global paper plate industry at around 3.6 BILLION USD – that equals a whole lot of paper plates in landfills.

3. Silverware instead of plastic cutlery. Same as above, this will only save you money. Pack a real spoon and wash it. Is it as convenient? Maybe not. Is it free to do? Definitely. Is it important. Yessiree.

4. Reusable water bottle instead of plastic water bottles. I am admittedly a total water snob. I hate tap water – especially my own because we have very hard well water which, even after an elaborate softener system treats it, still tastes terrible. [I am working on becoming less entitled in this regard – but it may take a LONG time.] We used to buy tons of water bottles because they are so convenient, despite being a colossal waste of plastic and money. So, our alternative has been a Primo water dispenser.

This guy conveniently hides a refillable five-gallon water jug.

So, we are still technically paying for water [though we don’t pay for our well water], but it costs less than $2 for five gallons and we reuse the jugs so that we are not creating any waste.

Another good solution for water snobs like myself would be to use water from a filtered dispenser in the refrigerator. We don’t have one of those. Even putting a filter on the sink would be good.

Then use a reusable beverage holder of some kind.

Most people probably have a reusable water bottle lying around their house. You don’t need a fancy stainless steel one [though they are nice to have]. You don’t even need a water bottle, truthfully. You could just use a glass…or a mug…or heck, a sippy cup if you have to. Anything that will hold liquid should work.

5. Kitchen rags instead of paper towels. The attachment to paper towels is very strong and is probably the hardest disposable to stop using. In fact, I occasionally wish for paper towels when I want to clean the bathroom mirrors or have a place to set freshly fried bacon…BUT I don’t use them. We haven’t bought any in a year and we are surviving just fine. I didn’t purchase anything to replace paper towels, I just used my current stash of kitchen towels, wash cloths, and rags. You don’t actually need something that comes on a roll that allows you to rip off individual pieces [though there are Pinterest tutorials aplenty, if you want to make your cloth towels into a roll]. You can just reach into a drawer or cupboard and get a new towel or rag when you need one. This system has been serving us very well AND saving us a lot of money.

6. Reusable containers instead of zip-lock bags. Plastic baggies are definitely very convenient, but they are nothing that a reusable container [tupperware or glass] cannot be – besides made of plastic and very wasteful. I have kept my plastic Tupperware sets to use for food storage and travel and anything else I might need a plastic baggie for, so I didn’t have to buy anything. All I had to do was stop buying zip-lock bags. The only challenge I encountered was freezing certain foods – and for this purpose, I did purchase reusable silicone bags, but now I just cook the meat before freezing [with the exception of chicken which I freeze raw in small portions in the silicone bags].

Try the 30-day challenge

If any of these swaps seem like a challenge, just try doing without for a while – say a month or so – to see if you really do need these things in your life. Yes, there is a minor loss of convenience, but a big benefit for our shared environment AND your wallet. So, it’s a win-win.

I’m sure there are other zero waste swaps that can be made on the cheap. If you have ideas to add to this list, please share below!

Karis

Zero Waste Toothbrushes / DIY Bathroom Remodel

Zero Waste Toothbrushes / DIY Bathroom Remodel

About a month ago, Brett and I [but mostly Brett] finished remodeling our upstairs bathroom.

Before reno:

After demo:

All done [hallelujah!]:

Since then, I’ve been anxious to replace the final eyesore – our toothbrushes.

I’ve been slowly replacing other bathroom items with zero waste, sustainable alternatives. I swapped our plastic shower curtain liner for a cloth one that can be washed and reused. [Since plastic shower curtain liners can’t be recycled, we are “upcycling” it as a tarp over our firewood. Other great ideas for old plastic liners can be found here.]

I’ve also traded the typical containers for cotton balls and q-tips for glass jars that I already had around the house.

I still have some plastic stuff waiting to be used up or worn out before being replaced – brush, comb, lotion and detangler bottles…

But the toothbrushes really bothered me. I finally got to replace them with compostable bamboo brushes. The bristles are nylon and though the biodegradability of some types of nylon are being debated, these bristles can be pulled and recycled.

I chose this company because it is based in the US and [from everything I can tell] committed to ethical and sustainable practices. Also they come in 100% cardboard packaging [double boxed]. It is hard to find toothbrushes that don’t have ANY PLASTIC in the packaging.

And it doesn’t hurt that making the bathroom more eco-friendly also makes it look better.

There are lots of great sustainable toothbrush options available now. Just search for bamboo toothbrushes. Also Preserve is a company that partners with Whole Foods to gather and recycle plastics into new toothbrushes which is the best choice if you want stick with plastic. They make it super easy to recycle the brushes when your done by selling you the brush in a prepaid return pouch!

As for your old plastic toothbrushes, read more about recycling them in this article by Recycle Nation [spoiler alert: it ain’t easy].

And more about sustainable toothbrush options in this post by My Plastic Free Life.

AND order your own sustainable toothbrushes from The Green Root here.

Happy Brushing!

Karis

[Nearly] Zero Waste at Fresh Thyme

[Nearly] Zero Waste at Fresh Thyme

Today we took a long drive to a grocery store that sounded [from everything I read online] like a bulk bin paradise. I first heard of Fresh Thyme Farmers Market a month or so ago during one of my many searches for local zero waste shopping options, but was sad to find that the closest store was forty minutes from my home. Since then, however, I learned that a new location is opening in January 2019 only ten minutes away!!!

So, today we decided to make the drive and check out the location nearest us. I was pleasantly surprised by the bulk bin options which, though not quite as many as Whole Foods, include bulk coffee beans and bulk liquids like oils, vinegars, and honey! And the prices are more reasonable than any other bulk sections I have found. The grocery store also runs good deals that offer meat and produce for prices similar to what our local grocer, Jewel-Osco, does, which is why I picked up a package of blackberries [my only purchase today with any plastic waste].

Here’s our grocery haul:

We even got some package-free bars of soap.

I put the bulk bin numbers into my phone for checkout so we didn’t even bother with any papers or pens or twisty ties or anything. The only other waste [besides the blackberry package] was the stickers on the bananas and avocados and the receipt.

Also, since going [nearly] zero waste and not buying any processed foods, we’ve reduced our grocery budget by $100 per month – from $400 to $300 for our family of five [being mostly vegan also really helps with saving money]. I think it is pretty clear that buying healthy, organic, local and fair trade food does not have to break the bank.

Quite frankly, I don’t know why more people aren’t doing it…

Karis