Stuck? 11 more ways to reduce your waste
You’ve made some changes, but now what? First of all, great job reducing your waste already. This post is for those of you have already been on the zero waste train for a while. You’ve changed many of your habits, use a reusable water bottle, carry your reusable bags, and filled your bathrooms with bar soap.
I think it’s easy to make some of these changes and make a lot of initial progress in reducing your waste, but still manage to fill up a bag of trash at the end of the week. Here are some recommendations I have for those of you who are a bit later in the game but feel stuck!
It’s probably time you start making package free part of your food purchasing patterns. From my own observations, just about all processed foods come in disposable plastic packaging. I can’t think of anything that doesn’t. One of my favorite parts of zero waste food shopping is that it encourages me to eat well, and when I do have baked goods they’re either homemade or I bring my own napkin or container to a bakery.
If you have the resources, now is as good a time as any to start buying bulk. I know food shopping without disposable packaging was one of the hardest changes for me to make. Rice, oats, spices, nuts, candy, dried fruits, beans, lentils, and more are available at my local grocery store. See what your store has and bring your own containers!
Finish up your Kaboom, folks, and travel back in time. Vinegar and baking soda are accessible ingredients to make homemade cleaners that really do work. Who told you that it was necessary to have different cleaners for everything you do? The companies getting your money when you buy separate tub and tile, countertop, stove top, toilet bowl, and floor cleaners told you so (or they told your mother who then told you). If you’re a bit germophobic like me, boiling water is always an option to sanitize small things or pour in tubs and toilets.
Waste isn’t only what goes in trash cans. Creating new items of clothing, especially fast fashion, is horrible for the environment and creates a lot of waste. The documentary “The True Cost” is a great place to start educating yourself about fast fashion. Second hand clothes are less expensive and more sustainable. I am a self-diagnosed thrift-aholic and love thrift stores, but consignment shops are great, too, if you don’t have patience to look through outdated styles. The Buffalo Exchange is my favorite store and Plato’s Closet is another store selling relevant styles second hand.
Think of the humble granola bar. It has been in your lunchbox everyday for the last decade. From snack time in elementary school, long college lectures, to 15-minute breaks at work, the granola bar has stood by and been one of those foods that is kind of good for you but also has tons of sugar and sometimes chocolate (yum). It also comes in a disposable box and it’s own plastic wrapper. I quit granola bars after a life long habit in June 2017. I used this recipe and made my own for a month or two before I eventually realized I don’t need them.
So really, look for package free options for the products you lean on right now, and DIY the rest. Did you know you can make your own yogurt? It’s actually very doable if you have a good thermometer. If you buy small packets of crackers or cookies, even buying a larger container of them and bringing them in reusable containers is a way to reduce the waste you produce.
Alright, this is a late in the game switch for most of us I think. Hankies are for tears and snot. Nobody is asking you to share hankies, either. Use them for members of your household or even just yourself. They can be washed in hot water and dried to kill bacteria. You can even boil them (see a pattern here?). Buy them second-hand, get them from a grandparent, or use scrap fabric from old clothes. I have yet to be sick since switching to hankies (knock on wood) but I can attest they’re great for tears and colds.
Do you have a food processor and $5 dollars? Food processor optional. Make your own laundry soap, plastic free. An even easier alternative to making your own is to purchase a laundry powder in cardboard packaging.
The simplest and hardest one. REALLY commit to refusing single use plastic and paper. For a long time after I started by zero waste journey, I still used disposable cups or straws occasionally. Bite the bullet, and next time you want Starbucks and have no cup, skip it. I’ll bet remembering your cup just got a lot more important.
Dairy isn’t good for the environment or the cows, but many people choose to consume it. Buy your milk in reusable glass bottles! This is one definitely available to people outside of cities. In the US, Byrne Dairy still sells milk in glass bottles for the same price as milk in plastic-all you need is a little deposit on the bottle!
Abandon this product. Wash your pans and baking sheets. They also sell silicone baking mats all over, which are a reusable option as well.
Ditch the paper in your kitchen
Peel back your fingers from the tight grip you have on paper towels and try out fabric napkins and cloths. Finish your last roll and don’t rebuy. Try one month paper towel free, even if you are a heavy user and if you are somehow unable to manage, seek out a plastic packaging free option.
They’re life changing, folks. I know a few people who were afraid to make this change, or hesitant because it seems so different from what they’re used to. Menstrual cups will save you money pretty quickly, considering half the population menstruates (or has, or will) every month, and it can be the only product you use for your period. Really, fear not the cup, and imagine the bags and bags of disposable menstrual products that you won’t be sending to landfill.