Hello! And welcome back. It’s me, Desiree’ Celeste!
I have seen the Zero Waste Movement become really exclusionary and aesthetic driven. So many “Beginner” and “How to” blogs and vlogs encourage people to spend time and/or money they may not have. I am not interested in pursuing ‘zero waste,’ but I do strive to reduce the trash and waste I create. There are so many inspirational individuals on the internet who go to great lengths to create next to no material waste, but that’s just not reality for everyone. Furthermore, these Instagram worthy photos of homemade cashew milk, matching containers for bulk purchases, and farmer’s market groceries can sometimes scare people away from waste reduction. It’s intimidating! Not to mention, some in the ‘zero waste’ community have an ‘all or nothing’ attitude, and shame others for doing what they can, even if it means waste reduction instead of elimination.
I make trash. There, I said it, I MAKE TRASH. I am mindful of every piece of trash that hits my bin and try to find alternative uses where I can, but my household makes about a garbage bag of trash a week, aside from wasted cat litter. Once upon a time, I would have to take my garbage out near daily, so this is a huge turn around for me. I recycle whatever I can, reuse what makes sense, offer reusable items to friends and online, and shop only for what I need.
A great start to waste reduction is paying attention to what you place in the bin.
Are you tossing a lot of paper plates? A place setting per person in the home makes a huge difference to your burden on the earth and the burden on your pockets, and the dollar store can get you there for about 5$ per person. A quick hand wash will make it so you never have to worry about dishes piling up, because there won’t be enough to make a pile!
Are you throwing out plastic grocery bags, or hoarding them under the kitchen sink? They can be used over and over again! You don’t need to spend money on fancy shopping bags or spend time weaving your own from plarn (plastic yarn, some people cut and roll plastic bags to weave together to make a sturdy shopping bags), the bags exist already and may already be in your home. Bonus: many stores give you a monetary reward for bringing your own bags, such as a nickel per bag taken from the total at check out.
How often do you throw away single use utensils while at work or with take out? Those sturdier plastic utensils can live on and on with a quick hand wash. No need to buy a costly to-go utensil set, just keep a fork, spoon, and knife from a take out set and wash them after meals, along with your hands! Then, be sure to decline utensil sets from take out and delivery.
The most common thing is see in the trash bins of others: recycling. Definitely check with your city or apartment complex to see if recycling pick up is offered. I have lived in a few different apartment complexes and many had recycling dumpsters on site, and I have never lived in a house where recycling pick up wasn’t offered. It can’t hurt at all to give a call to your leasing office or garbage pick up company to see your options. My roommate and I recently decided we wanted a second recycling bin since I bring home so much from work, and when we called the city we were surprised to hear that additional recycling bins came free! Yay! If you don’t have the option of at home recycling, there may be a recycling center or dumpster nearby. ALWAYS check with what is acceptable to recycle, as sometimes shredded paper isn’t allowed, generally plastic bags aren’t allowed, and at some recycle centers you need to sort your recycling into different dumpsters yourself. I generally take a photo of any posted notice of accepted recycling, to make sure I am taking full advantage of this service.
Other frequently tossed items are reusable items! Those fancy matching containers for bulk can be replicated at home. I save all of my empty food jars, like pasta sauce jars, pickle jars, and tea tins. I LOVE my Muir Glen pasta sauce jars, they are square with measurement marks on the sides and a black lid, and I use them for food storage, car snacks (they fit in most cup holders), and bulk foods like coffee. I have also scored cute tea tins, which I spray painted to match my decor and filled with my supplements. Spray paint is definitely not zero waste, but it is an enabler in my waste reduction, as I am able to update my same old decor time and time again, and use items in my everyday life that would have otherwise been waste. Bonus: some coffee shops will let you use these relifed jars for your drink orders, and the tight seal makes these jars great for to-go drinks.
There we have it, the cheapest and easiest ways to start on a waste reduction road! Zero Waste and Less Waste life doesn’t have to be hard or expensive in order to help both you and the Earth. Paying attention to what we discard may allow us to see a second or third life in that item, so make sure to dig through your own trash! There may be treasure in there!