Zero (Read: Less)...Waste Lyfe.
I’m sure you’ve all heard about this new … trend? I hate calling this a trend because that implies that it’s going away. And really, I know most people are trying to make it a lifestyle. And it should be, for sure.
I had a baby a couple months ago. It makes me very small-minded in some ways. I talk incessantly about developmental stages like grabbing at toys and about breastfeeding and nap schedules and pediatrician visits and newborn rashes. But it has also made me acutely aware of how I live my life. I want to set an example. I want to teach my daughter things I never learned.
I cannot live a 100% zero waste life. I’m just going to say that so we all know where I’m at and what my goals are. Don’t message me and tell me to do more or why I’m killing the environment. I’m not here for that. If you still need to comment, go for it. But know you’re preaching to someone who knows their impact and is simply trying to do their best.
That said, I’ve been listening to some podcasts and reading some articles lately and watching documentaries (A Plastic Ocean, on Netflix, is a good one to start with) about where we are headed, you know, as a planet. It’s not looking good. We have all adopted a little plastic habit that is slowly killing our oceans and our ozone layer, and will eventually kill us. Perhaps not in my lifetime (or for a long time after it), but that doesn't make it any less relevant.
“Rachel, OMG, stop being so dramatic and liberal.” First of all, this is as conservative as I get with my beliefs. I firmly believe that God, the Creator of this very planet, has called us to be stewards of it. I’ve personally done a pretty shit job of that and I’m trying to do better. So if my Christian/Republican (I know those things can absolutely mutually exclusive) friends want to look at this as a liberal/Democrat issue, I would challenge you to check your theology. This is NOT partisan. It's human.
Ok, now that my disclaimers are out of the way ... back to the baby. Quite simply, she creates a lot of trash. Or at least causes me too. And having her, being responsible for her, has led me to two new conclusions:
1. I want the world to be better for her than it currently is. Environmentally, economically, spiritually, all of the -allys.
2. I want to instill habits in her that promote kindness, resilience, faith, and patience.
And I’ve realized that there are some really simple things I can do now, when she’s young and growing and learning, that will help the Earth and also teach her those values.
What are those simple things? It’s really one thing—use less plastic. To be honest, reducing my use of plastic takes a lot of effort. It takes time to research products and companies. It takes an extra trip to special recycling locations. It removes some of the convenience I’ve grown very accustomed to in my 31 years (i.e. Costco, Amazon, and getting anything to-go).
So I want you all to know that I hate doing this. I love convenience. I love efficiency. And I hate spending more money than I know I could. I’m not even a huge nature person. But I am smart. And I do know that we all need to do much, much better if we want to continue living here. Here being Earth.
I'm not turning into an environmental/zero-waste blogger. I may never even write about this again. But I’ve spent so many hours the past month researching this and I wanted to share what I’ve learned. (Also, please know that “novice” would be a generous term for what I am on this topic.) There are so many people who are so much smarter than me and who know so much more than I do. But I’ve noticed that a lot of those people are very much ALL IN on this lifestyle. And I would love to be, but I’m not quite yet.
So this post is for people like me. People who know they need to do better. People who are looking to take small steps, maybe dip a toe in the water, or perhaps flirt with the idea of a more eco-friendly house. I have said a lot about what I am not committing to. Here is what I am committing to:
- No more straws. This one is an easy one for me. I prefer drinking out of metal straws. They stay cold longer and are just kind-of fun. I bought two packs of these straws and keep two in the diaper bag so I can even use them when I’m out. They are dishwasher safe. If you have a zero waste store in your town, I recommend buying them there because they come in plastic from Amazon. Speaking of Amazon …
- Asking for less packaging. My friend Kym Ventola told me about this and then I read about it on this blog. She provides several ways to reduce the waste you receive in your Amazon packages, including a simple email to customer service as well as searching through the “Frustration-Free Packaging” service. I didn’t even know it existed and I’m pretty pumped about it.
- Changing my lady products. We have to use what feels like a lot of plastic as women. Tampon applicators, pads, makeup, etc. I’ve researched several companies and when I run out of my current stock of very not environmentally-friendly products, I will be purchasing from the following: Natracare, Thinx, Organic Initiative. These are pricey, but all extremely environmentally friendly. If you don't want to spend this much, here are some companies that are still better than good ol’ Tampax and Kotex: LOLA and Cora Life (these are actually sold at Target!). These still come with a little plastic packaging and I'm pretty sure are not entirely biodegradable. You could even get into menstrual cups, cloth pads, or sea sponge tampons. I’m not willing to go there yet. But maybe one day. I will make a small plea here: if you could at least consider using tampons without an applicator, that would be a huge step. It’s your vagina. You know it better than anyone. Just shove it up there.
- Using a bamboo toothbrush. Or this non-electric electric toothbrush. I bought a ridiculous amount of toothbrush heads for our Oral-B electric toothbrushes. Unfortunately, I learned that they are unable to be recycled. That’s depressing. Once those are out, I’m going to try to recycle the actual brush and will probably buy that electric toothbrush. It looks like it was made in the ‘80s, but my toothbrush isn’t what makes me cool. It’s my …
- Toilet paper. Throughout my “research” (read: Googling and Instagramming), I learned that most toilet paper is made with virgin trees. This is silly. But this post isn’t about trees, it’s about plastic. Almost all toilet paper also comes wrapped in lots and lots of unnecessary plastic. Once we run out of our latest Costco purchase, we will be buying Who Gives A Crap toilet paper. It’s made from 100% recycled paper, the branding is adorable, their copy is hilarious, and it comes with no plastic. Wins all around.
- Freaking reusable grocery bags. I’m THE WORST at this. It makes me so angry how bad I am at it. I remember to use them once and feel invincible. Then I forget for the next 73 months. I don’t know how to get better, but I’m really, really going to try. I justified it to myself for a while by saying that we re-use plastic bags to pick up dog poop, but then I heard someone say that it’s still not recycling it at all. It’s just extended the life by one use. Speaking of single-use plastic and dog poop …
- Finding and using compostable bags. You can buy them for your dog. And for your trash can. Sure, they aren’t as sturdy and probably smell worse and are certainly more expensive, but I’m going to try them … as soon as I run out of the plastic bags we literally just bought at Costco.
- No more Ziploc baggies. There are so many reusable Ziplocs in the world. According to The Strategist, these are the best ones currently. Lots of options though, so Google a bit until you find the company that works for you. I, personally, am saving up for these bad boys from Stasher Bags.
- Saying goodbye to dryer sheets. Did you know that almost all dryer sheets have plastic and will never ever break down? Insane. I bought some wool dryer balls several months ago and I love them! We put essential oils on them and they make the laundry smell great and cut down our drying time so we use less energy.
- We're gonna compost. Again, this isn't specifically about plastic, but it will drastically reduce our amount of waste (which utilizes way less trash bags in the long run). We signed up for the program through the city of Denver and will be using our compost bin for any and all things biodegradable. They pick it up and take it away so it's relatively hassle-free.
This is a lot of info. But I haven't even scratched the surface of why this is important and what all we should be doing. So here are a few more resources. There are so many more that I can't even begin to link them all. But here is what I found helpful:
1. Litterless ... This is a zero-waste blog that has a directory of places you can shop in bulk all over the U.S. Check out your city and see where you can shop to reduce waste (we have TWO here in Denver that are both so fun and helpful!).
2. Recycling directory ... A big problem is contamination in our recycling bins. It throws off the whole process so we need to pay attention to what we can and cannot recycle. I've linked Denver's directory but check your city's website to see if they have one. I'm going to tour the Denver facility to ask all my questions that the website can't answer.
3. My Plastic-Free Life ... A blog and discussion forum all about ways to live with less plastic. She has challenges and a book and a whole host of other helpful tips.
4. Plastic Film Recycling ... This is a great site for where you can recycle things that are typically single-use plastic (the worst offenders!). Just search for a recycling bin in your area and you can take your toilet paper plastic, Ziploc bags, and grocery store bags there to be recycled!
I wasn't going to end this with a call to action, but why not? If we could all just pick one thing. ONE thing that we stop doing. A new habit that might take a little longer but is kinder to Mother Nature. Stop using straws. Switch up your tampons. Put down the dryer sheets. Just pick one and stick to it. I believe in us.
What is that saying? What annoys us makes us stronger? Patience is very hard to learn at age 31? What we don't know is actually killing us? Whatever it is, let's just all agree we can do better. And that we really need to.
Heads up: some of the links in this blog are affiliate links through the Amazon Associates program. Which means if you buy something after clicking on it, I get a kick-back. I have to say this because #laws. But I really don't care what environmentally conscious products you buy or where you buy them from. Just stop using plastic, OK?