How We're Reducing Waste in Our Home
Updated: Feb 2, 2019
It feels weird for me to be posting a "tips" blog when I'm usually posting things like "check out the shiny new mess I have in my brain this time!"
But the thing is, I don't always have a mess in my brain. Sometimes...actually, pretty often ...my brain functions very well and I have a really healthy grasp on life. It's just that writing tends to be a form of therapy for me and I don't need as much therapy when my brain is performing well. Which is why most of my posts are about brain disasters and the like.
Anyway, I've been feeling pretty healthy lately but I also miss writing, so let's talk about garbage! Or more specifically, reducing our garbage. There are a few things that we changed up at home that have been really helpful for us in reducing our overall waste. It's an imperfect process but slowly but surely we're getting there.
Re-usable grocery bags are a pretty easy way to reduce your reliance on some plastics. I've tried a bunch of them and my favorites are made by a company called Baggu. They're super strong, they hold a ton of stuff, they're easy to clean, they fold up super small so you can always keep a couple on you, and finally, I'm totally in to their design choices. I also use a Baggu bag for my beach clean-ups and again, they're super durable and just hold a ton of stuff. If you don't want to invest in a sturdy reusable bag, there are some great tutorials online on how to make your own reusable bags from old t-shirts. For me, most of the reusable bags tend to take up too much space, so I like the idea of something more compact. Also, keep in mind if you forget your bags, you can always request paper at the checkout.
I'm definitely the annoying person who, in my effort not to use plastic bags, just loosely piled all of my produce on the conveyor belt at the grocery store. I've had more cashiers roll their eyes at me than I can count. Sooooo, in an effort not to be annoying in the check-out lane, I bought some cotton mesh bags for my produce shopping. Like grocery bags, you can make these out of old t-shirts if you want to DIY it. I can barely sew so I went ahead and invested in some pre-made mesh bags. The nice thing about these is they came in a set of 12 so I took a couple of them and use them as laundry bags for delicate items. If you've gotten the plastic produce bags at the grocery store, you can also re-use those over and over. Or, just keep your produce loose and be ready for the eye rolling.
When we get home from grocery shopping, we transfer our fruits and veggies to produce boxes. They keep our food fresh a lot longer, which reduces waste, which helps us save money. I keep two of these around - one for green leafy vegetables and one for grapes and berries.
Ok. So this is a weird one and my husband still isn't totally on board. But last March (10 months ago), I paid less than $20 for a bag of soap berries. Or soap nuts. I don't even really remember what they're called. I wasn't super hopeful because we have dogs and they're messy and we're messy and I'm also allergic to everything and my skin is hyper sensitive to detergents, but we figured it was worth a try. Well, I figured. James just kind of goes along with it. Anyway, we got this big bag of soap berries. You take about 7 of them, put them in a little muslin bag, throw them in the washer while the water is running and wash your clothes. You can use that same bag for 7 loads of laundry. And omg, they work! Our clothes got clean, even the towels that we use to clean up a dog mess, like - it all got clean. There aren't any perfumes in the berries so your clothes don't smell like anything, really. They're just clean and odor free. So I've been using these for nearly a year, I spent less than $20 on them, and I totally love them. It will change your laundry routine a little bit, but once you get used to them, it's pretty easy. Plus, I'm probably saving about a hundred bucks a year in laundry detergent costs. Everybody wins!
I'm not going to get into too much detail here, but basically, we all need toilet paper and it usually comes wrapped in plastic. About a year ago, we started ordering toilet paper in bulk from Seventh Generation. I like it because it's made from recycled fibers, it comes wrapped in paper, and we order about 60 rolls at a time, which saves us from last minute trips to the grocery store and ending up with more plastic. If you're really into super soft and multi-ply toilet paper, you may not love this stuff. I'm more concerned about our environmental footprint, so this is great for us. The up front cost is a little more than what we would normally pay, but when I factor in all of the last minute trips to a corner pharmacy store where toilet paper is kind of super expensive, I think it ends up working out in our favor.
We try to make sure that given the choice between plastic packaging and glass packaging, that we choose glass (or paper when it's available). We save all of our glass jars. I use them for paint water, paintbrush storage, bead storage, and for food storage. We also have some set aside for a local flower farmer in town who re-uses glass jars for her bouquets.
We have two large black plastic bins that we keep on our porch during spring, summer and fall. We move them into our basement during the winter months. They're full of dirt, garbage and worms. Vermi-composting (or worm farming) is pretty easy once you get into a routine. We drilled lots of holes around the bottom and top sides, and on the bottom and in the lid of two plastic black totes (these aren't considered a single use plastic - we've had them for years and expect to have them for many more). We throw scrap paper, junk mail, toilet paper rolls, coffee and filters, egg shells and produce waste in them, and the worms do their work. This year we started freezing our compost before putting it in the bin, which causes it to break down faster. This is helpful with fruits, since they'll usually attract fruit flies to your compost. We don't seem to have that problem as long as we pop the compost in the freezer first.
I carry a metal water bottle and a metal thermos style bottle for coffee. While I love to grab a cup of coffee to go at my favorite local coffee shop, those plastic lids, plastic lined paper cups and styrofoam cups just make me feel guilty. There's no reason to grab to go coffee when I have a perfectly capable coffee maker at home. Ditto for the bottled water. I have a filtered pitcher at home and I can't taste the difference. I compromise and still support my local coffee shop by stopping in when I can for an in house cup of jo.
PS - there are some affiliate links in this post that I may receive some compensation for if you end up purchasing. All of the links are for products that I've used, currently use and totally love. If I linked to it, it's because I stand behind it and we have it in our home. Let me know if you have any questions or tips and tricks on how we can do even better!