All aboard the zero waste train!

I can’t remember when it was, exactly, that I was introduced to the effects of global warming on Polar bears. It wasn’t until I learned about this that I started to care about climate change. I don’t think it had as much to do with the Polar bears, themselves, as much as it changed an abstract thought into a concrete fact. It suddenly became clear that what I do every day has an impact on the rest of the world. Because of my anxiety, I have quite literally thought about the Polar bears every single day ever since. When I leave the water running, I see the image of an emaciated bear. Same when I see trees being cut down or when we go on long car trips. It’s just who I am and how my mind works. The Polar Bear has become my symbol of change. However, through all these years I didn’t actually make any significant changes. More images of animals suffering and whales’ stomachs exploding with plastic haunted me but there was so much I needed to do that it became overwhelming and so I didn’t do anything at all. All it took was meeting some like minded friends a couple years ago and maybe one conversation to get the ball rolling and, boy, is it rolling now!

In honor of Earth day I put together a list of the first 15 zero waste changes we made that didn’t break the bank or drastically change our lifestyle but have made a significant difference to the waste we produce in our home. I’m not saying these are absolutely the first things everyone should do but it worked for us and I want to share in case someone is stuck in the same predicament and doesn’t know where to begin….

1. Reusable shopping bags

Have enough to realistically carry all your items and keep some in the car at all times for impromptu shopping.

2. Homemade liquid hand soap

Purchasing these every other week became a huge waste. Homemade is Easy, lasts a long time, works better than store bought, and cheaper. I buy Dr. Bronners pure castille bar soap with Lavender (in paper packaging). Using a cheese grater, grate 8oz- which is about a bar and a half- into a bowl. Meanwhile, bring a gallon of distilled water to a boil (The only way to get distilled water around here   is in plastic gallons so I just boil filtered water and it works fine for us but the recipe calls for distilled to be safe). Pour the boiling water onto the grated soap and mix with a whisk until there are no more chunks and the mixture is translucent. Then just let it sit for 12-15 hours mixing once or twice in the first 5 hours. It will look watery at first but suddenly at 12 hours it’s a solid jelly-like consistency. Use a hand mixer to make it smooth and break up the chunks of jelly then pour into dispensers/storage containers (we use mason jars). You’ll have to leave a little space at the top of whatever you’re storing it in so that you can shake It up again before pouring into soap dispensers as it settles back into Jelly after a few days.

3. Cloth Napkins

We purchase ours but you can make them at home if you’re a savvy needle worker!

4. Stainless Steel Straws

Love these!! The goal is to remember to carry them with us when we go out so that we can use instead of plastic when needed.

5. Stainless Steel/Glass water bottles

Single use water bottles are just the worst.

6. Homemade body wash in a glass dispenser

Super moisturizing and plenty of variety so you can find what works best for your body type. We use this with a wash cloth instead of any harsh soaps.

7. Wool dryer balls

Replaces dryer sheets without any problem. Just be sure to not overly dry your clothes as that creates more static!

8. Replace laundry detergent

This took a little getting used to because my husband really enjoys the strong smell of clean laundry and we switched to Crystal Wash reusable balls which leaves the clothes smelling faintly like essential oils. Other options are soap nuts, laundry stick, or homemade powder detergent.

9. Homemade body butter

I’ve made some for family and friends and it has been a huge hit! I use this recipe for whipped body butter but there are a TON of options online and they generally require coconut oil, almond oil (can be replaced with avocado, jojoba, or grapeseed oil), shea butter or cocoa butter- or both! This one is thick and on the greasier side but I like to put it on after a shower and let it sit for 10 minutes then pat dry with a damp towel. My skin has never been softer so it gets the job done and there’s no waste!

10. Opting for glass over plastic

Honey, vinegar, peanut butter, and yogurt all have glass contained options. They’re usually slightly more expensive (sometimes only a few cents) but I had to change my mindset. Plastic is not an option for us anymore so it’s just a matter of choosing between the glass options that are available. A few dollars more, if you can afford it, is worth it. Remember, Plastic NEVER GOES AWAY.

11. Shopping bulk food

Take your mason jars or cloth bags to your local Whole Foods, Sprout, Fresh Thyme, or wherever else has bulk items and fill them up instead of using their plastic bags. Some places allow you to weigh your own tare and write in on a sticker and at others you have to take your jars to a register before filling to get your tare weight so just check with them first. Do it once and you’re already a pro (Tare= weight of the container. When checking out, they subtract tare from total weight so that you’re not paying extra for a heavier container).

12. Reusable produce bags

I HATE plastic produce bags. If I forget my reusable ones at home I just grab what I need without a bag at all. They’re wasteful and truly unnecessary. I’ve gotten so many compliments on these reusable ones! Bonus, they have tare already on the tag!

13. Bamboo

We switched to bamboo tableware for the kids. It’s sturdy, beautiful, and fully compostable!! We also switched out our Charmin toilet paper for Who Gives Crap bamboo toilet paper because store bought paper is packaged in a ridiculous amount of plastic and detrimental to our tree population. I’m pretty picky about my toilet paper and these work great! I will say, they don’t look as pretty- without pattern and dull in color, but you literally use it to wipe your butt so….

14. MY MOST FAVORITENorwex Cloths.

OMG the Norwex cloths. They are amazing! I can go an entire month without using a single paper towel. As a matter of fact, after I purchased them I had run out of paper towels and didn’t buy a new pack for 6 weeks. So a pack of Norwex has taken the place of kitchen cleaner, bathroom cleaner (I still use toilet cleaner but there are people who keep a cloth specifically for toilets so I’m working up to that!), window cleaner/polisher, stainless steel cleaner/polisher. I use it to clean our wood tables too but will use a separate oil/conditioner to keep it looking fresh. I have 4 EnviroCloths with Baclock and 3 window cloths because I like to always have one near by but you only need 2 enviro and 1 window if you’re trying to be minimal.

15. Forgo

There are so many things that we get just to get and could easily do without. Being aware, and making intentional choices about what comes home is important. We’ve started making our own granola/protein bars, cookies, and cakes to take the place of store bought snacks that come covered in plastic (and usually preservatives). We still have ways to go in this department but we’re getting there.

Keep in mind that it’s a process. Start with good intentions. Small changes lead to big progress. It took me a full year to start remembering my bags every time I leave the house. Sometimes I would remember them leaving the house but then forget them in the car! Or when I shopped bulk, I wouldn’t bring enough jars so I filled what I had then used plastic for the rest. When it comes to less waste every little bit helps. Would you like to swim in a pool of 10,000 pieces of garbage or 100? Neither sounds great but that’s not where we are right now so we have to do what we can with what he have where we are (Theodore Roosevelt). Happy Zero-Wasting!

p.s. If you have any awesome zero waste recipes, ideas, or blogs please share them with me!

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Nothing is actually better than Something

About a year ago I watched the documentary “The Minimalists”. Its all about these two friends who worked in the corporate world and, just like so many of us, lived and breathed work, money, and the general hustle. They talked about how they came to the realization that it just wasn’t bringing them joy and from there the journey to minimalism began. Obviously, it’s much more detailed and interesting but it was this documentary that spurred my year of personal growth.

Like I do, I watched the documentary and, literally, the moment it ended I was already filling bags and getting rid of ALL excess things. It clicked for me. Not only did I understand it but I knew that I needed it. One of the most significant things I’ve learned this year is how important support is. First of all, I have my husband who has always not only supported me as in “allowing” me to do things my way but if, after I explain the what and whys to him, it makes sense….he joins in on the fun (and sometimes sits back and laughs at how quickly things change around here). There is nothing better than truly having and being a partner to your partner. Beyond that, when I am interested in learning more about something and making life changes, I immerse myself in knowledge. I read the books, I watch the videos, I Listen to the podcasts, find like minded friends, and join support groups online. I rarely actually participate in these groups but knowing there are people out there more experienced than me is comforting. They provide excellent guidance to people who are taking the time to ask questions (that I get to read and learn from) and sometimes they’ll share relative articles that answer questions I didn’t even know I had. Knowing I don’t know everything about absolutely anything and constantly seeking information has opened up my world. I’ve found that people want to share their knowledge just to share it and make the world better. I am grateful for these people!

There is one question frequently asked to The Minimalists that I hear on their weekly podcasts and that is “How can you be a minimalist with kids?”. I am happy that they continued to answer this question week after week because it took months for it to really sink in for me. Basically, it’s no different than being a minimalist without kids. You go through all things and get rid of the things that don’t bring you joy or add value to your life. The trick is, though, that the “you” in that scenario is the child. It’s not ok for me to go through their things and toss out the things I don’t like (those God forsaken tiny shopkins!) if it still brings joy to them. The good thing to know, though, is that kids are smarter and more intuitive than we give them credit for. A couple times a month I’ll give the kids a bag (reusable or a box now that zero waste is a part of my journey!) and ask them to work together and put all the things away that they think they don’t care for anymore or that someone who has no toys would really appreciate more than they do now. The only rule is they have to ask each other before putting anything in the bag or else Medina will put all of Amaya’s favorite toys in the bag and vice versa. They always come back with a full bag that they’re happy to part with. On more than one occasion I’ve had to take a toy out because it held sentimental value to me. I held on to it for a bit longer then, after seeing it just sit on my dresser for a few months, I realized it doesn’t serve any real purpose so I took a picture then got rid of it when I was ready. When I was ready. Minimalism means something different to everyone. It absolutely should not feel torturous. It should feel like a weight is lifted to bring you more joy. It takes time and can be done in small steps. Over the year I’ve learned that something can seem important today and that same thing is worth donating next week. So it is a constant evaluation of the things coming into and leaving your home…..or your life. Minimalism applies to people and situations too. If it/he/she isn’t ADDING value to your life or is something/someone that brings you joy then it’s time to part with it/them.

It’s taken a full year for me to get to a point where I truly, deep down, don’t desire anything more than what I need. I didn’t think I would ever get to this point (and still have ways to go, I think). For example, My wardrobe now consists of 2 black pants, 4 tshirts, 2 hoodies, 2 nice tops, 2 long sweaters, 1 skirt, and a pair of jeans. Granted, I’m a stay at home mom so this wouldn’t work for everyone but it works for me. I wash every morning and start again. For the kids: I took them shopping and let them pick out a few of their favorite things at a good quality store. So they were a little more expensive ($8 for a tiny tshirt) but since they’re only getting a few tops for the season I want them to be good quality and something they love (think sparkles, sequins, and unicorns). Their wardrobe now consists of 8 shirts, 2 sweaters, 2 dresses, and 5 pants. They don’t like jeans so I don’t buy jeans. Even with just these clothes, they wear the same 2 shirts 90% of the time. They have no desire (and therefore no need) for anything more!

So…What’t the point?

The idea here is, especially for me, that I spend too much of my life worrying about my things (cleaning them, organizing them, buying them, etc. ) and not enough time doing the things i love and add value to my life and the lives of those around me. Also, I am an anxious person and nothing triggers my anxiety quite like a mess and when I’m anxious I have less patience, and when I have less patience this house is not as peaceful and joyful as it can be. When my to do list is short (or even non existent!) then I have all the time in the world to just sit and play with the kids. 9 out of 10 times I say no to playing (or spending time with Sameer) because of household chores that need to be done. Less stuff=less chores. Less chores=more time with my loves. More time with my loves=more joy for all of us…and who doesn’t need a little more joy in their life?