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As my zero waste endeavor continues, I’ve been taking note in my home of the wasteful things I’ve been using all my life and how easy the solutions to them are. Here are 14 wasteful things I’ve taken note of in my home and am on my way to eliminating.
- Bottled water. This is an absurdity and no one should be succumbing to the temptation of bottled water. Watch this short film about bottled water. Hopefully you’ll never want to touch a bottle of water again. There’s no lack of tap or fountains from which we can refill our own bottle.
- Paper Towels. Hang a towel near each sink to remind yourself to dry your hands with it instead of paper towels. Make sure to have plenty of rags on hand in the kitchen, bathroom, and near your cleaning supplies to remind you to use rags. Paper towels can be handy for gross messes but rags do the same job and can be washed in bleach or vinegar to kill bacteria.
- Aluminum Foil. Aluminum foil makes a lot of things easier – grilling, baking, and storing food. But why waste money on it when you can buy reusable parchment baking paper and thermal food covers.
- Ziploc bags. Very handy for travel and storage, but reusable sandwich bags are cuter and less wasteful. There are a lot of great ones on Etsy.
- Mail. You can try the App PaperKarma to opt out of receiving mail. What I ended up doing instead was to call the phone numbers provided on the mail every time I sat down to go through it. It was not as painful or time consuming as one would assume.
- Food packaging. Buy in bulk and take your own containers to buy food in. When grocery shopping, bring your own bags.
- Trash bags. If you recycle, your need for trash bags will decrease. Make sure you are using reusable bags (like large burlap sacks) for your recycling and to dispose of your trash.
- Toilet paper. So, it is very brave of people to go to rags instead of using toilet paper. I’m definitely not there yet. I still use toilet paper, though I have been buying eco-friendly toilet paper made out of recycled materials. Most major department stores have this option. Also consider using a handkerchief to blow your nose.
- Q-tips. Using a Q-tip in your ear removes the natural wax that is in there to keep out water and protect the ear. Professionals agree, they are not healthy. Wash outside of your ear canal with a rag and stop using these things. They’re pointless.
- Cotton balls. What do we really use these things for anyway that can’t be handled with a wash cloth? Removing nail polish? Dedicate a rag to nail polish removal. Facial toner? Reconsider your use of facial products or apply with a reusable cleansing pad. Aside from just being wasteful, the cotton industry uses 2.5 percent of the world’s cultivated land yet uses 16 percent of the world’s insecticides—more than any other single major crop.
- Disposable Razors. Invest in a razor that only needs the blade changed.
- Tooth brushes. Tooth brushes as wasteful may not have occurred to you, but think about this – fifty million pounds of toothbrushes go into landfills every single year. Dentists recommend you replace them every three months to maintain a healthy mouth. Consider using recyclable toothbrushes that are already made out of recycled material.
- Batteries. Use appliances that plug in or have rechargeable batteries.
- Disposable cleaning products. Swiffer mops, throw-away vacuum bags (that seem to have gone out of style), anti bacterial wipes (a favorite of mine, sadly), among others are very tempting because they are easy – clean, and throw away. But so wasteful! What’s so hard about clean, then wash?
Many of these things are great modern conveniences, but are they really necessary? No, they’re not – and in fact, they’re wasteful. Stop buying these things to fill landfills and keep money in your wallet instead.
The beginning stages of Zero Waste are hard. I think at this point it is a matter of developing habits and breaking the old habits.
Remembering to bring my bottle for water and coffee every day has been an issue. Again, a habit that needs to be formed.
Not using paper towels has been an adjustment. In my first Zero Waste article, I said I was going to keep a roll for an emergency. Well, I didn’t – and the emergency occurred. My sweet standard poodle, Gunther, puked big time on the floor. I had to wipe it up with a hand towel and shake the puke off of it outside. Kind of disgusting. Then, I had to wash the pukey towel in my washing machine. But you know what, a little bleach and that towel was as good as new.
Junk mail is still arriving – I was implementing certain websites and apps when I discovered that I could get a much easier and quicker response by just calling the company. So far, everyone I have spoken to has been extremely accomodating and polite. My new habit I have formed is to go through each envelope and take the time to call the number. Usually takes no more than two minutes to do this. Hopefully in a couple months, I won’t be receiving junk mail.
Let’s move on to the heavier issues –
Fast food. I try my best to eat healthy but unfortunately, I am on the road a lot and cheap food is my downfall. I know to combat this I should pack my own lunch but I am kind of a lazy person and food preparation is not my favorite past time.
Buying second hand – I have had good success with thrifting, as seen here, but I won’t lie – I succumbed to a couple department store sales this past week.
Refusing plastic bags is easy when I am only purchasing a few items but I frequently forget my reusable bags in the car until it’s too late. I can be much better at this.
Composting is easy! Just do not do what I did with fish carcasses. Bury your fish carcass in the garden. If you have a small sized compost like I do, it will stink like nothing else you have ever smelled.
Recycling is easy! Divide your glass, plastic, paper, and metal into bins or bags and you’re all done.
Had a house guest who asked, “You don’t have a TV, do you?” Nope, I sure don’t, because televisions are lame.
At one time in my life, I was quite obsessed with never wearing the same outfit twice. This lasted a brief two years as I realized it was not only timely to maintain but also costly, even if I limited myself to thrift store and resale shops. I felt that in order to save money, time and effort, I had to break up with fashion – but while pouring over my favorite fashion blogs and magazines, I realized I was wrong. Fashion and I could still be best friends.
Instead of taking my fashion advice from models, heiresses, and actresses – I decided to move up the chain and take advice from the people who were really in charge – artists and fashion designers. I quickly noticed a trend among the creative and the genius – they didn’t feel the need to be on trend every second. Indeed, some of these big dogs have been wearing a version of the SAME OUTFIT since 1965.
Let us begin with one of the biggest powerhouses in fashion: Karl Lagerfeld. Has anyone ever seen him without his signature suit jacket and tie? I’m thinking he was born in this outfit and will most certainly be buried in it. While Karl is definitely a controversial figure in regards to some of his opinions on beauty (that I don’t agree with), he is at the top of the Fashion Food Chain and I’m down with his look.
Yoko Ono has been wearing a version of the suit and fedora/boater hat since she came on the scene in the 60s. Forty years later, she is still rocking this look. It seems to work for every occasion – a walk in the park, a visit to a gallery, stage performances, etc.
Donatella Versace, easily one of the most recognizable people in fashion. While she doesn’t have a super strict uniform, she is usually wearing some form of the little black dress.
Frida Kahlo frequently wore traditional Mexican dress.
Other people who have successfully created their own uniform: Carrie Donovan, Steve Jobs, Andy Warhol, Mark Zuckerburg, Marc Jacobs, Carolina Herrerra.
All of these people who wear the uniform have become comfortable in who they are and how they want the world to see them – not only that, but they’ve also moved on from the shallow consumption of trends to something more concrete and meaningful in fashion and in life: individuality.
What to consider when constructing your uniform:
- What do I want to convey? Show the world who you are through your clothes.
- What items do I already have that I love wearing? Use what you already have and love. If you find yourself wearing the same pair of jeans day in and day out, start with those and work your way up from there.
- Can I easily take this look from day to night? Would switching out your shoes instantly upgrade the look? While not necessary, it is a plus.
- Accessorize. Yes, I’m advocating minimalism – but you need some bomb accessories to make your look legitimate. Take Karl for example. His necklaces and dark sunglasses definitely ramp up the suit.
- Flatter yourself. Wear what you love and what you think flatters your color, your shape, and your personality.
What’s been my uniform as of late? Gray drawstring pants, moccasins, loose white crop, and a poncho. Albeit, I have three ponchos at this point to mix it up a little, but I don’t have to think about getting dressed when leaving the house. What am I conveying with this look? Comfort and a definite attitude of DILIGAF. At this point in my life, other things have become more important than constantly worrying that I’ve worn the same outfit two days in a row.
Don’t break up with fashion- break up with waste.
(this post is more materialist than it is minimalist)
As you know, I’m an advocate of shopping second hand. Not only are you buying things much cheaper than what you would in retail, your money stays within the community, cuts down on manufacturing demands, and you’re recycling. It’s green. Super green. Also, if you like shopping and hunting, I consider thrift store shopping a good combination. The thrill of the chase. Sometimes you make a killing, sometimes you don’t.
So, I wanted to share with you some recent finds I’m particularly proud of:
The pouf. I’ve been debating on buying a couple of these for my yoga studio but they are SO PRICEY. When I found this one for a mere $40, I was thrilled because I had been looking at prices more like this:
I love throws and especially anything that has a Southwestern feel to it. Most blankets/throws like this cost a minimum of $50. I bought this one for $10. No holes, no stains. For the win.
When I picked up this poncho, I thought I was looking at another Southwestern throw. When I unfolded it, I realized it was a poncho. I love ponchos. The poncho has been part of my daily uniform for about a year now. The people selling this had it labeled as a RUG. I stole it for $12. It’s woven, no stains, very durable. Quality poncho right here. Oh, also the mirror was a thrift store find – $19.
That’s all for now. Stay tuned for more exciting, thriftaholic posts.