Wasteful Shit In Your Home & Useful Alternatives.

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Food packaging. Buy in bulk and take your own containers to buy food in. When grocery shopping, bring your own bags.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. Disposable Razors. Invest in a razor that only needs the blade changed.
  12. 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.
  13. Batteries. Use appliances that plug in or have rechargeable batteries.
  14. 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.


Zero Waste Obstacles & Successes.

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.

Easy stuff:

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.

Noteworthy experiences:

Had a house guest who asked, “You don’t have a TV, do you?” Nope, I sure don’t, because televisions are lame.

Catching My Dinner.

If you already have a pole and line and a place that you can go, fishing is an inexpensive form of recreation and a great way to get free meals. It’s also a relatively easy hobby to learn, as long as you get casting down – I have tried teaching it on multiple occasions and all it takes is a little practice.

Fish are a great source of protein and are low in saturated fat. If you catch your fish straight from the water, you don’t have to wonder about where your fish came from. Fresh wild fish tastes very different from frozen, canned, and farm-raised fish. By different, I mean better. I also sincerely believe that knowing what it takes to get food on a plate by yourself is a valuable life lesson.

A white bass.

A white bass.

With all that said, here is the first white bass I’m ever going to eat. Unfortunately, the fishing was slow today and I didn’t catch anything. I was lucky that my partner landed this one and was generous enough to give it to me. One fish is barely enough to make a meal for one person but I didn’t want to waste it.

photo 2

Fillets in the jar – the jar was previously an applesauce jar that I’m reusing for food storage.

I managed to get two decent fillets out of this one. Filleting fish is probably the only other learning curve to catching fish but there are a myriad of instructional videos on the internet to help. For white bass, they recommend removing the red section of meat – apparently it doesn’t do much for the flavor – but I hated wasting all the meat so I left it on. The guts went to Gunther as a treat and the rest of the fish went into my compost bin. To store the fillets until I’m ready to cook them tonight, I put them in a jar with water and placed it in the fridge. If you have a decent catch at the end of the day, any meat that isn’t going to be immediately used and can be frozen for another night.

If you’ve never fished before, here are some steps you can take to start:

  1. Get some fishing gear. Don’t make things complicated – all you need is a fishing pole, some lures, some hooks, and a stringer to keep your fish on. You don’t have to buy bait – lift up a couple rocks, gather some worms, or catch crickets and grasshoppers. Fish actually prefer the latter and it’s cheaper.
  2. Find a place to go. Lakes and rivers are public waters and most have accesses you can fish from.
  3. Learn the regulations. Buy a fishing license. There are rules about what fish you can keep, how many, and what size. Learn these or you may be paying off a citation in the future.
  4. Just do it. Experience is the best teacher. Cast the bait in the water and wait. My advice is, if you’re a first time fisher-person, find someone who already knows the sport so they can show you the ropes. Seniors are invaluable when it comes to things like this. Plus, you will make a new friend.

In conclusion, save money on food and entertainment and go fishing.

“You know when they have a fishing show on TV? They catch the fish and then let it go. They don’t want to eat the fish, they just want to make it late for something.”

– Mitch Hedberg

How To Get Organized – A Zero Waste Friendly Version.

An organized corner of my cabin.

An organized corner of my cabin.

When I read articles on getting organized, I’m frustrated that they advocate the throwing away of items and don’t emphasize recycling, reuse, and my favorite – selling. So I’ve decided to write my own ‘get organized’ how-to article. Enjoy.

Start by choosing the space you want to organize. A space can be as big as an entire room or as small as your desk.  If you hate organizing, do one space a day. Don’t burn out by trying to do everything at once.

Make FOUR piles. I like using trash bags or laundry baskets to sort the piles.

  1. The ‘doesn’t belong here’ pile. Anything in the space that needs to be in another space goes in this pile. You will be tempted to move things as you find them – don’t. Wait until you are organizing the space it belongs in to put it where it belongs.
  2. Donate pile. Anything you don’t want that can’t be easily sold, put in this pile. This pile also includes items you want to give away to specific people
  3. Yard Sale pile. In this pile, put items you think can be sold in a yard sale, at the pawn shop, or some other way, like on craigslist or Facebook.
  4. Recycle pile. If it’s paper, plastic, glass, metal, tin, cardboard – it can be recycled.

There is NO throw away pile unless the item absolutely cannot be composted, recycled, donated, sold, or given away. If the item does not fall into any of these categories, then you can throw it away.

There is also no ‘what if’ pile. If you have to hold an item and think about it, it needs to go. If the item is sentimental and not important enough to have on display, find a home for it. Otherwise, it does not belong in your home.

DO NOT think you need to create more storage space by buying things. This is wrong. Before you think about creating more storage within your home, you need to go through the process of organizing every space. Then, once you’re finished, you can evaluate what kind of storage you need and how to implement it. Beware of buying new containers – they can encourage you to buy more, waste more, and create more clutter.

There should be no junk drawers in your home– just drawers for miscellaneous items you use occasionally. If you have ‘junk’ because ‘maybe’ you ‘need’ it, suck it up and put it in a pile.

Bonus! Organizing your car:

Immediately put the items you need to donate and sell in your car. Any coupons you have should always be kept in your car as well. You need some sort of open container to keep in the trunk or backseat to house these items. Trash accumulates in a car very easily. Bring a bottle with you for water and coffee, refuse plastic and paper, and recycle anything that comes into your car instead of carelessly throwing it in the trash. Remember: when you throw something away, where you do think away is?

Happy organizing!