Waste Not

There is a slight gap between my last entry and the one I now type. Despite having pages worth of topics to write on, I knew I had to be patient until I was certain of which one sparked enough within me to be written of next. I have decided that instead of writing about things I 100% already comprehend and have accomplished, it was time for another one of the descents into new challenges that bring me so much joy.

While my Bucketlist never had a “Become Zero-Waste” written on it, the idea was enmeshed with other goals (I’d simply never heard of the concept at that point). When I grew into a minimalist lifestyle, other things began to bloom simultaneously. For me, personally it led directly into discovering healthier living, holistic remedies and Ayurveda,and environmental awareness (recycling, chemical free living, and reduced consumption). This may seem like alot of changes, but for me and my “extreme” ways, it was an exciting pool of information I couldn’t sponge up quickly enough.

After minimizing, I became a vegan, and then a raw vegan (or plant-based life style – more on this another entry). From there I undertook ridding my home of all chemicals (including plastics). Like most things I do, I didn’t swap out one thing at a time or replace this chemical cleanser for that pricey, more “natural” brand. Just in learning more about the labels on the things we already commonly used, I instantly began to mistrust just about anything that was for profit on a shelf. On top of this, as I tend to be a frugal person anyway, I would never have justified a $7 bundle of sustainable toilet paper in our budget. I was also delving a bit into homesteading at the time (making my own bread for my husband, learning about canning, scratch cooking,sewing, candle-making, etc) and so it was a natural leap for me to think to replace everything we were currently using with a “DIY” and plant-based alternative.

I began by riding my bike to the library (yes, I was cutting down on my car emissions as well – one day I even walked, and no it wasn’t close). I borrowed books such as “Clean House, Clean Planet” by Karen Logan and by watching documentaries such as Chemerical (this used to be free on Netflix, but I’ve linked you the .99 rental here), Addicted to Plastic (free) and more. I began to learn how to recycle (more complicated than what I was ever expecting!), and naturally began to include zero-waste living – without realizing that’s what I was doing or that it had a name. By making my own cleaning solutions, I was no longer purchasing plastic containers every time we needed more. By recycling, we had significantly reduced our trash. We were researching strongly how to work composting into an apartment lifestyle, though hadn’t quite made that work for us to date, sadly (will revisit this). In looking into reducing and reusing, I replaced my cling/plastic wrap with a homemade beeswax muslin cover as an affordable diy swap for a product called Abeego. I stopped answering the question “Paper or plastic?” while in the check-out line, because I was now bringing my own reusable cloth bags instead. I had learned enough sewing at this point to whip up some simple muslin drawstring bags so that I could discontinue use of the produce baggies I didn’t use to think twice about. I had replaced all chemical products, including all cleaners, handsoap, dishwasher detergent, and laundry soap. Dryer sheets became wool balls we felted ourselves from an old sweater of my husbands I had accidentally shrunk anyway (whoops), and some wool yarn.  Paper towels became cloth wipes when I used pinking shears to cut squares from some old bed sheets. Paper napkins became lovely cloth napkins that made every meal feel more like a treat. Ziploc bags were now cute reusable bags I’d ordered from Etsy. Shaving cream from the store was gone. Chemical laden shampoo and conditioner began the first of many efforts into “no-poo” (or no shampoo). I even replaced purchasing kitty litter by buying large bags of wheat berries from the bulk feed store, grinding in a blender and mixing with some baking soda for odor control. Below I’ve included some photos I found from when we were first pursuing this process about three years ago, and may go more into each recipe/swap at a later entry. Some of these photos show the products we originally used and what we replaced them with. The thousands of chemicals and amount of plastic we banished from our home was staggering to realize, when I consider what we mindlessly had been consuming.

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Yes, I even put my husband to work on the wool balls. He has always very supportive of something that became important to me. One thing that he simply put his foot down on was the idea of family cloth (a cloth swap for toilet paper). Others I’ve discussed the idea with are often repulsed by the idea or say it’s “far too extreme.” Because my husband was so gracious and helpful  on all of these other changes, I felt it was more important to respect his emotional line in the sand on the one swap that made him uncomfortable – and in the scope of things, we had already changed so much and reduced our footprint greatly as it was (occasionally, very occasionally, my personality can be okay with baby steps). 🙂 That being said, IF you lived alone or were on a zero-waste journey as a family, family cloth is something I’d strongly recommend you read into! One-use paper is doing so much harm to our environment. At the very least, just give it a Google,  as everyone deserves to be informed.

NOW – backstory being completed, I have some confessions to make. Some of these swaps did not work for us in the long term.Revisiting old recipes and trying new ones, as well as delving in even further to the zero waste idea, is what brings me to this blog post. Some things simply didn’t work for my husband, as this was not a passion for him. Some things got lost due to life changes – for awhile I traveled for work and was never even at our home except about two nights on the weekend. I had to live in model apartments where no trash cans even existed, let alone recycling bins (fortunately this was only for about six months). Lately I’ve been realizing how off track we’d become, and decided it’s time to refocus.

Personal Products: For example, no sooner did I use the shaving cream that I realized the ingredients in the given recipe were too thick for my razor. My husband was even open enough to order a straight razor, but let’s just say that tool is not for anyone less than a lumberjack. At the end of the day, not shaving was simply not an option, so I put aside that recipe and started just using whatever natural soap I had on hand for myself, and Justin continued to buy his Barbasol. We did not go back to disposable razors, though we use the kind with replaceable cartridges. This is something I need to revisit and simply find a different recipe for. The original, as I recall it, included coconut oil and shea butter. Both of those are just too thick for the blades of a razor head. I’ve tried just coconut oil, but even that is too thick and not water-soluble enough to not clog a razor head. Also, I had created some natural (aluminum-free) deodorant for my husband, Justin. I have not ever used deodorant as, genetically, I don’t sweat in that way, so I don’t have much to compare it to. However, he seemed to like it when I made it and I recall that it came out with an excellent consistency like the store bought products. At this time he was still using up the remainder of his old chemical ones, and the natural one got pushed to the side and never really used. The truth is, he isn’t as much of a believer in the natural and environmental need for things, and so while he tries to participate to indulge me (which I so appreciate), I can’t really expect it to stick for him if it’s not a mission he also holds in his heart. I may revisit the deodorant subject with him at a later point, maybe when he’s beginning to run low to see if he’s open to trying it again. Until then, I have other things I can focus on. A final example is the toothpaste. Oi, but that was bitter. This was my own fault, as I tried to do a more affordable swap for the Xylitol, a natural sweetner. Toothpaste is something that I 100% plan to revisit and soon, as it should be a very simple swap in comparison to some. Instead I continued to use the natural brand called “Earthpaste,” which I loved for a few years, but felt in the long term it stopped working as well for me. Currently, the simplicity of Eco-Dent works well for me.It is a natural toothpowder, vegan, and cruelty-free. Justin gets a separate name brand, as he doesn’t have any interest in trying the natural kind for now. The tube lasts a lot longer with just one person using it, at least.

Kitty Litter: This is another we discontinued, sadly. I recently asked my husband what he didn’t like about it and, while it clumped well, it tended to need the whole pan changed after a matter of a few days, rather than a few weeks like with store bought litters. For me, the grinding of wheat berries became very time consuming and frustrating. At the start, I used to spend time making full batches so we never ran out. This method was incredibly cost effective and far healthier, but it just became overwhelming when we’d get too busy and be out of litter when we needed it, not to mention that the dust it created in our little apartment was irritating. We’ve long since been using store-bought kitty litter again. Because caring for the kitty box is Justin’s particular chore, I don’t feel it’s fair to revisit a swap he feels made his day especially inconvenient. What I liked best about this swap was how sustainable it was, as well as that I did not have to rely on a Walmart for something I needed. The failure of this swap was mostly on my part, and how inconvenient it became for me in the every day. Because the above  reasons are all still important to me, I may revisit other options I recall reading about at the time. But again, if you live alone and have buckets of time on your hands… this was an incredible change-over. I really loved using the natural kitty litter – just didn’t love the big bags and having to make it all the time.

Reusable Items: Honesty hurts sometimes, but here we go. The muslin bags I made got use for about a year or so, but I just couldn’t get over the icky feeling of putting nuts or vegetables in a bag that I could see specks of things from the dryer or cat hair on. Simple, and to the point. The Abeego swap seemed okay, but often they weren’t used at all, and I couldn’t help but doubt the sealing ability of something I made myself (beeswax seal or not). Instead, we mainly just use the glass storage containers with the BPA free lid (though we do have some cling wrap on hand that receives occasional use – we’ve had the same roll for about a year). For these items, I really think I need to just bite the bullet to save up a bit of money to buy something professionally done. In my opinion, these individual things failed in the long run because they were the seldom few I should have shelled out to purchase, rather than attempt to make myself.

Recycling: And here’s the big one. When we first began our sorting and recycling, we lived in a larger city that was five minutes from a community recycling center. It was an excellent setup! You simply drove up and tossed items into a huge  public recycling bin. For items that couldn’t be disposed of like cardboards and cartons, there was another sorting center equally nearby where you could dispose of chemical cleaners, batteries, electronics, etc. We had a pretty small footprint at that point, and the only inconvenience was storing the bags or boxes until we got them to the recycling centers. Since we’ve moved however, I’ve done alot of research and there is simply nothing of the sort out in this area. The closest thing to a sorting center is many cities over, and our apartment is even smaller now and less able to hold bags of recycling for that long. I’m pretty disappointed to find that our new city has so little set up for public recycling if you aren’t lucky enough to live in a house. The amount of waste we’re now creating is causing me alot of distress. If you’re not aware of how bad the problem is, check out the episode currently on Netflix of Morgan Spurlock’s show “Inside Man” regarding garbage. There’s an excellent book that got me started back then, which I will link if I can remember what it’s called at some point. 🙂

So what’s the next challenge?

You already know me well enough to know…this irritates me. We still use the natural cleaners that have worked best for us (sometimes it takes trying several recipes before one works well in your opinion). I still make the laundry soap, and I even make the dog’s food. When we moved, the cloth towels and napkins sadly got put in the trash, but I now have lots of material from old baby blankets and towels that were given to me ready for pinking. With that being said, it will be my intention to rectify the few things we’ve slid away from, whether it be trying a different option or simply trying again. We are real people, and real life things have happened that caused changes to what used to be our almost perfect system. Moves, job changes, city changes… but what’s important is that we continue to be conscious of our lifestyles and our impact. That was the book – now I remember (this is how pregnancy brain works, you know). “No Impact Man” is the name of the book I referenced above. It was a one year experiment (and you know how I love extreme experiments) on living simply, reducing waste, minimizing our footprint, non-consumption, and living sustainably. There is also a documentary – check it out! So…onto the changes! My main objective currently will be to rectify the areas we use to be better about (even if I have to bake someone a casserole once a week to let me share their recycling bin), and also to delve more deeply into the idea of  zero waste living.

With zero-waste living comes more bulk bin shopping, more scratch cooking, less eating out, etc. These things I have touched on with my other changes, certainly, but never have I focused on the effort itself as an idea of its own. I’ve been spending time learning about what this sort of conscious effort will mean, and look forward to detailing for you the changes it will make for our every day lives (and perhaps what money it will end up saving). So the following is a mini-bucketlist for my environmental efforts, to which I will consider an accountability list of sorts to my readers of what I’ll be working on (posting about here and there):

-Attempt another toothpaste/toothpowder recipe once Eco-Dent is used up.

-Find a way to compost and recycle in the new city

-Remake the cloth wipes and find more cloth napkins from the thrift store

-Purchase mason jars and artisan-made produce bags for bulk bin shopping and  food storage.

-Continue working on no-poo (halfway there!) hair care.

-Begin to replace typical recipes with scratch cooking/zero waste recipes.

I have a feeling the only thing that will remain the same is… you guessed it… the toilet paper.

With an open heart,

K.

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