Life in the Walker household can be, shall we say, a little nuts, which is ironic and also somewhat confusing because this is a houseful of introverts, although Abby is starting to show some alarming extroverted tendencies. (But that might just be because she’s a teenager.) It became apparent, though, that a family meeting was in order soon after I found out that my project had been chosen this year on the blog – it might be my gig, but we’re all in this together, and I wanted to make sure everyone was on the same page and feeling okay-ish about what I’d signed us up for. And my first impression was that the girls were having a hard time wrapping their minds around it.
This past weekend, we finally found ourselves thrown together without any outside distractions – my darling cousin Seth and his darling fiancé Ashley tied the knot, and we had some time to kill between the ceremony and reception. So I was like, Hey, family, let’s talk about this zero waste thing, and they were all like, Um, okay.
And I’m glad we did, because what I thought were problems weren’t actually problems at all. They were mostly worried about boundaries (both product-wise and personally. I promised I wouldn’t spill our entire life story, and they were relieved. It seemed like the wrong time to tell them we’re boring and no one cares about those details anyway) and the expectations that would be placed on them specifically.
I was surprised to learn that Eric has no qualms and basically gave me a free pass to do whatever needed to be done. I figured he’d have some reservations. I mean, I would, if the situation was reversed.
That alarmed the girls more than anything – I think they were looking to Dad as the voice of reason. (Well, he IS the adult supervision in this house.) What about toilet paper? they asked. Look, I said, we’re not even going to worry about that right now. Let’s talk about food first. What are we willing to give up?
That ended up being the wrong question to ask, so I tried again: Let’s say you have a bye on one packaged item. What do you want to keep?
Eric: Bread. Johanna: Ice cream. Abby: Cereal.
All in rapid fire. These are all things very close to their hearts, apparently.
I did not pick anything, since … I don’t know, this is all my fault, really, so it seems like a reasonable punishment. 😉 And to be honest, what I would choose is chocolate, and I can get that in bulk. So I’m good, really.
Once we had our no-zone established, we discussed other foods that regularly make it into the cart: What about chips and crackers? They agreed they could live with alternatives, liked popcorn and kale chips. What about peanut butter? Plain ol’ nut butter from the bulk aisle is fine. Olive oil? Eric suggested a little hole-in-the-wall natural foods place I’d totally forgotten about.
By the time we’d finished, I felt like we had a pretty good plan in place, which is basically to work on food packaging first, concentrating on what’s not on their no-zone list. That’s a lot of freedom, really.
And a great jumping-off point for other packaging in the rest of the house. (Hello, laundry room and bathrooms. THAT should be interesting…)
Bonus content alert: Last Friday, Eric and I went out with some of his coworkers to a restaurant with a rather lovely happy hour menu. I knew there would be leftovers involved (uh, because I purposely ordered some cheese fries for the girls to bring home), so I packed a couple of Eric’s reusable lunch containers into a small bag and brought that with us. One of the wives even helped me put said fries in a container, joking about blocking the view of the waiter with her jacket. (Although, honestly, no one seemed to care one way or another what I was up to.)
Anyway, that led to a conversation about minimalism and zero waste, and I was relieved that no one tried to pick it apart (you know, like: Do you have furniture? Do your kids go along with that? You drive a car and use water, right, so you suck). One youngish guy even quizzed us about it, trying to figure out how he could incorporate zero waste into his own routine. He had some great suggestions for us, too – it takes a village, really – and it was all just very good for my self-esteem.
I’m thinking that I need to have some sort of emergency kit set up in the car, with a reusable container for take-out or leftovers, real silverware and napkins, and a glass jar and reusable straw for that inevitable iced vanilla latte. I’m pretty sure I have everything I need already … it’s just putting it together and actually using it.
Next up: You guys, I’m itching to try some zero waste DIY projects – I have a whole Pinterest board devoted to this, some of which seems more practical than others. I think we’ll do that.