It’s the end of the year as we know it (and I feel fine)

I don’t like endings, but I do like the opportunity they provide for reassessing and planning. (You know what I do like? Middles. That’s where it’s at.) This has been an intense year for our family on the project front, and I have to be honest: I had no idea we could actually get this far in reducing our trash input/output. I mean, I thought we would accomplish something, or I wouldn’t have sent in my proposal for a zero waste year. But in the past, I’ve gotten so overwhelmed by the prospect — of how much there is to do and how hopeless it feels sometimes — that I’ve wanted to quit. And have quit. I guess the silver lining is that I’d always start again, but still. I don’t want to be a quitter.

So the project has been great in that we have to keep going, even when it seems like we’re not even making a dent in the world. Because I feel like you’re all rooting for us to succeed.

I don't really have art for this post, so here's a cute graphic I found online to help us reduce our single-use plastic consumption.

I don’t really have art for this post, so here’s a cute graphic I found online to help inspire us to reduce our single-use plastic consumption.

You have no idea how much that helps.

Looking back on previous posts, I see that some of what we’ve tried hasn’t worked and there have been some bumps in the road — homemade toothpaste (just because I’m afraid it’ll damage my teeth), dealing with Mr. Plastic at the meat counter, not always being able to find a zero waste alternative to a packaged item, plans for making reusables that never come to fruition, attending events (like Abby’s homecoming dance) that are far from waste-free, and the mess that was powdered makeup.

But what astounds me is what has worked: Hiding the trash can, bringing water bottles and coffee mugs everywhere, making cleaning products out of simple ingredients, getting a safety razor (bonus: Better shave), bringing containers for leftovers, composting, packing lunches in reusables, joining a Buy Nothing group (to find new homes for old items), making some bath products, and the awesomeness of homemade brown sugar. I’ve learned that we have to think about “problems” differently — what we really need to buy vs. what we can do without, what can be reused or updated, and what planning is necessary to make sure we don’t fall back into old habits — to make this a sustainable lifestyle and not just a crazy, year-long project.

Not that we don’t have more work to do. I still haven’t figured out how to get cheese that’s not wrapped in plastic. Sometimes I find bits of trash in the kitchen sink from Johanna’s lunchtime trades. I’m sorting out how to make the kitties more zero waste. And eventually I really do need to hit up my mother for help in making hankies and gift bags.

I just asked Eric and Johanna what their zero waste goals are for the last four months or so of the project — Abby’s in her room working on scholarships or I’d bug her too — and Eric said, “Why don’t you tell us and we’ll do that?” Huh, we might need to work on individual responsibility … 😉 Actually, Eric just came in and said his goal is “to avoid making mistakes, to do a better job of thinking ahead.”

That would be amazing. I can help him with that by making the shopping kit he keeps in his truck a little more complete — adding produce bags and a couple tared containers — but some of it is beyond my control, i.e. what he puts in the cart. So I like this goal very much! (And I like that he’s taking it on for himself and it’s not something I’m making him do, even though we all know it’s something I’m making him do.)

My own goals:

  1. Continue researching zero waste and low waste options
  2. Continue to “zero waste” my bathroom supplies
  3. Help the girls and Eric “zero waste” their bathroom supplies, too
  4. Figure out ways to be more zero waste at work
  5. Continue to work towards a package-free pantry and refrigerator (keeping in mind Eric and the girls’ bye items, and the fact that some items are not affordable for us, like glass bottles of milk)
  6. Work towards less food waste / start meal planning?
  7. Continue to “zero waste” my recipe collection
  8. Write to companies, encouraging them to reduce packaging (why do we have plastic scoops in every box of laundry detergent? That’s my first letter)
  9. Research environmental groups to support
  10. Rethink shopping habits (like making secondhand my first choice)

It’s going to be an eventful last few months of the project (anyone thinking about what you’d like to propose for Simple Year 6 yet?) — but I’m looking forward to it. I’m glad I still have time to get this all nailed down and sorted out.

What are your zero waste goals for the new year?

Hey, maybe not zero waste, per se, but I’m thinking of implementing a shopping ban for myself in January to detox from the fatigue of December. I’m still mulling over the rules I’d set … obviously, I’d still buy groceries, but what about coffee to go or my favorite veggie sandwich? It’s an intriguing idea is all — I don’t think of myself as a big shopper, so it would be interesting to see what issues arise from this kind of ordeal. Anyone else thinking of doing this, or have done something like this in the past? What were your perimeters? (I really love rules.)

Next up: January 15 marks month number nine, and I still have quite a bit to accomplish on my “third quarter list” goals, let alone my new year’s resolutions.