The continuing saga of project updates

I may not write about the day-to-day issues we experience going zero waste as a family, but it is truly a daily challenge. I think we’re far enough into this now that I’ve been able to let go of my frustration — a huge roadblock for my previous attempts — and just see it as a journey with some interesting detours. Looking at it that way has done wonders for my mental stability. 😉

Toilet paper: We were maybe three weeks into the project when Eric came home one evening after having visited a big box store (code name “Voldemort”), carrying a huge plastic-wrapped package of TP. I hate Voldemort — you can’t go in there and expect to find anything unpackaged, among my other numerous gripes, and I felt like I had failed somehow, having not foreseen this as being an issue. (Well, I knew we’d get there eventually, I just didn’t think it would be so soon. And maybe like “zero waste project” sort of implied that packaged TP was out.) So I started getting a roll of paper-wrapped TP every grocery trip, figuring if I had a nice stockpile going on, no one would be as tempted to visit Voldemort.

I don't have a proper TP photo, so here's one of Skilly looking glamorous.

I don’t have a proper TP photo, so here’s one of Skilly looking glamorous.

And yeah, it was more expensive per roll than a value pack of standard TP. Like, twice as expensive. I was sort of hoping Eric wouldn’t notice. (I’m a minimalist for environmental reasons, he for fiscal. No complaints on my side, that’s why I was able to stay home for 11 years with the girls.) I mean, we’re talking about saving the world here.

Fast forward to last Tuesday. We weren’t quite out of the plastic-wrapped stuff, but I unwrapped one of these puppies to see what was what. I didn’t really have any expectations, but I knew it wasn’t going to be what we are used to.

And wow, this “100 percent recycled bathroom tissue, whitened without chlorine bleach, 2-ply tissue for strength and softness” is TERRIBLE. It’s rough, plus I feel like you have to use more of it because it’s so thin (I’m calling BS on the 2-ply claim). You know it’s bad when you’re using your work bathroom and that industrial stuff feels like a cloud in comparison.

Lesson learned. Unfortunately, we have seven more rolls of this stuff.

And also, I’m kind of seeing why some people make the switch to family cloth. It still grosses me out, but it would be a definite step up if you were using this before.

So what are our options? I don’t know. I haven’t done any research to see if there are other rolls in other parts of the store that aren’t wrapped in plastic, or looked online (I’m kind of hesitant about online purchases, though — I haven’t worked out the environmental aspects yet, and math is not my strong point), or done any other research at all. But I will not be buying this anymore.

Toothbrushes: Our grocery store carries those bamboo, compostable toothbrushes — for kids and adults — in its natural food section, and a couple of weeks ago, I decided it was finally time to replace my old plastic one. These things are expensive — it rang in at $4.79 (you can get a conventional pack of four for under $4) — but it’s not an everyday purchase, so … I can sort of justify it.

A la this kind of toothbrush. The packaging is also recyclable, so plusses all around.

A la this toothbrush. The packaging is also recyclable, so plusses all around.

And you know what? I really like that thing. More than my old plastic toothbrush. Big fan all around, five stars, very happy with this one.

Johanna, seeing mine, decided she wanted one, too. She picked out an adult brush — she gave it some thought — and, when I told her I’d be writing about this and whether she did it for environmental reasons or for the coolness factor, she gave me kind of a sheepish smirk.

So coolness factor it is.

I just asked her how it’s going, and here’s her review: “It’s fancy. It’s too big for my mouth, though. I’m a child.”

So I asked if the child size would have been better, and she said no, it was too small — what they need is a teen-size. But she’s happy with it overall, so you know what? Awesome.

Here’s where all this upgrading is conflicting with my minimalism: I didn’t want to just toss my old toothbrush, so I put it under the sink to use for cleaning. Then I inherited two more child-sized brushes from Johanna. And I already had one other adult brush. So now I have four plastic toothbrushes, and I didn’t even really need two. I don’t like keeping things around “just in case.” And I’m not the kind of person to do crafts (Abby used to call it “craps,” and I have always thought that was really accurate), so “old toothbrush garden markers” are not in my future. (I just made that project up. But then I decided to google “uses for old toothbrushes,” and here’s what I found: you can use them to clean everything, and as paintbrushes. There, I just saved you five minutes of your life.)

So then I looked into recycling. And hey, good news, you can recycle plastic toothbrushes! But the bad news is it’s complicated: the nylon bristles have to be removed, then the metal staple, and then can you deal with the plastic, so seriously, what county recycling program is going to be crazy enough to do all that? Well, maybe they’re not, but TerraCycle is. And I happen to have a contact who’s a collection drop off. It also looks like I have other options … Colgate has apparently teamed up with TerraCycle, and aside from having to sign up, it looks pretty painless — and they take all manner of toothy “trash.”

This is going to take a bit of time and effort, but I’m happy to do it if it means I can dispose of these brushes properly.

Next up: I have more updates, but I try not to go over a certain word count and I’ve more than maxed that out. We’ll do another round Wednesday.

9 Responses to The continuing saga of project updates

    • You know, I’ve heard of these things but I never actually considered getting one. I like this idea MUCH better than continuing to use scratchy thin TP. I’m adding it to my research list.

  1. A friend referred to the scratchy TP as “jail TP.” Made me laugh and agree, so that’s how I refer to it. I’m continuing to use mine, I kind of scrunch it up a bit and take care of business quickly…I think the bidet is a great option. Also, have you checked out organic She’s selling these soap seed things. I was TOTALLY skeptical, but a friend from work used them and she said they work GREAT. I got some today and am going to give it a whirl.

    • OMG it is SO jail TP! I have apologized profusely to the family over and over again and I just feel like a jerk for bringing it into the house in the first place. (Eric says Motel 6’s is better than this stuff, which made me laugh.)

      Never heard of that site … looks interesting. I’ve been wondering about soap seeds myself. Our grocery has bulk laundry detergent, so I was thinking that would be my next experiment as soon as my bottle runs out, but I’d love to hear how the seeds work for you. It’s good to have options!

  2. I never thought of this before I saw it on and then thought “Why didn’t I think of that?” but you can bring plastic packaging into the grocery store and recycle it with the other plastic bags they collect – so I feel better recycling the plastic tp wrap and then recycling the inner cardboard with my other paper recycling.

    • Oh, awesome — I take bread bags in, but hadn’t thought of TP wrap. I always kind of wonder if it’s an everything wrappy goes kind of thing, or if they are limits. Good to know!

  3. Pingback: The continuing saga part III | The Simple Year

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