It’s been a little over three months since The Walker Four embarked on this zero waste project and, true story, Johanna is already asking how much longer we have to go. When I dug a little deeper, I discovered that she wants water balloons. We could get biodegradable ones!
Yeah, no, sorry kid, even if we weren’t doing this project, I wouldn’t go for that. According to the Environmental Nature Center, even biodegradable balloons take anywhere from 6 months to 4 years to disintegrate. Not awesome.
THEN I had to break it to her that the whole reason for the project is to lay the groundwork to, you know, keep this up even after our year is over. That was met with complete silence. Eh, she’ll need therapy anyway, I’m just giving her stuff to talk about.
Three months seems like a rather significant chunk of time — we’re a quarter of the way there! — and a good spot to stop and evaluate what’s going on over here. I feel like these past few months have been great in that we’ve been able to make several changes, but also that I lack focus … or maybe it’s that I’m NOT focused — I keep skipping around, willy-nilly, without a real plan of what I’m ultimately aiming for.
So on Tuesday (my 44th birthday, incidentally why I decided to take Wednesday’s post off), I decided it was time to take stock. What, exactly, do I want when I look inside my refrigerator? Under the kitchen sink? In the laundry room? … Well, you get the picture.
I want an oasis of “minimalist zero waste,” that’s what. Vague, though, right? I got specific. In my journal, so I can keep track:
Under the kitchen sink
- Glass bottle of white vinegar
- Glass jar of homemade dishwashing detergent
- Bottle of bulk dish soap
- Jar of homemade “soft scrub”
- Jar of dry scrub
- Repurposed spray bottle of homemade all-purpose cleaner
- Jar of bulk castile soap
- Repurposed bucket for our garbage, lined with newspaper or not lined at all
Inside my pantry
- Stock of home-canned and homemade items to give as gifts throughout the year
- Glass jars of home-canned awesomeness for the fam
Inside my kitchen cabinets
- Jars of bulk options
- Minimal tin cans and cardboard
- Cloth napkins (replacement for paper towels and plastic wrap)
In my refrigerator and freezers
- Glass jars and stainless steel containers for leftovers, cut up raw fruits and veggies, meats, etc.
- Glass jars of homemade condiments (mustard, ketchup, salad dressing)
- Minimal plastic (i.e., just our milk and cheese)
- (Freezer) Jars of blueberries, raspberries, etc.
- (Freezer) Jars of meat purchased from the meat counter in reusable containers
The laundry room
- Jar of bulk laundry detergent or soap nuts
- Jar of homemade stain remover (does such a thing even exist?)
- Repurposed spray bottle of DIY hardwood floor cleaner
- Scrub brush
The master bath
- Unwrapped soap
- Plastic containers of bulk shampoo and conditioner
- Safety razor
- Bidet (???)
- Paper-wrapped facial soap
- Repurposed bottle of DIY calendula oil
- Reusable tins of DIY products, i.e. makeup, toothpowder and lotion
- Jar of DIY cotton kleenx
- Jar of DIY cotton balls (a very nice reader sent me a knitting pattern I’m about to let Johanna loose on)
- Jar of toothpicks as a floss replacement (???)
- My plastic container of crystal deodorant
- And a bottle of purchased sunscreen, since I’m not sold on homemade versions being strong enough
For now, we’re leaving the girls’ bathroom out of this, although I imagine some of the solutions I come up with in the master bath can be used there, too. I felt like I could go off into the weeds and put bedrooms and the living room on the list, but that’s another story for another time … and the garage seems too overwhelming. That’s Eric’s domaine and honestly, I don’t have it in me to worry about that at the moment. So we’re just going to concentrate on the above for the next 3 months and see where it gets us.
I’m sure there are things I’m forgetting and will have to add to the list later. I tend to want the least amount of anything possible and underestimate what’s actually needed to, like, live. 😉 The thought of 12 items in the master bath stresses me out — that seems like too much — but that doesn’t even include towels …
Okay, panic coming on, hey, it’s cool, now we have a plan! I’m adding the additional goals of finally visiting the other shops in town with bulk options (tea shop, the supermarket I broke up with 5 years ago, the health food store, the deli-ish store), getting rid of the 10 gallon or whatever it is garbage can in my kitchen (I despise that thing), and making some sort of emergency work kit of reusable utensils and napkins.
I’ll probably still jump around a lot — it seems silly to hold up the whole ordeal just because of one missing piece on a specific list — but at least now I can visualize where I want us to be.
Next up: There’s something incredibly satisfying about making jam.
This question isn’t directly related to your post but seems relevant, and I’m curious: do you feel like you’re spending a lot of money up front in the zero waste switchover?
I imagine this might be different for everyone, but personally I’m feeling like I max out our budget every month on zero waste stuff: a composting system, cloth diapers, glass jars to replace plastic storage containers and for all the bulk stuff I now have to store, bags and fabric to make bags…
All of these should be investments that redeem themselves in the long term, but right now I’m feeling like zero waste is costing us money!
I’m curious what yours and others’ experiences have been.
You bring up a good point. My minimalism really gets in the way of any potential “zero waste consumerism,” if we can call it that — I’d rather not buy something if I don’t have to, just because I don’t want to have a bunch of stuff in the house. (Plus, when I shop, all I can think about is, how am I going to get rid of this? Because let’s face it, it’s all going to end up in the landfill eventually. That depresses the hell out of me and kind of puts a damper on the whole ordeal.)
So mostly I’ve been making do with what we already have, with vague plans to buy used items when it comes to replacements (I’ve decided to just use our plastic containers until they wear out, for instance, and then replace them with a combination of stainless steel and glass that will magically appear in perfect condition at the thrift shop at exactly the right moment, LOL). The only problem with this plan is that I have yet to actually make it to a thrift shop. Ah, well.
I DO feel like I’m spending more money on groceries because of our reliance on bulk bins — bulk items here just seem more expensive than their packaged counterparts — but maybe that’s because things like dish soap and shampoo are now on my food bill. I need to keep track to see if this is really the case.
Anyway, that’s been my experience so far. I imagine we will have to buy something sooner or later, and I’m trying not to be stressed out by the thought.
I’d love to hear other experiences, too — thanks for sharing yours! Maybe we can start a minimalist zero waste movement! 😉
Great list Trisha, you are doing awesome! Happy Birthday too!
Well, thanks! On both counts!
Just a few thoughts:
Stainless steel toothpicks exist, perhaps a floss replacement.
Although this isn’t reducing waste they would be reusable- sponge water bombs/balls. It is strips of sponges tied together kind of like a loofah that your daughter could play with instead of water balloons.
My other thought escaped me…
Oh, funny — I didn’t think about letting her toss around sponges or whatever in lieu of water balloons. We don’t actually own sponges, but I do have some small knitted squares I got at a craft fair and use to clean my sink — maybe I’ll let her toss those around? Thinking outside the box! I like it!
I’m not sure how I feel about stainless steel toothpicks, but, to be fair, I’m not sure how I feel about wooden ones, either. 🙂
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