Updates: What’s working, what’s not

I can’t believe it’s already been a month and a half on the project – time flies! – but here we are. I’ve been thinking a lot about what our family has managed to accomplish, what I thought we had accomplished but actually didn’t, and what is not working. Surprisingly, more IS working that isn’t, so yay us, I guess.

I don't really have art for this post so here's a picture of Skilly, who helped me write it.

I don’t really have art for this post so here’s a picture of Skilly, who helped me write it. Until he got bored.

But it’s definitely a work in progress. It’s been humbling, frustrating and fun. Sometimes it’s eyeopening. Sometimes it’s just depressing. So basically life in a nutshell.

What’s working

Even though cereal was Abby’s “bye” item, and even though the family doesn’t seem ready to give that up yet, I’ve noticed the girls really, REALLY like the bulk granola we can get at the store. Johanna will pick that for breakfast over any other option, and Abby tends to like it as a snack after school. Another surprise has been their acceptance of the peanut butter I can get in bulk at the nut butter machine. These girls have been raised on Skippy, so this is no small feat. I expected a little bit of a fight, at least, but Abby claims to like it better. Johanna is just resigned.

Other items in this category: Taking our reusable bags and jars (although I’m wondering about the longevity of those jars … they’re getting banged around pretty good. But that is another post for another time), leaning on the bulk aisle and produce section … getting bread at the bakery for myself and Abby in my bread bags (Johanna and Eric are stubbornly stuck on store-bought bread, although that IS Eric’s bye item, so I can’t technically complain) … taking our reusable mugs and water bottles everywhere … those two DIY kitchen cleaners I shared not too long ago … haven’t missed plastic wrap or paper towels … and that car kit of reusables has come in quite handy a time or two as well.

What I thought was working but isn’t

Oh, how I jumped the gun when I reported I’d gotten my grocery cart down to a mere three packaged items. I kind of wish I could take that post back. I’ve never managed to get to that level again (last weekend’s cart contained seven packaged items and rang in at $112: Butter, milk, ice cream for Johanna – she had pointed out that she hasn’t had any in over a month even though that’s her bye item and I felt bad – bread, cream cheese, sugar and soft cat food), mostly because there are staples I haven’t figured out how to replace with zero waste options. Like cheese. I COULD get pre-cut deli cheese, but it’s not very cost effective – plus there’s the whole “where did this food come from” ordeal (I realize it’s not an issue for everyone, but it’s important to me). I’d rather get my packaged, tried and true Tillamook (yep, Oregon-made; it’s pronounced “till – a – muck,” by the way) than chance an unknown deli cheese that may or may not have additives that will upset my stomach. I enjoy a quiet life.

One other thing comes to mind: When we had our family conversation about the project, everyone was sort of freaking out about the big picture, so I told them we were going to concentrate on food first and leave the rest for later. But I assumed that “zero waste year” was self-explanitory and that everyone sort of just knew that packaging was out. I realized my mistake when Eric came home from a big box store that shall not be named (kinda like Voldemort, only worse) with a load of plastic-wrapped toilet paper and other random items that I can no longer remember. Ah, well. So I’ve been adding a couple rolls of 100 percent recycled, paper-wrapped TP to the ol’ cart each week, but we haven’t used it yet. Incidentally, I’ve also picked up a couple of bars of unwrapped sandalwood soap because when Eric’s beloved Dial runs out, I don’t want him tempted back into the store that shall not be named.

P.S. I know, I know: We could just use family cloth. But you guys, that is just NOT in our future, although if you want to have some fun with your teenager, tell her what a family cloth is and maybe imply that’s how you’re leaning and watch her reaction. You can’t put a price on entertainment like that. Anyway, none of us are mentally there yet, and I have other fish to fry.

What’s NOT working

I haven’t made anymore instant compost and I keep forgetting about my jars of scraps for broth, but I suppose the good news is that, thanks to a comment received on that particular post, it’s occurred to me that I don’t HAVE to peel at all. (That was a lightbulb moment!) I actually still peel carrots, because that’s the way the family will eat them, but I’ve been letting the cucumbers and potatoes go. (Well, when I remember. That peeler is ingrained.)

I just asked Johanna what wasn’t working for her, and she said without any hesitation: “No chips.” She’s lucky though because she’s got a big sister with a car and a job and a weakness for veggie straws. Being all on the same page has not happened yet.

Sigh. I’m reminding myself to just keep swimming.

Next up: I’ve been having perhaps a little too much fun experimenting with homemade facial cleaners, deodorants and the like. Not all have been successful, but that seems almost beside the point.

11 Responses to Updates: What’s working, what’s not

  1. But you’re still making less trash than before the project — that’s something to be happy about. I don’t know, maybe work up to a completely zero waste month at the end, and then go back to something that’s a little more comfortable but not completely zero?

    I have been meaning to mention family cloths to my husband. He is also a lot of fun with things like that!

    • Oh, Roberta, you’re so nice. I probably should have started with the negatives and ended with the positives — then I wouldn’t have left it on such a depressing note for myself. 🙂 I am actually proud of what we have managed to accomplish, although it doesn’t seem like much just because I keep thinking of what there’s left to do (and keep up!). I like your idea of working up to a completely zero waste month — I think that is doable.

      P.S. Apparently garlic scapes have made it to the market — I’ve had to miss the last two (family wedding, trip to Eugene), and I’m hoping to score some of these precious items today!

  2. Family cloth ::shudder::. There is an option for TP with no cardboard tube. I think Scott makes it? I looked in to it once, but we decided to stick with 7th Generation for a variety of reasons.

    I’m really impressed with how much you’ve gotten done this quickly!

    • RIGHT?! I joined a zero waste board about a month ago, and everyone on there is just totally into the family cloth. Which is cool, whatever floats your boat, and I admire the commitment, but … yeah, not for us. I had no idea there were tubeless rolls of TP! Seventh Generation is what’s available at our store, so I’m happy to hear that’s working for you.

      And thanks. It doesn’t feel like a lot on this end, but I guess maybe it is. It’s definitely been eyeopening!

      • I read some prepper stuff because I live in a hurricane and flooding prone part of the world (As an aside, I wish most prepping stuff wasn’t so weirdly reactionary/down on human nature. There are some good crossovers between prepping, climate change issues, and simple living plus some conflicts between minimalism and storage that are worth exploration, but instead we get “how to stockpile guns and ramen for the apocalypse 101”).

        My favorite moment ever was when one of the most hard core prepping blogs just went off on family cloth – a full post dedicated to ranting about it. Their point was that it would be easier to store and properly dispose of a lifetime supply of TP or alternatives than the amount of medicine you’d have to store for the inevitable illnesses you’d end up spreading or even just the minor rashes people would get because of the irritation of using a family cloth and keeping it properly clean. I feel like that applies on the zero waste side too – you’d save the TP, but not the supplies for keeping the family cloth clean, the water for all the loads of wash, or the gas for driving to the store and doctor’s office to deal with the rashes or stomach viruses passed around if it’s not cleaned well.

        • LOL! I tell you what, I feel much better about my pro-TP stance now! P.S. We’re in earthquake country and are all supposed to be prepping for The Big One. Our county’s emergency department has started to put on classes, but they also have publications which deal mostly with how much water and food a person needs a day, types of clothing and cooking supplies, and items to keep you busy when the wi-fi is out. That’s a little more my speed. Guns and ramen BOTH freak me out. 😉 Although with my zero waste and minimalism tendencies, it’s really, really hard for me to focus on that and actually do much …

    • I have a zero waste friend who did install one, and she loved it … I’ve never actually looked into it, so I’m not sure what it even entails, but perhaps I should add that to the list.

  3. You are doing great work! I’m so enjoying your posts.
    Bulk store nut butter machine?? Wow, your experience is world’s away from mine in rural England! We’ll probably be getting those sometime in 2027.
    Thanks for the introduction to family cloths. I’m off to bleach my brain now…..

    • We ARE lucky! Here’s the thing, though, we have “regular” peanut butter at $2.29 a pound, or organic almond butter for, I’m not even joking, I almost took a picture yesterday while I was shopping, $19.99 a pound. Which is complete insanity. Who can afford to buy that? Although someone must if they’re selling it, I guess.

      I was worried everyone would be all, you’re not zero waste enough! Ditch that TP!, but you guys have really come through. I’m glad we’re not the only ones grossed out by this!

  4. Have any of you used cloth diapers on your kids? The idea of family cloth does kind of squick me out (adult human waste sitting in a bin….ick) but we used cloth diapers and wipes and that didn’t bother me. It’s basically the same thing. I don’t think I could ever convince my husband to try family cloth, though. Some things are just not worth it 😉

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