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If you have been following me on Instagram for awhile, you know that we have been trying really hard to reduce the amount of waste generated in our household. It's been a slow process. We tried to go cold turkey, and found that wasn't realistic for us. After that, adding back in products with wasteful packaging felt defeating, BUT I wasn't giving us enough credit. It's all about progress, not perfection and that goes for you, too! You don't have to be an extreme zero waster to make a few small changes that can have a big impact on your waste generation, so here are some waste reduction tips for people who are NOT zero waste!
Disclosure: There are still tons of wasteful, disposable things in our home that can be replaced with reusable solutions.
Reduce, reuse & recycle
This seems like a no-brainer, but our consumerist society is used to constantly buying more, more, and more. I was in that trap. Shopping was a "feel good." I had to completely shift my mindset from more to less. From I need that, to I just want that, and I really don't need it at all. My wallet was very happy with this!
When it comes to recycling, it's actually a bit more complicated than you would think. Now that we live in Michigan, we get 10 cents back for cans and bottles, so obviously we recycle those! But, I had to do my research on all the different types of plastics and what is and is not recyclable. I was shocked. You can read more on that here. Armed with this new knowledge, we are able to buy plastic products that are recyclable. Almost everything we buy today can be recycled, however, we still buy some things that have to be sent to the landfill (sad face). Part of that is because we are meat eaters, and meat packaging is one, contaminated, and two, not able to be recycled.
Reusable Shopping Bags
Ill start with the most obvious! Reusable shopping bags and grocery bags are a must. Plastic bags can’t be recycled at most locations. If you use a mixed recycling service, your plastic bags could be negatively effecting the recycling process. They can clog up the machines that sort everything out in the recycling center, so quit consuming them! The hardest part about this switch is remembering your bags when you shop. I have started keeping our grocery ones in my car. Half the time, we still forget to bring them into the store, and Andrew has to run out to the car to get them.
No more paper towels! Reusable rags
One of the first things we got rid of around the house was paper towels. We would go through these like water, especially since we had a puppy at that time! Getting rid of paper towels while potty training a puppy makes perfect sense right? Well, that was the hardest trial, and we made it through. We haven't bought a roll of paper towels in almost a year (money saver)!
When we moved into our house last fall, I bought all new linens, and we had kept the old mismatched ones. Now, we use those as rags for anything and everything (yes, even dog poop). I have nice microfiber reusable rags that are specifically for the kitchen. I love them. On a related note, our friends ask us if we are going to put our kids in cloth diapers because of this... still out for debate.
Trade dryer sheets for reusable dryer balls
Don't you hate when you go to the grocery and you have to buy all the extra expensive stuff like laundry detergent, dryer sheets, paper towels, dishwasher detergent etc.? It always racks up the bill. I saw reusable dryer balls and was like “bam, another little thing we won't have to waste or spend money on.” I use six balls in every load and they actually help the clothes dry faster which saves energy, too! Win-win-win.
Soap, Shampoo & Conditioner
Instead of buying liquid hand soap or shower gel, we switched to bar soap that comes in cardboard packaging. We use it for hand washing and in the shower. When it's gone, it's gone and we don't even have to think about recycling. Lush recently came out with a shampoo bar that doesn't come in plastic packaging dissolves with use. It's on my list to try, but right now I am in love with the beauty, love, planet shampoo and conditioner. It works wonders on my hair and comes in a bottle made from 100% recycled material.
Wiping Your Butt
Do you ever feel like you buy toilet paper ALL of the time? We humans use a lot of TP. We switched to a 100% recycled, non bleached toilet paper from Who Gives a Crap. A big box shows up at our door in recyclable packaging. It's also super cute! I’m also interested in trying this brand from Amazon.
Brushing Your Teeth
We swapped out our plastic toothbrushes for bamboo ones! Bamboo is compostable, so every time we buy a new brush, we won't have to throw ours in the trash.
We also traded in our plastic tubes of toothpaste for homemade toothpaste. I've shared the recipe on my Instagram stories before, and tons of you were going to give it a try.
Two parts organic coconut oil
One part baking soda
Drops of edible mint or peppermint oil to taste
Makeup & Makeup Remover
In all reality, I rarely wear makeup anymore, so that plays into reducing. I haven't needed to purchase any since we started this journey (yep, like 9+ months). However, I do wear it occasionally, which means I have to remove it. I used to be obsessed with makeup remover wipes, but I felt so wasteful! I had a couple bottles of solution in the closet, so I pulled those out. I drip it onto a washcloth. I have dedicated washcloths I use for this because, yes, it does destroy them. When they get covered, I simply throw them in the wash. Once the bottle of remover is gone, I will recycle it. This is my first time running out of remover since we started this journey, so when I go to buy, I might find a better alternative. However, I did order a set of reusable makeup remover pads.
Trust me, we are not zero waste. We still make tons more waste than I would like to admit. After about 4 or 5 months of completely changing our consumption habits to extremely cut down waste, I realized it just wasn’t worth giving up some of the things we love (like broccoli & cauliflower). So silly that we are forced to buy those in saran wrap, but that is the reality in our town. Any other non-zero wasters out there making small changes at home? Drop your tips in the comments.