It’s officially three quarters into my first year of living low-waste, so it’s time for another quarterly update! Here’s how it’s been going, what I’m up to, and my new goals.
Below is my list from my original blog post, updated. I’ve also added some notes to clarify a few things.
It must be a good sign that when I look at my original list it seems so…basic. The things I struggled with seem funny to me now. But that’s always the way it is with these things, isn’t it? You do a little bit at a time, and it builds. Honestly, going Zero Waste is just like practising a sport–you’ll constantly have new challenges, but you get better all the time.
Slowly but surely, you find your way. You discover what works for you, what you love, what you don’t love, and what options are available to you. It’s such a personalized journey, and at the end of the day, you need to find your own way.
These past few months have been about looking beyond the little daily things, and focusing on bigger issues.
Things I was already doing (before 2019)
- Going car-free as much as possible
- Living in a small home
- Choosing natural, nontoxic beauty, personal care, and cleaning products
- Choosing organic/local foods when possible
- Going meat-free most of the time
- Avoiding skincare products that contain microbeads
- Avoiding impulse clothing shopping
- Bringing my own bags to the grocery store and mall
- Using my water bottle (and not buying bottled water)
Changes I’ve made so far in 2019
- Using bamboo toothbrushes
- Using compostable silk floss
- Using bar soap instead of body wash
- Using refill hand soap and dish soap
- Using shampoo and conditioner bars (or refills)
- Using refill baby shampoo
- Using cloth makeup removal pads instead of disposables
- Using lip balm in paper tubes
- Using deodorant in paper tubes
- Using a metal safety razor and blades
- Using a hemp shower loofah instead of a synthetic exfoliating mitt
- Switching to Zero Waste period products (I prefer cloth pads and period panties)
- Reducing my use of cotton swabs, and making sure I only use compostable ones
- Omitting plastic wrap (I use this instead!)
- Omitting plastic sandwich/snack bags (I use these for dry goods and these if I’m worried about moisture)
- Reducing my use of foods in crinkly bags (that means chips and toddler snacks) and returning the bags to the store [NOTE: We now do one bag of chips per week, and that’s it.]
- Choosing glass, paper, and (non-BPA) cans when possible, instead of plastic food packaging
- Choosing better plastic packaging if I am using plastic (larger bags, plastics that are better quality and easier to recycle)
- Choosing bulk tea
- Using paper or biodegradable bin liners
- Using cloth napkins
- Keeping a jug of water in the fridge, rather than running the tap for cold water
- Following the recycling rules better (to avoid contamination, etc)
- Buying milk in glass instead of plastic
- Bringing my own bags for bulk products and produce
- Buying most bread at bakeries and farmers’ markets, in my cloth bags
- Vowing to buy textiles/clothing made from natural fibres to reduce microplastic pollution when possible
- Hanging clothes to dry when possible, especially those with a high percentage of synthetic fabrics (this is challenging in a small space!)
- Choosing non-plastic (or recycled plastic) toddler gear, such as plates/cups/cutlery, etc
- Choosing experience and zero-waste gifts [See my blog post about it here.]
- Saying “no” to receipts (with a few exceptions)
- Batch cooking and baking on the weekend to rely less on packaged foods. In addition to meals, these snacks are hugely helpful to make in advance:
- applesauce oatmeal muffins
- banana bread
- egg bites
- Switching from paper towels to cloths [NOTE: I almost never use them anymore]
- Using more refill stores (like the Soap Dispensary in Vancouver and the Port Moody Refillery) for food, personal care, and cleaning supplies
- Asking for no (plastic) straw when I go to restaurants [NOTE: It took me forever to get into the habit of remembering this, for some reason. I would forget, and then have a mini meltdown when the plastic straw arrived.]
- Bringing my own containers to restaurants for leftovers and takeout (I also ask for no cutlery/chopsticks/fake plastic sushi grass) [NOTE: This is my favourite thing to do, because usually other people ask about it and I can tell them.]
- Using a travel mug or “for here” mug at coffee shops [NOTE: Starbucks automatically prints stickers for all cups, including “for-here” cups, which means no customer can leave without creating waste. I hate this, and try to avoid Starbucks now.]
- Bringing cutlery and a napkin to coffee shops
- Saying “no thank you” to free promotional items [NOTE: People can be surprisingly pushy! Holy cow.]
- Giving unwanted items away to people directly (often using Mom groups on social media)
- Cancelling unnecessary mail
- Repairing items rather than replacing
- Choosing cards that aren’t wrapped in plastic, and don’t contain glitter or rhinestones
- Creating a balcony garden for herbs and some veggies
- Spreading the word through Instagram, this blog, and the articles I write
Things that are new since my last post
- Choosing more Zero Waste makeup and skincare as I use up my old products
- Buying toilet paper without plastic packaging
- Supporting farmers’ markets and local businesses even more
- Doing bulk coffee
- Avoiding fast fashion entirely, rather than simply choosing natural fibres
- Thrift shopping
- Putting a “no junk mail” sticker on my mailbox
- Doing more batch cooking and homemade foods. Some things I tried recently are crackers, and vegetarian burritos for my husband’s lunches.
- Saving old mascara wands to send to wildlife rescue organizations
- Educating myself on the larger issues: intersectionality; frontline communities; environmental racism; ableism.
- Making more changes in my community, such as by helping lower the waste created by a neighbourhood block party, and by volunteering with a local food security nonprofit organization.
- Replacing household goods with better versions as they wear out and need replacing [NOTE: I think this will always be ongoing]
Changes still to make
The funny thing is that as I continue down the low-waste path, I’m realizing how things are so interconnected. Issues of class, race, gender, and social justice, intersect with the environmental movement in complex ways. That’s why the new things on my to-do list aren’t swaps at all, but larger concepts that are a bit harder to tick off a list. Less quantifiable, more powerful!
- DIYs (cleaning products, personal care, etc). I’m realizing that they’re less about hobbies and more about empowering oneself to not have to rely as much on companies.
- Teaching myself more traditional skills to add to my personal resiliency toolkit, such as knitting and maybe even baking bread.
- Education: reading more about intersectional issues, environmentalism, race, climate change, community building, and regenerative agriculture.
What about you?
I’d like to end on the same note as last time: my actions, however small, make a difference. So do yours! Let’s celebrate our little victories together.
Have you been at this for a while? If so, I want to hear from you! Please let me know your thoughts, tips, tricks, recipes, or anything else.