I have set my intentions this season on reducing my waste. I am a visual person, so I made this document to help me keep track of how and what I am eliminating from my waste stream. Here is an example of how I will be keeping track. The diverted waste gets subtracted from the total trashed waste for a given period of time. I think that seeing how much waste I am redirecting from landfills will give me the positive reinforcement I need to keep going! Help yourself to this Zero Waste Tracker and please join me! If you don't have a scale or feel like measuring the think you are recycling, reusing, mending, or upcycling, you can always just estimate the weight.
The pandemic has presented us with a new set of obstacles to overcome in eliminating our waste. In some places, reusable bags were banned (even though there is no conclusive evidence that plastic bags are safer. Especially since you can wash your reusable one and bag your own groceries). There has been an increase in online shopping which means more packaging including those plastic bubbles that are not recyclable. The increase of food take out, which I admittedly contribute to! Municipalities that were banning single use plastic and companies that were shifting towards more sustainable packaging rolled back their efforts in response to COVID.
Many of the take back programs for things like plastic bags have halted until covid is under control. And most of all, it is important to understand the intricacies of plastic recycling. Here is an enlightening article about that topic and more sustainable trends of 2020 put out by the people who supply my 100% recyclable mailers.
In it they link to this very important NPR story on the truth of Plastic Recycling. Which has made me think twice about thinking that recycling is the catch all answer to our plastics problem. If there is no one who wants to buy and recycle our plastics, then they are being dumped at landfills. Which is why we should try to minimize our single use plastic in the first place.
So what can we do to help? Aside from all of the suggestions pictured above, I will outline a few things I am trying.
From Single Use to Multi Use
First, if there is something that we can’t live without and it comes in plastic, let’s be sure that we are reusing that plastic as much as we can so that “single use” plastics can become “multi use” until it can no longer function. Here are a few ideas to turn single use into multi use:
Bread bags and similar items are just plastic bags and plastic wrap with words on them!
I save my takeout containers to reuse as tupperware until they can’t be used anymore. These are great for when you make food or baked goods that you want to deliver to a friend and not worry about getting the container back!
If you have a dog, use your grocery store plastic bags as poop bags! Yes, the biodegradable ones are better, but until those plastic bag take-back programs return, you might as well use them for something useful rather than simply throwing them out.
I use concentrate for my house cleaners and reuse the spray bottles! I save so much money on cleaners this way and eliminate a lot of plastic waste.
What other ways are you using single use plastic and making it multi use!? Share on instagram tagging @flowy.life and #flowyecochallenge for a chance to win a flowy gift card and other great prizes this winter.
Zero Waste Products
The next way we can start eliminating single use plastic and other waste streams is investing in products that avoid them all together. These products can be expensive so take you’re time. You don’t have to go out and buy them all at once. Remember, this is a marathon, not a sprint.
Do you have a store with bulk soaps? Dish soap and detergent? We are so lucky that we do. Mom’s Organic Market is my heaven. But if you don’t, here are some suggestions:
Reusable containers and bags for food leftovers (if you don't have ample takeout containers stored up like I do!)
Reusable beauty products! I am waiting for Mom’s to get Thayer’s in bulk, but until then, at least I can eliminate cotton swabs:
Bidet instead of toilet paper (Confession, I have not yet made this leap. Bet I'll blog about it when I do though!)
Not ready to make the Bidet leap? Consider Bamboo Toilet paper because it is much more sustainable than regular.
Cloth napkins - You could make your own! (More on upcycling clothing next week, but use clothes that you are going to give away or throw out)
Paper towels - designate certain dishcloths as counter wipes. If you have the space, designate a just for these and then to the wash in your next load. Upcycle idea: cut up old towels! Or buy these tree-free reusable bamboo paper towels!
Compostable or Biodegradable trash bags (what's the diff!?)
Visit the package Free Store for more inspiration and great reusable items like plastic free shampoo and toothpaste! There are so many cool products these days that help us achieve our goal of zero waste. (P.s. I wish I was sponsored for these plugs, but sadly I am not.)
Recycling Funny Things:
It's hard to figure out what to do with many items when you are trying to achieve that long sought after minimalist lifestyle. However, there are many ways to still recycle, even the things that don’t usually get recycled in your weekly recycling stream.
Companies like Terra Recycle have zero waste boxes that you can order and then send to them for recycling. But this could get very expensive very quickly. So here are some other ideas.
Some organic grocers like Mom’s Organic have sorted recycling. That's where I take my batteries and wine corks. At xmas they even take dead xmas lights.
Also, your recycling center most likely has many forms of recycling. Find out which ones yours offers. Ours here in Baltimore takes electronics when you bring them directly to the recycling center.
If you are Marie Kondo-ing and you are getting rid of unused office or craft supplies, look into whether your area has donation programs for educational materials. Baltimore has this amazing place called SCRAP Bmore (tax deductible!)
And finally for bulky furniture in good condition, find out if your local Habitat for Humanity does pick-ups! They also take old cars! All of which is tax deductible