Our “Luxury Item” List

Nope — I don’t mean La Mer cream or gold toilets. Our “luxury items” are those items that are housed in plastic (particularly #7, which our city takes but doesn’t really have a market to sell those plastics to) or end up in the landfill. But for now — these items are what we have, love, or haven’t found suitable recyclable or zero waste alternatives for.

  • Sonicare brush heads (landfill): Can’t quit these! They keep my teeth in great condition and I’m not willing to switch over the bamboo toothbrushes yet. Maybe someone can make bamboo brush heads or something for Sonicares?
  • Makeup products (landfill or Origins): I love makeup and skincare. And I’m not giving them up anytime soon. But unfortunately, a lot of these containers are mixed materials. My only option for my empties is taking them to Origins with the Return to Origins program. Better than the landfill, right? This still isn’t ideal for me and I would love to move towards getting products with compostable or reusable packaging. Any favorite brands?
  • Dog food bags (landfill): My dogs have to eat. And they both require their own special foods for various reasons. This isn’t even a luxury item. It’s just a real life necessity. And that’s totally okay.
  • Frozen fruits/veggies bags (landfill): I’ve been cutting back on these but every once in a while, I just need some frozen peas! I guess I could shell my own peas and freeze them but, I’m sorry, I don’t have time for all that! I wish these bags were more eco-friendly. If anyone has any recommendations, let me know!
  • Styrofoam take out containers (landfill): Although a lot of these have that little #6 on the bottom, nope, they are seldom recyclable curbside (and if they are in your location, there isn’t much market to actually recycle them). You can find a list of places near you that might take these here but even in a big city like Dallas, there are only 1 or 2 locations. But I still love me some takeout. And I haven’t yet grown the balls to take my own container to my favorite Tex-Mex place and ask them to fill it (since I strongly doubt they would due to “sanitary” reasons or whatever). I have been good about not taking my leftovers home in restaurant takeout containers but for the occasional pick up, yep, we still get a small handful of these every month.
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Q1 Thrift Finds

I don’t think zero waste/minimalism and loving fashion and beautiful homes have to be mutually exclusive. I think it just means being mindful of purchases. With that in mind… I only recently got into the whole thrifting thing. I know, I know. What was I doing? But I made a resolution this year to ONLY buy thrifted clothing items. Nothing new. Actually, initially — my idea was to not buy any new clothes until March. But once I started thrifting, I realized I could do it the rest of the year — no problem. My husband even got in on it too. I feel good about buying clothes that are already out in the “clothing stream” and I’m happy to give new life to clothes that could otherwise end up unworn, thrown away, or sent to another country (to then ultimately end up in that country’s waste stream). I also learned that thrifting doesn’t mean my only option is to go to the thrift store and sift through unorganized racks for hours on end. If I’m looking for a particular item or something a little higher end, Poshmark and ThredUp have been fabulous. For those of you scared of thrifting, don’t be. There are finds to be had! So if you need a little encouragement, here are the items I’ve picked up (for quite a steal) over the past 3 months. (And of course — I follow the one in-one out rule in my closet!)

The “Does This Go in the Trash?” List

I have the below list on our fridge (mainly for my husband) so I don’t have to constantly answer the question: does this go in the trash? Feel free to use it for yourself!

Save for compost pile (browns)
Newspaper ripped into pieces
Hair + pet hair
Vacuum and dryer dust
Toilet paper rolls ripped into pieces
Cotton q-tips
Facial tissue (on the rare occasion it’s used)
Paper towels (on the rare occasion it’s used)
Parchment paper ripped into pieces (incl. cupcake liners, butter wrappers)
Used matches, toothpicks, skewers
Bamboo cleaning supplies
Biodegradable sponges
Dead flowers/plants
Pizza boxes ripped into pieces (recycle non-oily top)
Paper egg carton ripped into pieces
Wine corks

Bokashi for compost pile (greens)
ALL food scraps (incl. small bones, dairy, eggs, meat, tea leaves, leftovers, baked goods)

Recycle
Newspaper bags, grocery/produce bags (on the rare occasion it’s used), cereal liners, bread bags, dry cleaning bags (put it all in one bag and drop off at Target)
1-7 plastics (no styrofoam, pumps with metal in them)
Glass (take off metal caps and put in metal scraps tin, recycle plastic caps separately)
Paper and cardboard

Add to specialty recycling receptacles
Small metal scraps (nails, safety razor blades, bottle caps) in tin (recycle regularly when full)
Electronics and old batteries for city’s electronics recycling
Toothpaste and floss tubes for recycling by TerraCycle’s Colgate Recycling Program
Beauty/skincare/makeup/hair empties in box to go to Returns to Origins Program
Packaging material for re-use
Fabric that cannot be donated for recycling by city

Landfill (booooo!)
Snack bags
Trash bags
Aluminum foil
Plastic wrap
Wax paper
Tape
Metallic paper
Hygiene items

The Where to Donate Guide

We all have bits and bobs floating around the house — most are things that go unused because a. we have no need for it b. we have too many of the item c. we don’t like/use it anymore but hold on to it because we don’t want to throw our hard earned money in to the trash. While some of these items may end up in the landfill, most can be donated somewhere it will be given a second life. Yes — your local Goodwill or Salvation Army will take a large chunk of your donations. However, recently I’ve been working on “spreading out” my donations to other organizations that might only collect very specific items. I feel that donating this way allows my donations to go where they might be utilized faster, instead of wasting away on a dusty Goodwill shelf.

Clothing and Shoes

Good options for donating clothing (besides Goodwill) are local shelters and Dress for Success. For shoes (that are still wearable), I like donating to Zappos’ Soles 4 Souls (they also take clothing). Zappos will provide you with a pre-paid shipping label — just attach it to a box, fill with shoes, and send away! If your athletic shoes are beyond repair, donate to Nike Reuse-a-Shoe — just drop your shoes off at one of their stores and it will be recycled in to Nike Grind material (to make athletic surfaces).

Old, ratty bras can be donated here, here, or here.

* However, if an item is pricier or mostly new — I will try to sell it on Poshmark, ThredUp, or Ebay. I’ve read that many people have also had luck selling these items directly on Instagram.

Unused or Gently Used Beauty Products

This is definitely where I am guilty. I love beauty products/skincare — and will frequently move on to a new product before finishing up the old one. Or trying samples, not loving it, and still keeping it around (I’m working on it!). Recently, I found Project Beauty Share in Spokane, WA. They are one of the few places I have found that take not only new but gently used beauty products (that can be sanitized). And you can ship to them! The products go to “women and families overcoming abuse, addiction, homelessness and poverty.” I packed up a small box with products and shipped it to them for just a few bucks. Definitely worth it. If you have completely unused products, your local womens’ shelters usually take these items as well.

* Fancy, barely used beauty products can also be sold on Poshmark.

New or Gently Used Pet Supplies

Take these to your local animal shelter!

Old Towels

Again — the local animal shelter!

Arts and Crafts Supplies

I usually never donate these supplies to Goodwill because I don’t think too many people are going there in search of a half used tube of acrylic paint or a sad spool of yarn. Instead, search for local organizations that take old art supplies (or even ask any teacher friends if their school is in need of any of these items). In North Texas, I found Scrap Denton and a preliminary search in Houston led me to the Texas Art Asylum (they really seem to take EVERYTHING!). I’m sure most major cities have some place to donate all the random craft and hobby supplies people tend to accumulate over the years.

Pens + Other Writing Utensils

We all have that random stash of pens collected from hotels, company events, the dentist, etc. (We really need to stop accepting these things that will ultimately end up sitting at the bottom of a drawer.) I send all my extra/old/broken pens, markers, crayons, etc. to Pen Guy Art and only keep a small handful of writing utensils that I like and use. This only cost me a few bucks and I know the pens will be used in a unique way.

Old Magazines, Books, DVDs

Try your local library before resorting to Goodwill.

* I don’t buy many books these days as I tend to get everything from the library. However, when we paired down our book collection, most were sold to our local Half Price Books.

Old Eyewear

Donate to the Lions Recycle for Sight program. I have also seen drop off boxes for old eyewear at local eyewear stores.

Unused Canned and Boxed Foods

Your local food pantry. One that I volunteered at took items that were expired up to 1 year (depending on the type of item). Check with your local pantry for their guidelines.

Home Goods and Tchotchkes 

I haven’t found a great place to donate these besides Goodwill. Freecycle is another option to give away miscellaneous items to people in your own community. I’ve seen the most random items on here and they generally get claimed really quickly. (I once donated old candle wax that I was about to toss to a father whose daughters were working on some project that needed wax. Random but I’m glad the wax went to a good home instead of the landfill.) Give it a try if you are at a loss for where to donate an item.

What are some other items you have trouble donating? Have you found any other resources to donate the random items in your life?

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