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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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 Mega Guide to Reducing Waste

Everyone has their own journey to reduce waste. It’s not about being perfect but about making small changes over time that ultimately leads to less stuff going out the door. For me, this looks like reducing landfill trash and recyclable plastics (since plastics tend to get downcycled). To do this, I first created a monster spreadsheet (that my husband laughed about but totally got on board with) that analyzed all our trash and recycled items. I organized these items by biodegradable/reusable/package free + aluminum + paper + glass + recyclable plastic + landfill. The ultimate goal for me is to move as many items from the landfill and recyclable plastic columns over to the other ones. For each item, I thought of the best possible alternative that reduced waste. Of course, there are also items that I am calling “luxury items” — items that we love that aren’t particularly zero waste (certain makeup, hair care products). And you know what? That’s okay! This is not about being perfect and depriving yourself. It’s just about doing the best you can. In the coming weeks and months, I’ll share more on composting, DIY-ing, and zero waste resources I’ve stumbled across. But for now… here it is. My monster list. I hope it gives you some ideas for alternatives to commonly used items. Or at least gets you thinking about your own trash production. I would love to hear your ideas on alternatives as well!

THE MONSTER ZERO WASTE LIST. (yes, it needed it’s own page.*)

*Note: I will keep this list updated as I learn more.