My Zero Waste Fails

Zero or low waste is not about perfection. You do not need to fit all your trash in a mason jar or give up everything you love that comes in a non-recyclable wrapper. It is about being mindful. About finding alternatives when you can. Purchasing thoughtfully (good quality, not too much). With that said, I’ve definitely had some zero waste failures on my quest to send less to the landfill.

Here are my failed experiments:

  • DIY kefir: My husband drinks kefir every single morning. Sure, the kefir container is a highly recyclable plastic #2 but I do try and minimize plastic use (since plastics are downcycled). So. I decided to try and make kefir. And, yeah. Nope. My project lasted 2 months but it was. SO. MUCH. WORK. Taking care of kefir grains was like having an additional pet in the house. And the resulting kefir tasted nowhere near as good as what my husband drank every morning. Alas. The homemade kefir had to go.
  • Bulk rice: This one was an easy decision. Rice from the bulk section was SIGNIFICANTLY more expensive than the huge bags you can find at any Asian grocery store. To the point that it was absolutely not worth it to buy in the bulk section. I learned this the hard way when I needed just a bit of rice, didn’t look at the price (because how expensive could it be?!), and ended up paying a whopping $8 for a tiny bag. Nowadays, I just pop in to my parents’ place (where they are always getting huge bags of rice) and refilling my small rice container.
  • Home grown herbs: Obviously, this is easy to find at the grocery store and stick in my own bag — but I wanted to go one step further and grow herbs at home, reducing the need to pop in to the store every time I wanted a little something-something for my meals + drinks (since herbs really do taste best when fresh). Unfortunately, this didn’t work out for me (because I’m a terrible plant mom). But really, there wasn’t a great lighting spot (that my dogs couldn’t get to) to grow herbs indoor. I experimented with a grow light but the results were mediocre. For now, buying herbs at the store and drying/freezing what I don’t use shall suffice.
  • Natural deodorant: You know, the ones that come in lovely recyclable glass jars. The Meow Meow Tweet one (without baking soda) actually worked incredibly well for me UNTIL I started a SSRI. A lovely side effect for me was sweat. The stinky kind. Therefore, for the good of society, I had to switch back to a regular deodorant. The empty tubes go to TerraCycle.
  • Store bought flowers: I’m a sucker for making floral arrangements using various inexpensive bundles from Trader Joe’s. Unfortunately, these are always wrapped in wasteful plastic. And I have yet to find a floral market nearby. This is definitely a “luxury item” for me these days.

There you have it. What are your zero waste fails?

My zero waste failures Pinterest pin image.
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Simple Tip: Digital Business Card

The business card. Useful but wasteful. Those tiny cards add up in piles around your home, wallet, car, and office — sometimes used, sometimes forgotten. Why don’t we move on from this somewhat antiquated (and wasteful) form of exchanging information?

I know some fancy paid apps exist where you can create/share/collect specialized digital business cards. But I prefer to keep it a bit simpler than that. I used Canva (feel free to use your editor of choice) to create a super basic image with my contact information. Then, I keep the image on my phone and backed up in my email. And that’s it. When anyone asks me for my information at a networking event, I’ll either quickly text or email them my business card image file or, (in a pinch), let them take a photo of the picture.

Business card template.
Business card template.

Similarly, I also decline other peoples’ business cards and opt to take a photo of their card instead. So. There you have it. An easy way to avoid accruing tiny pieces of papers with peoples’ emails listed.

Create a digital business card pin this post image.

Simple Tip: Fast Food Waste

While I would love to eat healthy, organic home cooked food every day… that’s not how life goes. I travel, I PMS, I get lazy… so yep, sometimes, I get fast food. Everything in moderation, right? However, fast food isn’t the most zero waste choice around. BUT. There are ways to drastically reduce the amount of trash you produce from your fast food jaunts. Here are my tips:

  1. Go inside to get your order instead of going through the drive through. My experience with the drive through is they regularly miss you saying no to straws, napkins, etc. When you go inside, you can better articulate that you don’t need any of the extra items that are automatically thrown into the bag. Which leads me to tip two.
  2. When inside, order your food “for here.” This way, the bag, the napkin, etc. aren’t provided to begin with (most of the time at least). You can then just take your (usually) paper wrapped items, put it in your own reusable bag, and walk out.
  3. If you order a drink, bring your own tumbler or mason jar to fill up at the soda fountain (Whataburger even has their own fancy tumbler). I’ve never had any issues doing this. But more often than not, I forego the drink, and drink whatever I have at home.
  4. Keep your preferred condiments at home or work so you can say no to the tiny hot sauce/ketchup/mustard/red chili flakes/etc. packages.
  5. Compost your paper wrappings such as those that surround burgers and tacos. Compost pizza boxes (or at least recycle the portions of it that aren’t greasy).
  6. And finally. Know your local joints. At this point, I know which taco place gives take out in paper bags versus plastic. And which burger joints give fries in paper wrapping instead of the plastic-lined cartons. Order food accordingly.
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Winter Zero Waste Swaps

Brrrrrr… we’re in the thick of winter and it’s cold even here in Dallas. While you’re cozying up at home and getting your hygge on, here are a few things you can do to make sure you aren’t putting too much of a burden on the environment.

Sweaters: This is the time of year when I live in thick, oversized sweaters. And my number one place for finding them? The thrift store. I’ve said it before and will say it again. While secondhand t-shirts can sometimes feel worn out or faded… I’ve had a lot of luck finding excellent quality sweaters for under $5. This past weekend, I picked up the softest Loft sweater for a whopping $4. So before you decide to order that amazing sweater online, hit up the thrift store or Poshmark or ThredUp to find a piece that’s already out in the world.

Socks: Despite being a generally warm person, my feet are always freezing in the winter time. During the winter, I almost exclusively wear wool hiking socks. While most socks usually have some elastic and/or nylon in them for stretch (and, therefore, not compostable); I’ve found that I’ve never had to toss a pair of my wool hiking socks due to the extreme durability of them. My oldest pair is about 5 years old and has absolutely zero holes. I wear them with boots and around the house (in place of slippers) and then use them while hiking the rest of the year. This is one of those “buy quality over quantity” situations that lead to overall less waste.

Books: With all the indoor time the winter season offers (plus all the New Year’s resolutions to read more), a lot of people take to reading this time of year. Get your books from the library as much as possible! There is seldom a book I haven’t been able to request from our local library (both ebooks and physical ones). Or do a book swap with friends. Or borrow. At the very least, try and find the book used (Amazon is great for this if you look at the used options listed or “More Buying Choices”).

Soups: If you’re cooking up soups to warm up this winter, there are a few easy swaps you can make to produce the least amount of waste. First, make your own veggie or chicken stock using food waste. At the very least, find broth in cans (I’ve definitely seen these at Sam’s and Costco) since aluminum cans are widely considered one of the best items to recycle. Get any and all veggies without any packaging or bags (but you knew that already, right?). Buy lentils from the bulk section.

Moisturizers: Dry skin? Yeah, me too. Ditch the lotions in plastic containers with pumps and switch over to a bar lotion (like this one from Lush) or coconut oil bought in bulk or in a glass jar.

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Zero Waste + Eco-Friendly New Year’s Resolutions

Last year was a great zero waste/low waste/eco-friendly year for me. I started this blog, reduced our household trash production by A LOT, and became a Recycling Ambassador with my city. But we (I) can always do better so here are some goals/resolutions/whatever you want to call it for the coming year. And, also, comment and tell me what your green goals are for this year! 

  1. Become a Master Composter. My classes/training starts later this month!
  2. Find a facial bar soap I like. Makeup and skincare products are my “luxury items” — and while I try to buy in glass as much as possible, and recycle everything else with TerraCycle/Origins/L’Occitane… I can do better. So my goal this year is to go totally zero waste when it comes to face wash. I’m thinking this or this.
  3. Re-start my “buy no new clothes” resolution from last year. Last year, I went 10 months (after initially shooting for one month, then three) without buying any new clothing items (except underwear). And by “no new” — I mean, every clothing item I buy must be thrifted (whether at a physical store or from eBay/Poshmark/ThredUp). I’m hoping to go at least 6 months this year. 
  4. Save excess shower/bath water, pasta water, tea pot water, etc. in a bucket to use to water plants during the summer. It gets incredibly hot here in Dallas during the summer and my roses drink a lot of water during this time. So I’m going to make an effort to save water that would otherwise go down the drain at home to water the outdoor plants. 
  5. Repair clothes before replacing them. Darn socks with holes in them. De-pill sweaters, leggings, and t-shirts. Remove stains ASAP. 
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