An effective way I’ve found to curb shopping impulses is by creating a “Do Not Buy” list. This is a list of things that I’ve bought that have gone to waste or went unenjoyed for various reasons. Reminding myself of what these items are and, more importantly, why they didn’t work out (whether it be a certain type of clothing or food) keeps me from accumulating unwanted items. Truly the first step to reducing waste is by purchasing fewer items to begin with.
Dark chocolate: I have a sweet tooth and as much as I try — I find dark chocolate far too bitter… these usually end up accumulating in the pantry until my husband eats them all. Excessively flavored tea: I love tea but am mostly drawn to black, builder tea — the stronger, the better. I’ll occasionally do a light herbal blend or an Earl Grey. But outside of that, I don’t need to get too fancy with it. Flavored balsamic vinaigrettes: While I love flavored balsamics, they usually come in a massive bottle that I struggle to use up. Non vanilla-based ice cream: I’m a vanilla girl. Sure, I’ll get crazy flavors when out and about, but, at home, there’s no way I’ll finish a pint of something purely chocolate. Most cookies: Give me all the cakes and pies — cookies I can pass on.
Hairspray: I’ve had the same bottle for years — I have incredibly thick, mostly hard to control hair. No amount of hairspray can change that. Conditioner: For every conditioner bottle I use up, I’ve probably gone through 4-5 shampoo bars. I don’t use enough of it to justify the purchase. I think coconut oil pre-shampooing should be enough. Nail polish: I love having my nails done. I suck at doing them myself. And, no matter how much I practice, it never looks as good as when I get it done at the salon. I’ll leave it to the professionals.
Boat neck shirts: Doesn’t look good on me. Empire waisted dresses: Doesn’t work on my petite frame. Shirts/dresses with halter straps: Makes me self conscious about my shoulders. Jeans without stretch: Not comfortable. Trench coats: Looks cool. Completely impractical in the Texas weather. Tight shorts: Too old to feel comfortable in these. Fancy compression workout leggings: I love my Nike Leg-a-see Leggings and gravitate towards them. Everything else feels too tight. Black loungewear: Three cream/golden dogs who love to shed. Don’t wear black in my home. Expensive shoes: I have flat feet and do a number on my shoes — doesn’t matter how expensive they were. There are plenty of affordable options out there. Non black/grey/nude undergarments: I see all these cute colors and prints but they just aren’t practical! Dress socks: I work from home. I have no need for these… no matter how adorable they are. Bracelets/watches: I hate anything on my wrist.
Beachy or linen scented items: I prefer warmer, sweeter scents. I don’t like to feel like I’m inside a washing machine. Blankets or pillows with poms on them: Three dogs and poms do not mix. Non-cotton blankets: My cotton blankets have outlasted every other material and are so much more comfortable (and compostable!). Pure white bedding: These end up looking grimey and yellow pretty quickly in our home. Only gray bedding moving forward.
Bar soaps are a holy grail product for low-wasters. You can often find them without any packaging and once they are used up, they’re done. No bottles or pumps or lids to recycle or trash. No waste. It’s awesome. However, these wonderful creations do require a little bit of care to get the most use out of them.
First up, soap dishes. My view: the best soap dish is one you already have. You don’t have one lying around? This is the perfect time to use unused jewelry dishes, a small fancy plate, empty candle jars, empty jam jars, Altoid tins… any jar/plate/trinket dish that is shallow and wide. I personally use an old candle jar + a trinket dish at home and a Lush tin + a random old gum tin when traveling.
But what’s more important than where you place your soap? It’s how you keep your soap dry when not in use… a constantly wet soap bar that doesn’t have time to dry out is a soap bar that becomes mushy and dies in a week. Enter the soap lift or soap saver (examples here and here). In addition, I use a sisal soap saver (like this one) for my body soap bar to help exfoliate my skin, keep my bar hung up and dry between use, and to corral small soap slivers together.
And, a final tip: if you get your hands on a large bar of soap, use a knife and cut the large bar in to smaller pieces. This way, you aren’t getting a massive bar of soap constantly wet (and, therefore, wasting a large amount of it).
Ah spring. The time for fresh starts and spring cleaning. Although I try and keep up with everything year round, I like to go extra hard in the spring in preparation for the brutal Texas summers. I want everything as streamlined, minimized, and light/airy as possible. So here’s my spring to do list (and hopefully you get some ideas as well)!
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.