Condo Blues: How to Go Zero Waste on a Budget: Use the Rule of Half

Sunday, December 15, 2019

How to Go Zero Waste on a Budget: Use the Rule of Half

When someone brings up trying to reduce their household waste with zero waste living and one of the first things they ask is me is why does it have to be so strict, expensive, and hard?

I understand how you can get that impression seeing photos online of DIY everything, people using plastic free as a synonym for zero waste (plastic free living is a noble goal but is not the same thing, ) and mason jars full of one year’s trash, but those are the rare, edited for the Internet exceptions, and not the reality.

zero waste ideas that dont cost money

Save this list of ideas to your Pinterest Boards for later! Share it with your friends!

I get it. I truly do. Local laws prohibit me from using my own containers at bulk bins, my farm markets are only open during the summer, and frankly both of those options are more expensive than Aldi where I can do a monthly grocery shop in under an hour.  However, over time I was able to reduce my household weekly trash to a small grocery store size bag a week.

How do we do it?

We don’t focus on the Zero. We concentrate on reducing.

The cheapest and easiest way to do that is with The Rule of Half.

What is the Rule of Half?

The Rule of Half is the idea that you should try to using half the amount of a consumable item than  you would normally use to get the job done (or at least less than you currently do) when it is possible.

The item in the container lasts longer which means fewer containers and reduces household waste – and saves a bit of money too. This is not a perfect zero waste solution but it is doable no matter what is or isn’t available to you. I consider it a tool in my household waste reduction toolkit.

Fox example, I learned the number one reason why HE washing machine smell is that most people use too much laundry detergent to wash a load of laundry. Using too much laundry detergent is also the reason why line dried laundry ends up stiff and scratchy because it doesn’t fully rinse out and may be the reason why you think you need to use laundry softener. The easiest, cheapest, and lowest waste remedy is to read the instructions and measure the laundry detergent instead of just dumping it in the washing machine.  By simply measuring, it makes a container (either DIY or store bought) last longer which means less in your recycling bin or less times you have to make it which is also a time saver.

I used to automatically fill this detergent cup up to the top until I read the instructions that said I should be filling the cup just below the 2 mark. Now my washing machine doesn’t have to work as hard during the rinse cycle which also saves water and eliminates the need for fabric softener.

While I now make my powdered HE laundry detergent recipe (you can read it here) threre is no zero waste law that says you have to. In fact, the wrapper from the Zote laundry bar (you can learn more about it here) I use to make it is landfill bound trash unlike the fully recyclable bottle of liquid laundry detergent it replaced. I still chose to DIY it because it is the only HE laundry detergent that doesn't make my washing machine smell.  I think it works better than every HE liquid I tried on everything from delicate costumes to my husband’s toxically whiffy running clothes and did I mention it doesn’t make my washing machine stink? (Disclosure: I am including some affiliate links in this post for your convenience.)

DIY HE laundry detergent recipe
 I find the time to make it by making it 6 batches at a time to fill a repurposed container. That way I only have to carve the 15 minutes I need to make laundry detergent to a few times a year.

Some other easy ways to use the Rule of Half to reduce household waste are:

  • Put a rubber band around the top of the pump top of shampoo, conditioner, hand soap if it is pumping out too much you need to get the job done. I’m a big fan of hanging refillable pump containers like this one because I can’t tell you how many times I’m accidentally splooshed out more of an item with a squeeze top than I needed. 

how to make a hand soap pump dispenser
In the interest of reducing household waste, you can absolutely clean and reuse/repurpose a plastic pump or bottle. That's where I got the pump to make this soap dispenser that holds my hot process liquid soap experiments (fun fact: making soap can make more landfill bound waste than buying it.)
Another example is I refill an empty brand of dish detergent that comes in a pump bottle with a brand who's packaging is fully recyclable where I live.

  • Try filling half the length of your toothbrush with toothpaste instead along of the whole thing.

  • One industrious mom doles out a portion of shampoo, etc. in a condiment cup (which she reuses) for each family member to use when they bathe/shower after she learned the reason the family was going through so much shampoo is that her kids were using up to half a bottle at a time to make bubble bath!

  • Try splitting part of a meal out if you know the portions are too big to finish to avoid a take out container.

  • Use a measuring cup to dispense food in your pet’s food bowl to make sure you don’t overfeed them and cause potential health problems. lacey
Hi everyone! Lacey here! On behalf of hungry dogs everyone I beg you to ignore that last suggestion and let your dog eat all the foods all the time!

Add your low and zero waste living tips, hacks, and ideas to the comments below!

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Melynda@Scratch Made Food! said...

I was drawn here to read the rule of half. Great ideas! I am guilty of not measuring the HE liquid detergents, mostly because I do not like liquid soap for laundry. I made my own for yeas also, will need to take a look at your recipe, we are no a septic system in our new home and (of course) the less we put down the better! Thanks for a great article.

Teresa B said...

Oh, this is just perfect. My goal for the new year is going to be to become as eco-friendly as possible.
Thank you for sharing at The Really Crafty Link Party, and happy holidays!

Powell River Books said...

Lots of good ideas. We live most of the time up the lake in a float cabin. I am forever saving containers to reuse. If not, everything has to be taken to town by boat for recycling or the trash. We are very lucky to have a comprehensive recycling depot right in the middle of town. - Margy

Jhuls said...

What a wonderful post to share! Thanks for sharing at Fiesta Friday party!

French Creek Farmhouse said...

These are such wonderful ideas, Lisa! I love that you have a heart for sustainability, but that you approach it in a logical and manageable way. This is fantastic! xo, Kristi

Lisa Lynn said...

I've been working to reduce our household waste too and I'm not sure how zero waste is doable for most people...thanks for sharing your practical approach on Farm Fresh Tuesdays!
Happy New Year!

Jean | said...

What great, sensible, anyone-can-do-it tips on one of my favorite subjects! To add to splitting a meal so as to avoid the takeout container, here's what I do when dining with my husband who wants a whole meal to himself: I take along my own 3-cup rectangular Pyrex storage dish and put half my meal in it before I start eating.

Jean | said...

PS Pinned this to my Zero Waste Pinterest board.

Of Goats and Greens said...

Some excellent means for reducing waste here, and I plan to incorporate at least a couple Thanks for sharing this post and information over at Fiesta Friday.

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