Some of the things they don’t tell you about trying to reduce your household trash with zero waste living is that it depends a lot on where and how you want to live. Most of the year’s worth of garbage in jar folks have access to big fill your own container stores, year round farm markets, or huge gardens where they can grow almost everything they need. Not all of us are that lucky, would rather not drive all over the place, or crunched the numbers and found some the prices in those shops sky high. *raises hand*
But’s not to say that zero waste is impossible! Instead try the more realistic goal of concentrating on reducing your household waste than making it absolute zero. By focusing on reusing, the Rule of Half, recycling, reducing, and composting (when the bin isn’t frozen shut) my family has reduced our weekly household waste to approximately one grocery store size shopping bag (ish. We reuse any packaging, dog food, etc. bags for garbage which means the size varies) a week. We average a 3/4 full recycling bin every two weeks. We also give ourselves a break if our output is more than that because we have seasons and that can determine what we can do and how we do it.
To give you some realistic ways to reduce your household waste (and possibly save some money doing it) I made a list of the zero waste practices, tips, and tricks I do in a normal week to give you some ideas and jump start your thinking machines to find a zero waste solution that works for you!
1. I downloaded an ebook from Kindle Unlimited (you can learn more about it here.) I got the book immediately and eliminated packaging when I found out my library didn’t have the book I wanted. (Disclosure: I am including affiliate links for your convenience.)
2. My husband cooked ingredient food based meals that use part of the package rather than the whole thing – think stir fry type meals and recipes where meat is used more as a condiment than a whole hunk for each person at the table. We started cooking this way as newlyweds because it was less expensive and faster to get a meal on the table after a long workday. We stuck with it because it is easier to deal with my severe dairy intolerance and got gold stars from our doctor for healthy eating. Cooking this way also allows me to shop monthly (besides milk and bread) and accidently lowers the amount of stuff going in our trash and recycling bins – bonus! Before you think I shop fancy zero waste stores we don't have any. I do most of my grocery shopping at Aldi and Trader Joe's which are notorious for putting everything including fresh produce in packaging.
3. I stored dinner leftovers in a container with a lid (I have a free for all of containers that are purchased and repurposed in glass and BPA free plastic) instead of using plastic wrap that doesn’t stick to anything put itself. My husband and I usually eat leftovers for lunch.
4. Every month I replace the dirty reusable HVAC filter (you can learn about my reusable furnace filters here)with a clean one. They recommended we change our filters monthly to prolong its life. It also helps with my seasonal allergies. I cleaned the dirty filter and let it dry overnight to use the following month.
5. While celebrity Zero Wasters refuse to admit it, I consider my city recycling program a tool in lowering my home’s waste and put the recycling bin out on the curb for pickup. There are some items we depend upon that come in packaging – some we can repurpose and some we can't. I also try to keep tabs on the recycling programs we use (both city and through private companies) to see if the rules change. I still make a lot of items like yogurt once a month for quality and packaging control but it’s nice to know if a stray tube or tub comes my way, I have an option besides the landfill.
6. I Repainted the top of the jar I use I use to make rosacea face wash rounds because the lid was scratched and a little rusty after years of use. Yeah I could have grabbed a new jar from the recycling bin but I like the size and shape of the jar I use.
I made a DIY rosacea face wash rounds by adding a 1/2 to 1 teaspoon (ish) of this liquid Pine Tar soap (learn about it here), 1/4 teaspoon of Kukui oil (you can buy it here), and filling half of the jar with water (I generally eyeball the amounts but many people have asked for specific measurements. This is my best guess.) After mixing the ingredients I stuff a bunch of reusable makeup remover pads like these in the jar and ta da! Zero waste face cleaning wipes.
Imagine this jar with a black lid.
I’ll admit the kukui oil and pine tar soap are on the expensive side but they last a very long time and eliminated the need and expense of the slew of other products that didn’t do such a great job of keeping my horrible rosacea breakouts in check.
7. I washed a full load of cloth reusable items with DIY laundry detergent:
- Dish cloths
- Kitchen towels
- Face rounds (together in a mesh laundry bag like this one,)
- Muslin tea bags (get them here) (I’m giving it try. Truthfully I think I like metal tea balls better.)
- Cleaning rags
- Washable dish scrubbiers like these
- Flannel handkerchiefs
- Old bath towels I cut and hemmed to use instead of paper towels
- Cloth napkins
I keep a basket in my laundry room for dirty reusables (dirty reusable shopping bags go in there too when applicable) and chuck it into the washing machine when it is full since full loads of laundry take less water, energy, detergent, etc that a lot of little loads of laundry. Also, time saver.
8. I measured cooking ingredients in recipes and laundry detergent instead of blindly dumping it in to the washing machine. I used Rule of Half (start by using half the amount or just enough to get the job done to make the item last longer) for household cleaners, health and beauty items, and DIY supplies.
9. My husband an I make coffee with a reusable gold coffee filter. They have reusable coffee filters for Keurig, cone, and basket filters here.
10.We are giving reusable “cotton” swabs like these (actually they are silicone) a try. If we don’t like them we’ll go back to using cotton and paper swabs. Technically we can compost cotton and paper swabs but in reality - ew.
11. Replaced and recharged the batteries in a remote control and porch light. I use this battery recharger because it charges every size battery.
12. We’re renovating a bathroom due to a leak and mold. I listed our old bathroom countertop and sink, shower doors, mirror, and medicine cabinet on Marketplace instead of throwing them away. If I don’t have any takers, I’ll donate them to the Habitat Restore. I was able to save one of the cabinets to use in the garage. It’s not completely zero waste because the moldy subflooring, second vanity, and leaking toilet went into the trash but more items found new homes/repurpose than went to the landfill. It is a realistic compromise I can live with.
Looking for more low and zero waste living ideas? Check out the following options - and more! - below!
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