Objective: Zero Waste is a series in which I will be sharing the steps our family has been taking to reduce our environmental footprint. This is part 3 of the series. Here are the links for part 1 and part 2.
The last time, I wrote about the 5 R’s behind the concept of zero waste. Today, I’ll be writing about the concrete changes we have made as a family of six since embarking on this journey.
But first, some background info:
- We’ve cloth diapered all four of our kids. They only wear a disposable at night.
- We started doing partial composting (mostly fruits and veggies) about two years ago.
- In October 2019, city-run compost (weekly pickup) started in our municipality.
- Starting October 2020, garbage pickup will be bi-weekly instead of being weekly.
- Recycling pickup happens weekly (we don’t need to sort our glass, metal and paper, it just all goes in the same bin).
- We live 5 minutes away from a Bulk Barn (which, for those of you who don’t know is a store that sells mostly food products in bulk bins) and an independant green living shop (which mostly sells eco-responsable household and cosmetic products).
The reason I mention these points is because they have all contributed to tackling my own zero-waste journey more easily. As daunting as the concept of zero-waste sounds, what’s important is not to compare ourselves to what others are doing, but rather to reevaluate what we can do with the resources we have.
Steps to zero-waste in our household
- We buy most of our dry goods (sugar, salt, nuts, grains, spices…) at a bulk store which we place directly into our glass canning jars instead of using the plastic bags from the store. This allows us to buy only what we need, thus reducing what we have and avoiding waste generated by forgetting about our overstock.
- We compost all of our food scraps.
- We make most of our food from scratch (from pasta to granola to bread to salad dressing…).
- When we do buy prepared food, we choose glass jars over plastic when the option exists.
- We refuse to buy our food in disposable (that go in the trash) containers when another option exists (bulk bins > glass > recyclable plastic) and have reduced our purchase of these items when no other option exists (the best example I can give is meat which is sold in a non-recyclable styrofoam container and wrapped with non-recyclable plastic film).
- We reuse our containers as much as possible.
- We’ve reduced our meat intake – some weeks eating as little as two animal protein meals per week.
- We refuse to buy anymore plastic food wrap or plastic sandwich bags and, now that we’ve changed the way we store our food, are having a lot of trouble finishing what we have leftover.
- We use washable fabric bags for shopping. When we forget to bring them, we ask for paper bags (which we then reuse for composting or gift wrapping). If only plastic bags are available, we reuse them for everything from allowing for bread dough to rise to containing poopy diapers.
- We’ve switched from liquid hand soap in plastic pump bottles to bars of soap that are wrapped in paper or not wrapped at all for hand-washing (less plastic).
- Similarly, after going through our shampoo, body wash and conditioner, we now use a bar of castile soap to wash from head to toe (goodbye plastic).
- I’ve reduced my showers to two per week (one for each day I wash my hair). On the other days, I’ll generally just quickly wash my underarms and pubic area with a washcloth or, if I went running, opt for a quick sponge bath (this has allowed me to reduce the amount of water I use).
- I switched from my beloved antiperspirant to a crystal deodorant stone (no more plastic!).
Cleaning and laundry
- I’ve switched from my plethora of specialized cleaners to water, vinegar (yes it smells, but the scent dissipates quickly and it works remarkably well) and baking soda. To take the edge off the smell of the vinegar, I sometimes soak some citrus peels in it for a couple of weeks (thus reusing them before composting them) prior to diluting it.
- We’ve been using wool dryer balls for about three years.
- We hang most of our clothes to dry and use only cold water for most of our loads of laundry.
- We refill our laundry detergent at a local eco-responsable bulk shop.
Paper and paper products
- We reuse all of the paper that we receive from Charles’ school by turning it into scraps of paper for the grocery list (because my husband prefers this method to a virtual list on his phone), paper for drawing and for the printer (for non-official documents).
- We’ve called the local flyer company and have refused to receive their Publisac which was basically a bag filled with the week’s flyers that was delivered to our door each week (and pretty much chucked into the recycling bin as soon as we got home). This has drastically reduced the amount of paper in our recycling bin.
- I’ve unsubscribed (refuse) from most email mailing lists. I sometimes found myself buying things that I didn’t really need just because I’d receive promo codes and sales emails and would convince myself that I would need a certain product (and then fill my cart up enough with other things that I “needed” to benefit from free shipping).
- I use DIY washable cotton tissues to blow my nose.
- I’ve replaced all of my disposable feminine hygiene products by washable pads, a silicone menstrual cup and panties with an integrated absorbent core (none of the links are affiliates, just linking for your information and because I really like the products!).
- We use old dishtowels instead of paper towels to absorb excess oil after frying and washable tissue napkins when eating something messy.
Some of these things, we’ve been doing for a while. Others were started when we began on our zero-waste journey. All of them have been implemented slowly so as to not feel overwhelming. These are just examples of the things that we do to contribute to reducing the waste we produce as a family. Because of these steps, and despite having two children in diapers (one full time and one for nights only) we’ve gone from filling our large garbage can once every 6 weeks to once every 12 weeks and our large recycling bin once every 2 weeks to once every 3-4 weeks.
I’m really happy with what we have done so far, but I want to push the envelope even further. In my next post, I plan on exploring the steps that I am planning on taking in the future to reduce our environmental footprint even further.