You might be hearing this phrase a lot lately – zero waste.
But what is zero waste?
I’m going to give you a quick and easy overview of zero waste. So let’s go!
In simplest terms, zero waste is about not sending anything to the landfill or creating any trash.
On a deeper level, zero waste is the idea of keeping our resources in circulation and in use; reducing or eliminating the need for landfills, and is one result of a circular economy (an economy where products are designed to stay within a cycle of use and reuse). In a circular economy, each phase of a product’s life is connected to another, and disposal in a landfill is avoided. So zero waste is actually a key piece of a new way of thinking about the resources that we use to sustain ourselves.
We all know that there are a limited number of resources to support us humans and other creatures and plants on Earth. Zero waste and the circular economy are connected ideas of truly valuing those resources and planning for the use and reuse of those resources. Zero waste is a concept that applies to all the things we interact with our lives, from our roads and buildings to our breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
In a perfect world, zero waste would look like this: any product that is created (and a product includes everything from the walls of your house to your breakfast cereal) starts with sustainable and renewable raw and/or recycled materials. The manufacturing of that product results in no waste. The product is delivered without waste (e.g., transportation powered by renewable energy). The product is used and is either completely used up (e.g., breakfast cereal is completely eaten without any waste) or is used until it needs to be repaired, in which case it is repaired. Or, the product is used completely and can no longer be used again, in which case it’s collected and remanufactured back into that product, or into another valuable product, that enters this process and stays in the circular economy.
Here’s a way to visualize a circular economy with zero waste.
Zero waste in practice doesn’t look like that, because we don’t have a circular economy. So in practice, as a individual, zero waste is about making the best choices possible to minimize waste and support sustainable practices. As an individual, zero waste looks like this:
As an individual, we can take steps to do our best to reduce waste and live more sustainably. The first step is to refuse – say no to those things that you don’t truly need. For some zero wasters, this includes refusing all gifts and freebies. In theory, refusing will result in much less waste and can be applied most broadly to all areas of your life.
The second step is to reduce what you consume. This goes for all areas of your life – the size of your home, clothing, beauty products, etc. It also applies to things like air and car travel – these also have huge impacts on the planet. The less we consume in general, the less waste we create. Some zero wasters strive for a minimalist lifestyle. Living closer to minimalism reduces the things you bring into your home and life and, as a result, the trash that you create.
The third step is to reuse. How can you reuse things in your life? Rather than tossing something, repurpose it. For example, clothes that can’t be mended could be turned into rags. A broken shelf is repurposed into something else functional. A jar that held your jam is reused to hold leftovers.
The fourth step is to recycle. This should apply to fewer things in your life because recycling is not a great solution to reducing waste. In fact, much of what we send to our local recycling plants doesn’t actually get recycled. In a circular economy, recycling would be even more effective. But as things stand today in 2018, recycling is a smaller piece of living sustainably, relative to refusing, reducing, and reusing.
The last step is to allow things to rot. Anything that is compostable should be composted once it reaches the end of its life, but again this should happen only after refusing, reducing, reusing, and recycling. Although compost is important for healthy soils, it’s more important to preserve our resources and keep them in use, rather than dispose of them as compost.
If you are new to composting, search around for tips and resources. Anyone with a space for a small bin can start to compost, even without an outdoor space. Local cities and communities might have compost pick-up available. And anything that is made of 100% natural materials and has not been heavily processed in a way to change its composition can be composted at home. Things like bioplastics and bamboo rayon come from plants but have been heavily processed – they cannot be composted at home but there may be recycling options near you. Other things like cotton fabric, paper plates, food scraps, wood scraps, etc. can be composted at home.
To summarize, going for zero waste as an individual means:
So there you have it – an introduction to zero waste at both the large scale and individual level. Where are you at on your zero waste journey? And what’s been hardest for you? Share in the comments below!
Right now it’s summer time, which in my house means family trips! Traveling opens doors to new experiences and perspectives and I really value our family trips. It also changes up our routines and takes us from the comforts of home, which creates a few challenges for our zero waste goals.
So, to help us all cut down travel waste, I’ve put together my top 4 tips for zero waste travel. These steps are simple enough for even the busiest families and individuals, so check them out and give them a try!
Here are my top four tips for zero waste travel.
1. Prep a simple travel kit.
If you’re traveling with your family or friends, it’s a great idea to have at least some of these things for each person. Here’s what we pack in our zero waste travel kits.
Water bottle – and fill it up after security if you’re traveling by plane!
Napkin, handkerchief, or both – say ‘no thanks’ to paper napkins and tissues. You can even wash this in a small sink during your travels if you can’t easily run a load of laundry. Check out my napkin & hankie offerings here or find some at your local thrift store!
Small fork, knife, and/or spoon (or, my personal fav – a spork)! Note that you don’t want to bring knives if you’re traveling by plane! Airport security doesn’t like that :). I got us each a little set at a local camping/outdoor gear store in Santa Cruz.
Mason jar – perfect for leftovers, a smoothie, juice, you get the idea :). We usually bring one with us when we go out to eat to avoid the doggie bag/box, which can be made of plastic.
Sandwich bag or beeswax wrap – great for bringing along a sandwich or picking up a pastry or cookie when your out and about. You can buy a sandwich bag made by me here and a beeswax wrap here.
Travel coffee mug – if you need some caffeine in the morning like me, this is a great way to get it to go and avoid disposable coffee cups and lids. Your kids may not need to bring one along, but hey, maybe they’d like some hot cocoa in the morning!
Market bag – again, maybe kids don’t need this, but I would recommend bringing along at least one bag for shopping. Our market bag often doubles as our kit bag. I’ll ask the kids to carry their own water bottles, and usually I’ll toss a few napkins, utensils, mason jar, etc., into the market bag. I try to bring this along for our outings in general, and especially if we are going to be out and about for the day or going to eat somewhere. And of course, I make a market tote that you can see here.
2. Bring extra snacks.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to buy some last minute packaged treat because we didn’t have enough snacks! For example, ever have a morning bike ride that was supposed to end before lunch? And suddenly it’s 1pm and everyone is losing it? Been there. Or that flight that was delayed now that you’re in the airport surrounded by shiny packaged treats? Been there too. So, I try to bring snacks that travel well (i.e., the opposite of a peach). Think nuts, granola, carrots, apples, and banana chips. What’s available in your local bulk bins or farmer’s market that will hold up well on a journey? Or, can you squeeze in an hour to make a tin of cookies or granola bars?
One more thought about snacks – I try to bring snacks that are a little extra special – good enough to compete with roadside and airport junk food. I’m sure that’s different for every family, but try to find some options that everyone will get excited about.
3. Check out nearby bulk foods, farmers markets, and natural food stores.
Look into bulk shopping options wherever you’re headed! There might be some fun and unique offerings, and I’m pretty confident that you can find bulk options almost EVERYWHERE. Bea Johnson of zerowastehome.com has a cool bulk finder app to help you find something wherever you’re headed. Check it out here.
If you’ll be visiting somewhere long enough to shop for food, you might want to bring along some reusable bags and jars to avoid waste. I’ve got some made by me with love for sale here, but you can even use an old pillow case or make your own!
4. Consider your compost options.
Anywhere you travel, you have some compost options. Some cities have curbside compost pick up, making it super easy (yay, San Francisco!). Other cities have composting services you can check out. Santa Cruz, for example, has a local business that will come pick up your compost for you – by bike! How cool is that? Check them out here. The local farmers market might collect compost as well. If you’re staying with friends or family, maybe they have a little compost pile you can add to, or maybe you can inspire them to start something simple. You can purchase some compost bins for under $50. Some folks also recommend burying your non-meat, non-dairy food scraps (think eggshells, fruit and veg peels) in the dirt, at least 10 inches deep. My cautions, though: 1. You need to be aware of possible pest issues – you don’t want to burden your host with an onslaught of new critters in their yard. 2. You need to be careful of nearby plant roots and landscaping.
Another option, which we do whenever we camp or road trip, is to collect your scraps in a bin or bag and bring them home to compost. We’ve done this for up to a week of waste scraps with no issues – no smell, no pests. We’ve used a big cooler as our bin before, or a big plastic tupperware, or even a big plastic bag when we forgot our bin in the past. Back at home, we just add it to our compost bins and voila! Soil! (months later 🙂 )
So there you have it – my top 4 tips for zero waste travel. I hope you found these helpful! Do you have any to add? Have you tried any zero waste travel tips? I’d love to hear, so share in the comments below!
Earth Day is a day to show our love for mother Earth. It’s a day for political action and community organizing. It’s a day to celebrate the environmental movement.
And it’s also a day for small personal actions! If you aren’t taking part in something big on this day, there are TONS of ways to show your support for the environment. These are 5 super easy ideas for actions anyone can fit into their busy lives. Check them out!
My 5 super easy actions for Earth Day!
1. Eat vegan for the day!
This is by far the easiest way to make a BIG impact on the planet. I call this one a win, win, win, win! Because eating vegan does all of this: minimizes greenhouse gas emissions, reduces water pollution, reduces water use, and conserves resources. All of this happens when you eat vegan because you are eliminating animal products and all of the waste and pollution associated with animal-based products and big animal farms. If you are blanking on vegan eating ideas, check out minimalist baker for LOADS of good ideas. I love her stuff. Right now my favorite recipe of hers is Mexican cashew cheese. Yum. My kiddos love it too!
2. Pick up trash on your street.
This is a small step, but can help protect your local waterways and wildlife. Litter gets washed down or blown into small streams, which lead to rivers, which eventually lead to the ocean. Litter also gets accidentally ingested by small critters and birds. Pick it up and dispose of it in the right place instead! You might even get to know some new neighbors in the process, and even inspire others!
3. Stay out of your car for the day.
This is another biggie. In the US, transportation is the number one source of greenhouse gas emissions. Try to avoid driving for one day. Can those errands wait a day or two? Probably. If it really can’t wait, try taking your bike or the bus instead of driving. You get a little extra movement for the day, and spare the air!
4. Go for a hike nearby.
Keeping in mind the whole don’t-drive suggestion, is there a hike or walk you can get to without your car? You can also try taking the bus, biking, or just going for a long walk in your neighborhood. I like to call that an urban hike. Getting outside into nature (or nature-ish) is awesome for clearing your head, tuning in to your surroundings, and remembering why this planet is so amazing and deserves our protection!
5. Plant a vegetable
Plant a veggie or an herb in your garden or, if you don’t have a garden – put it in a pot in front of a sunny window. Not only does this literally make the world and your home a little greener, eating homegrown means eating super fresh, avoiding pesticides, and might even save you from a trip to the store now and then! At my house we have lots of greens like kale and chard growing in our garden. Even when we don’t have veggies in the fridge for lunch or dinner, we have veggies from the yard to eat! So they save us a last minute trip to the store pretty much EVERY WEEK! After you plant it, it can remind you of Earth Day each time you see it and water it, and hopefully bring a smile to your face.
That’s it – 5 super simple things to do on Earth Day. Do you have any to add? Or have you tried any of these? Let me know in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you!
Hey friend, Want some Eco-Friendly Products to green your life?
Luckily, there are SO many ways that you can help make the planet a cleaner, greener place.
Today I wanted to share my current Favorite Top 10 eco-friendly products.
super easy to use, easy to find online or in your town, sometimes used!, and all under $25!
And that all help reduce plastic and other pollution. Win, win, win, win!
These eco-friendly products are super easy swaps for polluting plastic and paper waste! Just imagine, If we all used these, there would be so much less plastic pollution in the world. We could save TONS of plastic and paper from landfills, beaches, rivers, and oceans! I don’t know if this happens to you, too, but EVERYTIME I see a sea creature that’s been harmed or killed by plastic pollution, I feel just awful. AND it helps me re-energize and recommit to avoiding plastic wherever I can! Did you know that even paper products create greenhouse gases if they aren’t disposed of properly? Even though they are biodegradable, they won’t biodegrade well in a landfill.
So, here are my top 10 super affordable and eco-friendly products to make the world a greener place.
Plus, some of my tips on incorporating these into your life!
1. Bamboo toothbrush
These are awesome. You can find some that are 100% compostable, and that will easily breakdown in your own home compost (or city compost, if you are one of the lucky few to have this option!). I love them.
My toothbrush tip for you – if you (and any kids of yours) visit the dentist regularly, they’ll probably try to give you a plastic toothbrush. Be prepared! Let them know that you don’t need the freebie plastic toothbrush that they have for you, and tell them you use a bamboo toothbrush. You might even encourage them to start handing out bamboo brushes too! Eco-friendly dentist? Yes, please!
2. Travel coffee mug
I actually have a few of these right now and they are AWESOME. I use mine EVERY. SINGLE. DAY and haven’t used a disposable coffee cup for probably a couple years now. And there are SO many awesome options out there. I love them all. You can probably even find some at your local thrift store!
My kids and I use a travel mug for hot chocolate from the coffee shop too – they are ready for their own! Luckily I have enough to share with them for now. In a pinch, we just bring a regular mug from home. Lots of coffee shops will give you a discount, too, for bringing your own mug! Yay for discounts!
3. Reusable veggie bags
Single use plastic bags are the worst. They aren’t always recyclable, they can be super polluting, and they may even leech toxins into food. Yuck. Introducing: reusable veggie bags! Now, I’m not ashamed to promote my own here – made with upcycled cotton, even! BUT there are lots of options on the market, and these are the types of things you can even sew on your own with very few sewing skills! So, get the ones that work for you, but get some! I use mine to shop with AND I even store my greens and other veggies in them.
Side note tip for you: there are some great ideas for storing veggies without plastic on pinterest – check out some of my favorite boards for tips here for how to keep you goods crisp and fresh, without using plastic.
4. Reusable straw
This feels a little luxurious, but is still so super affordable! If you have kiddos and you like to go out to eat once and a while, it’s fun to whip out your reusable straw and let them feel a little extra fancy with their beverage. They are also great for enjoying a smoothie on the go.
My tip on using a reusable straw and straws in general – you often have to act super fast to avoid getting a plastic straw at a restaurant, cafe, or bar. You might think about setting yours out on the table as soon as you sit down as a visual reminder to yourself and the waitstaff that you don’t need a plastic straw. Always let them know directly too – politely, of course. And be kind if they forget – it happens. One of these days, I think restaurants will start coming around on this issue and will cut down on their own straws, at least plastic straws. But for now, if we can do our part and let them know our values, the earth and all its creatures will benefit. You can find these in glass here and stainless steel here.
5. Reusable napkin
This is a great way to cut down on disposable napkins in your life! I carry one of these in my purse all the time. Bonus – it doubles as a hankie in a pinch. Just remember to wash it (remove all ickies after use). I have a few of these so I can toss one in the wash after we use it, and then grab another clean one from our kitchen drawer.
My tip on napkins – at some restaurants and cafes, let the staff know that you don’t need any napkins, because they may try to give you some with your food. And chances are they aren’t expecting you to have a napkin in your pocket or purse. But – surprise – now you do!
You can see the ones I make with organic cotton here. But you can also just cut up an old shirt – knit cotton won’t fray too much (e.g., t-shirt fabric) – and keep that handy if you want to do the super easy DIY route!
6. Reusable utensils
I keep some of these in my purse at all times! There’s nothing worse than bringing home yet another set of plastic utensils that we don’t need because we forgot to bring our own. I’ve even shared with friends in the past – I keep extras in my purse for my kiddos, but I’m happy to let anyone use them! And I wash them after each use. I love small camping sized utensils for my purse, since my current purse is more of an oversized wristlet, and space is limited. I got mine at the local camping store, but you could also find some online or at a health food store. Or, super cheap way to do it – get some used utensils at the thrift store! The Goodwill in my town sells used utensils for about 50 cents each. Deal! If you dig around enough, you may even luck out on some small ones, or even a spork! Sporks are awesome, FYI – spoon + fork = spork!
And don’t forget to let the restaurant/cafe know that you have them! Sometimes they won’t want to reuse a plastic utensil that has just barely touched your plate. I know, it seems wasteful, but they are bound by different health codes. So let them know before they are done putting together your food to avoid this altogether.
7. Reusable snack bags
A super easy alternative to a ziplock or plastic baggie is a cotton snack bag. At my house, we use these for EVERYTHING: sandwiches, crackers, plaintain chips, popcorn, granola, chocolate chips (don’t judge!), pretzels, and more. I also use these to keep a hardboiled egg from getting too crushed in my lunch bag, and I’ll put a little tea strainer with tea leaves in there for making tea when I’m out and about. I’ll even put half an apple in there in a pinch – doesn’t keep it as fresh as a beeswax wrap (see below for more on that!) but it’ll keep the apple from picking up too much random stuff and also from getting everything it touches just a little bit damp and sticky.
Tips for you on these little guys: We have about 10 of these in a couple sizes at my house, and often we use one over and over again a few times before we wash it. I’ll turn it inside out, shake out any crumbs, and let it air out a little overnight, and then put it in my bag again. With things that don’t leave any crumbs (ahem, chocolate chips), I’ll just leave it in my lunch bag for the week or even longer and keep refilling it.
You can see a range of fabrics in my Etsy shop here.
8. Good old water bottle.
This is probably the easiest. And you can also probably find some at your thrift store! I like stainless steel or glass for mine – minimizes any potential leaching of toxins from plastic or questionable metals. And I LOVE my Swell which I bought from one of my favorite local stores – Jones and Bones in Capitola. It’s great to get a good product and also shop local at the same time, if you are on the market for a certain brand.
9. Beeswax wrap
Beeswax wraps are a great alternative to plastic wrap, tin foil, and wax paper. Super eco-friendly. You can use them to wrap up your bowls, plates, or a sandwich or burrito. I also use them to wrap up half an apple or cucumber or avocado. They are super versatile, reusable, and fully biodegradable. You can read all about them in one of my blog posts here and you can buy them here.
Okay, that’s another shameless plug for my loving handmade pieces. I can’t help myself! But if you aren’t into beeswax, there are also vegan ones out there! My favorites are made by a woman in Australia and can be found here. See, it’s not all about me!
And you can also find some great tutorials online if you want to DIY it! Tip on DIY, though: unless you plan to make a whole bunch and maybe give some away as gifts, it may not be worth the time, money, and effort to make these. They are a little messy and some of the ingredients can be pricey and hard to find – and may only be available in packaging, which kind-of defeats the point! BUT don’t let that deter you! I actually enjoy making them, and you might too!
10. Reusable dish towels
My last eco-product plug: say goodbye to paper towels with dish towels! If you can integrate a dish towel or tea towel into your kitchen, you can eliminate SO MUCH paper waste! This also eliminates the water and energy required to make the paper products. We keep ours on the handle of our oven door, but there are lots of cute clips out there to hang it from a cupboard drawer as well. We use it until it’s grubby and needs to be washed. When we just dry clean dishes with it, it might stay clean for well over a week.
I make mine in upcycled cotton whenever possible for maximum eco-friendly-ness. I also use organic cotton. You can check out my offerings here. You can probably find some at the thrift store too, if you’re not too particular about what’s on it :).
Tip: If you use paper towels for cleaning up spills, let me suggest using rags instead! Turn those old clothes, too old to give away, into rags by cutting them up. We keep a stack in our closet and grab them anytime there’s a spill in the house. Cotton knits are less likely to fray.
Okay, there you have it. My top 10 eco-friendly products towards a greener, zero waste life. Did I leave out your favorite? Let me know in the comments below! I’d love to hear your thoughts.
It’s a new year, and time for some zero waste new year’s resolutions!
This year for the first time ever I actually set some goals and WROTE THEM DOWN! Woohoo! I set goals across the important areas of my life, including health, family, friends, money, work, and business. And I ALMOST forgot to set myself some waste-related goals. Whoa. Luckily I caught myself and added some zero waste resolutions for the year. So here they are.
Zero Waste New year’s Resolution #1: Have at least one 100% freebie-free week with the kids.
Freebies and gifts are one of the major sources of trash in our life still. It’s gotten easier for me to say no to freebies out in the world, but my kids, on the other hand, are still working on this, understandably – it’s freaking hard! Our culture embraces and encourages the act of giving gifts and things, and it can come across as ungrateful or rude to refuse a gift. Unfortunately so many of these freebies are wrapped in plastic or made of plastic or in some other way destined for the landfill. My kids are offered and accept little bits and trinkets pretty much every week from friends, family, school, and outings. Just last week there was a butterfly making project at the library. The butterflies were made of paper (yay!) and wooden laundry clips (yay!) and little pipe cleaners (hmmm…). Not sure what to do with the pipe cleaners – they’re made of metal and synthetic fiber. They can be used over and over again, in theory, but once they break they are landfill foder. A few days before that, my daughter was on an outing with her class and a parent took her and her classmates to Starbucks where everyone got a beverage in a plastic cup with a straw. She’s 9, so it’s hard for her to remember to say no to a straw (heck, I forget to say this still!), and she doesn’t carry around a coffee mug for impromptu visits to Starbucks like me (guilty!). They also got bags of chips at Starbucks, so there’s another source of garbage.
I can’t control my kids every move and I wouldn’t want to. I want them to be able to be in the world making their own decisions. That said, one of my goals for this year is to have a very deliberate week-long period where each of us works to say no freebies, especially freebies with plastic/synthetic/non-recyclable or non-biodegradable pieces.
We’ve already started the conversation, too! In order to try out a full week, we’re going to pick a date, go over our family goals and strategies for polite refusal, and then get started!
2. Have a 100% plastic free week with the kids.
This might sound the same as freebie-free, but there are still some sources of plastic in our life that we buy deliberately on a regular basis. Earth balance (vegan butter), day-old bread from our local bakery, cheese, and tofu. We recycle this packaging, but another goal of mine is avoid all of these for at least one week. My daughters actually brought this idea up! We’ll be picking a week soon (not the same week as the freebie-free week) and going for it! I’ll let you know how it goes.
3. Bike more.
I used to bike ALL THE TIME. I’m not sure what happened, but I’m re-committing myself to biking more! My goal is to use the bike every weekend to take care of a trip or errand. So far in 2018, I’ve managed to use the bike every weekend for something. I took a delivery of No Trace goods downtown just recently. It’s a great way to get a little exercise and reduce my carbon footprint. Over time I’m hoping to do more and more by bike, but I’m starting with weekend rides for now. It feels achievable and would still make a big improvement in my waste reduction.
4. Find zero waste dental options
We go through a lot of floss and toothpaste in our house and we’re a little cavity prone so making our own toothpaste isn’t an option. My goal for this year is to find an affordable biodegradable floss and zero waste toothpaste with flouride online. I haven’t been able to find it in town, so it’s time to take the plunge and look online. I’ve been looking around and I’ll share what I find! Let me know if you have any leads.
So there you have it. My 4 zero waste goals for the year. Do you have any eco-goals for the new year? I’d love to hear about them! Share in the comments below. Thanks for reading! Liz
In order to understand what makes a zero waste business, let’s go over a quick definition first!
What is zero waste?
In simple terms, zero waste is a goal of maximizing our planet’s resources by keeping resources in the life cycle and out of the landfill. The ideas behind the zero waste movement center around redesigning our lives and environments so that our resources remain in a cycle of creation, use, and recycling.
What is a zero waste business?
A zero waste business embraces this philosophy of maximizing and reusing resources throughout every stage of design, production, distribution, use, and recycling or reuse. In addition to considering the life cycle of all materials used in a business, zero waste philosophy means working with sustainable resources, such as recycled or all-natural, biodegradable materials.
What makes No Trace a zero waste business?
At No Trace, I think about what it means to be a zero waste business every day, and about where my raw materials are coming from, and where they will end up. I also think about how my pieces are made and the overall impact of their creation. I ask myself: what good will this product have on the planet and for the people who use it? Here are the steps I take towards zero waste. Note that I don’t claim to be perfect or to have all the answers, but I am doing my best to be sustainable. If you have ideas or suggestions for me, please share! I am always open to improvement.
Use of raw materials that are sustainable
I use only 100% natural, biodegradable materials in all of my production. This includes 100% cotton thread, 100% natural fiber fabric, and 100% natural and biodegradable fabric paint (which I make).
I use only use organic cotton or recycled cotton fabric. The production of organic cotton does not pollute our soil or water with toxic chemicals as does conventional cotton. Whenever possible, I source fabrics from second-hand sources (i.e., thrift stores) and repurpose them into functional pieces for the zero waste home.
My racks are made by me with untreated wood. This keeps them free of toxins and means that they can easily be composted or used in the occasional bonfire :).
I’ve started using old corks and transforming them into buttons.
Raw materials are obtained with minimal packaging.
This means avoiding plastic bags or any unnecessary packaging. I buy my beeswax from local bee farmers free of packaging whenever possible. I buy with recyclable packaging when I can’t get things package-free. I always consider the type of packaging before purchasing, and make purchasing decisions based on the packaging.
2020 update: I use terracycle.com to recycle unwanted packaging that I receive from suppliers.
Tools and equipment are obtained second-hand whenever possible.
Most of the equipment used in making my beeswax wraps, for example, is from second hand stores. Used tools and equipment are my first choice for all required No Trace equipment.
Equipment used in markets and fairs is mostly second hand or borrowed. In fact, I may have overstayed my borrowing welcome with some friends on a few pieces 🙂 …
No waste is made in the creation of No Trace pieces.
Every scrap bit of thread and fabric is saved and repurposed into something else. For example, I’ve made paper from thread bits and cell phone cases from fabric bits. I’ve made twine and drawstring ties from long thin pieces of fabric scraps, including the selvage edge.
Every bit of paper is saved and turned into handmade paper. I incorporate bits and strands of thread into this paper.
Patterns are designed with a minimizing of scraps in mind.
Right now, after about a year of production, I have less than one jar of waste from No Trace. It is almost all stickers. I’ve considered trying to turn them into a collage…I’m not sure how appealing this collage would be, though. For now they are snug in my jar.
No Trace packaging is eco-friendly.
I use recycled paper and paper twine to package my pieces. Both of these can be composted or recycled. I recently learned that it’s better to compost small pieces of paper that otherwise get lost in the recycling process. My recommendation is to compost the twine and paper unless your recycling plant has a specific paper pick up that minimizes loss.
I use recycled mailing materials whenever possible, and print directly onto my envelopes when possible. I have had to print mailing labels on a few occasions, which results in these small squares of waxed paper. These have several uses, apparentely, so I’m saving them for a TBD project or to pass on to another artist. Contact me if you have any interest.
2020 update: I now use ecoenclose.com for recycleable shippling labels and paper tape! I use terracycle.com to recycle the original liners that I haven’t found a use for or a person who wants them :).
No Trace pieces are designed to stay out of the landfill.
Don’t throw it out! No Trace pieces are designed to last a very long time. When the fabric starts to wear out after a number of years, it can be repurposed into a cleaning rag and eventually composted, or, in the case of beeswax wraps, re-waxed after a year or more.
I am always here and available for any end-of-life needs around your No Trace products – just ask! Think of me as hospice for your pieces 🙂 . Depending on the supply of aged No Trace products, I’d love to incorporate these scraps into new designs where possible.
No Trace is solar powered!
No Trace is still based out of my home, but my home is solar powered! Well, to be technical, my family pays extra to the electric company so that we can subsidize solar and other green sources of energy to the grid, in an amount that offsets the electricity that we use each month. Does that make sense? I didn’t think so. It doesn’t to me, either. But there you have it. No Trace uses green energy.
2020 update: our house is now officially solar panel-powered, which means No Trace is solar-panel powered. About 80% of our power comes directly from our solar panels!
No Trace is bicycle powered!
Okay, this is a stretch for me, but whenever possible I DO make local deliveries by bike, especially to the shops in the Capitola area that carry my goods.
No Trace is Prius powered!
That’s more like it. I roll-up to the farmer’s market in the Prius. Yes, it all fits. I can even squeeze two kids and a grown up in the car with me. BOOM.
2020 update: we now have an electric car that I use for local deliveries!
There is always room for improvement in growing a zero waste business. I’m hoping to find more sources of package free raw materials. I’d love to extend my bicycle deliveries around town. And I know there are steps towards sustainability that aren’t even on my radar. But the efforts I’m making so far feel like a strong start.
Thanks for reading!
Liz @ No Trace
P.S. If you want more help in starting your own zero waste Etsy shop, I offer individual coaching here.
I recently did a three day bike tour in Big Sur with my partner and a couple of dear friends. At the writing of this post, about 30 miles of Highway 1, which winds along stunning mountain cliffs above the ocean, is very difficult to access due to a mudslide on the south end and a broken bridge on the north end. This makes it an amazing, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to bike with very few cars on the road. So we did! And I am so grateful to have done it. Special shout out to my in-laws and my friends’ parents for watching our kids during this time and letting us experience this beautiful ride.
One of my goals, other than enjoying the amazing views, good food, and cold beers, was to tour without creating waste. I was pretty close, but had a couple of “I’m starving!” moments and some of my planning was off, which led to some waste.
Here are my zero waste successes
and failures from this awesome trip.
Our (near) zero waste bike tour of Big Sur
We started in Carmel, CA, and biked about 30 miles to Fernwood Resort in northern Big Sur (before the first road closure). Here are our stops along the way:
DIY Bike Tour Stop #1:
We started with lunch in Carmel at a taqueria. They served us on real plates with real serving ware and my partner and I used our own reusable napkins. Zero waste success! The tacos were awesome, of course. And we were full and ready to bike!
Stop 2: We biked several miles down the coast, stopped briefly in Point Lobos State Reserve, and for a photo here and there. Our main second stop was the Rocky Point Restaurant. We had to get a cocktail since it was the only stop for the rest of our day along this beautiful coastline, and it has gorgeous views and famous bloody mary’s 🙂 . We decided to get a round of bloody mary’s to help power us up the hills 🙂 and I forgot to say “no straw, please”! Ack! I don’t get drinks out too often, but you’d think I’d remember this by now! So, here’s my reminder when I place my order (say it with me): No straw, please. No straw, please. No straw, please.
Stop 3: We biked several more miles (who’s counting??), up to the top of Hurricane Point and then back down again. Although far from a hurricane, Hurricane Point is quite a little micro-climate of fog and strong winds. We felt a little like we might get blown off the hillside. We stopped for a quick photo and snacks from New Leaf bulk bins (cacao energy nibs, fancy nut mix, and sesame sticks). Nothing to buy, nothing to throw away!
Stop 4: After another several miles we were nearing our destination! But we had to stop and check out one of our favorite state parks – Andrew Molera – before calling it a day. We visited Andrew Molera Beach by walking and riding our bikes over a wooden bridge and about a mile along a dirt path. We shared some of the same snacks from bulk. We also had a beer that we recycled AND we picked up some garbage on the beach. Leaving things a little cleaner feels great.
Stop 5: At the end of the day we made it to Fernwood Resort and checked into our room. We were all starving and a little desperate for showers, so we got a bag of chips to hold us over while we all showered and let our little ones/grandparents know we had made it safely the first day. Why do potato chips have to be so delicious??? In hindsight, it would have been smart to plan a special treat for the end of each day so we could have resisted the delicious potato chips calling our name at the resort mini-market. After chips and showers, we ate dinner at the Fernwood Resort restaurant, which uses real plates, cutlery, and napkins. Yes.
Day 2 of our DIY, Low Waste, Big Sur Bike Tour
The second day we biked from Fernwood just a few miles to the northern road closure on Highway 1, which is the result of a broken bridge. We carried our bikes and gear about a ½ mile and 150 steps UP to the other side of Hwy 1. Phew. Then we biked about 30 miles along the most gorgeous, jaw-dropping part of Hwy 1 to a cabin. Here are the stops we made on day 2:
Stop 1: I thought we’d be able to eat breakfast at the Fernwood, which was a silly thought because Fernwood doesn’t serve breakfast. So we checked out Fernwood’s mini-market again. They had breakfast muffins, which came in a paper wrapper and coffee, which only came in a disposable cup. Doh! Reusable coffee mugs are zero waste 101! I can’t believe I failed on that one. But I did. If I’d done a little more research I could have figured this out. We didn’t bring coffee mugs since we were trying to travel light. But maybe I could have squeezed one on board just in case. Heck, it’d keep beer cold too! This also made me wish we had some sort of traveling composter…some way to transport and start the breakdown process when you travel. That’s a project for another day. Back to our journey…
Stop 2: So, we had to get a real breakfast. A quarter of a store-bought muffin was never going to get us over those mountains. We headed to the closest spot, the Lodge at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. I have to share, and I do hate to complain much about service since I was a waitress once and I know it’s a tough job, but this was literally the worst service I’ve ever had. EVER. In my LIFE. The four of us never received silverware or a napkin. We shared one fork, one knife, and one napkin between the four of us. Seriously. I am not joking. We got creative and used toast as a utensil, but it was pretty pathetic. And I can’t blame the crowd since there were probably 4 other tables seated at the time. I would not recommend the lodge for dining to anyone. But, on the plus side, we had one napkin and it was fabric, and fewer utensils to wash – so I guess it was a super eco way to eat :).
Stop 3: After our leisurely breakfast we carried our bikes up about 150 steps and some very steep hillside to the other side of the downed bridge. It. was. hard. Luckily, we helped each other out and made it happen.
At the top of the hill was a pub with fresh made sandwiches and cold beer on tap. Of course we had to stop for both. The one bummer about this stop was that the pub used plastic cups instead of glass. What the heck? Who wants to drink cold, fancy, $6-a-pint beer on tap out of a plastic cup? Well, we did, apparently. We left the cups there to get “recycled”. I’m not sure what the fate of those cups was, truthfully. This and coffee-gate, above, are making a strong case for bringing a travel mug on all future bike tours. I think they come in pint sizes too. Drat! Next time…
Stop 4: We made it about 1 mile to our next stop. Note that we stopped 4 times in the first 5 miles or so. We weren’t making any speed records, here, people. But don’t worry, we made it to our ultimate destination before dark (that was my main concern) and were having a lot of fun. Back to stop 4. There was a cute, random, road side taco stand 1 mile down the road from the pub. We HAD to stop and check it out and get some tacos. These came on paper plates. Ugh. This gets me thinking about folding, lightweight, travel plates. Another project for another day…
Stop 5: There was basically nowhere left to spend any money after the taco stand. Just miles of open, beautiful road. We stopped at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park and ate the sandwiches we bought at the pub while we overlooked the most magical beach and waterfall. It was stunning. The sandwiches were awesome. We had another beer, of course.
Stop 6: There was a look-out spot further down Hwy 1 where we stopped briefly to enjoy the view, but at this point we were also hoping that the cabin was close and the ladies in the group were getting a little antsy to press on, so we did.
Stop 7: The cabin! It was super beautiful, with a small creek and beach, amazing views, and a full kitchen.
We came prepared to make our own dinner – pasta (from bulk) and pasta sauce in a jar (which we recycled) and nutritional yeast (from bulk) and texturized vegetable protein (also from bulk). The pasta was delicious. We slept hard that night.
Zero waste dinner success!
Day 3 of our DIY Bike Tour
On our last day of biking, we went from the cabin back north toward Carmel through Pfeiffer Big Sur State park again, where friends left our car (funny/not funny story about that in a bit). We woke up in the cabin and made breakfast. I’d brought fixings for fancy oatmeal: oats, raisins, chia seeds, chopped walnuts, coconut cream and apples (all of it from bulk except the can of coconut cream). I also brought coffee and the cabin had compost! Zero waste breakfast success. We had some leftover coconut cream, which we put in our coffee; and leftover oats, which we carried with us. We still had a good number of snacks for our last day: cacoa energy nibs (our FAVS), sesame sticks (second favs), fancy nuts (third favs), and plaintain chips (least favs. Sorry plaintain chips). So we set off on our journey. Our goal for the morning was to make it to Post Ranch Inn by 1pm for a fancy lunch reservation, an anniversary treat to all four of us who were married within about 10 days of each other, 11 years ago. It is a spendy kind of lunch, so it’s got to be a special celebration. And it meant we didn’t need to pack a lunch – just continue working on our tasty snacks. So, here are the stops on day 3.
Stop 1: We were a little nervous about making it to our reservation on time, so we hustled quite a ways before making a mandatory snack stop, somewhere near Esalen Institute (an amazing place, everyone should go!). We ate some of the leftover oats on the side of road and then pushed on through. Another zero waste pit-stop success!
Stop 2: We were making some pretty good time, eager and a little desperate to make our lunch reservation. We stopped again after another hour or so of biking. No businesses in site, so we just enjoyed our snacks on the side of the road again, enjoying the amazing views. We probably shared a beer too. 🙂
Stop 3: That super cute taco stand called to us again! Despite the fact that it is only a mile from our destination/lunch reservation, we had to stop and check it out. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on whose side you were on), it was still closed since it wasn’t quite noon. We took a couple photos and pushed on up the hill toward Post Ranch. We realized we were still pretty early, so we went to a spot a little further up with a great view of the coast and sat on the side of road again (so many amazing views on this trip, it was absurd).
After a bit, we decided we had time to also go to Nepenthe, which was just above us, and have a drink before our fancy lunch. It seemed like a great idea at the time :). It was though, really. We had a lovely cocktail on their beautiful outdoor patio. They used paper napkins and no straws in our drinks. No waste! Then it was time to go.
Stop 4: Only about 15 minutes late, we rolled into the Post Ranch Inn – Sierra Mar restaurant – for our lunch reservation. This place is awesome. The ranch land itself is just gorgeous and makes you want to spend a week (and your retirement savings) there at the ranch. Then you get to the restaurant, which is ridiculous – beautiful views of the ocean and coast, and the building itself is built into the cliff, which makes you feel like you are standing above the ocean. Just incredible. You feel like you are up in the clouds when you eat there. The water below is just stunning – black rocks edged in white sea foam jutting out of the turquoise Pacific, with patches of cinnamon-colored kelp swaying just under the surface. Seriously, deliciousness for your eyes. So wonderful. Actually, that is the water all along the Big Sur coast. If you’ve never been, you need to go. Anyway, this little restaurant has been cut off from its regular suppliers due to the road damage, but they are doing a great job of maintaining awesome offerings and a wonderful atmosphere. We had wonderful meals and fancy cocktails and just an all-around lovely, leisurely, well-earned lunch 🙂 . And, this place is way too classy for any sort of disposables. Another zero waste success!!! Way to go team!!!
Stop 5: Okay, here is where the end of trip got a little discombobulated (remember I talked about the car being in the parking lot?). So, for some BIZARRE reason, I got it stuck in my head that the car would be at the Andrew Molera State Park parking lot, which is about 5 miles north of Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. So, we biked through the park, and another 5 miles to the wrong place. Ugh, Liz, read your dang emails!! Luckily, there was a shuttle back to the park AND the dudes had the energy to bike back down and didn’t even want to take the shuttle. So, that’s what they did. And they finally found the car. And we finally got it in it. Phew. Sorry, guys.
Stop 6: I’m not sure if this counts as a stop or not but we slept our last night together at our friend’s cousin’s house. She is a professional chef and let’s just say it was an AMAZING dinner. It was like eating at home, if you were married to a professional chef. And way too classy for disposables. Is that classist? Well, you know what I mean. Another zero waste meal, with wonderful company.
So that’s it. Such a wonderful experience. I am so glad we took advantage of this rare time in Big Sur history to have the road to ourselves. It was just jaw-dropping view after jaw-dropping view. So much beauty. And the time with friends and hubby was so rejuvenating. To all you parents of young ones out there: if you can make it happen to slip away for a night or two, go for it! And to my last goal – I did a pretty good job of minimal waste on the trip. Other than a couple of oversights, I kept my carbon footprint to a minimum. Did I mention we drove 4 people and 4 bikes in a Toyota Prius? It’s do-able.
We just finished our first family backpacking trip and it was amazing! I’m proud to announce that my kiddos hiked 14 miles over 2.5 days with their packs, thanks to all the training hikes my partner did with them. And my accomplishment is that we had awesome (near) zero waste food and snacks all the way! We even carried out our compost (not much) and picked up other people’s trash during our trip. Here’s my proud kids near the end of the hike.
I noticed that lots of campers bring freeze-dried, single packaged items for their meals, and individually packaged bars for their snacks. I’m here to tell you that it’s possible to backpack without all of that packaging. 🙂
Just as an overview to our trip – we went to Big Basin State Park in California. On the first day, we left for the trip after work to park and camp near the trail head. We brought dinner with us, pre-made, so didn’t have to cook that night. On the second day, we hiked 6 strenuous miles along the Sunset Trail and camped at a back country campground called Sunset Camp that night. On the third day, we hiked 6 miles along Berry Creek Trail and Skyline to the Sea Trail and camped at a second back country site called Twin Redwoods Camp. On our last day, we hiked out 2 miles along the Skyline to the Sea Trail and ended at Waddell Beach, where we got picked up by Grandpa. The trails were beautiful and Berry Creek Trail has three stunning waterfalls along it. Well worth the effort. In the picture you can see how large the falls are in relation to us.
So, to the food! Backpacking food doesn’t have the best reputation for being delicious. It is one of the trickier parts of the experience – you want to have enough to eat after serious hiking, but you have to pack light. In planning for this trip, we searched the bulk bins at our local health food stores to see what we could find that would be tasty, filling, and easy to carry and cook. We put everything into plastic bags that we re-use, since plastic is light and water resistant.
Here’s the food we took:
3 Breakfasts (everything from Staff of Life bulk bins):
Quick cooking oats
Raisins, dried cherries, and chopped dried apricots
Two pears (from our tree ☺️)
Dried hot cocoa mix
Dried soy vanilla protein powder – we mixed these last two for a type of “hot cocoa”. We need to work on our ratios because the first day it was very watery, and the second day it was like a pudding :).
This is a pic of our cooking and camping set up.
Lunches: (almost everything from Staff of Life bulk bins)
Dried hummus (delicious!)
olive oil in an old plastic water bottle
Cucumber (from our garden ☺️)
Dinner 1: (some bulk, some packaged items)
Burritos from home with flour tortillas*, home cooked beans and rice, avocados, cheese*, and cabbage tossed in Veganaise.
Don’t the burritos look cute snuggled together?
Dinner 2: (almost everything from Staff bulk!)
Instant refried pinto beans
Instant vegetarian chili (we mixed these two together)
The combo of chili and pinto beans was sooo delicious! I’m seriously going to keep those ingredients on hand at home for instant beans.
Dinner 3: (all from Staff bulk!)
Texturized veggie protein (TVP) chunks (i.e., veggie “chicken” that you rehydrate)
Instant veggie soup rehydrated and strained on top of the pasta as a sauce
Olive oil and salt
Here’s a pic of our dinner set-up for night 3.
Snacks: (all from New Leaf bulk bins)
Cacao energy nibs – like energy bar squares and soooo delicious – seriously, as tasty as dessert!
Fancy mixed nuts
We also brought plaintain chips from Staff bulk but didn’t need these at all for snacking. I also tried making coffee with my compostable filters and fresh grounds, but this was a challenge and I need to do more research for next time. Complete fail.
A note about energy bars – my kids prefer the energy nibs to just about every packaged energy bar out there. And they come in bulk! I am so stoked we discovered these. Our hiking friends brought packaged bars and my girls preferred our snacks to theirs, despite the enticing, shiny wrappers.
Not everything was from bulk – the items marked with a * came in plastic bags that we can recycle. There used to be bulk sun-dried tomatoes in town and I won’t give up my search for more sun-dried tomatoes. Or maybe this is the year I make some ☺️. I’ll also keep thinking about other items we could use in the future to substitute for the pita and tortillas (or make some tortillas for the trip if I’m organized enough!)
There you have it. Do you have fun recipes for zero waste backpacking or backpacking in general? Do share! And thanks for reading.
Trying to travel zero waste? Learn from our mistakes with these tips.
My family and I recently went on a trip – our first airplane trip since we’ve started in earnest to become zero waste. We did some planning on our way out to try to fly zero waste, but here’s a picture of the wreckage from the way home:
We got thirsty, we got hungry, and I needed a cocktail 🙂 . A couple of the cups got recycled already, but you get the gist.
We packed lots sandwiches and snacks. We each had our own water bottle and filled them before we got on the plane. But here’s what happened – our flight home was delayed an hour, a bunch of the sandwiches we made were “too spicy” for the kids. Also, even though our flight was nearly 6 hours, the flight attendants wouldn’t refill our water bottles and would only pour out water into their cups. We also didn’t remember to bring earbuds for everyone and our snacks (fruit) weren’t as exciting as the little mystery packets from the flight attendants.
I try to think about this zero waste fail as a learning opportunity for me and my family. So I took a moment to reflect on what we could do differently next time to minimize the waste the next time we travel.
Tips for flying zero (or near zero) waste with kids:
Bring larger water bottles!
Bring snacks from bulk that are as enticing as the junk food in the airport.
Remember to bring earbuds for everyone.
Bring some extra food – flights get delayed all the time! Better to have too much than run out and end up buying at the airport or on the airplane.
Talk about our food and drink plans at the airport and on the airplane before we get in the situation.
Offer a juice option before or after the flight as a replacement for the juice we won’t be having on the plane.
Bring a variety of sandwich/wrap/whatever options. If one turns out too “spicy”, there’s a back up.
On a side note, learning to say “no” to the flight attendants’ offers of drinks and snacks is an ongoing process in my house. These little prepackaged snacks and fruit drinks are perceived as treats to my kids, and saying no is not our natural inclination. We are working on this 🙂 .
That’s what I’ve learned this time around. Do you have any tips for traveling zero waste with kids? I’d love to hear them in the comments!
The amount of textile waste in the US has grown tremendously over the last couple of decades. The US contributes about 15 million tons of textiles to the landfills each year. This is particularly depressing given that up to 95% of textiles could be diverted from the landfills with recycling and reuse efforts. (See smartasn.org for more information on textile waste and recycling).
The fashion industry is a major contributor to this waste, especially fast fashion brands that make cheap, not-built-to-last articles of clothing (e.g., Forever 21, Top Shop – see Newsweek’s 9/9/2016 article about fast fashion). Typically the clothes from these stores don’t sell as well at second-hand shops, and can end up donated overseas where their poor quality makes them less desirable as well.
As someone who is introducing textiles into the world, I;m particularly concerned about keeping my textiles (and others) out of the landfill. Luckily, there are many ways to keep them out of the waste stream and in circulation. Here’s my top ten ways to keep textiles like clothes and household fabrics out of the landfill:
No Trace’s 10 list for how to prevent textile waste & keep textiles out of the landfill:
Shop less, buy quality, and extend the life of your clothes and household textiles.
Buy secondhand whenever possible.
Buy from companies that recycle their products or used recycled materials (e.g., Patagonia, Eileen Fisher, and Insecta are some).
Purchase 100% natural fiber fabrics (e.g., cotton, wool, hemp), rather than synthetic fabrics, which can be composted at the end of their lifecycle. Purchase organic when you can as well.
Repurpose your textiles into something functional like a bag, bin, or a t-shirt quilt once they’re worn out or outgrown.
Find a fabric recycler near you: smartasn.org has resources Terracycle.com also recycles fabrics for a fee.
Find an artist, local art organization, art school, or even an animal shelter that might be interested in donations.
Re-purpose your worn or stained items into handkerchiefs, paper towels, wash clothes, and rags for use around the house.
Donate your gently used things to a second hand store. Note that these donations, if they don’t sell, can end up in the landfill. Estimates range from only 20% all the way to 75% of donated clothes are resold. (See Newsweek’s 9/9/2016 article for details).
Compost as a very last resort if it is 100% natural fibers – shred it first and remove any buttons or zippers.
I hope this list helps! I’m making efforts to reduce my textile waste. I’d love to hear from you – what are you going to do to reduce your textile footprint?