50 small ways to fight climate change 

Because your actions matter!  

(and these can add up!)

 

You care about climate change because you’re a decent human being.  Climate change affects you, me, every person on earth, all living organisms, and future generations.  It can be overwhelming and terrifying to think of where we’re headed over the next 50+ years. But here’s the good news.  There are TONS of ways to fight climate change as an individual. And if everyone did even a few of these, it would really add up.  

 

So here’s my list of 50 small ways to fight climate change!

 

 

 

 

 

50 small ways to fight climate change

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1.  Fly less.       

    Transportation is our number one source of greenhouse gas emissions.  And pollution from passenger flights across the US and globe is a HUGE contributor to climate change.  Flights result in massive amounts of greenhouse gas emissions per passenger. It’s much worse than trains and even long distance car rides, especially if there’s more than one of you per car.  

 

You might have family across the country, or places to see on your bucket list.  I have those too. But if you cut your flights down even a little, the climate will thank you.  Try to combine trips if you need to fly somewhere. Or limit air travel to one really important trip per year.  

 

2. Drive less

Non-electric cars are another MASSIVE source of greenhouse gases.  Try driving less and only when you really need to. Combine your driving trips.  Go to the store a little less often and buy more when you’re there. Or try finding stores and businesses that are closer to your house to make your driving trips shorter.

 

3. Bike more

Yes to biking!  Biking more means less time in your car, which means you aren’t polluting.  And you’re getting to move your body. AND the more bikes on the road, the safer the roads become for bikes. PLUS the more bikes on the road, the more communities have to pay attention to bikes and create better solutions for bike riders.  Imagine safer bike lanes, bike paths/trails, and protected bike ways. Yes, please!

 

And if biking doesn’t come easy to you, consider getting an electric bike.  They take all the sweat out of the ride!

 

4. Ride the bus

I heard an interview with Alan Alda, former actor on M*A*S*H, on how he takes the bus in L.A. as part of his fight against climate change.  If Alan Alda can do it, so can you! Lots of buses will let you take your bike on the bus too, if the bus doesn’t quite get you all the way there.  In Santa Cruz, we also have some great bike lockers downtown. These let you bike to the bus stop and then lock up your bike in a super secure box.  

 

5. Carpool

The more people you get in your car, the more cars you get off the road. And the more efficient your car is in terms of gas per person per mile.  If you can set up some kid carpools, it might also save you some time a couple days a week. (Bonus: maybe you can finish your morning coffee before work!).  Plus, you can ride in the carpool lane if your freeways have those.  

 

6. Take the train

Trains are a more efficient form of travel, regardless of the fuel they use.  So if you can take the extra time to ride by train, DO IT! And as a bonus, you might get to see some awesome scenery along the way.  On the west coast we’ve got Amtrak’s Coast Starlight train ride with AMAZING views of the coast. It’s on my bucket list to ride that train.

 

7. Get an electric vehicle

Have you done it yet?  DO IT!!! Electric vehicles are the future of individual transportation.  No more wars over fossil fuels to fuel our cars. EVs can be charged at home with renewable energy sources like wind and solar.  Get one! Now! Ditch fossil fuels at the pump and never stop for gas again! Also, Tesla has now released their Model 3 which is as affordable as any other new mid-size car.  With a Tesla, you can drive pretty much anywhere in the US and stop to charge about as often as you would stop to pee and get gas. DO IT!

 

8. Install solar panels

Installing solar panels on your house can power your home and put any extra energy into the grid.  It can even earn you money! If you don’t want to purchase and pay for your own solar panels, tons of companies will come and install their own solar panels for you for very little cost.  They’re basically renting out your roof space from you to put solar energy into the grid. This saves you money and puts renewable energy into the grid, although you won’t earn as much money as installing your own panels.  

 

9. Switch to renewable energy with your energy company

In our community, our electricity company (PG&E) has an account option to use renewable energy to power your home.  You can opt in to purchase your household’s energy from renewable power plants. There’s a small fee for using this in our community.  But it’s worth it! Imagine if we all opt-in to renewable energy at home.  

 

10. Switch to LEDs

LEDs, in case you’ve been under a rock for the last decade, are super efficient lightbulbs.  There’s an LED for pretty much every lightbulb in your house. Recycle those old ones and get on the LED bandwagon!  

 

11. Line dry your laundry

Dryers use a TON of energy.  Even the more energy efficient ones.  Lucky for us, there’s this awesome thing called sunlight and fresh air that will do the work of your dryer. For free.  Without any electricity! We even line dry in the wet winters here in Santa Cruz. Just wait for a day with no rain in the forecast and get your laundry outside!  There are also small racks that you can set up in a small space in your home to dry indoors. Smaller racks usually fold up to fit behind a door or under a bed. That lets you dry smaller loads even in the winter.  We’ve been without a dryer for 6 years now! Two grown-ups, two kids, two dogs, and lots of house guests!    

 

12. Conserve your heating

Be scrimpy when it comes to your heating.  Put on a sweater and warm socks before you crank up the heat.  When my kiddos ask us to turn on the heater on a cool fall or winter morning, and all they’re wearing is a tank top, we remind them to put on a sweater!  Do easy, no energy steps before turning up the heat in the winter. An ideal temperature for conserving energy is 68 degrees Fahrenheit.  

 

13. Conserve your air conditioning

Same goes for air conditioning.  Do what you can personally to get comfortable before turning up the AC.  And maybe try feeling a little warmth of the summer air, rather than keeping your space overly cooled.  Aim for 72 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer (or hotter) to conserve energy.  

 

14. Turn off the juice when not in use

You probably already know this but one of the easiest ways to conserve energy and reduce your carbon footprint is this: Turn off appliances when they aren’t being used.  Put your computer to sleep. Turn off your printer. Turn out the lights when you leave a room. Some older appliances even suck energy when they’re turned off, so you might want to unplug it from the wall.  We have an old microwave that sucks energy even when it’s not being used, so we have it plugged into a power strip that we turn off when we’re not using it.

 

15. Buy efficient appliances. 

If you need a new appliance, lots of times it’s worthwhile to buy a new, energy efficient version than to search around for a used one.  And when you’re picking out the new one, get one that’s energy efficient (do your research online to find the best one!). Buying new, energy efficient is especially important with refrigerators, which are major energy sucks in your home.  

 

16. Switch to electric vs gas appliances.  

If you’re ready to replace your stove or heater or water heater, consider switching to an electric version if you currently have a gas version.  We add more renewable energy sources to the grid every year to power electric appliances. Over time, our electricity has the potential to be completely renewable, but natural gas doesn’t.  

 

17. Tighten up your home.  

Our homes are major energy sucks when we’re heating or cooling.  Laying insulation in your attic and crawl space and sealing up openings can help cut your energy use for heating and cooling and also save you money.  Upgrade to double-paned windows when you can afford it.  

 

18. Conserve water.  

You may not know this but using water at home and in the office uses up energy.  Water gets moved across California and other states by giant pumps. In fact, 12% of California’s statewide electricity use is from pumping and treating water.  When we have power shortages, we’re also asked to conserve water. So why not do it all year? Water itself is a precious resources and costs money.  

 

19. Go vegetarian

Here’s the thing about the meat industry – it is a MAJOR contributor to greenhouse gases and a MAJOR consumer of energy, water, and other resources.  Not only do cows and other farm raised animals emit methane (insert cow fart joke here 😉 ), a greenhouse gas, but the process of farming itself contributes greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.  It also requires lots of land. That means deforestation of natural habitats so that you can eat a burger. Is it worth it? Did you know there’s even vegetarian dog food? Our pups like it just fine.  

 

20. Eat vegetarian sometimes

I know, not everyone wants to go 100% veg.  And that doesn’t always work for everyones’ health needs.  So, if that describes you, consider cutting down your meat consumption.  Maybe make it more of a special occasion food. Or try meatless Mondays. Or one meal a day.  Get creative! Reducing your meat eating just a little benefits the climate.

 

21. Go vegan

The environmental problems that come from the meat industry are the same for the dairy industry.  Lots of greenhouse gas emissions and lots of resources are used to make that cheese or yogurt or milk!  Eating vegan is even more sustainable the vegetarian.

 

22. Eat vegan sometimes

Of course, eating vegan isn’t for everyone!  You might have dietary restrictions that make this hard.  Or maybe you don’t live somewhere that easily supports a vegan diet.  Or maybe you’re just not ready to make that change. That’s okay! Try eating vegan sometimes.  In my house, most of our dinners are vegan. But we might have some eggs at breakfast, or cheese at lunch.  If you’re nowhere near being vegan, you might consider adding one vegan meal to your diet per week just to start.  Go on, you can do it! Give it a try! One of the all time easiest vegan lunches? PB & J sandwich! Did you know Michelle Obama ate one for breakfast everyday growing up?  I LOVE that!

 

23. Don’t waste food.  

Did you know that the US wastes about 40% of our food on average?  Lots of greenhouse gas emissions were released to make that food. Plus money and time and water.  So don’t throw it out! Try eating most of what’s in your fridge before cooking or buying more food.  Serve smaller portions and get seconds if needed, rather than serving up more than you and your family can finish.  Serve your guests (especially those pint-sized guests) small portions and let them know there’s lots more of everything if they want more.  

 

24. Compost non-edible foods.  

Once and a while we discover something forgotten in the dark corners of the fridge.  If you have food that’s spoiled, compost it. Compost peels/seeds/pits and other non-edible food scraps.  Food scraps release methane if they end up in the landfill where they can’t breakdown properly. So compost it at home!  If you don’t have a yard, consider a worm bin, which fits in small spaces. There’re also composting services in some cities – curbside pick up with your trash or other compost companies.  And sometimes farmers at the farmers market will take your scraps for their compost. Ask around your community and I’ll bet you’ll find some options if you can’t do it on your own. Santa Cruz has an awesome bike-powered compost collection service called Hard Core Compost.

 

25. Compost other organic material.

Things like wet or food-stained paper, pizza boxes, tissues, all natural fibers like cotton and linen, paper towels, paper napkins, and anything else that’s 100% natural material can be composted.  These will also release methane in the landfill if left there. Be careful about packaging that’s a mixed material. For example, a to-go box with a thin plastic lining. Chinese take-out boxes. Or a paper drinking cup with a waxy coating.  Those materials are generally NOT compostable. The water-resistant material is usually plastic based or a petroleum-wax based material. So leave the mixed materials out of your compost.

 

Also, all those “compostable” plastics WON’T breakdown in your home compost, only in an industrial facility.  Don’t add them to your compost! Chances are you have to send them to the landfill unless your city has something set up to collect those bioplastics.  I hate the problems those have created, BTW. But I’ll save that rant for another day.

 

26. Use a reusable water bottle

Plastic comes from petroleum, a fossil fuel, and takes energy to produce.  Plastic is getting harder and harder to recycle (which also takes energy). And when it ends up in the wild, it becomes a pollutant and a hazard to animals.  Even in the landfill it can pollute our waterways and ecosystems. So bring your own water bottle!

27. Use a reusable coffee cup

Those paper cups and plastic lids take ENERGY and RESOURCES to produce.  And those cups release greenhouse gases when they breakdown. And plastic lids – well, you know the problems with those at the end of their life!

 

28. Bring your cloth grocery bags to the store

Don’t forget your bags!  Switch to reusables to conserve the energy and materials that go into making single use bags.  And if you don’t have a large stash of cloth grocery bags yet, reuse the paper and plastic bags that you have on hand as many times as you can!  But be careful of washing the plastic bags – the more friction and heat they are exposed to, the more potential for releasing microplastics into the waterways.

 

29. Switch to cloth bags for your fruits, veggies, and bulk goods

Those plastic bags are free at the store, but we’re paying the price once you leave.  Shameless plug here – we’ve got lots of veggie bags for sale at No Trace that are made with 100% cotton and all natural materials.  That means you can compost them at home in your own compost when they reach the end of their life. Check them out here.

30. Switch to cloth napkins

We’ve been using cloth napkins since we had our first child in 2008.  We have some that have lasted us that long. We don’t wash them with every use, just once a week (or sooner if they are super soiled).  Go for 100% cotton or linen or hemp napkins that won’t release microfibers when you wash them. Plus cotton and linen and hemp can be composted at home when they reach the end of their life.

 

31. Use a hankie instead of a tissue

It takes a TON of water and energy to produce a box of tissues and ship it to you.  Use handkerchiefs instead! I sell cute ones here but you can also just cut up an old t-shirt!

 

32. Use a dish towel or rag instead of a paper towel

Sorry, this probably feels repetitive to you by now, but there are just SO MANY PLACES in your home where you can ditch single use products for reusable, sustainable products!  Dish towels are a great place to start. And you probably have plenty of rag material in your home already. In our house, we turn stained clothes and household goods into rags.  With 2 kids in the house and lots of playdates and sleepovers, plus 2 dogs, we go through about 1 to 2 rags per day! Plus a few dish towels a week. We toss these in with our regular laundry – no special treatment needed! 

 

33. Use a beeswax or vegan wax wrap instead of plastic wrap.

Okay, another shameless plug for No Trace products, available here.  Wax wraps are more expensive up front than plastic wrap because you’re investing in the planet, not in pollution.  

Remember that cheaper isn’t always better.  Wax wraps can be used again and again to wrap your food, cover a bowl or jar, or cover a plate of leftovers.  Once they’re worn out, you can either compost them or add them to a fire. Even if a wax wrap escapes into nature or the ocean, it’s not going to leave behind a trail of pollution.  It’ll breakdown on its own in just a few months.  

 

34. Buy less stuff

All of our STUFF contributes to greenhouse gas emissions.  Furniture. Clothes. Kitchenware. Tools. Outdoor gear. It takes energy and resources to make and ship stuff to stores near us and to our homes.  Consider borrowing or renting things that you don’t need that often. And loan out your own stuff too!  

35. Buy used stuff instead of new stuff

If you really need something on the regular, try to find it at a second hand store.  We’ve got a few different options in Santa Cruz – Grey Bears, Caroline’s, Thrift Center, Salvation Army, and Goodwill.  Goodwill is my go-to for most kitchen needs or No Trace equipment like pots or table-top display bins or fabric for my veggie bags.  They have a HUGE homewares section. I also buy used clothes whenever I can. There’s no shame in second-hand! It’s the green choice!  Wear thrift store clothes with pride! Listen to “Thrift Shop” by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis if you need more inspiration ;). Check out ThredUp.com if don’t have great thrift stores near you or prefer to shop online!

 

36. Write to the president

You can call, email, or write to the White House at whitehouse.gov.  The chance of your letter actually making it to the president is slim, but staff do generally keep counts of opinions that come in.  Make sure to be respectful, succinct, and use facts! Conservation.org has a great list of 11 facts on climate change.  Maybe pick just a couple to include in your letter, and why you care about this issue, and what you hope the White House would do.  The Union of Concerned Scientists also has great information on what our climate change priorities should be. Check them out here.  And the simplest point to make in any communication with the White House is to remind the president of the importance of SCIENCE!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

37. Contact your governor

Your state can take action without the federal government’s leadership.  California is a major leader in the fight against climate change by turning towards clean energy, clean energy jobs, electric vehicles, and more.  See how your state stacks up at the Union of Concerned Scientist.  Look for targets to suggest to your governor, and let them know you appreciate any steps they’ve taken!  To find your governor’s address, go to https://www.usa.gov/state-governor.

 

38. Write to your senator and congress member

Senators and congress members can introduce and support important climate change legislation.  So contact them and let them know that climate change legislation matters to you! The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions monitors legislation on climate change.  So check them out for up-to-date information.  One of the most important pieces of legislation that the US needs is a carbon tax.  But there are lots of other steps that Congress can take as well. You can find your representative’s contact info here and your senator’s info here.

 

39. Support candidates that care about the climate

When election time comes around, support those candidates who care about the climate with DONATIONS and SPREADING THE WORD!  Nothing shows support like actual money. But if you can’t spare any, share that candidate’s info with your community and encourage others to VOTE.  

 

40. Support your local climate action organization

In Santa Cruz we’ve got the Santa Cruz Climate Action Network.  Across the US, there’s lots of city member organizations of the US Climate Action Network.  There’s also the Citizen’s Climate Lobby.  Subscribe to their email lists.  Show up to their rallies. And send them a check if you can. 

 

41. Tell your friends and family to support climate legislation

Are your friends taking action?  Tell them what you’re doing and make it easy for them to do the same!  Give them one simple step and show them how you did it!

 

42. Write a letter to the editor of your local paper

The message you’re sharing with your friends and family, and the concerns you’re raising with your representatives and governor, and the president – share these with the media!  Write a letter to your local paper and spread the word. Climate action now!

 

43. Support climate science

Science itself is under attack these days.  One way to fight climate change is to support the science that’s happening behind it.  That means staying educated and getting your science news from reputable news sources.  

 

44. March for the climate 

Santa Cruz marched September 27, 2019, but marches will keep happening all over the US.  When there’s a march, show up! Show your support! You don’t even need a sign. Just go and be a part of the movement. 

march for the climate
march for the climate 2019

 

 

 

 

45. Join organizations that lobby for the environment.

The Nature Conservancy and the Union of Concerned Scientists both work to educate and lobby for climate action.  If you can’t make a donation, join their email list. Support their efforts by responding to their calls for actions.

 

46. Build community

Take the time to organize events with friends and family to rally them around climate action.  It could be as simple as hosting a vegetarian potluck and getting folks excited to eat more plants.  Or maybe you want to invite folks into your home and share how you work towards energy efficiency at your house.  Or give a talk at your church or at your kid’s school on climate change. Get creative!

 

47. Organize a school-wide bike-to-school day.

Santa Cruz has awesome bike-to-work and school events.  But anyone can organize this! Just invite other families to bike with you to school some days.  If the school can sponsor the event, even better!

 

48. Participate in Bike-to-Work Day

If you’re not part of a school community, participate in bike-to-work day.  Even if you can’t do the actual biking part, volunteer your time or donate to the event!  Volunteers run the event so get in there! In Santa Cruz, these days are organized by Ecology Action.

 

49. Write to big businesses

Companies like Tesla changed in our options for the better as consumers.  Tesla made electric vehicles cool. Reach out to other companies and let them know that you care about the environment.  Write letters and also show your support with your dollars for companies that are addressing climate change and working for the environment.

 

50. Plant a tree (and other plants)

Plants help absorb greenhouse gases, so add some green to your life!  Keep in mind that planting trees is not the best way to fight climate change, though.  There was a paper published recently that used its findings to conclude that planting trees is the best way to fight climate change. The authors have since back-pedaled on the conclusions, describing them as the “theoretical potential” for reforestation, rather than suggestions for action.  Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is the MOST important way to fight climate change, rather than planting trees to absorb those emissions. But plant trees too! The world could use a little more green.

 

There you have it.  50 small ways to fight climate change.  Which ones are you already doing? Which one will you try next?  What would you add to this list of 50? I’d love to hear in the comments below!

 

Thanks for reading and for all that you do for the

 

 

 

 planet, 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Liz

We all have our reasons to go for zero waste.

 

Your reasons might include:

 

-fighting plastic pollution

-reducing exposure to plastics

-cutting waste

-worry over landfills

-simplifying your home

-beautifying your kitchen

-shrinking your carbon footprint

-keeping our oceans healthy

-making the world a more beautiful place

-preserving the planet for generations to come

 

It might feel really overwhelming to get a year of your trash into a mason jar – and might be impossible, depending on where you live and what you can recycle.

 

But there are actually TONS of easy ways to cut down your waste.

 

Think beyond the mason jar!  

 

 

 

Here’s a roundup of 75 ways small ways to cut your waste.

1. Bike more

Did you know that transportation (i.e., cars) is one of the top sources of pollution and contributors to global warming?  Driving less is an amazing way to reduce your waste and have a positive impact on the planet. Check out local bike resources for bike paths and bike-friendly routes near you.  In Santa Cruz we’ve got www.bikesantacruzcounty.org for loads of awesome resources on biking safely in our community.  And don’t forget to wear a helmet!

2. Fly less

Each flight you take is a major resource drain.  Just like cars, planes are a major source of greenhouse gases.  Try some local travel and explore your own part of the country. Or, if you have to fly, offset your flights with carbon credits.  And try to limit flights to those that you really want or need to take. If you live in California, we have so many amazing state parks that you can drive to.  Check them out here.

3. Eat vegetarian

This is a MASSIVE way to reduce your waste WAY beyond the mason jar.  The meat industry is a MAJOR source of pollution. Even if you can’t do this all the time, try swapping out a couple meals a week for vegetarian.  Good for you, good for the planet! And there are so many great resources out there. I love Minimalist Baker for vegetarian recipes.

4. Eat vegan

Going vegan has even more benefits for the planet than vegetarian.  All those animal products really have a negative impact on the climate – especially the dairy industry.  Try swapping some vegan meals or vegan substitutes when you can. Or go all the way! Join the millions of others in the world who do it every day.  My favorite vegan blog is by my friend and favorite yoga teacher, Amey. Check it out here!

5. Compost at home

This is also a GREAT way to cut down your waste.  All those fruit peels, veggie skins, egg shells, and more can go into your compost.  No yard? No problem! Try a worm bin that fits under your sink. And if you live locally, check out the Santa Cruz Compost service, which collects your compost by bike!  They are here.  

6. Line dry your laundry

Dryers use loads of electricity (pun – ha!).  You can line dry all year too – some racks are easy to set up in even the smallest space and then fold up to be tucked away behind a door or under a bed.  We’ve been dryer free for about 4 years and it’s still working great for our family of four. If we can do it, so can you! We even were mostly dryer free during the cloth diapering days!

7. Use hankies

Tissues be damned!  Switch to reusable hankies.  I say buy mine here or make your own or look for some in the thrift store.  When all of ours are in the wash, I start in on our rag stash for hankies – hey, they’re clean!  Any ol’ rag will do.

8. Use dishtowels instead of paper towels

Paper towels can be composted, but why not preserve those resources for more essential goods?  We have a stack of about 20 dish towels. We use each dish towel until it gets soiled and then we toss it in the wash.  I make some here, you could make your own, or look for them at the thrift store!  Try finding all natural fibers – much better for the earth.

9. Use your own coffee mug

Those disposable coffee cups are the worst!  Some super progressive coffee shops have even stopped handing them out because they are such massive polluters.  Bring your own! Buy one from a locally owned business to support the locals. I got mine from Wild Roots in Felton.  Love that shop.  And you can buy No Trace goods there (another shameless plug!!).

10. Keep a napkin in your purse.  

How many times have you needed a napkin when you are out and about?  This still happens to me sometimes but I almost always have a little napkin in my purse.  I make really cute ones here but make your own or find one in a thrift store super easily.

11.  Bring a water bottle.

You are already doing this, I’m sure.  We’ve got to get rid of plastic water bottles!  Even though often times you can recycle those, our recycling days might be numbered and these are ending up in the landfill more and more often.  Just bring your own. I got mine at Jones and Bones in Capitola.  I love supporting local business.  

12. Shop in bulk.

Look for what you need in the bulk section of your grocery store.  I’ve got a whole post about zero waste grocery shopping that you can see here.  Also, i make these gorgeous bulk bags here.  Made from recycled cotton.  If you can’t get something in a bulk bin, try getting something with as little packaging as possible or in the largest amount possible that won’t also spoil.  

13. Shop at the farmers market.

Again, check my post here for resources to find farmers markets near you.  You can often buy loose produce here that come without those pesky stickers.

14. Stop buying those prepackaged treats.

I know they are super convenient.  You can do it, though! Just say no.  Fruit, anyone?

15. Try making it yourself.

Is there something you really miss?  Crackers? Granola bars? Hummus? Pesto?  Pick a few of those prepackaged treats and try making your own. Read about my favorite easy homemade zero waste snacks here and you can start having snacks on hand whenever you need them!

16. Get your beer in a growler or just enjoy a pint in person.

You might not want to pay micro-brewery prices, but you can treat yourself and the planet once a while with something fresh and local.  Although you can recycle glass and cans almost everywhere, recycling is not the solution to our problems – reuse is way better.

17. Get your wine from a local winery.  

They might let you bring your own container for refills.  Some wineries even have harvest or tapping parties where you can fill up loads of bottles to get you through the year.  Or at least the week ;).

18. Buy your clothes from a local thrift store.

Fast fashion is a MAJOR polluter.  Think twice before buying new and see if you can find it used.

19. Get your shoes repaired at a shoe shop.

Do you have a cobbler or shoe repair person in your town?  Buy shoes that are built to last and be repaired.

20. Go to a repair cafe to mend your worn clothes or small appliances or other household items.  

If you live in Santa Cruz, reach out about repair cafes in town!  No Trace has hosted this!

21. Grow your own food.

Even if all you have is a sunny window, you can grow fresh herbs like basil from home.  If you have more space than that, consider planting some trees and growing what you can. In northern California, we can grow some veggies all year like kale, chard and lettuce.  

22. Compost worn out, all natural textiles

These are good for the soil!  Fibers like cotton, hemp, and linen can be composted at home.  I wrote a post about keeping fabric out of the landfill here, so check it out for more tips.

23. Recycle synthetic, worn fibers

If something is beyond repair, not useful as a rag, and not compostable, find a fabric recycler.  Some cities have curbside fabric recycling (San Francisco! I’m so jealous).

24. Try sashiko stitching

If something has a small stain or tear, don’t toss it – mend it with sashiko stitching.  This is a beautiful way to fix something. I get loads of inspiration from Miniature Rhino.  Check her out here.

25. Try canning your own food.

Zero waste chef has loads of great resources on this topic.  When tomatoes are in season, you can stock up and then make some awesome canned tomatoes for all your cooking needs during the year.  Or make some fresh fruit preserves. Yum yum. Read her amazing blog here for loads of home canning and preserving tips.  

26. Make your own Kombucha.

Another zero waste chef specialty.  Eliminate all those bottles you might recycle and make your own.  Save money, too! Check her out here.

27. Think about the household goods and furnishings you buy

Try to avoid synthetic fibers and toxic resins in the furnishings that surround you.  Buy high quality pieces that can be repaired rather than tossed out. I wrote a piece about building a simple bench at home that you can read here.  It’s important that we think about the full life cycle of what we bring into our homes.

28. Don’t print it!

Might be obvious, but try getting comfy with your laptop rather than a print out whenever you can.  All those papers can be recycled, of course, but why not preserve those resources for things we really need?  Need a break from the desk? Move your laptop around and try reading in a different spot before thinking you have to print something.

29. Give experiences, not things

I love this one for kids.  We try to avoid “filler” gifts – little things just for the sake of giving something – unless it’s meaningful and sustainable.

30. Plan a zero waste halloween

I’ve got another post on that here.

31. Plan for zero waste travel

Be prepared and bring a kit to help you avoid trash on your travels.  Read my post here about that here.  

32. Plan for a zero waste Christmas.

We give lots of gifts, but we avoid plastic.  We also wrap in fabric that we can reuse, rather than in paper.  I make these adorable furoshiki wraps here but any old fabric will do.

33. Host zero waste birthday parties

Keep the food and drinks simple and you can avoid all that trash!

34. Loan utensils, plates, cups, napkins to friends for their parties or borrow some for your own.

Some communities have lending libraries for big events.  Ask around to see if yours does.

35. Bring your own utensils, plate, cup, napkin

If you’re going to a party and you’re not sure what they’ll serve on, bring your own stuff.  

Also, don’t leave it in the car and forget to bring it into the party like I sometimes do!

36. Recycle broken, unrepairable electronics

We’ve got awesome Grey Bears in town for this amazing service but check your local waste management agency for ideas.

37. Make your own deodorant.

I use the recipe by Trash is for Tossers, but you can find loads of free resources online.

38. Swap out some beauty products for what you can find in bulk.

For example, you might try some light body oils or even lotions in bulk.  Sunscreen even if you’re lucky enough to have it in your town!

39. Make your own household cleaning products

Lots of folks make citrus vinegars with citrus peels and use this for cleaning instead of packaged cleaning products.  And isn’t it nice to know what’s in your cleaning products?

40. Buy sustainable art and school supplies for you and/or your kiddos

Can you swap in some colored pencils and all natural crayons?  Use recycled paper? Get your school supplies at the thrift store?  A little effort can help cut down on trash from school.

41. Recycle old markers with TerraCycle.

At The Art Factory in Aptos you can drop your worn out markers off to get recycled!  Hooray! Check around for TerraCycle options near you.

42. Make your own cough drops!

Okay, I found a pin for this on Pinterest and admit – I haven’t tried it yet – but I’m sooo excited to try it out.  It’s on my board here.

43. Get a pressure cooker

No more canned beans.  Seriously. We don’t buy these any more.  Hip hip hooray! Save yourself time and money by making these at home.  You really can cook beans in a flash with one of these. Works great for rice, artichokes, and other food that can take a little time.  

44. Try meal planning.  

If you can prep out some meals and snacks on Sunday afternoon, it’ll make the week go more smoothly.  I love doing a bunch of salads in a mason jar, or making a pot of beans, rice, and some roasted veggies to last for a few days.  And I try to plan for quick snacks to have on hand for after school and other busy times.

45. Get a safety razor

No more disposable razors!  The Zero Shop SC sells them – check them out here.  And there are loads of resources online for how to shave with a safety razor too, so get some help and make it easy for yourself.  

46. Buy shampoo and soap in bulk.

We bring our own containers and refill them at our local bulk store – Staff of Life in Santa Cruz.  We weigh the jars, but some stores will ask how many ounces your container holds, so it’s good to know that too.  Also, you might be able to find unpackaged bars of shampoo, conditioner, and soap in your town. Lush offers these too.

47. Switch to reusable menstrual products.  

I found reusable pads on Etsy that I love.  There are loads of others on the market now too.  Reusable menstrual cups are also available in lots of natural food and bulk stores – maybe in your local pharmacy too.  I found mine at CVS!

48. Recycle your toothpaste tubes

In Santa Cruz, New Leaf Market on 41st Avenue has a TerraCycle box for recycling Tom’s packaging!  Yay! You can call around to see if there is some place near you as well – schools sometimes have TerraCycle boxes.

49. Use compostable floss

I haven’t found the perfect solution for compostable floss yet, but Dental Lace will breakdown in your home compost.  Unfortunately, it does come in a plant-based plastic bag, which may or may not breakdown in your home compost. But it does create less waste than a big plastic box full of plastic floss.

50. Use a bamboo toothbrush

Easy peasy!  Usually you’ll have to pull out the nylon bristles before you can compost it, but it beats throwing out a whole plastic toothbrush!

51. Make your own mouthwash

Seriously, this is so easy and will save you loads of money, too!  I make mine with 1 cup water, 4 tsp baking soda, and a few drops of essential oils (4 of tea tree and 4 of peppermint).  

52. Make your sunscreen or find it in a reusable container.

I’ve got a recipe from PareDownhome.com that is super easy to make, although the ingredients might be hard to find, especially not in plastic.  I’ve also found sunscreen in reusable, plastic-free containers from Raw Love and Elevated Sun. I personally preferred Raw Love to Elevated Sun – I found the latter a little gritty when putting it on.  But I LOVE what they are doing.

53. Make your own lotion.

Have you made your own body cream before?  It’s an awesome chance to make something just the way you like it – adding in whatever scents you’re drawn to.  Check out my Pinterest boards for recipes!  

54. Make your own shaving cream.

Or just use conditioner!  One less packaged thing to buy.

55. Buy zero waste makeup or make your own.  

I found this shop on Etsy and LOVE the lipstick we bought.  Highly recommend for vegan, zero waste, all natural make up.

56. Switch to metal and fabric hair accessories.

Another area of your life to cut down on plastics and trash.  But use up what you have first! Kooshoo makes biodegradable hair ties, but have shipped in plastic bags in the past.

57. Use a wooden hair brush.

When it’s time for a new brush, trying getting one that’s plastic free.  

58. Compost your hair!  

Yes, sounds gross, but it composts!  Nails do too. Is that TMI? Sorry not sorry ;).

59. Shop less.

You don’t have to be a minimalist, but the less stuff you have, the less waste you’ll make.  This is so true for kiddos. So many of their things – especially those freebies and party favors – end up as trash.  

60. Buy the bruised veggies and fruits at the store.

If you know you’ll eat them soon, you can save them from the landfill!  Lots of stores will toss out old looking produce, even if it’s still edible.

61. Finish the old before buying new.

I’m talking about the food in your fridge – you can toss less food out if you just put in a little more effort to finish what’s there first.  Bonus – save yourself $$$.

62. Eat old before new food.

Same idea as above – if you do need to shop before your fridge is empty, try getting through the old food first.

63. Give the uneatable to your animals.  

Have you had kids or friends over, and one of them doesn’t finish the food on their plate?  If your dogs or chickens tolerate human food, pass the leftovers on to them. I’ll finish my own kids’ food or ask them to at another time, but I’m not going to eat outside the family.  I’m sorry, that’s just not my style.

64. Compost that pizza box.  

Yes, we still order pizza sometimes in a pinch or when we are just too pooped to cook or go out.  But you generally can’t recycle a pizza box because of food contamination. So tear it up and add it to your compost.

65. Bring a container for leftovers whenever you eat out.

Have you ever ordered a little too much, and then been torn about tossing the food vs getting a to-go container?  Try packing a jar or tupperware in your bag so you can pop those leftovers in your own container.

66. Get take out in your own container.

Ask your favorite place if they are open to this – you might be surprised.  Our favorite Thai restaurant in Soquel (Sawasdee’s) let’s us bring our own containers.  Let them know on the phone and then get there early enough so they can put it right into your bins after they cook it.

67. Remind folks – NO STRAW! – when you eat out.

If you have a reusable straw, put it on the table to remind you to say No Thanks to the straw.

68. Have a low water lawn.

Water is a precious resource too, and if you care about reducing your waste, you care about preserving water.  Succulents are gorgeous little water savers and I love this website for loads of good succulent info – sunshineandsucculents.com.  But there are tons of other awesome low water lawn ideas out there in the world.    

69. Drive a low emission car.

Tesla?  Yes, please.  I’d love one of those.  But for the average person, a Nissan Leaf is great electric car.  Seat warmers! Back up camera! That quiet, quiet engine. I highly recommend one – it doesn’t go long distances, but works for closer ranges.

70. Conserve energy in your house.

Energy can be a massive polluter as well, depending on the source.  We try to be mindful of our energy use in lots of ways – using LED lightbulbs, wearing layers in the winter to reduce our heating requirements, turning off lights when we leave a room and the home, and having energy efficient appliances like dishwashers, washing machines, refrigerators, and microwaves.

71. Try to follow recommended energy conservation hours in your town.  

For most places in the U.S. (and elsewhere) energy requirements are greatest during the day, when we’re all up and about and doing stuff.  So daytime hours put the greatest strain on our power plants, and certain peak hours require the use of some of our less efficient, more polluting power plants to keep up with energy demand.  So, to help out, we run the dishwasher late at night and try to run the washing machine early in the morning, outside of these peak energy use hours.

72. Order it plastic free.

Online shopping is so convenient, right?  Especially when you’ve got a job, a family, and all those other life obligations.  So when you order online, always ask them ship your order without plastic packaging.

73. When businesses mess up, let them know.  

On the same note, if you are trying to order plastic free and the business doesn’t follow-through, write to them and encourage them to cut down on packaging.  Try tagging them in social media or commenting on their own posts. A little encouragement can go a long way.

74. Say no to freebies.  

Free sample in a plastic cup?  Free packet of energy goop at the store?  Free bag of crackers? Just say no. You don’t need it.  The more we all say No Thanks, the more businesses will think twice about these practices.

75. Get your kids or partner or roomies involved.

You can ready my post all about getting kids into zero waste here.

 

There you have it – 75 small ways to cut your waste.  What’s easiest for you? Which is the most challenging? Share in the comments below!  

 

Thanks for reading,

Liz

 

 

What is zero waste?

 

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 as part of a circular economy

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:

Zero waste as an individual

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: 

  1. Refuse

  2. Reduce

  3. Reuse

  4. Recycle

  5. Rot

 

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!

 

Thanks for reading,

Liz

The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Zero Waste Grocery Shopping

 

Food packaging is probably a significant source of waste for you, like it was for me too!  Going zero waste does NOT happen overnight! Instead, think of this as a process that takes time.  Each change you make is a small step in a positive direction.

Below I’ve outlined a step-by-step guide for getting started in zero waste grocery shopping.  

 

 

Step 1: Make your usual grocery list.

 

In step 1, make a list of everything that you might normally purchase for the week (or however often you go).  Be thorough! List everything to your heart’s desire. If you need to add another category, go for it!

 

Here are some common categories that can help you put together your list.

 

CategoryYour regulars (examples)
VeggiesLettuce, carrots, kale, tomatoes, cauliflower
FruitsOranges, apples, bananas
Proteins (dairy, dried beans, meats)Cheese, pinto beans, chic peas, tofu
Carbs/GrainsBread, rice, pasta, quinoa
Snacks & SweetsChips, cookies
Oils/FatsOlive oil, vegetable oil, balsamic vinegar, butter
Baking/SpicesFlour, salt, cumin
CondimentsMayonnaise, mustard, peanut butter, jam, soy sauce, maple syrup
BeveragesTea, coffee, juice, beer, wine
Bathroom SuppliesToilet paper, toothpaste
Household SuppliesLaundry soap, dish soap

 

 

Step 2: Try to distinguish between your grocery “must-haves” vs. your “wants”

 

Get two different colored pencils or crayons and take a look at your list.  Pick one color to indicate your “must-haves” and the other color to indicate your “wants”.  For example, coffee for me is a MUST HAVE. Cheese, eggs, and bread are family MUST HAVES. Either Earth Balance (vegan butter) or regular butter are MUST HAVES – one or the other.  Fruits we are pretty flexible on – we can work with what’s available at the farmer’s market or what’s served loose at the store. Veggies we are also pretty flexible on. We prefer to have lettuce, carrots, cabbage, tomatoes, cauliflower, squash, and greens on a pretty regular basis, but as long as we get some variety, we are happy.  We also get some veggies that work well in the kids lunches (think carrots, sweet peppers, cucumbers, or cherry tomatoes). We also have dried beans, but again we are flexible on the type of dried beans – pintos, chickpeas, lentils, kidney beans, etc. We love them all. Within condiments, we are actually pretty flexible! We like hot sauce, mayonnaise, mustard, and ketchup.  

 

Step 3:  Assess the bulk situation near you.  

 

What is available to you and where?   Check out the bulk finder app (Bea Johnson has one on her website here) to see what’s available near you!  If nothing pops up, you might want to try stores you don’t normally go to – call ahead and ask if they have any bulk bins!  Health food stores often have bulk bins. Whole Foods is a definite option. Also, don’t forget to look closely at what IS available at your favorite store.  There might be more than you realize when you take a closer look!

 

Step 4: Check for a local farmer’s market.

 

The farmers market is an awesome spot to get fresh local veggies – often without stickers or packaging!  There might even be fresh bread and other staples that you can purchase plastic free. Some staples you might be able to get in a glass jar that you can return to the farmer (at our market, that includes honey and hot sauce).  So, try to determine if there’s a farmer’s market near you this time of year, and if you can fit a visit into your schedule. If you’ve got a family, it might be a fun weekend event for the whole crew! Some weekday markets are after work – maybe you can swing by one day after work!  Check out LocalHarvest.org for markets near you.

 

Step 5: Compare your waste-free options with your grocery list

 

How many of your must-haves are available in bulk?  If everything is, say hip-hip HOORAY! And then skip ahead to step 7!  But, chances are there are some items you can’t find in bulk. Make a note of all of those must-haves that you can’t find in bulk.  Next, make a list of all of the wants that you can’t find in bulk either.

 

Step 6: Make some decisions

 

Assuming you can’t find everything in bulk that is on your must-have or want lists, now is the time to make some decisions!  Ask yourself a few questions. First, are there any must-have groceries that aren’t really must haves? If not, and you stand behind each must-have, that’s fine!  But it’s always good to check what you might be willing to forgo, if even for a short time, to see how that feels. Here’s another question: is there even one must-have that you would be willing to try making on your own?  I am assuming you do NOT have the time to make everything yourself. Very few people do! But is there one item that you might try? Again, just food for thought. Could you set aside a little time on the weekend to make it?  At my house, that’s hummus and sometimes cashew cheese. We try to make it about once a week.

 

Now turn to your wants.  Here you get to decide how badly you want those wants.  You might consider an experiment of forgoing all of them, at least for a little while.  The great thing about grocery shopping is that you get another chance to do it again soon and change your mind!

 

After you’ve made your decisions, revise your list so you know exactly what you are shopping for.

 

Step 7: Gather your supplies!

 

Before you shop, collect your supplies!  You probably have some of these items already, and can make them yourself, find them at a thrift store, and there are veggie and bulk bags for sale here as well.  I always make sure that my supplies are sparkling clean before I take them. I want the stores to feel confident that I’m not mucking up their bulk goods! This helps stores continue to support folks bringing in their own containers.

 

Here are the items I take with me:

 

  • Cotton bags for fruits and veggies
  • Cotton bags for bulk goods
  • Jars for any liquids
  • Jars for any fine, powdery, or sticky bulk goods (think raisins, flour)
  • Beeswax wrap for bulk cheese
  • A marker or wax pencil for writing on jars
  • A scrap of paper and pen for writing down all the codes from the bulk bins (unless you can write on your bag -that works too!) or a smartphone!
  • Reusable shopping bags.  I.e., a bag for all your bags and jars!
  • Your list that you painstakingly put together!
  • A reusable coffee mug (hey, you deserve a treat after all of this!)

 

Let me take a moment to explain about TARE WEIGHT.

 

What is tare weight, you might ask?

The tare weight, at least in the U.S., is often the number of ounces that your container weighs divided by 16.  So, if your jar weighs 8 ounces, simply divide 8 by 16 to get 0.5. That is your tare weight. It means your jar weighs about half a pound.  The cashiers will deduct this weight from the total weight of the item when you pay. That way you don’t pay for the weight of the jar in addition to the weight of whatever’s inside.  If the store sells bulk, they should understand this process and be able to deduct the tare weight at the register.

 

If you have a scale at home, you can go ahead and weigh your jars at home and mark down the tare weight!  If you don’t have a scale at home, you can take your jars to the store and ask them to weigh them, or look for scales in the aisles that are for customers to use.  I use my marker or wax pencil to then write the tare down on my jar.

 

Step 8: Shop with confidence – and just ask!

 

Okay, once you are at the store, now’s the time to stick to your list!  Get only what is on your list, including your needs and wants. Write down the codes for each item, either on the container or on your grocery list/scrap paper.  I often use my phone to track the codes, and since we get the same things over and over again, I have the codes saved already!

 

For any deli items, ask them if they can hand it straight to you or put it into a container for you.  I’ve asked them to cut cheese for me and put it into my beeswax wrap, and they’ve been happy to do it at a couple of stores!  Don’t be shy about asking for help, even if no one is working the counter when you get there.

 

For all those needs that you can’t find in bulk, try to find it in the lowest-impact packaging possible.  Here’s how I would prioritize based on preserving our resources, avoiding landfill waste, and avoiding plastic:

 

  1. First choice: packaging that you will reuse (like a jar)
  2. Second choice: packaging made from recycled materials like recycled paper
  3. Third choice: paper packaging
  4. Fourth choice: metal/canned packaging – this is more valuable for recycling centers than glass
  5. Fifth choice: glass packaging (that you wouldn’t normally want to reuse)
  6. Sixth choice: recyclable plastic packaging – what type of plastic can you recycle in your town?
  7. Seventh choice: non-recyclable materials.  This often includes mixed materials.

 

When I go to pay, I line up my bags on the conveyor belt in order of my codes, just to speed up the process for the cashier.  You don’t need to do that at all! But if you’re motivated, it helps move things along a little bit. Especially for items you can’t see through the bag – eliminates the guessing game.

 

Step 9: Take your food home and transfer it to storage containers (if needed)

 

I like to move my bulk goods into jars and other air-tight containers once I’m at home.  I do try to take a picture first – if you want to capture the moment, do that first! I love those flat-lay grocery pics of a week in food.  

Zero waste groceries

 

But then I put stuff away. Things like chips, oats, and pasta keep better in a jar or tupperware, so I’ll take them out of the bag and put them into a different container at home.  I usually keep my veggies in their bags and put them straight into the fridge. I usually take the fruit out of bags and set them on the countertop. Potatoes, onions, and garlic too – just into a bowl on the countertop.  This takes about 10 minutes, but it’s a nice chance to tidy up the cupboards a little and feel stocked up for the week ahead.

Bulk goods in jars

Step 10: Congratulate yourself!

 

Phew!  You did it!  I hope you are feeling proud of yourself for any small changes you were able to implement towards a zero waste home.  I know it isn’t always easy to try doing things differently, and your family might not be completely on board yet, but give it time and it becomes second nature.  

 

There you have it!  My 10 step beginner’s guide to zero waste grocery shopping.  To recap:

Step 1:  Make your usual list – be thorough!

Step 2:  Distinguish between your grocery “must-haves” and grocery “wants”

Step 3: Assess the local bulk options

Step 4:  Look into a local farmers market

Step 5:  Compare your local waste-free options with your grocery list

Step 6:  Make some decisions & revise your shopping list

Step 7:  Gather your supplies!

Step 8:  Shop with confidence and don’t be afraid to ask!

Step 9:  Bring your food home and transfer it to storage containers.

Step 10: Last but not least, congratulate yourself!

 

There you have it.   My ultimate beginner’s guide to zero waste grocery shopping. Was this helpful for you?  I’d love to hear what you think in the comments below.

 

Thanks for reading!

Liz

 

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

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:

  1. Bring larger water bottles! 
  2. Bring snacks from bulk that are as enticing as the junk food in the airport.
  3. Remember to bring earbuds for everyone.
  4. 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.
  5. Talk about our food and drink plans at the airport and on the airplane before we get in the situation.
  6. Offer a juice option before or after the flight as a replacement for the juice we won’t be having on the plane.
  7. 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!

Thanks for reading!

Liz