This post is also a permanent page, and will be continually added to!
Our quest towards Zero Waste is chugging along. We're about eight months in, and currently take out the trash about once a month, a huge improvement over where we were in our FreshDirect, disposable-everything days.
But it didn't happen overnight, and on this page I'm going to share our success stories so you can see how easy it is to zero waste your own home one small step at a time.
Waste Problem: Paper Towels
Zero Waste Alternative: Micro Fiber Cloths
Comments: Paper towels were the easiest thing for us to get rid of; micro fiber cloths were stronger, left no residue, and were a breeze to throw in the wash, dryer, and put back under the sink.
Waste Problem: All Household Cleaners
Zero Waste Alternative: Water + White Vinegar + Scented Oil (recipe here)
Comments: Somewhat stunning how well this works on any surface, including spot cleaning our dry-clean-only clothes. I wash walls with this, the kitchen, the bathroom, glass, mirrors, anything that needs cleaning. It goes hand in hand with our microfiber cloths. We make a new batch every month or so, which saves me a trip to the store, plus it is basically free. Gone are the days of a cleaner for every surface type.
Waste Problem: Dish Soap / Kitchen Hand Soap
Zero Waste Alternative: Castille Soap diluted with water, with a side order of baking soda as a scrubber when needed
Comments: Elated at this change. Every time I wash my hands it smells like I have flown to France and buried myself in a field of lavender while Labrador puppies frolic around me. The baking soda's impact on stuck-on grease simply floors me. The castille soap is also all natural, plant based, fair trade, and available in mega-sizes so there is less packaging to throw out. Ours will last for years.
Waste Problem: Disposable napkins
Zero Waste Alternative: Cloth napkins
Comments: We have a small laundry basket under the sink where dirty napkins and micro-fiber cloths go, and we throw them in with the rest of the laundry once a week.
Waste Problem: Brita Filters
Zero Waste Alternative: Glass Water Bottles + Tap Water
Comments: We've embraced New York City tap water.
Waste Problem: Water bottles
Zero Waste Alternative: Klean Kanteens
Comments: I love(d) bottled water. Klean Kanteens are always stocked with freezing water in the fridge, so I can get my fix.
Waste Problem: Wax Paper / Tin Foil
Zero Waste Alternative: Silicone Baking Mats
Comments: We've always used re-usable silicone baking mats when making cookies. They work great and go in the dishwasher.
Waste Problem: Plastic Containers
Zero Waste Alternative: Glass Jars
Comments: Aaron gave me some flack for donating our plastic ziplock containers to our friends (filled with cookies). Less because I was giving away his cookies and more because if we already had them and were reusing them, why did we need a non-plastic alternative? But I like the principle of no-plastic, both in design and for the environment. 99% of plastic ends up in a landfill, and plastic never bio-degrades, it just gets smaller.
Waste Problem: Plastic Baggies
Zero Waste Alternative: Dish Towels, Glass Jars, Muslin Baggies, and Mesh Produce Bags
- Dish Towels - We fold dish towels around any food we want to take on a picnic, sandwiches, bread, etc.
- Glass Jars - We bring these to the market when we buy cheese, meat, olives, etc. and we use them for leftover storage.
- Muslin Bags - We leave these in our food shopping bags, when we get to our bulk-food grocery store, we just use the muslin bags instead of the plastic bags they provide.
- Mesh Produce Bags - We leave these in our food shopping bags too; they're great for carrying loose fruits and veggies like green beans or salad leaves.
Waste Problem: Plastic Shopping Bags
Zero Waste Alternative: L.L. Bean Tote Bags
Comments: We have two large L.L. Bean tote bags that we take with us shopping every weekend. To say these things are well made, is not saying enough. I will give out before they do.
Waste Problem: Dishwasher Detergent
Zero Waste Alternative: Castille Soap, Vinegar, Water, Lemon Juice, Essential Oil
Comments: Aaron discovered this one and made it on his own, and now all our dishes smell like lavender, which I love. (We skipped the essential oil because our castille soap is already lavender scented.) It uses the same basic ingredients as our other cleaners, making it especially practical to buy them in bulk quantities. Recipe here.
Waste Problem: Dry Cleaning
Zero Waste Alternative: Handheld steamer, with water and vinger spray as a spot remover
Comments: Have you ever used a handheld steamer? It's insane how well this works at getting out wrinkles, at light speed. Deodorant stains? I grab our regular household cleaner (water, white vinegar) and a micro fiber cloth, and rub them out. Good as new, totally natural, no chemicals.
Waste Problem: Stain Remover
Zero Waste Alternative: Castille Soap diluted with water, with a side order of baking soda as a scrubber (same solution we use for cleaning dishes)
Comments: I discovered this by walking over a stained white silk blouse to the kitchen sink and going at it with the same alternatives I use to attack stuck-on grease on my dishes. Instantly, the stain was gone, and a new solution was born.
Waste Problem: Laundry Detergent
Zero Waste Alternative: Bulk Powder Detergent
Comments: Carlie's Soap Powder has a cult following. A four gallon bucket of detergent can handle over 1,000 loads of laundry, at pennies per load. It's hypo-allergenic, leaves no residue, and is completely natural.
Waste Problem: Plastic Toilet Paper Packaging
Zero Waste Alternative: 7th Generation Toilet Paper, wrapped in paper
Comments: I understand this isn't totally zero waste because we are recycling something, which is a last resort, but I'm not using leaves. We also buy this in bulk, and one giant box of 48 rolls should last us all year.
Waste Problem: Makeup Remover Towelettes
Zero Waste Alternative: Olive oil + washable cotton rounds (full post here.)
Comments: It's totally natural, basically free, can be bought in bulk, and works oh so well.
Waste Problem: Lotion / After Shave Balm
Zero Waste Alternative: Olive oil
Comments: After I shower I rub olive oil on my face; it makes my skin soft, and smell lovely, and by morning it is all absorbed and my skin is moisturized. Aaron caught on and started using olive oil as after-shave balm. It's perfect!
Waste Problem: Bodywash
Zero Waste Alternative: Bar soap (no packaging), we got ours at Sabon
Comments: Well, this one seemed obvious, and easy. We also got this little rough cloth bag thing to put our soap in, and we hang it up on a hook in the shower. I enjoy the bag thing because it exfoliates, and we don't drop the soap, and we can use the soap until it basically disappears.
Waste Problem: Disposable razors
Zero Waste Alternative: Safety razor
Comments: Aaron gave this a shot for a couple months; I really give him credit, but he was cutting himself on every shave and it was taking him twice as long, so he went back to the Gillette. On the bright side, we now keep this razor in the shower, and I've been using it to shave my legs.
Waste Problem: Plastic Baggies for Toiletries
Zero Waste Alternative: Dopp Kit
Comments: We used to use plastic baggies for our toiletries in when we traveled, and now we use real dopp kits. Aaron's has a buttery leather one from Muholland Brothers that I want to eat.
I've been wanting to do this post for such a long time, and when I eventually got started I thought it would work better as a permanent page, so a duplicate version will live forever as a page, and will be continually added too as we learn new zero-waste tricks!