It has been 37 days since I decided to take the plunge into the zero waste lifestyle.
Some things have been surprisingly easier than I expected; some things have been predictably harder. I'd like to note that I am transitioning into the zero waste lifestyle, not going in cold turkey. It would be wasteful for me to dispose of perfectly usable plastic/unsustainable goods, so I plan to use them until they either run out or should be replaced.
Changes I've made so far:
- Switched to a Bamboo biodegradable toothbrush* with BPA free nylon bristles - it's a cruelty free brush that isn't completely biodegradable but is a step in the right direction. The only completely biodegradable brushes use pig/boar hair for bristles which just doesn't align with my values
- Making my own deodorant with just 4 simple ingredients
- Buying whole bean coffee in bulk or in paper packaging
- Buying and eat local fruits and veggies from farmers markets
- Stopped eating meat* in August 2016
- Drinking organic almond milk
- Using grass-fed butter* - I've debated going vegan many times but much of my protein comes from eggs and cheeses and fats come from butter since I don't eat meat, this would be a difficult transition but something I'm considering for the future
- Started buying only second hand clothing or very high quality clothing that will last forever
- Buying food in bulk using glass jars*
- Using canvas grocery and produce* bags instead of plastic bags
- Unbleached coffee filters* in biodegradable packaging
- Started making my own cleaning products again (recipes pending)
- Using a reusable menstrual cup* rather than tampons and pads
- Making my own toothpaste*
- Making my own mouthwash
- Avoid using non-stick cookware (fyi the non-stick coating burns off with each use leaking toxins into your food!)
- Get beer in refillable bottle from local brewery
- Composting food in an 18 gallon worm bin
Things that have been difficult:
- Changing my habits
I find it difficult to break the habit of using disposable paper products like napkins, tissues, paper towels, etc. Granted I haven't yet made too much of an effort in this area - I will be moving toward this in the coming month by investing in reusable handkerchiefs and napkins.
- Finding meat substitutes like tofu in non-plastic packaging
- Finding cheeses not wrapped in plastic. My greatest discovery, before this project, was finding the vast array of affordable exotic cheeses from the Aldi Food Market. It has allowed me to explore all kinds of different cheeses I wouldn't have tried otherwise. The unfortunate thing about these cheeses is they're all wrapped in plastic and not organic
- Unpackaged bread (I'm going to start trying to make my own)
- Food storage on the go. I have no problem storing food in glass containers if it's going to be kept in the house, but carrying around 3 or 4 containers to bring to work for sandwiches, leftover lasagna, pizza, etc. can get heavy and cumbersome
- Wax paper and aluminum foil in baking. Sometimes recipes call for aluminum foil covered food in the oven or waxed paper for my delectable chocolate turtles! :)
- Finding high quality dog food that's not in plastic packaging (I currently buy her Wellness Core Grain Free* dry food)
- Excessive packaging from online sites/stores - sometimes it's plastic inside of plastic inside of plastic but other times it's just oversized boxes for tiny purchases.
My biggest issue so far has really been finding products that aren't wrapped or packaged in plastic. Even boxed item tends to be individually wrapped in plastic coated paper packets or plastic bags. Herbs, cheeses, yogurts, cleaning products, bathroom products, medicines, etc. are all packaged in plastic. Sometimes I'll get excited to see glass bottles but then I look up to see plastic tops! It's extremely frustrating. I'm met with furrowed brows and befuddled stares when I question why supposed health food stores and family owned organic farms and businesses that preach sustainability resort to using and carrying plastic packaging.
Just the other day I pulled into a local farm to pick up some vegetables. In the hopes of finding unpackaged organic cheeses I ran over to the small, run down dairy fridge only to find milk in plastic jugs and cheese in plastic containers! After taking a second to recover from my disappointment I gathered my veggies and proceeded to the checkout. In complete disregard to the bunches of canvas bags I was holding for my organic vegetables, I was offered plastic bags for my purchases. Here I thought by going to a small, local, organic farm I could finally get away from plastic but I was wrong. It's everywhere. I hadn't truly noticed the impossibility of living plastic free in our modern world until trying to avoid it, but it's everywhere around me. The computer screen I'm looking at, my computer speakers, mouse, podcasting mic and stand, headphones, phone case...
It's overwhelming to really analyze every one of my belongings and question the ethics and sustainability of each product. It would be crazy and almost useless to do this questioning experiment with products I already own because I already own them. There's not much I can do about something I already own except finding creative ways to reuse or recycle them. Moving forward however, I know I can use this knowledge to make more informed decisions as I make purchases overtime which will definitely help me in the long run.
Thanks for reading,