I had been toying with the idea of starting to share a few guest posts on this blog when my friend Budget Epicurean reached out to me with the post she wrote on her journey toward zero waste. It was an absolute perfect fit for this blog and solidified that I absolutely wanted to start sharing the semi regular guest post here.
Instead of going with any number of random guest posts, I’ve decided to start a series featuring different bloggers who share this goal of working toward zero waste and generally being good stewards of our one shared planet.
When I think of other bloggers who clearly make this a priority, my mind goes right to Kristine at Frugasaurus. She and her husband, Mr. E, live in Norway and have dreams of someday living a self sufficient lifestyle on their own plot of land. With that said, here is her guest post on their current lifestyle of, in her words, imperfect zero waste.
Photo by mali maeder on Pexels.com[/caption]
I am not going to lie, when Angela asked me to do a post on zero-waste, I was intimidated.
I look to our piles of plastic, paper, and the smaller-but-still-evident general waste. To put it bluntly, Mr. E. and I are nowhere near zero-waste.
We are far from there yet, and it feels like it will be a long time until we make serious dents in our waste creation. But that was perhaps the beauty of it. As Angela and I discussed, perhaps it is nice to see someone working on it, but not quite there yet? Reducing where they can, but not killing themselves in the effort?
But then I also look at our cloth napkins, reusable bottles and glass storage jars and realize… even though we are producing a steady stream of waste, we could be doing a lot worse.
So this is us, and our very imperfect way of trying to reduce our waste for the sake of our planet.
To us, the biggest challenge starts in the grocery store and in the kitchen. When I look at our waste, it is no doubt that the 90-95% of all waste and recyclables is food packaging from the grocery store.
Do we buy the package-free but pesticide-laden oranges, or do we support organic by going for the organic ones in plastic nets?
I don’t know about where you are from, but this challenge meets us every time we shop. Organic is always pre-packaged in some form of plastic and/or paper, and the last time I went to a farmers market, most goods were pre-packaged in plastic for convenience and food laws. I hope this has changed, and should probably stop by ours more often to check and encourage plastic free shopping. At least for fruit and vegetables.
Even a miniscule garden like our own can reduce your plastic consumption a tiny bit!
Where we do try to make a difference though, is by opting for cardboard and glass packaging where available. We eat a mostly vegan diet, and it is far easier to find a cardboard box of dry lentils than to find meat without plastic! Especially since, if we buy animal products, it is because we take pity on them in the reduced aisle, where especially fish is often left to its own devices.
One day, we hope to be able to grow most of our food ourselves and saving (heirloom) seeds from year to year. Until then, we do the best we can.
We do own a roll of plastic bags, but no aluminium foil or cling film. We use the plastic bags as little as possible, opting instead to use glass jars, glass storage boxes, plastic storage boxes and old food containers. Just the other week, I tried to freeze a homemade bread in a big plastic box which once contained factory outlet chocolate. If this works, I hope we can stop relying on plastic bags to store bread in, which is probably our biggest use of plastic bags. We are also seriously considering Bees Wraps, which look great for food and sandwich storage.
Food storage boxes in action! We love cooking in bulk and dividing up into portion sizes for either lunch or later dinners. Saves time and resources!
We have several homesewn cloth bags, which are great for storing scones, waffles or fruit for work. We have crocheted some produce nets, to avoid using plastic bags when we buy loose weight, and we always always try to bring extra reusable bags, even if we were only going to pick up X (funny how that almost never works…). To help us remember to bring reusable bags, we try to fold them up tightly and put at least one in every bag, backpack or pannier we bring outside the house. This really help, although the challenge is sometimes in remembering to put them back once we’ve carried the groceries to the kitchen.
We save glass jars, clean them well and remove old labels. They have a whole shelf dedicated just to them in our kitchen cupboard, and they are used for storing and freezing all sorts of things. From soups, pestos and that little scrap of pizza sauce, to stews, cake and whatever else we can find uses for.
Tip: Freeze your glass jar standing upright with the lid only half on. Once properly frozen, screw the lid on tightly and store in and position easiest for you. This avoids jars cracking on you!
We also don’t get takeout or much convenience food, trying to cook at home and pack what we need. What can I say? Homemade tastes better!
Tip: Mash up sad, old, brown bananas, add rolled oats, pinch of salt, baking powder and “extras” (raisins, chocolate, nuts, cinnamon, cloves, etc). Mix well and bake on 180C/350F until golden. These carb-packed beasts are fantastic energy bars at the end of a long day at work or on the go. Tasty too!
I try to bring a water bottle wherever I go, but have yet to bring a clean container with me everywhere in case of leftovers, like Budget Epicurean mentioned in her guest post. Perhaps I need to start doing that!
The last kitchen-related zero-waste effort I can think of are our cloth napkins, which are not saved for special occasions, but receive heavy and daily use. I plan on sewing more over the dark winter months so we have more than enough for guests too! They don’t take up more space than a regular stack of paper napkins would, and go in the wash with the rest of our towels and linens.
Most exciting of all, we just got a set of bokashi buckets from a friend! From what I have been reading online, some people manage to be self-sufficient on soil through their bokashi system. It takes all sorts of waste, even citrus and animal products, which regular hot composting does not like. Oh, and it retains more of the nutrients, because the waste is fermented in an air-tight system, and does not waste time and energy deteriorating into carbon dioxide and heat, like a traditional compost pile would.
We have not managed to fill our first bucket yet, being only two people and conscious of food waste, but I am really excited about this perpetual soil making machine! It is especially great for cities and smaller spaces, because the food scraps are fermented, and when mixed into regular soil, does not attract vermin.
This is the one where I don’t realise how much progress we’ve made until I visit someone else and realise just how many personal care products a lot of people have in their house.
Revive the humble bar soap! Waste less, use less, and no plastic necessary for shipping or distribution. Not a germ-factory, like some will have you believe.
Lucky for me, my field of work and Norway in general are not as punishing of women who don’t wear makeup. I don’t own any and I don’t wear any. Time, money and environment saved (and an “up yours” to the pink tax).
In the shower, I recently went from “green” shampoo to homemade shampoo bars to nothing but a very fine-tooth comb and water. Mr. E. Does enjoy a little bit of shampoo and conditioner, but he is very happy with the sustainable brand from our local grocer.
For hand and body soap, I make our own. This is not strictly zero-waste, since my materials come in plastic containers. But I do buy in bulk, which significantly reduces the plastic-per-soap ratio.
I also make our own moisturizer, which is really just fats in various ratios and whipped to a creamy froth if I am feeling luxurious. I use pure liquid oil for the face (jojoba, almond or similar) and a mix of solid butters like shea or mango with liquid oils for my hands and anywhere else as needed. It works like a charm during those harsh winter months in the north.
I have not yet found a zero-waste or diy alternative to toothpaste and deodorant that I trust. I have a background in chemistry, and the amount of baking powder in most of the recipes flabbergasts me. I do not want to put something that abrasive in my mouth or armpits on a regular basis. Instead, I look for sustainable, few-ingredients, aluminium-free deodorants. I make them go farther by often not wearing any on days when I don’t go to work.
What can I say? My friends are the sort who invite each other over for help maintaining and fixing their houses! We do heavy manual labour on the regular, and don’t feel offended if we can smell that someone worked extra hard that day.
We are buying a bidet when we buy our own house, but for now, the toilet paper is surviving. We have considered cloth wipes, but no, we just can’t get comfortable with it. If we find a toilet paper brand locally available and wrapped in paper, I’d be all over that.
I also try to carry a cloth handkerchief with me wherever I go. This was a habit I picked up while working as a gardener, where it might be far between any disposal for a paper napkin. They are amazingly handy, and there are so many cute designs to be discovered!
Was that too much? Too little? Are we doing it wrong as can be?
It is clear to me that the place where we still have the biggest room for improvement is in how much packaging we bring into the house from the grocery store. Perhaps another change of habits is in the cards!
My mantra has always been that slow and steady wins the race. If you try to change 50 habits at once, you are most likely bound to fail. Our habits and home is the result of years of small, conscious choices to reduce a little bit where we can. If you are just getting started, I urge you to not feel defeated by those who seem to be doing it “all”. Much like financial literacy, this is all about taking one step at a time. Once a habit is established, you can try to add another one.
What are some of your own wins in the effort to produce slightly less waste? It doesn’t have to be a big one, every bit counts in my opinion!