"Start where YOU are. Use what YOU have. Do what YOU can."
I totally understand if you're looking around here feeling completely overwhelmed. Getting started on my zero waste journey was overwhelming at times, and those were the times I took a breath and a well deserved step back. It's important to know that you're doing your best, even when it feels the most overwhelming, and to be super proud of yourself for even opening your mind to this way of living. To make it a bit easier for you as you start your journey, I have my 10 favorite steps for a beginning zero waster right here.
Here's a sample of finished compost that they brought to the farmers market one day to show us how awesome our contributions were. It feels great to know that the community created something together.
8. Ditch Paper & Go Cloth
Instead of using single use paper towels, napkins, and kleenex, invest in or make your own reusable cloth cleaning towels, napkins, and a handkerchief or two. You can find plenty of people on etsy who make these things, or just use clothing that you'd otherwise trash (too damaged to fix). It looks super classy to have your own napkin at a restaurant, and there's something totally cute about a handkerchief (even though my boyfriend would tend to disagree with that). The handkerchief pictured was made for me by one of my best friends out of an old high school choir t-shirt! How cool is that!?
7. Simplify Your Kitchen
Sorry to break the news, but your conventional kitchen sponge is made from plastic!! Many everyday sponges are made from a petroleum based ingredient called polyurethane. Plus, if you go further and purchase a sponge with odor removing benefits, they're full of toxic ingredients, one of which is triclosan (also found in shampoos, deodorants, toothpastes, mouth washes, etc)... triclosan has been proven harmful to marine life, especially in the areas downstream of water treatment plants. Sponges never break down, which means they're in our landfills forever... not to mention the fact that they are hotspots for bacteria, rendering the sponge the filthiest thing in your household. Because of that you must replace that sucker quite often...sending the old, toxic, bacteria filled sponges straight to the landfill and into our water and soil. Ew. I replaced my conventional sponge with a Twist brand "dish dumpling". It is 100% plant based and biodegradable...the packaging is made from agave, so it's biodegradable as well!
I ditched plastic wrap and tin foil (gross) and opted for the Abeego brand beeswax wrap for my food wrapping needs. You can't cook with it, but you really aren't supposed to cook with tin foil either (when you heat the aluminum it leeches into your food!!).
I also got a bamboo cutting board as a gift. Bamboo is a highly renewable resource, as it's one of the fastest growing plants on earth. Bamboo is also strong and will resist scarring from the sharpest of knives, making it less likely for bacteria to be able to hide in the cracks. All in all it's the best option.
I get my dish soap in bulk at either my co-op or my other favorite store in NYC. I used to make it, but that became too much for me on top of all the other things I make, so I just bring a jar to the store and fill it with beautiful all natural dish soap! I've been using an old dish soap bottle (plastic) to store it for over a year, but I'll be switching to glass as soon as that kicks it!
This is one of the most important things I will ever own. It allows you to make from scratch things that normally come in plastic (think hummus, coconut/almond/other nut milk, tomato sauce, soup, etc etc), so you don't go without. They are rather expensive, but 100% worth it, especially in living waste free. I asked for a Vitamix and only a Vitamix from my entire family for this past Christmas...I've never been so grateful for a gift. Plus I made the butternut squash soup for Christmas dinner that night, so I'm assuming my family was grateful as well (it was a-MAH-zing). My favorite thing to make in it so far is coconut milk. I put it in my granola, oatmeal, and breakfast smoothies on a regular basis, and it's so easy to make! Just 2 cups of coconut shavings (purchased from a bulk bin) and 4 cups of water. I like to get fancy sometimes and add vanilla or some mejool dates for a little sweetness, but there's no need. Blend it up for about 30 seconds and then run it through some cheesecloth or a Nut Milk Bag (I use the bag). It's delicious!
Instead of using store bought detergent which all contain harsh chemicals (and give me a headache) and are sold in plastic bottles, I use one of two things. First, if my clothes aren't soiled all that badly, I'll use soap nuts. I found them at a zero waste store in Denver called The Zero Market, but I know Amazon sells them too. They're just seeds that are found in nature that CLEAN YOUR CLOTHING. I know, it blew my mind too... I'm simply in awe of what this planet gives us to work with. If you have kids and you're trying to clean soiled cloth diapers or stains from baby food I don't think soap nuts will cut it. For those times (and when I'm washing my cleaning rags), I have a non toxic detergent that I get in bulk at my grocery store. I bring my own jar and fill it there. It's unscented and works like a charm! Instead of using dryer sheets, my awesome boss got me wool dryer balls for Christmas that completely do the trick. Sometimes I even put a drop of essential oil on each of them before I put them in the
dryer so it gives my clothes a little extra scent.
So, I hope this list helped a little with where to begin! I want to add one last thing as you start your journey: Breathe, relax, and ask questions! I ask why pretty much everywhere I go (Why do the receipts just print up no matter what? Why can't you refill my reusable cup instead of having me buy a single use plastic one? Why can't I use my own reusable bags at your bulk section?). There's a huge network of zero wasters with blogs and on facebook...we're happy to answer questions. Go slow and don't be too hard on yourself. The beginning is the toughest, but once you get it down it's super simple. I wouldn't be able to keep it up if it weren't simple with my busy NYC lifestyle.