I’m not a likely candidate for a “zero waste lifestyle”: I don’t particularly care for nature (bugs: no thanks) nor am I especially concerned about preserving our place on this planet (humans have had a pretty good run). But I do think it’s good as a matter of personal discipline not to waste too much. I don’t think it’s necessary (or even possible??) to go truly zero-waste, but I think it’s worth aiming for less waste, bit by bit.
Over the past several months I’ve been taking small steps to reduce waste and generally be more mindful both of what I consume and what I produce (waste-wise). Here’s what I’ve tried so far (besides reusable grocery bags, which is a double bonus because stores in my county recently started charging 5 cents per plastic bag):
We straight up didn’t have regular kitchen towels. Only paper towels. Instagram’s algorithms saw me snooping around eco-friendly sites and recommended Marley’s Monsters UNPaper towels.
Yes: they are just regular ol’ fleece towels. Yes: you could DIY something like this. But I was already only sort of on board with this idea so I had to go with the lowest possible barrier to entry. So I purchased a product to help me stop purchasing products. 🙂
Assessment: I love these (Bren is less convinced). As promised, they do get softer and clingier the more you wash them, so rolling them back on the tube is not as difficult. You do have to be proactive about washing them so you don’t run out but that’s not a huge deal. They do get stained, though, so I suppose over time the adorable prints will become less adorable.
We still keep regular paper towels around for arts n’ crafts or especially greasy/gross jobs that would wreck a cloth towel, but use the unpaper towels for everything else. I like wiping with impunity and not worrying about generating additional waste.
Bren makes kebabs 1-2 times a week and was marinating the chicken in ziploc bags. I went on the hunt for reusable ziplocs and found ZipTuck reusable bags. These are nice because they can stand up on their own, which makes it a lot easier to dump in chicken and marinade.
Assessment: I love the concept; this particular product is just a’ight. I might try a different brand because we’ve had repeated issues with these ones coming apart at the seal. But even if we have to replace these every once in a while, it’s still a lot less than generating 2-4 ziplocs per week.
Refillable Cleaning Products
Instagram, in its infinite wisdom, referred me to Blueland (and a friend of my tried their products as well and liked them). The idea is you have a solid tab of cleaning…stuff, which you dissolve in water in reusable bottles. I liked the idea of throwing out fewer single-use plastic bottles, so I went all-in on the Blueland kit.
Assessment: It was a bummer. The products were fine, I guess–the kitchen spray had a nice lemony smell; the other two frankly smelled a little weird. I try not to clean too much if I can avoid it so I’m not sure how they stacked up against other products (Bren didn’t think they were that great). We went through the dish soap powder like it was going out of style–I could never get it refilled fast enough and had to place several separate orders besides my scheduled refill.
The big issue was two out of the three spray bottles cracked spontaneously! One day I reached into the cabinet for the kitchen spray and the bottle was cracked. Blueland kindly and promptly sent me a replacement. Not too long after, I reached into the cabinet and the bathroom spray bottle was cracked. The first time it happened I figured I had somehow managed to dissolve the tablet wrong; the second time I figured it was a product defect.
In addition to that, both of my refill kits had some sort of issue (burst dish soap in one, missing tablet in another).
After the second bottle cracked I just sent everything back. To their credit, Blueland issued a full refund–their customer service is really excellent. I think they are just a newer company that is perhaps still working out some manufacturing issues.
My friend who also uses their products has not reported any issues so maybe I got a bad lot. But how many times do I have to send stuff back before enough is enough? I just didn’t feel like dealing with it anymore.
I’ve since switched to Mrs. Meyer’s which doesn’t exactly have refillable bottles, but you can buy the larger concentrated bottles and dilute them to create the spray. That satisfies my “slightly less” waste requirement (and I just can’t get enough of that peony scent).
I am “apply a weak acid to my face on a daily basis” years old, and I was using cotton rounds to apply the stuff. I just got some generic fabric version from Amazon. They work…not much else to say about ’em. 🙂
Food packaging. I need to find a bulk store near us.
Stuff I’m Not Worrying About Yet
We use tupperwares for pretty much everything, so our plastic wrap and foil usage is pretty low. I see lots of cute beeswax-infused fabrics as alternatives to plastic wrap, which are something I might enjoy trying to DIY at some point.
Beauty products: I just don’t want your weird apple cider vinegar/rye flour shampoo, and that’s all that seems to be available in eco-friendly packaging. I’m sure as people become more interested in that sort of thing, the larger beauty brands will adjust their packaging. I’ll wait for it.